Writing and editing are the two sides of the same coin. Whether you’re a blogger, a ghost writer or a freelance writer, editing has to be a crucial part of your profession. Though all writers love to write, not all of them love to edit. Many writers simply hate it when it comes to editing a piece of writing. But the fact remains – ‘Your writing is only as good as your editing’.
Unless you work for a big publishing house or a well-established online magazine, you’ll have to look after the editing part yourself. If you’re on your own, you may hate to edit, but you can’t ignore it.
Appropriate editing makes your content clear, accurate and efficient. The more you edit a work of writing, the better it becomes. However, editing isn’t as easy as you may think. It’s hard to write, but it’s much harder to edit. When you begin to edit a piece of content, you need to look for a wide range of errors like typos, redundancy, complex words (or jargon) and clumsy phrases. You need to follow the basic rules of punctuation and grammar. You have to edit for cohesiveness. You have to get the formatting right to improve presentation and readability. You may also need to conform to a particular style guide.
That’s a lot of work to do, isn’t it?
When you think of editing as a whole, you may feel discouraged. Well, don’t let the editing process scare you. Also, don’t try to edit too much while you’re writing because it might consume many hours of your valuable time. Just keep writing. Once you’re done with it, let it rest for some time. If what you wrote is a blog post, for example, leave it at least for a few hours.
Finally, get back to editing. Rather than starting to polish up one sentence after another till the last one, as many would normally do, divide the editing task into three simple steps to make success easy –
#1. Edit Content
The big picture is what you should focus on first. Take a closer look at the content to find out whether you’ve covered all the important points or ideas that you had initially thought about. Remove the sections that you think are too advanced or not a good fit for your audience. Check out whether any crucial piece of information is missing. May be, you want to add a new section, chapter or paragraph or modify the existing ones a little more so they make more sense. Verify all the critical data or statistics that you may have used for accuracy. You may need to do some major cuts or additions to make your writing look more compact. Identify what’s required and fix it all.
#2. Edit Structure
Once you’re satisfied with the big picture, it’s time to do the structural editing. How you present the content to your audience is of utmost importance. You have to make sure that the presented ideas have a logical progression. The flow and the shape of your writing should be in tune with the specific requirements of the intended audience, while keeping your purpose in mind at the same time. If it’s a news story or a blog post or content for a website, you should follow the inverted pyramid style. For books or e-books, you should arrange the chapters in the right order for a nice logical flow.
Likewise, you should keep an eye out for visual elements that you may have included in your content. It’s crucial to ensure that they’ve been placed most effectively throughout your writing. Bullets, bold face, headings and subheadings should be effectively used to make the most important tips or pieces of information quickly stand out.
In any case, you should never ignore the tone and the style of your writing to increase suitability for the target audience.
#3. Edit Grammar
This is the easiest part of the editing process, and the quickest too. If it’s a blog post or an article containing 500-600 words, editing the grammatical mistakes should take no more than 10-15 minutes. For longer documents, you’ll obviously need a lot more time. When editing for grammar, and it’s a no-brainer actually, you should look out for typographical errors, misspellings, punctuation mistakes, awkward sentences, redundancy, misuse of phrases etc. In short, you’ll need to ensure that all the basic rules of grammar have been adhered to. Though there are several grammar checker tools are available online as well, you should never rely on them completely, as they read differently than humans do. It’s always best to use your own knowledge and experience.
If you plan to set yourself apart from mediocre writers and become a good (or a great) one, you should practice editing more and more. At the same time, you should learn one or more style guides (e.g. – the Chicago Manual of Style, AP, MLA etc.) to add versatility to your editing skills. If you never skip editing your own work and keep on refining the editor in you, who knows you could easily grab a content editor’s role too as those opportunities come your way.
Do you always edit your own work or skip it entirely? Please don’t hesitate to share your opinions and thoughts in comments.