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Top Ten Tips for Self-Editing

It is natural for writers to spend plenty of time thinking in depth about what they want to write. Often it is the most vital aspect of preparation.  What is the point, after all, of starting to write if you are not yet sure whether you have anything good to say? In the flow of text production, however, getting to grips with subject matter is only half of the job; it is the 'what you want to say' part of your message. The other half revolves around how you decide to say it, consisting of two specific, but closely related areas, namely: style and presentation. These factors remain true whether you are writing an article, an entire book or just a small section of marketing material.



Some writers wouldn't dream of getting anything published without asking an editor to go through their work first.  If you're not sure if you need a professional editor then do at least try to get someone you know to go over your work - they will spot errors that you haven't seen.  If you can be your own editor, all well and good, although not everybody is able to do so. There is a reality to consider in all of this: that the writer and the editor wear two different hats. If you think you may need to wear both of them and are about embark on self-editing, but worried that those hats won't both fit, fear not…!


Here are my top tips for writing and editing copy effectively.  If you follow them, hopefully it will make your job more enjoyable and help to ensure that readers can glide effortlessly through your words!



1. Write your initial draft in one session and edit it in another session.


2. Stop procrastinating! You may have some ideas in your head for your piece of work but until you commit to that first sentence nothing is truly getting done.


3. Write the first stuff that comes into your head and doctor it afterwards.


4. Use a software editor, such as that built into MS Word, to initially highlight mistakes in your copy, but don’t rely on it totally as it is not the exact equivalent of a real-life editor.


5. Check any rules of grammar that you don’t readily understand. Some will be automatically pointed out and explained on a software editor such as the grammar checker on MS Word, but you may also need to look details up elsewhere at times.


6. Make sure you know at least two sources of ‘good English’ where you can rely 100% that the information given is accurate.


7. Have access to an up-to-date, reliable dictionary, such as The Concise Oxford English Dictionary. There is now an online subscription version available, in addition to the well-established, physical tome.


8. Locate a human source of sound, English knowledge who can agree to be available for any double-checking that may be required on important documents. Remember this could be your professional editorial assistant, or a loved one, but that they all have busy calendars and will often need to be booked in ahead to help you.


9. Do the shopping for supplies before you embark on any heavy-going writing or editing sessions – this often means stocking up on tea and biscuits (or coffee and cookies, depending on your location).


10. Finally, don't forget to book yourself a nice, pampering or nurturing activity to enjoy after your session, so that you can rest and renew mind, body and spirit!


I hope you will have fun when next venturing into the world of word craft. If you happen to decide at any point that you have had enough of self-editing, however, or if you would sooner just hand over your text to a freelance editor for 'the works', please don’t hesitate to contact us for an initial assessment and quotation.


Diana McMahon Collis copyright 2013

The original version of this article first appeared on the Totally4Women website on 22 November 2012

Images courtesy of I-Stock Images, who retain copyright


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