Anyone who knows me, knows my least favorite thing about writing is editing my own work. I’d liken it to extracting my own teeth. No, really, I jest. However, what is true is that every writer needs a method for editing their writing that works for them. It won’t only help tighten and smooth your text, but it will make you a better writer in the long run.
Today being New Year’s Eve is symbolic because one of my resolutions is to spend more time editing my words before I send them off to the far corners of the internet where it’s harder to retract errors. This is my six-step method that helps me remedy any issues before I press publish.
- Admit that we all make mistakes. It is inevitable. I feel like no one knows this better than me. I once wrote a college paper where I wanted to write the word “hit” and accidentally wrote a familiar four-letter word that starts with an “s”. My professor never said a thing to me. Nevertheless, I couldn’t wait for that class to end, so I could fade into anonymity.
- Take a break. Get up and walk around. Clear your head and go back to your writing. This will help you to look at your writing with new perspective. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt rushed, I’ve skipped this step, and later realized why it’s such a valuable part of the self-editing process as I’ve stared down at typos in my writing.
- You must kill your darlings. William Faulkner said, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” Be ruthless and cut anything that seems out of place and doesn’t add value to your writing. If it feels like my earlier example of pulling your own teeth, you are probably doing it right. Remember that no one’s writing is perfect the first time. Everyone can benefit from cutting a word here or an entire paragraph there.
- Read your writing out loud. Often when I’m just reading my own writing silently, I read exactly what I MEANT to write and gloss over any grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors. Reading it out loud is when I can actually hear the unintended errors. I will cringe when I hear a disembodied comma (one of my biggest errors) when I read out loud. Pro tip: Word in Office 365 has a tool that will read your text out loud to you. This has saved me on more than one occasion.
- Send it to a friend to review. Don’t send it to any friend. Some friends will tell you that just about anything is “good”. You want to send it to someone who will provide you honest feedback. I think we all have one of those in our lives. If not, now is a good time to find one!
- Use an app. I’ve recently started using the free version of Grammarly and color me impressed! It’s all I could ask for in a grammar app. I’ve also heard great things about the Hemingway app.
My goal over the next year is to polish and refine my writing through self-editing. What are your resolutions? What are some of your tips to edit your writing? I’d love to hear from you.