Wednesday, January 25, 2012

From the archives: Self-Editing

*This post is a post that I am transferring over from the archives of my old WordPress blog. It was originally posted on Oct. 14th, 2011: 

I am in the process of putting together a writing submission for a website. I believe one of the most important parts of submitting writing, is the editing. While they aren't looking for a polished master piece, self-editing work is extremely important. As an editor, I know that most writers will never catch all of their own mistakes. Because we know what we meant to say, we often read it the way we wanted to write it, and not the way we actually wrote it. Nobody is perfect, everyone does it (sorry if I burst your bubble). So, as I am going through this process, I thought that I would share a bit of what I'm learning.

~The number one thing that I have found is that you should take a break between writing and editing. Whether you wait 5 minutes or 5 days, you need to take a break. Separate yourself from what you have just written. You can write about something else, read a book, run to the grocery store, whatever, just put some space between you and that piece of writing for a bit.

~Run the spell check. Seriously. Before you start exhausting yourself over little details, just run the spell check and get the little stuff out of the way. This is not the end all, but don't skip the simple stuff.

~The next thing, and I believe that this is HUGE, is to read it out loud. You will catch so many more mistakes that way, and ironically, I have thought that my writing needed thrown out before, and read it to my husband to show him just exactly why I needed to start over, and it was actually pretty good. There is something about hearing the words that really helps you to get a feel for what you wrote.

~Print your work. Having the paper in your hand vs. looking at the computer screen can help you look at your writing differently. I always see more mistakes on paper, and I would rather that paper be my rough draft then a final printed copy later on...

~When editing it's important to look at your work from the intended audiences point of view. You didn't write this for yourself (or maybe you did), try to picture yourself as your reader, and decide if what you have written is really something that they will want to read.

~Don't be redundant. Check for words that you might use to frequently. When possible, try not to use the same noun, verb, or adjective twice in the same paragraph. How many times it is acceptable to use it in your document varies with the length of your document. You should be able to tell if you are favoring a word and over using it.

~Be your own spell check. Go back through and look for typos. Check your spelling, grammar, formatting,  details, and other things that are just little mistakes that can make a huge difference.

~Last, but not least, whenever possible ask someone else to read your writing, or listen to you read it. Even a little, unprofessional feedback is better than none. I do recommend doing this last, because you don't want to waste their time. However, if you need to go back through the process, then do so.

What about you? Do you have any self-editing tips?

If you want to read some other great posts about self-editing, check these out:
Three Simple Stages of Self-Editing by Author, Jody Hedlund
Proofreading at Purdue Online Writing Lab

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