When you are building a Lego castle, ship, or airplane, you need to vary the sizes of blocks you choose. If you stack the same sized blocks straight up to form a wall, it will easily topple over because it is not linked and steadied by the surrounding blocks. Like any sturdy Lego sculpture, documents are made up of building blocks of various sizes and shapes, and a paragraph-level or stylistic edit can help you make sure you have the right mix. In some genres of writing, it makes sense to use sentences that are the same length or reuse specific words for emphasis, but if these elements are overused, documents can become difficult to read and comprehend.
Having an editor perform a paragraph-level edit can help improve clarity and flow and can be crucial in ensuring that the message in the document is tailored to the intended audience. For technical documents written by a team of writers, this stage of editing can be important in making the document sound like it is from a single voice or author. While the team may have the same goals and objectives in mind while writing, each writer will have their own style – their sentences will have a certain tone, their word choice may be slightly different from everyone else, they may rely on passive voice while others write more actively.
One of my favorite projects was a report where the audience was both the client (technical audience) and the general public (non-technical audience). As various team members composed each section, I sat in a conference room with the lead engineer and we reviewed every sentence and paragraph – him from a technical/engineering perspective and me from a stylistic and non-technical perspective. We revised sentences for clarity and smoothed over transitions to fade the distinct lines between each individual writer, making the document have one cohesive, consistent, and clear voice.
The paragraph-level edit involves a close review of the entire document, but focuses on the message and not necessarily the specific words and usage. The services you can expect from an editor in a paragraph-level or stylistic edit include:
- Reviewing sentences for clarity and flow
- Reorganizing sentences or paragraphs to clarify logic or meaning
- Ensuring words and sentences are varied and easy for the reader to digest
- Removing unnecessary jargon
- Maintaining your voice or ensure the voice and style throughout are consistent
- Reviewing the logic of transitions between ideas (paragraphs or sentences)
The goal of the paragraph-level or stylistic edit is to make sure the document reads well and the message is clear. You want to ensure you have used the right blocks to structure your document in a way that is easy for your intended audience to understand and use.