Most writers go through the process of revising their work before submission. This practice of reviewing your own work with an impersonal eye and objectively assessing it is known as self-editing. Not an easy endeavor, considering the fact that you have put in a lot of hard work and wakeful hours into that writing. To find your own mistakes and to see if you have really written what you had meant to write isn’t an easy job. So, how can you simplify this process?
Fortunately, there are a few ways of improving your self-editing skills.
1. Give some time between the writing and the editing. Don’t start editing your work the same day that you have finished writing it. Put it aside for a few days before going back to it. If you start revising the same day, you won’t be able to find any mistakes because everything that you have written is still fresh in your mind. You’ll then only be reading what you have written and not what you had meant to write. The more time you let it sit, the more errors you’re likely to find.
2. Print out your work and do the editing on hard copy. This helps in two ways: One, you’ll be reading it in a different format and in a different place than you have written it. This gives a new perspective to the writing. Two, errors tend to get skipped over on the screen, but not on a hard copy.
3. Read your work aloud. When you read out loud, you hear the words and the sentences; and hearing them is what helps you find the errors.
4. Resist the urge to make corrections during your first read. Just make notes in the margin and continue reading. Do the editing during the second read. This is because your first instincts are generally correct, and if you make changes the first time, you might later find your first words to be correct. It is, therefore, best to leave the actual changing for later in order to avoid wear and tear as well as waste of time.
5. Always edit in two steps. First, look at your choice of words – Have you used appropriate words? Are your words descriptive enough? Could you have used stronger verbs? Think along these lines and make these changes first if there is need to. Once this is done, go back and proofread for grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Editing in steps is always better because if you do it all together, your mind is working on many different things at the same time, thus missing out on certain errors.
We are all different and we have our own ways of working. Is your style of self-editing different? How do you do it?