Reporting demands have increased in their deadline-driven, real-time nature due to the internet, social media and an overall changing news culture. With the added pressure to get things out fast, it’s easy to skim too quickly over more detailed parts of the process, like editing.
Editing is essential to a publication’s reputation and even more importantly, to readers’ understanding of a message. Countless editing resources available online can save loads of time and energy later, when deadlines loom.
Here are a few of the most helpful resources:
Grammarly might be familiar. Launched in 2009, it since has become a common and simple way to keep spelling, grammar and other common writing errors in check on platforms without their own form of error detection. Grammarly can be installed on a web browser, or as an app on a smartphone, to check spelling, grammar and punctuation, and can even help detect plagiarism. It’s a fairly subtle function when it highlights errors, so many find it doesn’t get in the way of their writing. Grammarly’s basic functions are free, but features like plagiarism detection, vocabulary enhancement suggestions and others, cost $29.95 per month.
Conscious Style Guide
If you have ever asked whether something you wrote might be considered racist, homophobic, ageist, or insensitive in any way that would offend readers or leave them feeling othered, Conscious Style Guide can help. Launched in 2015, this online style guide offers guidance on words and phrases to avoid, as well as advice on how to re-frame writing and see it through a more socially-conscious lens. Even the most well-meaning writers and reporters can find themselves using insensitive language without knowing it.
Looking to invest into an in-depth editing assistant? PerfectIt is an increasingly popular way to go (there’s a free 30-day trial and individual subscriptions are $70 per year). This software is about as close as you can get to having a human editor sitting by your side as you write. PerfectIt not only detects common writing errors, it also helps adhere to stylebook rules, enforces consistent capitalization and hyphenation, and consistent punctuation of bullets, lists and tables. Writing a story with a lot of legal terms? Always on the courts beat? PerfectIt has functions such as legal style guidance as well as catching legal-specific typos and checking for consistency.
The term “macros” may sound intimidating to those who are less technologically-inclined, but they make your life easier, especially when editing a particularly lengthy piece. In her article “Macros: What are they and how do you use them?” Amy Schneider explains that “Macros save you time and energy by automatically performing repetitive tasks, leaving your brain free to do actual substantive editing.” Macros are programs that run within another program, like Microsoft Word. As Adrienne Montgomerie explains in her Copyediting.com article, “they are what hides behind the icons on the ribbon, making them do things.” You can create macros to automate the tasks you do the most. Need to remove all the serial commas? You can automate that.
Many journalists are not mathematically-inclined or at least don’t enjoy doing math. Even for those who do, it’s still necessary to double-check data. MathType is a plug-in software that helps. Editors use MathType because it’s simple to install, is user-friendly and offers a variety of functions based on mathematical needs. Writing an article that features revenue and profit data? You can double check that with MathType. Need to check some equations to confirm they work as explained in your article? You can do that with MathType as well. MathType can be used as a stand-alone application or within other applications including Microsoft Word and Apple Pages.
Copyright Clearance Center
Getting permission to use other people’s content in your own work is an important part of journalism, particularly for certain beats like entertainment, science and features. Not having permission can cost you your job. Copyright Clearance Center is one place editors rely on to find out whether they need permission, and if so, how to get it. Its services are not free, but CCC offers a pay-per-use search function. When a question about copyright comes up, having a go-to, reliable resource will save time and energy.
Staying organized is an often-overlooked skill of successful reporters. Evernote is a popular program that helps with just that. Evernote’s basic functions are free, and premium services are $7.99 per month. Editors rely on Evernote because it makes storing and finding documents extremely simple. Buried deep in online research? You can save any webpage to Evernote and you can screenshot saved pages to add notes and highlight the most pertinent information. Come across notes or documents in another language? Evernote can still help because it can identify 28 languages (11 when handwritten and scanned). Arguably one of Evernote’s most convenient features is its ability to scan and save handwritten notes with a built-in camera via Android or Apple devices. All that clutter on your desk could be easily searchable on your laptop or in the palm of your hand within minutes.