Since 2004, I’ve been proofreading and editing for publishers (primarily trade nonfiction) and ad and marketing agencies. So, much of my experience comes from traditional print formats, though work in advertising inevitably includes email, interactive, and social-media content.
Alongside more traditional editorial work, I’ve found opportunities to learn about and practice both the tech and content sides of web editing. I interned at a large accounting web portal, maintained websites for two nonprofit membership organizations, and created several small websites, one for a university library. As a freelance editor, I’ve also developed and proofread web content for corporate clients.
Learning web editing
I find the web an especially fascinating medium because it allows, even requires, a deep dive into understanding human behavior—how, when, why, and what people read on the web. Consequently, when it comes to web editing, I’ve squeezed in as much learning on the job as I could. To give a quick sense of my history and take on the topic, here’s a short list of what I’ve found helpful, with commentary:
Developing Online Content by Irene Hammerich and Claire Harrison. At the time, (I think) this was the only book on the topic. The idea that web content needed editorial attention was so little considered that most people who saw me reading it thought it was for coders and developers. It’s now outdated, but it was a good start.
Alertbox, email newsletter, by Jakob Nielsen. These weekly newsletters on usability are gems—with a little snarkiness thrown in. The main point, for me, is that usability is inextricably linked to writing and editing for the web. People use websites at least as much as they read them, so understanding how people behave and interact with the web is critical—and utterly fascinating if you’re a people watcher.
Letting Go of the Words by Ginny Redish. This fantastic book pulls together elements from user-centered design and writing and editing for the web into one seamless whole. The author explains a range of useful techniques, from big-picture to detail, for example:
- How to create and use personas
- What to consider when you lay out a web page
- When to write “you” vs. “we” or “I” in web copy
Clear and very pragmatic, this book really helped me improve as a web editor.
I plan to write about the things I’ve long been interested in and about which I want to know more. Those subjects include the crossover of user-centered design with editing; insights into how people read online and human behavior; meeting audience needs and expectations on the web; content strategy; web editorial style; and some how-to and best practices.
My next post (April 19) will cover a few salient differences in editing for the web vs. editing for print.
My aim in writing for this blog is to learn more about web editing—from the other contributors and from my own blogging-as-inquiry process. I hope you’ll keep reading and add your own comments and suggestions!