You are a writer.
You are creative. You brainstorm articles and stories plots. You beat writer’s blocks and burnouts, you write compelling content, you publish books, and…
You hate editing.
Why should you like it, after all? Spelling and grammar mistakes are the work for editors, no?
The chances are I will reinvent the wheel now, but your spelling and grammar mistakes and corrections are not your editor’s job. Yes, they will find facts, words, or word expressions to change in your writings, but they are not obliged to be your teachers of English.
Why can’t you stand the process of editing? Are you afraid of it? Do you consider it complicated? Is it boring to you?
Your positive answer to any of these questions is not an excuse! What if I say you can write sentences that sizzle, become an effective self-editor, and still find this process exciting? Below are seven tricks to help you win this battle.
1. Remember your common mistakes
Let’s be honest:
Do you have any words or grammar constructions that are difficult for you to remember? How often do you make the same mistakes while writing? Relieve your editor from the necessity to correct your same mistakes again and again: make a list of them and check it every time you write something.
It might be boring at first, but this trick will improve your writing and help you develop better writing habits.
2. Don’t be in a hurry!
The trick is simple:
Easier said than done, especially when your Muse doesn’t sleep, and you want to finish writing as soon as possible so you can send it to your editor, letting him or her know what a great writer you are.
It’s a trap! The mission’s recall! I repeat: the mission’s recall! You should always leave some time for self-editing.
3. Think like a reader
Forget about your story and the writing tips you know. Forget about the fact you are the person who writes this story. Imagine yourself as a reader for a minute: would you accept all those grammar and spelling mistakes?
Answer the questions:
- Is this story interesting to read?
- Is this story easy to read?
- Are its grammar constructions easy to understand and perceive?
- How many so-called habit words does this story have? (“Hm”, “so”, “eh”, “actually”, “well”, and others of their ilk do not make your story better and don’t bring any information to readers. Try to avoid them wherever possible.)
4. Become your personal proofreader. (But later!)
Never proofread your writing just after you’ve finished it. Remember a concept we all know as “a fresh eye” and re-read your text tomorrow. The chances are you’ll notice some spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes to correct.
The tool from Grammarly can help here. It will find your structure, grammar, spelling, and style issues, suggesting effective vocabulary alternatives. It will correct improper formatting, comma splices, wordiness, incorrect compound sentences, and more. Both free and premium versions are available.
If you have no time to wait until the next morning, try proofreading your text in a couple of hours after finishing it; it is enough to perceive information from another angle.
5. Do not trust spell checkers!
Never make spell checkers the only tool to proofread your texts because none of them can give you a 100% guarantee. Those who write a lot have already noticed this problem.
Let’s take words such as “it’s” and “its”. No spell checker will consider their spellings a mistake, but as far as you understand, these two words have different meanings! The same situation occurs with the words “her” and “here”, “there” and “their”, and many others.
Use spell checkers as extra tools for proofreading, but do not trust them implicitly.
6. Scream it!
Not literally, of course.
Reading your text out loud, you can check if it sounds good. The trick is simple: when you hear your story from outside, you may notice all strange or awkward sentences that looked good and had some sense for your eyes.
It doesn’t work for grammar and spelling only. Reading your writings out loud, you might check if something is wrong with your writing style, rhythm, or logic. This trick works for cutting unnecessary parenthesis or habit words from your texts, too.
7. Reading backward
This trick works when you need to check texts for spelling and grammar mistakes. Step by step, start with the last sentence of your story to perceive it separately, not in the context of your writing.
When you read it backward, your brain thinks differently: you do not allow it to see what it expects, so it helps to notice some mistakes you could miss while reading texts in a general way.
More tricks to help you with self-editing needed?
Here come some bonus ones:
- Do not use many adverbs. As Stephen King said, “the road to hell is paved with adverbs”. It’s not a sign you can’t use this part of speech at all, but try to avoid them whenever possible. For example, if you write something like “he runs quickly” the adverb is needless: when you run, you are quick all by yourself.
Hemingway is an online application to help with adverbs: it checks readability, grammar, and punctuation of your texts, suggesting alternatives for making your writings concise. It doesn’t like adverbs, passive voice, and long sentences. Like Ernest Hemingway himself, by the way.
- Do not be afraid to cut your writing. Listen to what Truman Capote said: “I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” Every writer has a habit of creating tons of content, especially when inspired and willing to share thoughts and knowledge with others; but it often happens most content is nothing but wordiness to cut and make texts look and sound better to readers. Use After the Deadline, Pro Writing Aid, Ginger, or Paper Rater for self-editing.
- Use reliable dictionaries when it comes to spellcheck. Dictionary.com or Thesaurus.com would be worth trying.
- Get into your editors’ shoes and answer the question: “Would I approve this writing for publishing?”
- Ask your friends to read your text. Let them be your first readers, because it will help you understand what you can do to improve your writing.
Self-editing doesn’t need to be a devil. When writers do their best to proofread and edit their works, it means nothing but their strong desire to improve skills and become professions. Everyone writes, but not everyone becomes a good writer. To become one, never wait for the right editor to be by your side and spot everything for you. Yes, an editor should be there. But it’s you who should write a masterpiece everyone will read.
Lesley Vos is a content creator and blogger with more than five years of experience in ghost writing. She is struggling to write her e-book at the moment, and planning to self-publish it once it’s ready. Lesley blogs for Bid4Papers and other publications on writing, content marketing, and lifestyle. Feel free to see more works of her work or say hi to her on Twitter.