Our proofreading course will equip you with the editorial skills you need to become a certified proofreader and copy editor. This online course will show you how to correct printed documents and webpages, and make them readable and legally compliant.

Copy editors don’t just ensure that copy is suitable for the intended reader.

They must also be adept at:

  • Summarising copy.
  • Eliminating unnecessary jargon.
  • Making the copy fluent and easy to read.
  • Eliminating clichés and inappropriate material.
  • Ensuring that the copy is suitable for multicultural and global audiences.

What is summarising?

There is one simple rule that applies to most written material these days, and that is: keep it brief.

Most people are too busy to read anything that is too long. They don’t have the time or the attention span. That is why emails are short and sweet and why text messages are even shorter.

There are situations when writing at length is necessary, such as a book or a detailed report. But, most documents are short. So, it’s vital we learn how to summarise copy when we edit it. That means to state things clearly, using the minimum number of words.

This does not mean that you leave out certain facts completely, although you may. It does mean that you should express the facts and information as briefly as possible.

A summary should capture the most important aspects of the original text but express it in fewer words.

Summarising enables the reader to grasp the original material more clearly, and understand it better.

When you are summarising someone else’s writing, you may use your own words, rather than theirs. You are not trying to copy the original unless the client has asked you to.

Summarising means making every word count.

Prioritise the facts

With some summaries, you need to reduce the amount of information, as well as the number of words. If so, you need to go through the original and highlight the important facts and the unimportant ones. Then write the summary based on the important ones but, again, use the minimum or required number of words.

How do you decide what is important and what is not?

Different factors come in to play:

  • Who are you writing the summary for? You must establish this with the client before you start. You should never start the summary without knowing who the target audience is.

Match important facts to the audience.

  • What is the summary for? Its intended use determines content, language and presentation. For example, if you are summarising travel information for a travel website, you may present the key points as a bullet-pointed list.

Match important facts to how the summary will be used.

  • How will it be published? If it’s going to be sent as an email, text or a chat message, different rules apply to each method.

Match important facts to how the summary will be published.

How to summarise

  1. Read the original copy quickly and pinpoint its main subject or purpose.
  2. Go back and read the copy carefully and highlight the important points. Write down the central idea. You may need to liaise with the client about this.
  3. Make an outline of the main idea and the supporting details. Arrange your information in a logical order: either from most to least important or chronologically.
  4. Then write the summary: present the main idea, followed by the supporting points.
  5. Compare it to the original and ask yourself: Have I rephrased it without changing the meaning?
  6. Go through your version again and chisel out any unnecessary words. Make every word count. That means seeing if there is a briefer way of saying things.

See our proofreading course