Whether you are a hobby writer or make a career of it, good editing is as important to your writing as coming up with ideas for your next great blog post, article, or book. If you have ever had an editor throw project after project back at you, it can feel like your writing is no good, or the editor has it out for you. Neither scenario is likely true. With a little practice, you can become your writing’s own best defense. Once you make these tips a habit, your writing will be trimmed, honed, and ready to shine.
Steps to Self-Editing
When you have been staring at a computer screen for a long period of time, all your text can start to mesh together. For this reason, and to give your eyes a break, always print the draft you are happy with and do a self-edit. Printing gives you the opportunity to red-pen your way through the page as if it was someone else’s work and allows you to be more objective in your editing. It is okay to hack and slash your way through. Be fearless! Pay attention to misplaced words and over-wording during this first run-through.
Next, take a break, even if it is just for a few minutes, and approach the piece again. This time, read it aloud. How does it flow? Is it so wordy that it drones on, or is it easy to follow? Take note of what you notice and don’t be offended if your inner editor tells you to cut it back some more. The next time you wield your red pen, remove all non-essential bits (words, sentences, even entire paragraphs) that do not contribute to the “meat” of your intentions.
When you approach your final draft, remember to keep it concise. Writing that overflows with adjectives may paint a pretty poem, but it does nothing for the function of a well-written letter, memo, or other written work. Re-write keeping your paragraphs at a manageable three to four sentences, and keep those sentences focused with strong subjects, objects, and verbs.
The aforementioned editing practices can and should be utilized in all of your written communications. From your personal letters to interoffice memos, consider how important it is for people to correctly interpret your words. When you practice these editing techniques outside of your usual writing, you also help enforce the good habits that come with being your own editor.