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Professional Editorial Standards: C. Standards for Stylistic Editing

C. Standards for Stylistic Editing

Stylistic editing is editing to clarify meaning, ensure coherence and flow, and refine the language. Stylistic editing is often done as part of a structural edit or copy edit rather than as a separate step.

A professional stylistic editor demonstrates a mastery of Part A: The Fundamentals of Editing and meets the following standards.


C1  Improve paragraph construction to more effectively convey meaning (e.g., divide long or complicated paragraphs into simpler ones, adjust paragraph length for the medium and audience, establish clear topic sentences).

C2  Improve sentence construction to more effectively convey meaning (e.g., divide long or complicated sentences into simpler ones, use subordinate structures for subordinate ideas, choose active voice over passive in most contexts, replace negative constructions with affirmative ones, make non-parallel constructions parallel).

C3  Improve word choice to more effectively convey meaning (e.g., by replacing the general and abstract with the specific and concrete, replacing noun strings and nominalizations, eliminating clichés and euphemisms) where appropriate.

C4  Revise sentences, paragraphs, and passages to resolve ambiguities, ensure logical connections, and clarify the meaning or intention, as appropriate to the material.

C5  In improving a sentence, paragraph, or passage or making it intelligible, change only what is required, while maintaining the authorial voice where appropriate.

C6  Ensure all tables and visual and audio elements are clear and effectively convey the intended meaning.

Coherence and Flow

C7  Ensure that transitions between sentences and between paragraphs are smooth and support the coherent development of the text as a whole.

C8  Where necessary, reorder elements to ensure coherence (e.g., sentences in a paragraph, bullets in a list, components of a web page).

C9  Adjust the length and structure of sentences and paragraphs to ensure readability, flow, and variety or consistency, as appropriate to the audience and medium.


C10  Determine the language and reading level appropriate for the intended audience, medium, and purpose, and edit to establish or maintain that language and level (e.g., by translating jargon into understandable terms, using vocabulary that is suitable to the material, dividing long or complicated sentences into simpler ones).

C11  Establish, maintain, or enhance tone, mood, style, and authorial voice or level of formality appropriate to the content and for the intended audience, medium, and purpose (e.g., making text more engaging or entertaining).

C12  Eliminate wordiness (e.g., by deleting redundancies, empty phrases, unnecessary modifiers).


C13  When working onscreen, use an agreed-upon system for showing and tracking edits (e.g., track changes, PDF markup tools, revision management systems). When working on paper, mark clearly and use standard editing marks unless another system has been agreed upon. 

C14  Use judgment about when to query and when to resolve problems without consultation.

C15  Clearly and diplomatically, request clarification of meaning and intent, explain changes as appropriate, and propose or negotiate significant editorial changes.