How to Edit Your Own Writing

5 TIPS FOR EDITING YOUR OWN WRITING

 

5. DON'T.

I realize this is every editor's first bit of advice, but there is a reason this is so. It is virtually impossible to remove all bias that you have toward your own work. You are probably not a fair judge of your own word choice, syntax, or readability. You thought it, so it sounds right to you, but it may not read correctly to someone else.

Let's face it, I am guilty of this. You are guilty of this. But, unless your work begins, "Dear Diary," you are not writing for your eyes only. If others will ultimately judge your work, why not before it is published.

If You Must

 

4. KNOW THE RULES.

There are very few things in life you can do without first knowing the rules. Writing well is not one of them. You cannot possibly expect to write or edit without a firm grasp of the rules of grammar.

If your high school and college English classes left you unfulfilled, read Strunk & White's The Elements of Style (4th Edition). It is one of the best rulebooks out there. On the lighter side, Patricia T. O'Connor's Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English is another useful classic.

Despite what text messaging, instant messaging, emailing, and message boarding might lead you to conclude, rules of grammar still apply. Assuming you want to be taken seriously as a writer, spelling words correctly is not optional, nor is using words correctly.

An impact is a collision, not an effect. An impact can affect you, but it is not the effect. Unless you are a budding David Foster Wallace and can artfully create three-page long sentences, you should avoid experimental writing and stick to the basics.

3. TAKE A BREAK.

Before you begin editing your work, take a break. The longer the better. Put some distance between yourself and what you wrote. If you are your only editor, it is essential that your eyes be as fresh as possible, and not only so you can stay awake reading your own work.

And by "break" I don't mean the time it takes to spin around in your chair. Go take a nap, read a book, scale a mountain, or something to get your mind off what you wrote.

2. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.

You can only edit effectively if you know your audience. For one audience a particular writing could be brilliant, and for another laughable. For example, the use of contractions would not be appropriate for a scholarly magazine or journal, but could be for a blog entry or hub (see "don't" above).

There is a time and place for a blue, starched, button-down and there is a time and place for untucked with rolled-up sleeves. The simplest way to know your audience is to know what other writers have written. It does take a little time and effort to research the publication or website, but it will benefit you tremendously in the end.

1. READ, READ, READ.

There is nothing that will make you a better writer or editor than reading. Read books, read newspapers, read magazines, read poetry, read blogs, read whatever you can get your hands on. If you like action and mystery, read historical fiction. If you like fiction, read non-fiction. If you only like women authors, read men authors. Diversify.

You will be amazed at how reading a variety of writing styles will improve your own writing. Reading will improve your use of language, it will improve your grammar, it will make you a better writer. You will also develop a more critical eye, which will help your own editing tremendously. So, the best thing you can do to help you edit your own writing(?): read someone else's.

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Comments 23 comments

MrMarmalade profile image

MrMarmalade 8 years ago from Sydney

YOUR WORDS EFFECT ME WITH IMPACT.

i DO BELIEVE THERE THREE THINGS WE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT OURSELVES.

1. IT IS WHAT YOU BELIEVE ABOUT YOU.

2. WHAT YOUR CLOSEST AN NEAREST BELIEVE ABOUT YOU

3. What the rest of the world believe about you.

We all may be shocked to find there are totally three different out looks on you.

Thank you for great words and the compassion.


G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 8 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

good advise cause I need it....but really don't exspect to be a writer..sad to say G-ma :O)


nasph profile image

nasph 8 years ago from Accrington, UK

hey, good advice there.


Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

Marmalade, thanks. I always appreciate your feedback. You are one of the "others" I would recommend anyone read.


Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

G-Ma Johnson and nasph, thank you both. I appreciate your time and efforts.


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 8 years ago from Ontario/Canada

Peter! Really well put info.

Great HUB

regards Zsuzsy


Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

This is useful, thank you.


Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

Thanks Zsuzsy and Bob. I hope it was helpful. Thank you for reading.


In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 8 years ago from California

What a great article. Thank you for including all of the useful sources and reference books. I hope that the 6th tip would be, lose your fear and go for it. It is a scary thing to try and express your feelings in writing. Personally, I am a lousy speller and "spellcheck" has become my best friend, but also my worst enemy!! Thanks for all your advice.


Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

You are certainly welcome Doghouse. And you are always welcome. I hope it was useful. I appreciate you taking the time to read it.


Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 8 years ago from Chennai

I agree with all five points. With hubs, I can always go back and edit my old ones since I haven't read them for ages. Your point 3 can thus be faithfully followed.

Thanks, Peter!


Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

Indeed! I, too, have to go back and edit old hubs. It seems no matter how many times I do edit, there is always more than can be done. Thanks, Kenny.


nashomega profile image

nashomega 8 years ago

Hi,

It was nice being on your hub, i agree totally that a good reader who reads a lots of variety can be a good writer as he can develop many ideas while reading...


Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

Thanks, nashomega. Reading is the best advice for any writer. I appreciate you reading.


Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

Great Hub, Peter. Excellent advice :)


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Excellent advice!


Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX Author

Thanks, UW. I appreciate it.

Shirley, thank you. I really appreciate both of you guys reading.


Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 8 years ago from India

More power to your pen...and your blue pencil! :)


Pam Roberson profile image

Pam Roberson 7 years ago from Virginia

Very nice advice and a very good hub. The big one that is so true is to walk away from your work, then come back and try to read it as if you've never seen it. Sometimes we get too excited to do that, but it's great advice! Thanks for pointing that out. :)


chillingbreeze profile image

chillingbreeze 7 years ago from India

Damnn... this is too good.. Really gonna help everybody, sp. newbies and aspiring copywriters. have my 5 stars on your way :)

Cheers!


AndyBaker profile image

AndyBaker 7 years ago from UK

Editing my writing was a problem for a long time!

Some good tips here.


Brian 21 months ago

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Leonardo 21 months ago

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