Ticking the right boxes

Do you need to edit other people’s work? Or perhaps you need to edit your own writing from time-to-time?

It can be a challenge to stay on track and cover all the bases when editing, particularly if your time is limited. So, here’s a checklist to help you tick the right boxes.

You can use this as a reference while editing, and as a quick reminder when you finish to make sure you haven’t overlooked something.


  • Does the document achieve its purpose?
  • Is the message clear?
  • Is the content accurate?
  • Is the document appropriately written for its intended audience?
  • Are there any sensitivities?
  • Is the content (facts, figures, terminology, style and tone) consistent?
  • Is there context for any assertions, claims, statistics, facts and figures?
  • Does it align with previous messaging, advice or public comments?


  • Does your document get to the point quickly?
  • Are points and recommendations backed up by clear rationale or evidence (where needed)?
  • Is there logical flow of ideas (remember, chronological is not always the best order)?


  • Is it in plain English?
  • Could you remove unnecessary words to make it more concise?
  • Are there passive sentences you could change to active?
  • Can you break up long sentences?
  • Do you need to change vague or ambiguous text to be clear and precise?
  • Do you have parallel construction for bullet points and other lists?
  • Do you need subheadings to help guide the reader?


  • Does it match preferred style (for example, for numbers, dashes, bullet point punctuation, italics, capitals, spaces after full stops)?
  • Is there a consistent voice and tone (especially if material has come from a few different sources or people)?


  • Are there distracting mistakes like typos, or grammar and punctuation errors?

Remember, the purpose of editing a document is to make it clearer and more effective for your target audience.

A good edit will help ensure your tone and language suit your audience, your point is clear and concise, your structure is logical, and your readers don’t trip up over distracting mistakes.


‘The secret to editing your work is simple:
you need to become its reader instead of its writer.’

Zadie Smith


Cinden Lester has more than 25 years’ experience as a professional writer, editor and communications specialist. She worked as a broadcast journalist, in private sector marketing and public relations, and in government communications before establishing her own Canberra-based communications consultancy in 2000.

Contact Cinden if you’d like help with your communications.

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