Today’s question is about Self-Editing your writing.
Are there some quick tips on how I can edit my own blog posts? Is there a check-list I can follow so I know for sure that I’ve done all I could?
Self-editing is the best option if you write short articles/posts. For longer pieces like books, novels or novellas, you would ideally engage a professional to help you with editing.
There are a few steps you can follow which will ensure that your article/ post meets with your personal standards of content quality and is consistent with your writing style. These are the steps you can follow:
Before you check your post for style and consistency, get the pesky, minor irritants out of the way. These include:
- Spelling errors: With spell-checkers built into the word-processors, spelling checks are nearly all taken of. Or so we think. The spellings we need to check now are the typos which are valid words themselves which have been used out of context. ME instead of BE, THE instead of THEY and so on.
- Punctuation errors: You would not only need to check the placement of the punctuation but also make sure they have the right spaces around them. The rule regarding spaces around punctuation designates no space before the punctuation and one space after them.
- Grammatical errors: Tenses are the most common grammatical trip-ups. Subject-verb agreement errors, misused homophones and wrongly used apostrophes are pretty frequent too.
In the second round of editing, you would look for consistency errors. These errors are often overlooked. In fact, many people believe that proof-reading their work is about all the world may expect of them. But the following inconsistencies will put a reader off as surely as a misused homophone. Whichever convention you use in your work, ensure that it is consistently followed. Don’t, for example, follow British spellings in one sentence and American in the next!
- Usage of contractions vs. no contractions
- Verb tenses in sentence-to-sentence
- Abbreviations (United States or US)
- Punctuation with abbreviations (USA or U.S.A.)
- British Spelling (colour) vs. American Spelling (color)
The good news is, this can be consciously kept in mind while writing. With time, these conventions will become a part of your writing style and you will automatically follow your preferences as you write.
Once your grammar and spellings are correct and consistent, you must focus on your style. Long-winded sentences, excessive use of passive voice, instances of verbiage or filler words (like that and which) and the use of jargon are all attention worthy issues. Nothing is as exhausting as to read a complex, clunky sentence you’ve forgotten the beginning of by the time you reach the end, panting. Editing your style to keep it simple is you being kind to your reader. Be kind.
The last round of editing is to make sure you post is well formatted and your content is structured so that it flows logically.
Headers and lists give structure to non-fiction writing. If your post tells a story, does it follow an arc (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement)? How are its sequential, chronological and causal flows?
Chances are, you follow some of the steps and more or less ignore the rest. The truth is, since the emphasis is always laid on polishing your writing never on editing what you have churned out, you aren’t the only one who has been careless with reviewing your work. But that’s no reason you can’t begin now!
Which are your personal self-editing steps you follow before you hit Publish?
This week’s question has been answered by one of our core team members, Dagny, who is a passionate bibliophile. Her love for the written word is deep and enduring. The combination of language skills and love of books make her an efficient editor.