Content toolkit: Substantive editing checklist

Look at the big picture

Substantive editing is the part of the writing and revision process that looks at what Ginny Redish calls, “the big picture”. It occurs in early drafts and addresses key messages, user needs, and structure.

Substantive editing is usually a more collaborative activity than copy editing or stylistic editing. Both editors and writers can use the process to review the content goals. For example, does the content meet audience needs or business objectives? Are the images relevant, on brand, and useful? Is the structure and the flow of content designed for easy scanning? All important!

Here is a checklist of what to consider during a substantive editing pass. Feel free to download the checklist and use it with your own team.

Download the Substantive Editing Checklist (PDF).

  • This web content has substantial value for its audience and purpose.
  • This is an appropriate amount of focused content for one web page.
  • This content is unique within the company.
  • Adequate context is provided, appropriate to the audience, to ensure that users can fully understand and act on content.
  • It is organized in a cohesive and logical structure and sequence.
  • Headings are in place to support structure, sequence, and clarity.
  • This content is structured according to content requirements for its content type and template.
  • The most important information is presented first and most prominently.
  • Information is presented in the most effective format. Consideration has been given to using images, charts, graphs, maps, tables, video, bullet lists, numbered lists, call-­‐outs, captions, or  other meaningful content and visual elements.
  • If necessary, images or other visuals have been identified or requested.
  • If necessary, copyright or other permissions have been obtained or requested.

Further reading

Content toolkit: Copy editing checklist

Web writing best practices: Keep it lean

How to design an effective content toolkit

Our content strategy services