Editing your writing is often seen as an extra, unnecessary step in the writing process. “One draft is all I need,” brags almost every college student. It’s almost a point of pride to be able to write perfectly in one go, and even after college, editing takes a backseat to writing. It’s seen as an extra precaution rather than a necessity, and many papers, reports, and marketing materials go unedited.
Editing is an integral part of the writing process. I believe it’s just important, if not more so, than actually writing.
What! you say, how can editing be more important than writing in the writing process?
Editing your writing is an important step because it forces you to evaluate your own work. Isolating writing from editing leaves us at the mercy of our own imperfections, while editing is an informative (and humbling) exercise that teaches us not only how to improve a specific piece, but also how to improve future pieces. It’s a great writing tool, and its value stretches way beyond its immediate application.
But editing your own writing is so boring! you sigh.
It’s true, looking over something you’ve already written can be time-consuming and even tedious – but it doesn’t have to be that way all the time. Here are 6 great editing tips I’ve used myself and suggested to writers and students I’ve led – I hope they’ll be of some use to you too.
1. Start writing early
This is such a simple, but significant, editing tip.
You won’t give yourself time to edit if you don’t even have time to write. Do yourself a favor and begin the writing process early so that you can make sure you’re giving enough time to every step.
2. Take a day (or hour, or minute) between writing and editing
This again requires time but, if you can spare it, it can make a huge difference in your editing. Any span of time in between editing and writing will give you time to clear your head and consider approaching your text from a different way, often resulting in better, more comprehensive edits.
I usually try to give myself a whole day between edits, but what matters here is the break rather than the time itself – a small walk, a few hours of light reading, or even a short snack break can all help you re-organize your thoughts and recharge your mind.
3. Print out your text
Technology has trained our eyes to skim rather than to read screens, so having a physical text on which to tap, mark, and scribble notes can really make the editing process more dynamic.
I recall one jarring instance when I edited a paper on a laptop and thought I was finished with it but, because I had extra time, decided to also edit a printed version. I can’t even tell you how many errors I caught – and how amazed I was that I couldn’t catch them when editing on a screen. If you can, giving yourself the opportunity to edit on a physical copy of your text can only help make your editing process better.
4. Read your text out loud
This is a tip I give almost everyone when they ask for editing help.
While you might feel ridiculous at first, reading your writing out loud can help you catch run-on sentences, awkward wordings, and even misspellings. It’s a great (free!) tool that not only improves your editing, but also brings your writing off the page, where most people will read it – an element of texts that many writers forget to consider.
5. Use a tool
The internet has made an incredible amount of online tools available to writers and editors, such as:
The tool you need will depend largely on your needs and the type of document you’re writing. If you’re stuck on what to Google, “*document type* editing tool” will almost always work well!
6. Get a second opinion
Never be ashamed to ask for help – the best writers have their own good editors, after all. Whether it’s a friend, a partner, a mentor, or even a local freelance editor, different figures can give you perspectives on a text you might not have initially seen.
(Can I hire you to help me with editing? Why yes, yes you can. Ok, shameless plug over.)
Editing your writing is important.
Editing is a great and often overlooked tool. These 6 strategies can help you edit your writing can elevate your content to the next level. Try editing your next written piece – you’ll be surprised at how much you can improve!
I’m definitely not the only edit-obsessed writer out there, so if you’d like to share how you edit your writing, I’m all ears in the comments below!