Learning to edit your own writing is tough. After all, by the time you’re ready to submit writing to a publisher or a client, or post it to a blog or here to Medium, you’ve spent serious time creating it. You already know what it says.
How to edit your own writing
It only makes sense to put the writing away over night at least, longer if possible. This often means giving yourself a deadline that’s a day or two earlier than when you expect to submit or post the piece.
Reading backwards from the last letter of the last word does work — although it’s not a method I use much. It’s boring, hard to do, and only picks up typos and misspellings. I want more from the editing than just that, even though that’s not a bad start.
I want not to just catch typos but incomplete sentences, poor word choice and those place in my manuscript that don’t (yet) feel right.
The absolute best way to edit your own writing
The best way to edit y our own writing is really simple.
Yes, when you’re pretty well convinced the piece, which might be a page or a chapter or even a whole book, is finished or mostly so, read it out loud. Try this and make sure you’re actually paying attention to what you’re editing. Pretend you’ve never read the piece before or read it out loud slowly, aiming to savor every word.
I like to print it out which allows me to make editing marks on paper. . That works, but I generally end up reading out loud again. Besides, it’s good to get away from the computer! When I read out loud from the screen I tend to do the actual editing as I read in what become long pauses. I also find that on screen editing makes it easier to slip by errors
There is seems to be some science that sort of points this way. Nick Stockton’s What’s Up With That: Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos gives a totally cogent explanation of why typos slip by us.
To his theory I add my own which is that my ear picks up errors my eye refuses to see. It almost feels as if my eyes and fingers sometimes collude to make me think I know what I’m reading because I wrote it, but my ear will hear the error.
Learning to read out loud is difficult at first. I found it has to be out loud, in a conversational tone to catch the most errors. At first I felt incredibly stupid and kept looking out the window in case someone might hear me! It’s such an effective method, however, I no longer care if someone hears me and as I read along I feel smart for doing so. That, however, did take some practice and willingness to feel, well silly.
I’ve also discovered that reading into a tape recorder and listening to it gives me two opportunities to hear and correct mistakes. This seems to be the best approach for long and book length manuscripts. I can read a chapter or even a section or two aloud, edit, then return to the next part. Yes, this takes serious time; editing does require at least the same effort as the creation.
Write well and often,
Originally published at https://www.aboutfreelancewriting.com on February 22, 2017.