Minimalist Editing: What It Is

As I wrote in yesterday’s post, I’ve adopted a minimalist approach to editing. But what does that actually look like?

Assuming an author asks for a standard edit, these are the corrections I will make per the rules set forth in both Merriam-Webster and the Chicago Manual of Style:

  1. misspellings
  2. commonly confused words
  3. punctuation (including quotation marks, dashes, ellipses, brackets, etc.)
  4. tenses
  5. titles (i.e., “Foreword,” “Contents,” etc.)
  6. fonts (for consistency)
  7. footnotes, endnotes, and in-text citations (but only for consistency)


For everything else, when I have questions, I query:

  1. awkward transitions (if this is manuscript-wide, I’ll query once for the entire text)
  2. redundancies
  3. inconsistencies (including point of view)
  4. quotes (I always research to make sure the quote is correct; if it isn’t, I query)
  5. source names and titles (if I can find the source, I always check it against the text)
  6. potential libel, defamation, and slander
  7. potential copyright infringement
  8. potential racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.
  9. anything that seems out of place (for example, if an idea sounds familiar but isn’t cited, I’ll research, then query if citation is needed)


Again, these are for a standard edit. Critiques, developmental edits, and the like differ depending upon what the client asks for.

No matter what, all editing follows the rule of “First, do no harm.”