The editing process is essential to good writing. But many busy nonprofits skip editing altogether. They’re usually pressed for time to get an email sent or a blog published.
Why it’s important to edit
✤ You want to produce writing void of typos, grammatical faux pas, and punctuation errors.
✤ The editing process makes you a better communicator.
✤ When others find blatant errors in your communications, they may miss the main point of your message.
Here’s what editing entails:
From that list, you can see that editing is no small task. It requires considerable knowledge and experience as a writer... plus an eye for mistakes, subtle nuances, and the ability to get into the writer’s head.
But if you know what to look for when you edit your own work -- and you use the tools available to you -- it is possible to edit thoroughly and quickly.
Tips for Editing Your Own Writing
Separate the editing process from the writing process
You might argue that you’re already editing as you write, so why would you need to separate those processes? To some extent it's true that we all perform some editing as we write. But the two skills--writing and editing—are quite different.
While writing is chiefly a creative process, editing is evaluative.
Remember the rules of good brainstorming? You never mix evaluation with the generation of free-flowing ideas. The same is true with writing and editing.
So, after you’ve written a piece, you want to “put on a different hat” as an editor to
examine your work.
Check for typos, grammatical errors, and misplaced punctuation. (Yes, there's an app for that!)
In the editing process, read through your work at least twice. This first time through, you’re looking for technical writing issues and problems. You will do a better job of editing if you separate this process from those in your second read-through.
To perform this part of the editing process well, you’ll want to have some resources at hand for reference.
For instance, do you know the difference between “affect” and “effect”? Or how about when to use “further” as opposed to “farther”? How about the proper placement of commas? Or, where do you place punctuation with respect to quotation marks? Also, you'll want to check agreement between verbs and their nouns. And go easy on the use of adverbs — too many adverbs distract the reader from the main point of your piece.
All these represent issues you may need some help with. And there are off-line and online resources for you!
I'm a professional writer, and I use resources daily to double and triple check my work. Free apps like Hemingway and Grammarly help me every day, and they can help you, too. See the list of resource tools below.
Assess the development, flow, and logic.
On your second time through your writing piece, put on the hat of a reader. How does the document flow? How well is the topic developed? Is it logical and easy to follow?
In this read-through, also look for superfluous words or phrases that you can cut. Simplify to the extent possible. Split lengthy, difficult-to-read sentences into two or more sentences. Keep an eye out for passive voice and seek to make
those sentences active instead. Is the use of pronouns consistent throughout? Did you use terminology that the reader will understand?
One strategy I regularly use is reading my work out loud. You'll be surprised how many errors you'll catch by taking the time to hear yourself read aloud. When you start tripping over your words, you know you need to rewrite that sentence!
Here are some great resources for improving both your writing and editing skills.
✒ On Writing Well by William Zinsser. This is a classic guide that is as entertaining to read as it is helpful.
✒ The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White. This too is a class work that’s often referred to as “Strunk & White.”
FREE ONLINE TOOLS
✒ Grammarly is a free writing app that helps make your writing clear and mistake-free. Simply copy and paste your text into the online editor... and **BAM!** Grammarly will give you suggestion on what to change.
✒ Hemingway App is my favorite! Hemingway helps make your writing clear and crisp! Hemingway focuses on lengthy sentences and common errors. Copy and paste your text into the online editor and you'll get instant feedback.
Remember... Editing is the key to having your message understood clearly. It's like taking your reader by the hand and leading her down an unobstructed path. At the end of your message, she is more likely to feel the way you want her to feel... and take the action you wish her to take.
Happy editing! :)