How to Allocate (Enough!) Time for Editing

How much time does a proposal editor need?  It’s a question that is of more than theoretical interest to me at the moment, as I work my way through a flurry of documents against a looming deadline.  It’s a question that should matter to everyone charged with setting out a response schedule.

It’s a shame the answer is unknowable or, at least, difficult to calculate.  That’s because the answer depends on four things.

The state of the document

Sections come in for “editing” in states ranging from completely unreconciled cut-and-paste nightmares to mature drafts that have been through at least one review cycle: already known to be in the right order, with basically complete and responsive answers.

The length of the document

Time-to-edit has some sort of law-of-squares relationship to length.  Fifty pages takes way more time to edit if it’s in one document than if it’s in five.  There’s only so much trouble you can get into in ten pages, whereas fifty offers seemingly endless scope for structural and consistency issues – with structural problems being the slowest to repair.

The rules of engagement

Exactly what are you asking the editor to do?  To review for completeness, responsiveness, consistency (within the section, across sections, with external documents like organization charts and lists of plans), clarity, marketing effectiveness, readability, pretty-to-look-at layout, English usage, or typos?  Or (ahem) all of the above (pretty please)?  And are they  just supposed to identify problems, or to take a stab at fixing them?

The editor

Who do you have working for you?  How fast do they work?  How experienced are they at proposals?  How well do they know the company?  The work?  The client?

What does it all add up to?

Here are my rules of thumb:

  • Final proofing – 20 pages/hour
  • Copy-editing – 10 pages/hour
  • Substantive editing and enhancing layout – 5 pages/hour
  • Structural editing of a long section with a fair bit of rewriting – 3 pages/hour, maybe less

How much time does a proposal editor need?  Hey.  You do the math.

 

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