“When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.” ― Stephen King, On Writing
How many writers out there think they don’t need an editor? I doubt many, which is why we have jobs. Editing is a special skill that develops with practice and time. But what do you do if you don’t have an editor or are short on time? What about if you’re submitting to an editor and worry they’ll rip it to shreds?
Here are five tips on how to edit your own work. These tips may help develop your editing skills, improve your writing, and win your editor’s heart.
1. Run spell check. There’s this nifty little tool called spell check. Use it, and add words to your dictionary as you go.
2. Read your copy aloud. I don’t mean fly through it like you’re reading something for school or an online article. Enunciate the words, pause at commas and periods – read it like you would to a four-year-old. You will see and hear how it reads, enabling you to make important changes.
3. Find the meaning. Read each paragraph or section and ask yourself, “What did that paragraph/section mean or tell me?” If you can’t answer that in one sentence, consider revising for clarity and focus.
4. Check your transitions. As you read, pay attention to how you change subjects or points. Does it seem natural? Does it bounce around? Each thought should lead into the next, and the entire piece should tie it all together. If you talk about parachuting in paragraph one, it probably won’t make sense to talk about shoes in the next.
5. Step back. Take a break, and when you come back, read it one final time. If it’s an assignment, does it address everything required? Do you enjoy reading it? How does it read as a whole? Make necessary changes, and if they are extensive, read it once more.
There’s no need to memorize grammar and punctuation rules, or agonize over every word. If you want to learn the rules, I encourage it; however, the above steps will help you find misspelled words (such as its and it’s) and hear things (such as missing words) to ensure you submit your best work.
For more writing tips, check out our Writing for Web and Tips section!