Editing your own work can be intimidating. Where do you start? In our last post we began sharing some excerpts of Nicole Bianchi’s post, How to Edit Your Writing: An Effective 7-Step Process.

She began with the following steps:

  • Create an outline
  • Write your rough draft
  • Do a “substantive” edit
  • Have someone else read your piece

Today we are sharing the remainder of her self-editing process.

5. Edit for Grammar and Style

At this point, I’ve probably rewritten the piece several times. Now it’s time to evaluate the style of the piece, correct grammar and spelling errors, and strengthen the sentences and paragraphs.

Here are several things to look for:
  • Are there any long-winded sentences that you can shorten or divide into two sentences? Any long paragraphs that you can separate into multiple paragraphs?
  • Do you have any passive sentences? See here for how to spot passive voice.
  • Are you peppering your writing with cliched phrases? Use the cliche finder.
  • Any spelling or capitalization errors? Misplaced modifiers? Misuse of commas? Other punctuation errors?
  • If you’re writing a blog post, are there places where you can use contractions to make your writing sound more conversational?
  • Have you eliminated unnecessary adverbs? Are there any difficult words that you could replace with more commonly known ones?

William Zinsser notes,

…The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what–these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence.

You can use an application like Grammarly to help with this process, but it might not catch all errors. The Hemingway Editor is another useful tool to determine if you have sentences that are difficult to read (copy and paste your text onto the homepage to use the free version of the app).

And, remember, that you can always brush up on your grammar knowledge by reading a book like The Elements of Style.

6. Have Someone Read Your Piece Again

Now I’m nearly ready to publish the piece. Since I’ve been reading the same lines over and over, my brain is usually exhausted at this point and will be less likely to notice typos. I try to find someone who will read my piece again to spot anything I might have missed.

Hopefully, your volunteer editor from step #4 is a really, really good friend and doesn’t mind reading your piece a second time. Or you might want to find a different person for a new set of eyes and fresh perspective. If you can’t find anyone to read your piece, however, I recommend printing it out and slowly reading it aloud during step #7.

7. Proofread One Last Time

The finish line is finally within sight. It’s time to give the piece one last read through.

If you’re working on a blog post, check for these things:
  • Do all of your links work and open in new windows? Have you linked to other articles on your site?
  • Do you need to tweak your headline to make it stronger? Try out the headline analyzer here.
  • Have you properly attributed all of your quotes?
  • If you’re using photos, have you included alt tags?
  • Are your subheadings consistently capitalized?
  • Have you previewed your post to make sure there are no formatting errors?
  • Do you have a call to action at the end of the post that asks readers to comment, share, and subscribe?

If you have a WordPress blog, I highly recommend installing the Yoast SEO plugin as it will remind you to do many of these things. It also evaluates your post’s readability and points out passive sentences.

At Certa Publishing, we hope to empower our writers to effectively edit their own work, such as Ms. Bianchi advises. However, we realize that authors often need an expert’s help. That’s where our Book Editing Services come in. Contact us today to find out how we can partner with you!

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7 Steps to Editing as You Go: Part Two

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