How to edit your own writing

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

Four eyes or eight or 10 or 12 or 14 are much better than two. However, there are times when content has to be turned around quickly and that means you have to write and edit your own work fast – there is no time to pass your writing off to someone else to check.

The demand for engaging, accurate content is growing so if you want to be a writer you have to learn how to self-edit. Sure, if you are working for a big publishing house you will have an editor; maybe even a group of editors, reviewing your work before the public reads it. If you are blogging, writing web content or working for a small organization, you have to learn to edit yourself.

Here are my top 6 tips for becoming a better self-editor:

  • Don’t edit while you write, just write and remember the editing will come later.
  • Read your work in a different format. For example, you might consider printing out a blog or read it on a different platform like an e-reader. Sometimes it is easier to catch mistakes when you change your view.
  • Most people write too much so cut out 5 to 10 percent of the content. Remove anything that sounds repetitive, get rid of overstated arguments, and eliminate unnecessary adjectives.
  • Don’t depend too much on spellcheck. Go ahead and use spellcheck but use your eyes more. Remember spellcheck is not foolproof. Some words sound the same, but are spelled different and only your eyes can catch those. Spellcheck has also been known to point out words that are in fact spelled the right way so following every spellcheck suggestion could be a mistake.
  • Read your piece backwards. You can become so familiar with the material you have produced that mistakes will slide past you when you read. Reading backwards can help you catch mistakes since the copy suddenly becomes less familiar.
  • Read your copy out loud. I have always found that I catch more mistakes when I read my copy out loud.

While self-editing sounds easy, I really can’t stress how important it is to have extra eyes on your work whenever possible. No matter how good a writer you might be, no matter how detail oriented you might think you are, mistakes can be missed. Some best selling books are even guilty of not being well edited. For example, “The Hunger Games” has a comma overload problem and the popular book, “Fifty Shades of Grey” forgot to edit out the 5 to 10 percent of unnecessary content and has serious punctuation issues. When I wrote my non-fiction book, “Girl Power: Chronicles of the True Power of Female Friendships”, it had several eyes and a professional editor, yet the first print still had a typo on the back cover. Yikes – I was mortified.

You get the point, editing is a very important part of the writing process.

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