When you self-edit, you are improving your work by correcting errors, modifying structure, and polishing word choice. Ideally, these sections would be handled by a professional editor, but most of us edit our work by ourselves.
Editing is an essential part of the writing process. If you try to make your first draft perfect, you will become distracted and some brilliant ideas may fall through the gaps.
Editing, like writing, is an independent skill with its own methodologies and career pathways. We have more in-depth instructions on how to edit any sort of writing, which includes numerous editing styles and advanced procedures, but what if you need to efficiently edit something you produced, such as a school paper, cover letter, or email?
Let’s break down the process of self-editing, or how to edit your writing if you’re not an editor. We’ll start with a checklist of problematic areas to look for while reading your first copy, and then we’ll provide some expert self-editing strategies in our next article.
CHECKLIST TO CONSIDER WHEN YOU SELF-EDIT
Spelling and Grammar
Editing entails all corrections, including spelling and grammar, but also word choice, clarity, structure, format, tone, and more. Give your work a thorough read between the lines to spot misspelt words and grammar errors. Doing this in the past would have been very cumbersome, but with the advent of technology, this process can be done within seconds. For instance, Grammarly’s writing assistant can discover all of your spelling and grammar errors for you, as well as assist you with word choice and clarity. With Grammarly checking for technical errors, you can concentrate on the meatier aspects of writing
If there’s one rule for self-editing, it’s to cut out any needless words.
Well-written work is not based on the number of word counts but on the meaning of each word used to convey the message. That does not imply skipping over details, but rather explaining them as briefly as feasible.
Unnecessary wordiness can put off a reader by being confusing or hard to read. Avoid using too many adverbs, which are often words ending in -ly. Instead, be mindful of your word choice. Using a stronger, more specific word to describe what you’re writing is more effective and less wasteful.
“Very” and “really”
In the context of needless words, “very” and “really” are very bad. It’s OK to use them occasionally when they make an impact, but in most instances, you can replace or delete them. Try using a more precise word to replace the whole phrase. For example, instead of saying “very interesting,” use “fascinating.”
The passive voice, as the name implies, comes across as weak or timid. The active voice produces far better writing, not just because it seems more confident, but also because the subject appears first, making the phrase easier to understand.
Passive: “The ball was thrown by the pitcher,”
Active: “The pitcher threw the ball”
When self-editing, keep an eye out for the passive voice. It’s not difficult to change a few words and make the sentence active.
Long sentences, even while grammatically correct, can obfuscate your meaning. If you come across a long sentence while self-editing, consider splitting it in half for the sake of the reader.
Phrases that can be substituted with one or two words
Knowing that good writing employs as few words as possible, seek clunky, wordy statements that could be replaced by one or two words.
Variation in sentence structure
The shape of your sentences, as much as the words themselves, require variation. Using the same phrase styles over and again can be confusing for readers. To keep things interesting, vary the length and style of your sentences.
Maintain a constant tone throughout your work. It is disconcerting to readers if you begin professionally and then crack jokes. Before self-editing, decide on an appropriate tone for your essay and alter your draft to match.
Jargon, or terminology that only people in a specific sector or industry would comprehend (you may not know what a Ginzel is, but oil rig employees do), is one of our writing habits to avoid. Always keep your reader in mind, and if you come across a jargon term that average readers won’t understand, explain it.
Stay tuned for more checklists and tips on how to self-edit at the Academic Hive website, we also offer Academic Consultancy Services.