5 Easy Editing Tips to Instantly Improve Your Writing
Before I go any further into this post, let me give you one caveat. You shouldn’t edit your own work. (This goes for professional editors, too!)
Why? Because you’re simply too close to the writing to be effective.
Your eyes glaze over when you read your web copy or e-book for the gazillionth time. You skim and miss typos. You read words that aren’t there because you know what the sentence is supposed to say.
I guarantee it happens to the best of us.
But if you absolutely must play editor to your own writing, do yourself a favor by following these five easy tips. They won’t replace professional editing (if they could, I’d be out of a job!) but they’ll make your task more efficient and effective.
Let’s dive in.
1. Spell Check
This seems like a no brainer, right? But you wouldn’t believe how many people skip this quick and easy step to better writing.
While you’re at it, delete the word “pubic” from your computer’s dictionary. That way, it will come up as a misspelled word when you run spell check. You can change it back to “public” and save yourself from making an embarrassing mistake because of a simple typo!
Remember, though, that you can’t count on spell check to fix homophones (e.g. “blew” for “blue”) or a simple slip of the fingers such as “tear” for “year.”
2. Find and Replace
Start with “find,” and then move on to “replace.” Search your document for common grammar mistakes and typos. If you find one, just replace it with the correct word.
Thanks to autocorrect and hurried typing, mistakes can sneak into almost any first draft. Here are a few of the most frequent ones:
It’s vs. Its
You’re vs. Your
They’re vs. Their vs. There
In each of these examples, the first word is a contraction (It’s = it is, You’re = you are, They’re = they are), and the second word is possessive (Its fur, Your skin, Their blanket). The third word in the last example can be used in a variety of ways. To make sure you’ve chosen the correct word, just make sure “their” and “they’re” don’t make sense.
And take note: The possessive form of “it” doesn’t have an apostrophe.
3. Read It Out Loud
You might feel silly reading that blog post to nobody in particular, but your ears will hear mistakes that your eyes gloss over. You’ll spot missing words and typos. When you sound redundant or hear a sentence that doesn’t quite flow, you’ll know where to make changes.
Then, read it out loud again, this time to a friend or co-worker. They’ll point out things you never noticed. A friend’s critique may seem uncomfortable at first, but you’ll feel more confident publishing your writing for the world to read after it has already survived one audience.
4. Look at It
That’s right – look at the document. How will it appear on your website or brochure? Are your paragraphs long or short? Do you have any photos or illustrations?
Even a professional writer knows that good marketing communication isn’t just about words. Big blobs of gray text intimidate readers. At best, they’ll skim what you wrote. But more likely, they’ll skip it altogether.
Short sentences, short paragraphs and lots of images encourage readers to actually read what you wrote. Keep in mind that it’s harder to write short than to write long, so be prepared to slash and burn if needed.
5. Wait a Day
Unless you absolutely, positively have to publish immediately, let your first draft sit overnight. You’ll see it with fresh eyes and a slightly different perspective in the morning.
You’ll catch errors you didn’t see the day before – missing words, incomplete sentences and those small typos that don’t get picked up in spell check.
Tip of the Iceberg
These quick fixes are just the tip of the editing iceberg and aren’t exhaustive or 100% accurate. That’s why acting as your own editor is hazardous to your writing!
There’s just no simple formula for editing besides years of training and education. Your best bet for error-free copy is to hire a professional.
But if your copy is riddled with errors, give these quick fixes a try. You’ll immediately improve your writing.