Easy ways to Improve your Self-Editing
Whether you’re the token writer among the office and your friends, or you’re a professional who offers editing services, there’s always room for improvement.
I spend a lot of my time editing (sometimes longer than writing), so I’m always practising and improving my skill. It’s important for me to dedicate enough time to the editing process and be critical of my work so it can be the best it can be.
Here are a few tips I keep in mind when I’m self-editing:
1. Get on the right track
Although some prefer to edit on a hard copy, I much prefer editing on-screen. As soon as I get down to edit and proof read, I switch on track changes so I can document and review all changes that I make. It’s easier, quicker and clearer to read and you can always go back to accept or reject the changes you have made.
2. Put on your editing hat
Editing isn’t just about looking for typos, you should use this time to hone your writing and strengthen the content, section by section. As you’re reading through, it’s second nature to edit any obvious errors, but usually I separate the editing and the proofreading processes.
I tend to take the ‘hold no prisoners’ approach and try to be ruthless as I go through. If I’m unsure or have that niggly feeling to reword, I always attempt to reshape and if it’s not working, I scrap it.
3. If in doubt, check it out
Not sure of something? See this as an opportunity to use the resources available to you. Every time you look up something that you’re not quite sure of, whether that’s grammar, punctuation or spelling, you’re expanding your writing skills.
As well as this, the more you double-check and look things up, the less you’ll need to in the future. You’ll find that your writing will become more natural and your knowledge will continue to develop.
4. Read it through slowly, multiple times
It’s important to dedicate enough time to editing to ensure you can review your copy slowly and accurately. Here you can focus on proofreading, checking for grammar, spelling, punctuation and typos! I’m very meticulous, so I read slowly through the document, restarting after correcting or adjusting text. This way I can ensure that it flows nicely and reads well.
I tend to have quite a few read throughs to reassure myself that I haven’t missed anything and often take a break in between. I go back to it with a pair of fresh eyes and look at it from a different perspective.
5. Listen to how it sounds
Remember, it’s not just about the grammar and spelling, the wording and rhythm of the piece is just as essential. When reading through, I pay attention to how it sounds and flows, imagining myself as the reader. Does it read smoothly? Is it understandable and engaging?
Review the construction of the sentences; maybe a few of those longer sentences need breaking up and some smaller ones elaborated on further. Some say to read your copy out loud; for me I prefer to not read aloud, but it may work for you!
Like anything, everyone works differently and it’s about finding a method that’s suitable for you. What’s important is to take a logical, systematic approach to maximise your time editing and develop your craft. If writing isn’t your thing or you can’t find the time, call in the experts 😉