How to Edit Your Own Writing
When we think about editing, it’s hard not to remember Ernest Hemmingway’s wise words: ‘Write drunk. Edit sober.’ We are pretty sure he simply meant that when you are in the middle of an outpouring of writing, don’t stop to correct yourself. Do it after your first draft is done. After all, you cannot edit a blank page. However, the downside to editing your own writing is… well, you wrote it. So, the chances of you catching an error at the first glance are pretty low.
Let it sit for a while
When we finish our article/blog/story, it’s always a rush. While we cannot wait to get into editing, our advice is: give yourself some space. Let your writing be for a while. Go for a walk, workout, take a long hot bath. When you feel you have had enough distance from your work, come back and start round one of editing.
Read in a different format
If you have written your article in Georgia, font 14, it would be a good idea to switch to a different font and size. Comic Sans (despite being ridiculed by professionals) is a pretty good option during your editing stage. It’s one of the few fonts that are friendly towards people with dyslexia. And it is easier to catch errors with it. Additionally, converting the file to PDF helps. Or better yet, print out a copy that you can read through.
When in doubt, cut it out
The advice given to writers during the writing phase of the book is to bleed out words. This advice is reversed when editing. If the sentence feels too long to you, it probably is. If a word sticks out like a sore thumb, edit it. If you feel a paragraph is not adding any value to your work, cut it from the draft. Basically, as the editor your job is your snip, snip, snip when the text seems too verbose.
Read it out loud
Our brains process language differently. When you read your writing out loud, you spot errors that you might have missed out on otherwise. Sometimes your sentences might look good on paper, but you will hear it if it’s off when you read it aloud.
Use text-to-speech services
You can get your document to be read to you as well by using a text-to-speech service. Listening to your writing being read back to you helps you catch the errors you might have missed otherwise. You don’t even need a fancy tool for this – just use the narration feature on Google Docs for this!
Read it index-card style!
Another method you can try is using an index card or a credit card to cover the rest of the writing while you read the content one line at a time. The reason behind this is that our brains often process information in chunks and are not very good at nitpicking. This helps with catching the minutest of errors.
Change up the order of how you read
Go bonkers – read your content from the back, read the middle first, or just pick random paragraphs. You wrote it so there’s no way you can spoil the writing for yourself! Changing the order makes it easier to notice errors and rectify them.
Avoid words that make your sentence lazy
A rule of thumb is to avoid words that end with ‘ly’ and ‘ing’. For example: ‘she walked away slowly’ is a weak sentence. ‘Her feet dragged her away’ is a better way of conveying that your character is walking slowly. This brings us to the use of sentences like, ‘she smiled weakly’. Saying ‘she managed a watery smile’ just reads better. The other words to look out for are ‘very’ and ‘in order to’. These tend to drag your sentences and make them longer than they need to. Also, please avoid using clichés unless you put your own twist on them.
Learn about style guides
If you are copywriting, the AP style guide would be what you need to follow. For fiction writing, it’s the Chicago Manual. Their guidelines can be found easily. You will learn what professional editors would already know. Placement of commas and knowing which words have to be italicized will help you metamorphose into a much better writer.
Don’t forget to proofread… manually
It is an excellent idea to run your work through processors such as Grammarly and even Google Docs. However, these are AI-based processors and will pass sentences as correct if their standards are met. Even though they will catch errors such as using ‘there’ and ‘their’ – they might miss out on minor details that could end up changing the original thought of your sentence in the first place! Always proofread your work manually before the final submission.
And finally… ask someone to give it a quick look through!
Your writing deserves the best. You spent a lot of time ensuring it is the perfect piece. Even though you have edited it yourself, we strongly recommend getting another pair of eyes to look through your work. You can always ask a friend for help.
Until then, happy editing (and re-writing)!