How To Edit A Company Document For Grammar And Punctuation

When editing professional documents for grammar and punctuation, here are a few basic guidelines that can make the job easier.

Whether you are a professional writer or someone who writes as part of another job function, good editing skills are vital to make a document correct, readable, and functional. You may be used to revising company documents or this may be an entirely new role for you. Either way, here are a few tips that can help:

1. Determine the mission of the document. Know what it is supposed to do, who wrote it, and who will read it. Is it for information only or will it require readers to respond in certain ways? Once you have this information, you can look over the document to be sure the grammar and punctuation contribute to its main goals. For example, if the document is highly technical and geared toward customers rather than employees, you may need to use extra commas to make it more readable and easy to understand.

2. Follow the company's style guide. Many organizations publish their own writing and editing guide for in-house publications. Others follow well-known guides like the Modern Language Association or even the small but effective Strunk and White's Elements of Style. Keep a copy at your desk for quick reference, or bookmark the appropriate site for online access to grammatical help. You also can visit college-writing labs online for the most update information on grammar and punctuation usage.

3. Keep in mind that there are several variations of English. For example, the serial comma that follows every item in a series but the penultimate one is accepted by some grammar cultures but rejected by others. American English and British English can vary widely in some respects. AE uses -er the "theater" spelling while BE applies the -re ending to spell the word as "theatre." Time distinctions and some technical terms are used differently around the globe, so remember to edit your document accordingly when working on something that will be read by other than American readers.

4. When in doubt, leave it out. Some grammar and punctuation usage rules overlap and may cancel one another out. For example, one rule claims that you should use a comma after a sentence's opening phrase or clause. But another rule states those very short introductory phrases or two or three words may not need a comma after them. Use discretion and check readability with and without the punctuation mark to see whether it is needed. If you are still unsure, try leaving it out. Sometimes less is more.

5. Know the basics. Learn a few grammar and punctuation rules, which can apply to a majority of your document. Sometimes knowing 20% of the rules can manage 80% of the editing problems. Give attention to comma and semi-colon usage in particular, with additional focus on colons and dashes, as these are often used inappropriately in business and professional documents. You can take an online grammar class for refreshment in the basics or browse a handbook for quick reference tips.

Using correct grammar and punctuation can give a professional image to readers of the document. Take time to carefully review your company's reports, letters, and other documents to ensure accuracy and protect your company's reputation.

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