ProofreadIf you've read any of my previous blogs, you might recall that I'm a big fan of D.I.Y. projects. However, there are some things that are just simply outside the "D.I.Y." realm for me ... and probably should be for you, too. For example, dentistry, astronautics, and tattooing are practices that you should probably leave to the experts. However, one thing you CAN add to the list of D.I.Y.-approved activities is self-editing.

So, in order to help you, dear reader, learn how to self-edit your own work, I have culled the Internet for a few quick tips and combined them with my own experience from writing and editing here at Orgwide and from teaching high school literature and writing (and grading lots of papers!). Below you will find what I consider the most important and useful tips you can apply today to improve your writing.

  1. Take a break.

    Once you have finished writing, leave it alone for a while. If you are on a deadline, at least take a coffee break or bathroom break. But the longer you can step away from it, the better. If you try to edit your own writing as soon as you have finished, you will just read what you think you wrote, not what you really wrote. You will skip over even the most obvious mistakes.

  2. Read it out loud.

    By reading your own work out loud, you'll be able to catch those awkward sentences or phrases, missing and repetitive words, and misspellings.

  3. Cut, cut, cut.

    Be concise. Less is more – and almost always better. Look at each sentence to see how you can trim them. Delete words that add no value to your writing. This includes vague words such as: very, just, that, some, many, because of, shows, the reason is, and others. Be specific.

  4. Watch your punctuation (and emphasis).

    Avoid using exclamation points, italics, or all caps unless absolutely necessary. Convey the importance of what you are saying with the context and word choice. Otherwise, you risk overemphasizing too many points or even yelling at your reader with all caps.

  5. Avoid passive construction.

    Use active voice with strong nouns and verbs. For example, instead of, "The ball was thrown by Jack," write, "Jack threw the ball." Make the noun perform the action, not be acted upon.

  6. Proofread and spell check.

    After you have made your changes, read through your piece one more time. You may catch a mistake that was inadvertently made while editing. It is always a good idea to run spell check one last time as well.

By applying these six steps to your editing process, you will vastly improve your writing, even before sending it over to a pair of "fresh eyes" to review. Good luck!


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