aka Editing Your Own Writing Successfully
Editing your own writing is tough, and we always recommend getting a third party to edit whenever possible. However, sometimes that isn’t feasible. There are two types of editing: copy-editing, and proofreading.
Copy-editing: revising the structure, organization, and logic.
Proofreading: correcting grammar, spelling, and aesthetic formatting.
Both types of editing are crucial. Copy-editing should take place first; There is no sense in fine-tuning grammar and spelling on paragraphs that may be removed! Keeping that in mind, here are a few tips for editing your own content.
Try not to edit as you write. Instead, write as much as you can, then walk away.
Resist the temptation to re-read what you’ve written over and over again.
Depending on the length of the piece, you may need only a few hours away, or a few weeks. If the piece is quite long, break the editing into chunks, and walk away after each “session”.
Walking away accomplishes two things:
- It stops you from becoming overwhelmed with the editing process.
- It gives you fresh eyes – all the better for noticing errors (logical, grammatical, or otherwise).
Edit for Organization and Logic
Write out the goal of your piece. Does the order of the information you’ve presented build on that goal, or diminish it?
For example, if you are writing an email to a potential client that discusses your packages, the goal might be to convince the recipient to use your services. Putting an “about me” section in the middle of the email breaks the momentum of the information. Including that information is relevant, but might be more effective in the beginning.
Edit for Length
In the modern age, being concise is critical. Taking too long to make your point results in confusion, boredom, and disengagement. Evaluate every sentence:
- Does it directly serve the goal of your writing?
- Can it be eliminated?
Some sentences may be necessary to transition from one point to the next; They may not directly serve the goal, but eliminating them would interrupt the flow of your piece.
Other ways to cut down on length:
- Eliminate unnecessary adverbs: adverbs often weaken the intent of a sentence. For example: “hot” is a stronger description than “very warm”, and “gorgeous” coneys more meaning than “really pretty”.
- Quash redundancies: phrases like “in order to” and “in regards to” are unnecessary. Using an active voice is more concise.
- Break long sentences into shorter ones: conjunctions can add length and dilute the meaning of a sentence.
Once you’ve edited for structure, organization, and flow, focus on the nitty-gritty.
- Read slowly: force your eyes to spend a second on each word. Read out loud.
- Compare with your style guide: use it to check for consistent capitalization and punctuation (for example: Walmart vs. Wal-Mart).
- Evaluate tense (did vs do), and point of view (I vs you vs s/he).
- Correct over usage of punctuation: too many dashes and exclamation points weaken intensity.
- Correct formatting: does the final layout look appealing?
Editing your own writing is a difficult skill to master. Hiring a professional, third party editor can save you some serious headaches. (Yes, we do that.)