Back in 2017, I graduated with my master’s degree in Historical Research, I got a Merit, but it could’ve been a Distinction if I had paid a bit more attention to editing. A lot was going on when I was doing my masters. More than anything, when it came to my final dissertation, I struggled with the cycle of perfectionism/procrastination, so I spent about a fortnight cram-writing 16,000 words. I gave it a cursory proofread, and I made the deadline with about five minutes to spare.
Honestly, I was SO done with my dissertation that I had reached the ‘I don’t care how this does anymore, a pass will do’ stage. I wronged myself primarily by not being better organised but, the biggest mistake was not leaving myself enough time to edit. In the end, I was two marks off a Distinction in my dissertation. The feedback was that it was an impactful and engaging piece of work, and I knew the topic like the back of my hand, but they couldn’t give me a Distinction when it needed at least another round of editing.
The moral of the story? Editing is a crucial but also such an easy step to skip over. Even if you’re a high calibre writer, there’s still going to be the odd thing that slips through the net.
So, hands up, who’s written out a social post or a blog – whether you’ve quickly whipped it out or spent days on it – and you’re so done with looking at your work that you just send it off for approval without giving it much more than a quick skim proofread. Don’t worry, we’re all guilty of it! Or at least, as we know, I am!
However, editing doesn’t only save you from cringing when your client or boss picks up on an obvious typo (or loses you marks!); it makes your work better. In this blog post, I’ll share some tips for editing your work, showing you how to make the process easier and more efficient.
Proofread your work to find and fix errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation
This is step one. I write in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, and I tend to fix anything the software flags as we go along. However, once I’ve finished writing, I’ll have a quick proofread. Then I’ll open Grammarly and go through its suggestions; there are a few other alternatives that do a similar job, Grammarly is just what I’ve tried and works for me.
Don’t just apply everything without checking, some of Grammarly’s suggestions can be wild!
Use the ‘find’ function to search for specific words or phrases
Next, I go through and double-check myself for: very, really, much. It turns out that I LOVE those little extra words to dial up the feeling, but most of the time, they detract from the message that you’re trying to convey.
Find a second set of eyes, like another writer or editor, who can provide you with constructive feedback on your work
If you’ve got time, a second set of eyes on your work is unrivalled. Not so much for catching for grammar/punctuation but more for perspective/knowledge gaps. Some things might seem obvious to you (because you know the topic and you’re writing about it), or you’ve just gone word blind, so your brain is just skipping over any mistakes.
Read through your piece aloud – it will help you catch any mistakes that might have been missed by reading silently
I know that other writers love the ‘read aloud’ tool for this too, it helps you pick up on anything clunky or any double words that have slipped through the cracks.
Ask yourself if every word is necessary – remove anything that does not serve a purpose
Does this add to my writing/overall piece?
Does this deliver additional impact?
Does this make it better?
Does this detract from what I’m trying to say?
Does this make sense?
^All questions to ask yourself when reading through your work!
When editing dialogue, make sure all the speech tags are correct (he/she/they said) so readers know who is talking without having to read too far ahead
If you’ve written a piece that includes a lot of dialogue, in your head, it might make sense who’s speaking next, but for readers, it’s easy to lose track or become jarring if it doesn’t flow neatly. Pay attention to your speech marks and tags to ensure all dialogue is clearly identified and flows well.
Editing and proofing your work sounds straightforward. In theory, it is! But we don’t all have the right eye for detail or attention span for editing, OR we’re just too close to our pieces of work to see the minor errors.
So, remember once you’ve poured your heart and soul into writing an article, email series or book, it’s time to take care of the final details. Make sure you have enough time to edit – don’t be afraid to use features such as read aloud or tools like Grammarly if they help!
If you want to make sure that what you’re publishing is perfect, why not get a second opinion? I offer freelance proofreading and editing services for blogs and copy which can save you both time and stress in the long run! Drop me a message today for more information about how I can help with all aspects of writing and editing or book a free 30-minute discovery call here.
2 thoughts on “Edit Like a Pro: Top Tips for Editing Your Work”
Editing is my most-hated part of the writing process, not just because I find it hard (especially compared to the writing itself), but because most of what I write is crap, so my second pass tends to tremendously shorten my stories.
That means that when I try to meet an 80,000 word count, I end up chopping it to 50,000, and then I won’t meet the minimum requirement for the publisher, lol.
Anyway, great post. Thanks for sharing!
800% agree! It’s taken me a long time to give editing my own work the space and time that it requires! I find that I tend to edit myself a lot as I go along, instead of free writing to get it down on the page and then coming back to it later.
I’ve got a sort of premise for a novel written out on post-it notes and I anticipate that I’m going to be similar to you, just writing, writing, writing and then will need to cut dramatically!!
Thanks for reading and commenting, Stuart! 🙂