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How to Edit Your Own Writing

Updated on February 7, 2008

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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    • profile image

      Leonardo 3 years ago

      Amy,If you found someone that nedeed it to complete a bed you might get as much as fifty dollars. No dealer that I am aware of would bother putting it in stock owing to the extremely limited market. You should go to Google Images and search “Simmons bed spring”. One or more might turn up and might have some dollar information connected. The spring is probably 60-80 years old and made so well that it is still useful. You can put a zippered cover over it for cleanliness and use it as a box spring.Good Luck,Marshall

    • profile image

      Brian 3 years ago

      I carry on listening to the neasswct lecture about getting free online grant applications so I have been looking around for the most excellent site to get one. Could you advise me please, where could i find some?

    • AndyBaker profile image

      AndyBaker 9 years ago from UK

      Editing my writing was a problem for a long time!

      Some good tips here.

    • chillingbreeze profile image

      chillingbreeze 9 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!

    • Pam Roberson profile image

      Pam Roberson 9 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. :)

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 9 years ago

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

    • Peter M. Lopez profile image
      Author

      Peter M. Lopez 10 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

      Thanks, UW. I appreciate it.

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

    • Shirley Anderson profile image

      Shirley Anderson 10 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Excellent advice!

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 10 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      Great Hub, Peter. Excellent advice :)

    • Peter M. Lopez profile image
      Author

      Peter M. Lopez 10 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

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

    • nashomega profile image

      nashomega 10 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
      Author

      Peter M. Lopez 10 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

      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.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 10 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
      Author

      Peter M. Lopez 10 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

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

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 10 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
      Author

      Peter M. Lopez 10 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

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

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 10 years ago from New Brunswick

      This is useful, thank you.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Peter! Really well put info.

      Great HUB

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Peter M. Lopez profile image
      Author

      Peter M. Lopez 10 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

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

    • Peter M. Lopez profile image
      Author

      Peter M. Lopez 10 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

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

    • nasph profile image

      nasph 10 years ago from Accrington, UK

      hey, good advice there.

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 10 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)

    • MrMarmalade profile image

      MrMarmalade 10 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.

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