Top 5 Tips to Edit Your Own Writing

So you have a big report due at the end of the day. You think you’ve done a great job writing it, but you want to be sure that it’s up to snuff for your company. After asking around to see if someone can edit it, you find precisely no one. Is it time to panic? Definitely not.

Sometimes, we’re lucky enough to have someone there to edit or proofread our documents. These people can act as quality control to make sure that writing and editing errors don’t make it into the final copy. However, we’re not always lucky and sometimes we have to edit our own work. While this isn’t always ideal, it’s not something that you need to worry about. Self-editing is definitely a skill that you can strengthen with practice and experience. These tips will help you edit your own writing to perfection! It does take some practice, so have patience with yourself.

  1. Take a break- Take some time after finishing your document to take a break before jumping straight into editing whenever it’s possible. Give your brain time to shift gears out of composition mode. When editing, you need to read what you actually wrote, not what you meant to write. Taking a break before starting will help you create mental distance. Take small breaks during the process as well to help maintain that distance.
  2. Read it as though someone else wrote it- Again, the key to good self-editing is reading what’s written on the page and not what you intended to write. That process requires some definite mental space which can partially be achieved by making sure you read the document as though someone else wrote it. This allows you a chance to read it more objectively, which will improve your capability to notice errors.
  3. Break it into defined pieces- If you’ve done your formatting correctly, it will be easy to find segments within your document to read in sections. Reading section by section can keep your brain from getting burnt out or switching back to composition mode. This approach works even better if you take breaks between sections. Additionally, using segments this way can help keep you from feeling overwhelmed if you’re not used to editing.
  4. Read it backwards- Read each paragraph starting with the last sentence and working up the paragraph. This is really only necessary if you’re trying to catch grammar and spelling errors. This approach will not help at all if you’re looking at formatting, flow, and coherency. This is best for editing basic errors, but should not be relied on as a sole technique.
  5. Take your time- If it’s possible for you to do so, take your time editing. Sloppy editing is most often caused by rushing. (Trust me, this is the voice of experience.) As much as you want to have it done and off your desk, take your time to make sure that everything is up to your standards. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having someone find a really simple mistake that you missed because you were rushing.

Editing doesn’t have to be hard or scary, but it is definitely a skill. The more practice you get, the better you’ll be. It can be mentally taxing work, so don’t be surprised if you’re tired after a round of editing. It takes a lot of constant focus that can be exhausting if you’re not used to it. Keep practicing and it will get easier and easier!

Do you have any tips about editing your own work? How do you make it work? Let me know!

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