Whether you're a freelance writer, a novelist, or an in-house content creator, you work with tons of information and words to build a copy that is interesting to read. Writing skills aren't fast and easy to develop, but there's one more skill some writers often underestimate and overlook - editing.
Some believe that it's best to hire a professional editor and focus on the creative writing process instead. But what if you don't have the right contacts or budget for that? What if you're a freelancer or a self-publishing writer doing all the creation, submission, and promotion work alone?
Self-editing skills are a must-have for any professional working with a copy. It will give you a better chance of getting your work approved, published, and clicked on. No one will think of you as a writing expert if your copy is full of spelling, punctuation, grammar, and flow errors.
Self-editing is an integral part of the writing process. It's about your attention to detail, desire to improve your skills, and respect for language. It's never been an easy job, but it's extremely beneficial to your writing career development and professional growth.
Every writer has some words, idioms, or grammar constructions that are challenging to remember. This is especially sensitive for authors writing in foreign languages, though native speakers can't embrace the full range of their language features too.
As a writer, you know the most common mistakes you make while working: wrong spelling, punctuation marks, complex grammar constructions, etc. Pay close attention to these while self-editing:
It may seem boring and time-consuming at first, but this trick will help you develop better writing habits.
The trick here is to resist the temptation of re-reading your draft just after you've finished writing it. Remember to have the "fresh eye" approach of proofreading your copy the next day (or at least a few hours) after writing it, you are more likely to notice any mistakes that need correcting.
Also, feel free to use specific writing apps designed to help content creators with proofreading and editing. They assist with finding spelling, grammar, clarity, and style issues in your texts; they suggest alternatives, correct improper formatting, and improve your writings' readability.
It's fine to use spell checkers as an extra tool to proofread your writing. However, professional self-editors know not to rely on spell checkers implicitly. No spell checkers can give you a 100% guarantee that your text is free of typos.
That's because spell checkers don't see some typos as spelling mistakes. Let's take "your" and "you're," "her" and "here," or "it's" and "its," for example. Not all tools will see a mistake here because the spelling is correct, but the meanings are different. You risk missing a blunder like these if you don't proofread your work carefully and line-by-line.
When planning your content and then editing it, forget that it was you who wrote the story. Change a perspective for a moment and imagine yourself as the reader. Does the writing flow well? Can you spot spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistakes?
To be a better self-editor, answer the following questions:
Another trick is to get into an editor's shoes and ask yourself, "Would I approve this content piece for publishing?"
One common mistake of most inexperienced writers is they believe that the more metaphors, descriptive adjectives, or rare synonyms they use, the better. Sure, it's good to embellish your writing at times, especially if you write fiction but it's not okay to stuff your work with all of those at once.
Make it a habit to check your writing for overuse of so-called elegant variations (super poetic synonyms of common words), ten-dollar words (those rarely used in everyday speech), clichÃ©d metaphors, and needless exaggeration.
The last one is especially true for business and marketing writing, where authors want to sound more persuasive. So they write something like, "it goes without saying" or "it couldn't be easier." Learn to notice and cut such phrases from your work.
Some more tips would be:
The best helper here could be the tool that most writers use: Hemmingway App. Like Ernest Hemingway himself, this online application doesn't like long sentences, adverbs, and passive voice, suggesting you revise your writings accordingly.
This self-editing trick will help you understand if your text sounds good and reveal all the missing typos once and for all. It's an opportunity to "hear" your story from outside and notice quirky sentences, wordiness, impractical word repetition, etc.
By reading your works out loud, you'll see if something is wrong with their rhythm or logic. It will help you cut all the unnecessary parenthesis from your texts too.
This trick is perfect for checking your text's spelling and grammar mistakes. Step by step, start with your story's last sentence to perceive it separately, not in the context of your writing.
When we read backwards, the brain thinks differently. It doesn't scan the content and see what it remembers; instead, it reads each sentence as a new, independent item and can notice mistakes we missed while reading our text in a general way.
Another trick to make the brain work this way is to print out a draft and edit it line-by-line on paper, with a pencil in hand. It will allow you to perceive the work as a new content piece, not the one you've just written. You'll read it as an editor, not an author.
Self-editing is not an easy job. It requires hard work, patience, diligence, and attention to detail. However, this skill can be super beneficial to a writer's work. So, take your time, don't give up, and enjoy making your text even better than it was before. If you'd like some further writing tips and techniques, take a look at Media Training's writing courses taking place both online and at their amazing centre in London.
by Lesley Vos | 27 Sep 23
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