The best thing for your writing is to have an editor. That said, sometimes you’re all you’ve got. If you work in an industry that has busy seasons, or one that has a staff that is labor-based, you may not have the time or manpower to hire an editor. Or maybe you wrote a juicy tell-all about your life and your friends are no longer speaking to you.
Whatever the reason is for not having an editor, here are some tips for editing yourself.
Just Walk Away (Renee)
Don’t edit your document right after you finish it. Your brain is still deep in the process and will continue to miss the errors it missed before. You’ll do yourself a favor if you take a break. Go on a walk or get a coffee, even if it’s just for an hour. Move locations, then start reading with a clearer mind.
Print Your Work
If having a new set of eyes on your work is not an option, you need to trick your brain into seeing your work as if it’s new. A good way to do this is to print out a document and edit the physical copy instead of reading it on your computer screen.
Reading your document backwards is a good way to catch double words that your eyes might gloss over. You can also try reading it out loud, see if it sounds right to your ear.
Keep Track of Commonly Made Errors
I tend to always mistype “you” and “your”, not because I don’t know the difference, but sometimes my fingers don’t always work in conjunction with my brain. Since I know this is a common typo I make, I use the Control + F function to search the document for “you” and “your”. This way I can pay extra attention to the sentences containing these words. Keep a list of your common errors so you can quickly spot check your writing for them.
Also make a list of words you overuse. I used “great” 3 times in this blog post. But you don’t see it now because I went back and either removed the word where it wasn’t necessary or consulted a thesaurus to find a better alternative.
Become an Actor
Writing in a different voice than your own can be difficult. When you have completed work for someone else, it’s important to make sure that you kept true to their style. I find that it’s helpful to become an “actor” in this instance, if you’re a woman writing for a man, mentally recite your work in the voice of a man, or vice versa. Imagine the things you’ve written as being said by them, does it sound right to you? If too much of your own voice is creeping in, rewrite those sections.
Let the Robots Help You
You don’t have to go through the editing process completely alone, technology can help. Use the spellcheck button in Microsoft Word. If you’re writing in a browser, try using the Chrome extension Grammarly. It’s more in-depth than regular spellcheck and edits your work in emails, forum comments, blog posts and anywhere else you write online.
If you’re having trouble starting, break up your editing into rounds. Do a first read-through for grammar only, the next for voice, the next for typos. Sometimes when you focus on only one task, it’s less fatiguing to your brain.
It’s tough work to edit yourself, over time you’ll find it getting easier.
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