Key takeaways in this post:

  • Being a writer is a helpful role to have prior to becoming an editor.
  • There are different aspects of writing including proofreading, upholding style and fact-checking.
  • Asking questions is a key part of understanding what level of editing a project needs.
  • Plain language is the goal in healthcare writing.
  • Avoid editing your own work – it’s easy to accidentally overlook simple mistakes.

There are all sorts of editing tips out there, but it takes a pro to edit writing for the healthcare industry. That’s why we’re especially thrilled to have an editorial manager with seasoned editing skills on staff — Kris Henninger.
Kris started freelancing with WG Content over ten years ago, so she’s been around for a while. But, when you learn her background, you’ll understand why we are so thrilled to have her join us in her new capacity as our editorial manager.

Kris Henninger, editorial manager, WG Content
Kris Henninger, WG Content’s editorial manager

Kris holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Calvin University and a master’s degree in education from The Ohio State University. Her original career goal was to be a dean of students at a college. She worked for a few years for some colleges and universities but was always freelance writing on the side.
Eventually, a freelance gig turned into a full-time writing job, and the rest is history!
She has nearly 25 years of experience as a writer (marketing/advertising copywriter, executive speechwriter, technical writer and communications consultant) for a wide variety of clients. But, most of her experience has been in healthcare.

At WG Content, we value editing as an essential ingredient to creating great content. With Kris’ experience and education, we didn’t want to miss an opportunity to get some editing tips and insight on how to be a good editor. Here’s part of our conversation.

Q: What experiences help someone become a good editor?

Kris: Being a writer, of course, is always a good start. I firmly believe that writing is harder than editing—it’s always easier to tweak something than to create it from scratch. So, I’m very sympathetic to how hard a writer’s job is, and I have a lot of respect for that process.
Having a broad knowledge about a lot of topics helps, too. I’ve had clients in many different industries and been exposed to a wide variety of topics. That, plus a good old-fashioned liberal arts education, help me be tuned in when I’m reading. When I think, “that doesn’t seem quite right,” I take the time to look it up instead of just accepting it as-is.
Early in my career, I was a proofreader for an ad agency. That experience taught me to pay extreme attention to detail and learn to slow down (and even read copy backward if necessary—you really can catch more errors that way!) Plus, I learned the hard way the difference between a quotation mark and the symbol for inches.

Q: Editing is a broad, vague term that can mean different things at different stages in the writing process. How do you differentiate the types of editing?

Kris: Editing can mean:

  • Proofreading (for grammar, punctuation, consistency, typos)
  • Maintaining flow (is the piece organized in a logical way that brings the reader along in their knowledge of the topic)
  • Upholding style (does it fit the client’s style—both their specific grammar and punctuation preferences but also the tone they want to convey)
  • Focusing on the audience (will they understand the piece, is it meeting them where they are and speaking in a way they’ll understand and be able to take action after they read it)
  • Fact-checking and checking for plagiarism

Often, I mark all these things at once. But it’s also good to read something multiple times—read it once for grammar and flow, for example, and read it again for style and with the audience in mind.

Q: For proofreading, you need a good understanding of basic (and sometimes advanced) grammar rules.

Kris: For proofreading, you need a good understanding of basic (and sometimes advanced) grammar rules.
For flow/style/audience, you need the ability to put yourself in the audience’s shoes—how would they read this the first time, would they understand it, are the main points clear?
Also, for style, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of the client’s style and the ability to keep that top of mind throughout the editing process.

Kris: If I don’t already know what kind of editing is desired, I make sure I ask questions. Generally, I know what I’m looking for because I’ve edited for the same clients many times. But if it’s a new client, I want to really understand what’s important to them, what’s sacred and can’t change, how heavy of an edit they’re looking for, how important tone is to them, etc.

Kris: As I mentioned before, I’m very sympathetic to how hard writing is. I don’t ever want a writer to feel like all that hard work was for nothing (by me just cutting their work to shreds)! So, I’m not a fan of “wordsmithing” (changing something just to change it). There’s more than one good way to say something. But, if another word or phrase will make the writing clearer or better reflect the client’s style, I will change it or make suggestions for another word or phrase.
We want our WG Content writers to continually become better writers and experts in their clients’ styles and preferences. It’s one of my jobs to help them do that, so I try not to just turn on “track changes” and make edits to their documents. I often have a conversation with the writer in the comments—I can ask questions, make suggestions, give editing tips, or point out possible ways of changing something and then let them take it from there. That way, they can stretch their writing muscles and not just “accept changes” and never really get a chance to try something new in their writing.

Q: Do you have any pet peeves about healthcare content?

Kris: Information that’s too technical or too wordy. Plain language is the inevitable goal. I consider good healthcare content to be clear, concise, up-to-date information that’s also human and helps people take the next step to improve their health.

Q: What content editing tips would you have for those times when you don’t have access to an editor? How do you review your own work to be able to make it better?

Kris: I am pretty adamant that no one (even the best, most experienced writers) should edit their own work—it’s too easy to miss things. So, if possible, at least have a colleague read over your work. But if you can’t do that:

  • Read it out loud—your ears might catch something your eyes don’t.
  • Use an online editing tool like Readable or Grammarly.
  • Walk away—for an hour or a day. It’s amazing what you’ll see when you read it again after having some distance from your own work.
  • Remember that you don’t have to follow all the grammar rules you learned in school all the time. In fact, good writing sometimes breaks those rules in order to be more compelling, readable and informative. (Don’t take my word for it – check out a book called “Dreyer’s English” by language guru Benjamin Dreyer.)

Q: If someone wants to enhance their editing skills, are there any resources you recommend?

Kris:The resource that’s made the most difference in my writing and editing is a book called “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. A college English professor introduced me to it, and it’s still the best book I’ve ever read on writing (and editing). It’s full of great advice about simplifying your writing, achieving clarity, and, as he says, “caring deeply about words.”

Thanks to Kris as we continue building relationships one word at a time.

WG Content is here to help make your content shine. Drop us a line to learn more about how we can support you with exceptional content development and editing.

Editing covers a lot of tasks and responsibilities, especially in healthcare. Here’s what editing can mean:

  • Grammar and spelling correction: Ensuring that the content is free from grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and punctuation issues.
  • Clarity and readability: Improving the overall clarity and readability of the text, making complex information more accessible and understandable to the intended audience.
  • Accuracy and reliability: Verifying that the information presented is accurate and reliable, which is particularly crucial in the healthcare industry where incorrect information can have serious consequences.
  • Industry-specific standards: Adhering to specific regulatory and industry standards, such as using the correct medical terminology and following guidelines set by health authorities.
  • Consistency: Maintaining consistency in style, tone, and formatting throughout the document or across multiple documents.
  • Content structure and flow: Organizing the content logically and ensuring a smooth flow of ideas, which can involve reordering sections, rewriting sentences, or providing transitional elements.
  • Fact-checking: Conducting thorough fact-checking to ensure all data and references are correct and up-to-date.
  • Adapting to audience needs: Tailoring the content to suit the needs and understanding of the target audience, which can involve simplifying technical language for a general audience or maintaining a high level of technical detail for professionals.

There are several types of experience make someone a good editor, particularly in specialized fields like healthcare:

  • Industry-specific knowledge: A good editor should have extensive knowledge of the specific industry they are working in. For the healthcare industry, this includes understanding medical terminology, regulatory requirements, and the ability to communicate complex information accurately and clearly.
  • Extensive editing experience: Having a significant amount of hands-on experience in editing, especially within the relevant field, is crucial. This experience helps editors develop the skills needed to identify and correct errors, improve clarity, and ensure the overall quality of the content.
  • Freelancing and professional background: Experience in freelancing or other professional roles within the industry adds to an editor’s versatility and understanding of different content formats and audience needs.
  • Attention to detail: A good editor must have a keen eye for detail to catch grammatical errors, inconsistencies, and factual inaccuracies.
  • Adaptability and continuous learning: The ability to adapt to new trends, tools, and changes within the industry is important. Continuous learning ensures that an editor remains current with the latest standards and best practices.

Editing for the healthcare industry requires a deep understanding of medical terminology, regulatory standards and the ability to convey complex information clearly and accurately using plain language. A specialized editor ensures that the content is not only grammatically correct but also reliable and trustworthy for the intended audience.

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