12 Tips to Edit Your Own Writing Better

12 Tips to Edit Your Own Writing Better

By Mainak Biswas September 05, 2013 - 598 views

It is required of every writer to try their hand at editing their own article. This way they can rest assured that there are no glaring and obvious mistakes and spruce up the less-than-perfect writing which might have resulted in the end. The prospect of using their own skills to groom the article for publishing makes them handle their work with utmost care and make justice to their work.

Here are some tips that can help a writer edit his or her draft:

• Print out the draft

Hand it over to a number of friends who are quite proficient in English language. Tell them to look at your work and you may record their reaction at the first look or read at it – about the overall direction of the work. It may be a long and tiring walk to the nearest printer, but it is worth the walk as the critical acclaim of your work is at stake. This could also mean a 4 percent to 5 percent hike in your salary.

This can simulate an outsider perspective to gauge your work as any good editor can tell you that outside eyes and diverse opinions can help your work with constructive criticism. This criticism can help you a lot as you may overlook many glaring mistakes from a flawed, biased or emotionally driven perspective. This is natural because the work is your creation and you may be attached to it.

• Take a break

Give some time for yourself so that you can detach yourself from the article or negate any emotional bond that you share with it. Go on a hiking trip or go kayaking in the river waters, preferably places that you can lose memory of anything by being in the nature’s bosom or other idyllic environs. If you are bound by a deadline this tip can be ignored as lavishing time on this step can mean a luxury that you can ill afford.

Return back at your convenience, when you feel you have emotionally detached from your work. It is liberating to know what fresh eyes can do. Fresh eyes that you bring back to your desk can mean a lot as you will be able to spot flaws such as awkward spelling, unnecessary phrasing and plain old mistakes. This step can help you excel at your edits.

For essays, try to allow a gap of at least a day. Short stories may sometimes need longer – the retention time of these in your memory is a lot more. The ideas and thoughts of the short stories can have an adverse effect on editing as they linger longer. Many novelists advise a detachment time amounting to a month or so before starting the revision process.

• Read your article out loud

Read it out loud as the best writing sounds smooth like the spoken language. The grammatical correctness of phrasing is best found out while doing this. Don’t waver a bit in using contractions as they constitute the main part of a spoken language. There are more chances of a sentence getting reworded in this step than in any other.

• Read your article backwards

Reading your article backwards lays more emphasis on checking the spelling mistakes. Start from the last word in the article and slowly make your way into the article, reading each word separately. Because in this context, grammar and punctuation and likewise, the content too doesn’t make any sense; your focus is entirely on the spelling of each word. This can make your article free from spelling mistakes.

• Time for some role playing

Read your article from the reader’s perspective. Make a note of your reader’s habits and their appetite for certain type of work such as short stories on fiction or science-fiction. Apart from story-telling, your readers may also be interested in specifically academic essays. In this type of writing, makes sure your reader is comfortable and has developed a liking for certain drama such as suspense, thriller, comedy or tragedy and read the article from their perspective.

Make an effort to get deep into their mind and delve deeper into their character. Make sure you edit the way it best suits their liking. Then, you can be assured that they are thoroughly entertained and the painstaking effort that you put in your work gets the applause and acclaim that it deserves from specifically targeted readers. This can make your day.

• Don’t use subordinate clauses much

Curtail the extensive usage of subordinate clauses as relying too much on it can cause the sentence to be incomprehensible and less readable. Most of the subordinate clauses that begin with ‘that’, ‘which’ and the like are most common and writers are prone to the fallacy of rendering a sentence meaningless in a bid to add more from their thoughts.

• Make sure the comfort criterion is met

You are the best judge to decide where you are comfortable at. If you are comfortable working on a desktop rather than with a pen and paper, you should go for it. It all depends on the comfort level of each person – where other people fear to tread, some others excel at such places in terms of productivity.

Also, some people are accustomed to working in places bustling with activity like moving cars and frolicking kids. If they are in a resort away from the hustle and bustle of city, some others have a comfort level of working in such places teeming with wildlife – amid the noises of crickets, chirping birds as such. It is best left to the individual’s discretion as to where they are productive at.

• Prioritize

If you are on a tight schedule and have to meet a deadline, you can manage your editing tasks by way of prioritizing them. It is advised to label them from the task requiring prompt attention to the one that is not so important. Always be open to make last minute adjustments and make provisions in your schedule to accommodate them as you may hit upon inspiration any time. As you know inspiration hits you in places unimaginable.

Plan to meet your deadline by taking certain emergencies into consideration such as power cuts or natural disasters in your area or thunderstorms. Always keep backup copies of your work so that you are not at a risk of losing the article or your work that you plan to edit.

• Pay heed to structure

Make sure that the overall structure of the content is right. Does it have an appropriate introduction and a conclusion? Is your thesis clearly stated in the introduction?

• Fact checking

Are your claims accurate? Have you provided links from where you have referenced the claims? Provide proper citations for the quotes, paraphrases and ideas that you got from sources in a correct format. Also, keep provisions in the article for readers looking for exact information, by providing them relevant titles.

• Relevance of writing

Does your paragraph stick to a clear topic? Are your paragraphs arranged in a logical sequence? Are the transitions between paragraphs smooth? Do your paragraphs have any missing sentences or incomplete ones left in a hurry to list your other thoughts? Is the structure of your paper consistent with the outline of your paper written in the first draft?

• Don’t rely on thesaurus for vocabulary

Use proper words that you are comfortable with. Don’t rely on the thesaurus. Could the choice of adjectives in your work have been better? Have you used the proper pronouns? Have you used the proper style of writing that was demanded of you from your client? There are a lot of differences within British and American English. The Americanized version is an adjustment to the UK one by way of minor spelling modifications.

Editing and writing may seem like two different professions but every writer should also be an editor. As you keep editing by utilizing each and every one of these tips, you will make revisions to the content in question that matters and these revisions will ensure that many glaring mistakes may pop out. The patterns of error that pop up will help you especially if you are editing a large document like a thesis or dissertation.

Once the pattern surfaces, you can come up with techniques to spot and correct future instances of that pattern. For example, if you have a habit of discussing several distinct topics in each paragraph, you can go through your paper and underline key words in the paragraph, then break the paragraphs up so that each one focuses on just one main idea.

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