Using Headings to Organize Your Writing

When you're writing a nonfiction book or article, organization is crucial. And I don't mean having a tidy desk or an alphabetized file of your notes (although those certainly help). If you want your readers to understand your ideas, a logical, easy-to-follow structure is essential. Headings are the one of the most useful tools for accomplishing that.

How Many Rounds of Editing Does Your Book Need?

One of my blog readers asked the following question about the editing process:
Once a copyeditor has completed the first round of copyediting of a book, [she or he] sends it back to the author for acceptance or additional changes. Once the author accepts the changes or makes more, he [or she] sends the corrections back to the copyeditor. It seems this could continue indefinitely. In general, do these go through two or three rounds before an author is happy?

That’s a great question. One can easily imagine an infinite loop of endless editing, until either the author or the editor collapses in exhaustion.

In reality, things rarely go to that extreme. The short answer is that one to three rounds of editing will almost always do it.

The slightly longer answer is that the number of editing passes should be:

  • as many as the book needs, and
  • as many as the author and editor agree on.
For an even longer answer, let’s first talk about why one round of editing may not be enough. Then I’ll explain why some books might need a third round.

Is That Clear?

Awhile ago I was going through a manuscript I had copyedited a few weeks before, reviewing the author’s responses to my queries. I came across one spot where my query had been “This doesn’t seem quite clear to me,” or something to that effect. The author’s response: “Seems clear enough to me.”

Was the author unwilling to consider that there might be a problem with the sentence? Or was my own query about not being clear, ironically, not as clear as it might have been? Well, perhaps a little of both.