You are here

Professional Editorial Standards: C. Standards for Stylistic Editing

Stylistic editing is editing to clarify meaning, improve flow, and smooth language.

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


C1 Improve sentence construction to more effectively convey meaning (e.g., by using subordinate structures for subordinate ideas, choosing active voice over passive in most contexts, replacing negative constructions with affirmative ones, making unparallel constructions parallel).

C2 Improve word choice to more effectively convey meaning (e.g., by replacing the general and abstract with the specific and concrete, replacing noun strings, eliminating clichés and euphemisms).

C3 Where necessary, rewrite sentences, paragraphs, and passages to resolve ambiguities, ensure logical connections, and clarify the author's meaning or intention, in harmony with the style of the material.

C4 In improving a sentence, paragraph, or passage or making it intelligible, change as little as possible and attempt to preserve the author's voice where appropriate.

C5 Ensure that all tables, photos, multimedia, and other visual elements are clear and effectively convey the intended meaning.


C6 Ensure that transitions between sentences and between paragraphs are smooth and support the coherent development of the text as a whole.

C7 Where necessary, reorder sentences within a paragraph to ensure that the paragraph has a clear and coherent focus.

C8 Adjust the length and structure of paragraphs to ensure variety or consistency, as appropriate to the audience and medium.

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


C10 Determine the language and reading level appropriate for the intended audience and medium, 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 or maintain a consistent tone, style, and authorial voice or level of formality appropriate for the intended audience and medium.

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


C13 When working on paper copy, mark clearly and use standard editing marks unless another system has been agreed upon. When working on electronic copy, use an agreed-upon markup system (e.g., track changes, PDF markup tools).

C14 Use judgment about when to query the author or other appropriate person and when to resolve problems without consultation.

C15 Communicate clearly and diplomatically with the author or project supervisor to request clarification of meaning and intent, explain changes as appropriate, and propose or negotiate significant editorial changes.