This is a guest article by Jake Lester. If you want to submit a guest article of your own, be sure to read the guest article guidelines.
It is true that in the field of writing, the act of writing is much more preferred than editing. Everybody frowns on editing. Even so, the sure test to gauge a writer’s skill is to check how proficient they are in editing their own work. This is what is referred to as self-editing, and it’s what separates the mediocre writers from proficient writers.
Let me share eight professional secrets of self-editing that will ultimately make you a Great Writer.
Read out loud your written work
This is an effective way to self-edit. Reading out loud your work will give you a general outlook of what you have written. Hearing out what you have written makes mistakes more apparent. It will help you identify misplaced phrases, repetitive words, missing words, spelling mistakes, and also grammatical errors. Better yet, it may also help you identify points that need more elaboration.
To effectively do this, you can read your whole work yourself or use a very patient friend who can assist you. You can also use a computer software program to assist you. If you have such PC software, the narrator can be of much help in this regard to improve your writing.
Shorten your sentences
As you go through your work, have a closer look at the sentences. Your aim here is to cut out as many words as you can in order to keep your sentences short. Check for instances where you have used too many words to explain one point. Check for the many phrases which could be substituted with just one or two phrases.
In many writers’ circles, less is always considered more. Observe brevity and keep the sentences as short as possible.
Always run a spell check and employ a superior editing program
Most writers can agree that typing fast can lead to a lot of spelling errors and word omissions. Most word processors underline each and every error made. But you can always run a spell check after you complete a write-up. This is quite important in any editing exercise.
In addition to running a spell check, automated editing programs have proved to be handy in editing. For most writers, Grammarly just does it. However, there are others too, such as WordRake. With these automated editing programs, they literally do all the work for you. From basic grammar to misplaced words and punctuation, they do it for you with much ease.
One of the most overlooked aspects of writing are the tenses. Most writers tend to shift from past tense to present tense when writing about the past.
The converse is also true. It is vital that you maintain consistency when writing in a particular tense.
Most common mistakes with tenses are those of the past tense. For example, one could write, “I was reading many books for a whole week.” This sentence is not correct. Instead, it should be, “I have been reading many books for a whole week.” The mistake was that the writer failed to put the action in the present perfect continuous tense.
Weed out the jargon and use normal words
Every writer at one time or another feels the urge to throw in some jargon just to show how well conversed they are in the Queens language.
Sometimes, it may be just some fancy phrases or just some technical vocabulary. However, the best articles are the ones in which a writer uses the most normal and conversational language. They are the articles in which the reader grasps everything without having a hard time trying to understand the message.
If you are prone to writing in a language that’s close to legalese, then self-editing provides the chance for you to redeem yourself. Weed out those words and replace them with normal words that are used in everyday conversations.
The most important thing here is clarity and building up content. Leave the side shows for now. Simplicity is key so as to bring out the message in the clearest way.
Go easy on the adjectives
Adjectives are important in any write-up. They are essential, especially in descriptions and elaborations. However, they should not be overused. Sometimes, writers fall into the pitfall of using too many adjectives to describe a specific item or a person.
Consider this scenario: “The Prince was a fierce, active fighter.” Well, both adjectives accurately describe the noun (The Prince). But it is better if you chose the stronger of the two adjectives. This goes a long way in maintaining brevity in your article.
The bottom line is if you have to use adjectives, use them minimally.
Be keen on punctuation
Another common problem that many writers face is punctuation. Punctuation marks are often omitted, misplaced, or altogether missing.
You might place wrong punctuation marks, or you might fail to put them altogether. The thing is you might actually do this unknowingly in the haste of typing, or you just don’t know how to use proper punctuation. Thus, you should do a thorough check on whether your punctuation is up to scale. Your editor might be of assistance in checking the punctuation.
A fair word of advice, though, don’t overdo your punctuation. This happens when a writer uses too many punctuation marks.
For example, too many exclamation marks at one point (!!!!!!). Another instance of overdoing punctuation is pairing exclamation marks with question marks or vice versa to put more emphasis on a point. (!!!??, ??!!!). Instead, create a perfect wordplay to emphasize on points.
Format to best standards
There are many styles of formatting that are available in different word processors. However, since you are aspiring to show high-level professionalism, it is important that you adhere to set standards of formatting that are specific to your industry or sector. Basic formatting standards that are common in most industries can include:
- Double spacing
- Left alignment of text
- Use of page breaks between chapters
- Capitalized headings and subheadings
- Uppercase letters for the main heading
- Font Times New Roman, size 12
Editor’s note: There are many style and formatting templates out there. For example, in the academic field you can use the APA / MLA styles.
Every writer should be able to edit their own work. It might seem an uphill task. However, it’s not. The above tips are sure to keep your self-editing game on point if you apply them. They are consistent with professional practice.
With a background in education and entrepreneurship, Jake Lester writes for the educational blogging projects. He likes to cover stories in productivity, careers, and education. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.