As your caffeine-induced writing binge draws to a close, you shake the 90-words-per-minute keystrokes off your hands and wipe your brows. Phew!
But it’s not over ’till it’s over. In fact, now you’re tasked with the most important (and often the most challenging) part of your writing rendezvous.
Push back your glasses, it’s time to start editing… Or is it?
The Importance of Editing
Never, ever, ever underestimate the importance of editing your work. No matter how great your piece is, no matter how many hours you’ve poured into it, you have no excuse to skimp on the editing.
Sure, a typo in your own blog post can be embarrassing, but you can fix it. Yes, a typo in an essay may cost you a point, but the essay stays between you and your professor.
Typos in freelance work, however, leave a poor taste in your client’s mouth. Your article could be 2,500 words long with research out the wazoo. But if there’s just a minor smudge, it gives off the impression that you’re sloppy or unprofessional.
Harsh, I know, but it’s true. A client will look at the piece and go, “I’m paying X amount per article and I still have to brush through with a fine-tooth comb for edits?”
You’re only human, but you’re providing a professional service. There are certain expectations you need to meet.
Tips and Tricks for Editing Your Own Work
Step Away From the Computer Screen
Whether you’re excited or exhausted, the bulk of your editing shouldn’t take place immediately after finishing your piece. A quick skim or a read-through is fine, but give yourself a break between writing and editing.
Stepping away from the computer screen gives you the opportunity to clear your mind and come back to your writing with a refreshed perspective.
This also reduces the risk of any confirmation-bias kicking in. If you dive headfirst into editing directly after finishing the piece, you might breeze over crucial semantic errors.
What you wrote is still fresh in your mind after you type the last period. You’re not expecting typos because you don’t remember writing the typos.
Read Your Work Aloud
Quietly reading your work under your breath isn’t enough. Read it like you’re giving an award-winning speech. Give it your all! Be expressive, enunciate!
It may feel silly at first, but this helps you play closer attention to the piece. You’re actually putting in effort to read it.
Bonus points if you have a loved one or furry four-legged friend to read your writing aloud to.
Take Advantage of Editing Software
Having an eagle-eye for editing is imperative and you should always be seeking to sharpen your grammar gaze.
Yet, your own editing will be biased and limited to your own literary skill set.
This is where tools like Grammarly and Hemingway Editor swoop in and save the day. They’re more than just your average spellcheck. These are advanced tools designed to enhance your writing and increase your readability.
Grammarly also has a Google Chrome extension that allows you to edit on the go. It’s incredibly handy for us bloggers who write their posts directly on WordPress or through an online freelancing platform.
However, the Grammarly app has more advanced features that will improve the quality of your writing. The Google Chrome extension is a bit more like spellcheck with a few extra bells and whistles.
Use a Thesaurus
Call me old fashion, but a thesaurus should be top priority in your tool belt.
A thesaurus lets you search for a word and find a slew of other words with similar meanings. It adds variety to your vocabulary, which makes your writing far more engaging.
Cut Back on “That”
The imagery of red pens and “NO WORD CLUTTER” comments along the margins of my college newspaper are permanently burned into my brain.
As a journalist, one of the most effective ways to reduce word clutter is cut back on the word “that.” It’s not always practical, but most of the time, you’re using “that” unneccessarily.
If you can’t omit “that” completely from the sentence, replace it with something else: the, it, [name of thing you’re referring to], etc… Use anything other than “that” as often as you can.
Once you realize how overused “that” is, you’ll soon notice how much better your writing flows. It’ll also sound a bit more professional.
You owe it to yourself, your audience, and your clients to be a thorough editor. The editing process is nothing to rush into, nor does it have to be so daunting.
Take advantage of the tips, tricks, and tools at your disposal. Being a great editor is central to being a great writer.