Self-Editing Tips

Self-Editing TipsA lot of us edit our own work. Sometimes we are the only ones who edit it, and other times, we edit it ourselves over and over before sending it out to someone else for review. The problem with self-editing is that not many who do it are actually trained in editing, so knowing what to look for can be difficult and time consuming.

So, as an editor and writer, I’d like to share some tips and tricks with you so that you can edit more efficiently, or even create a better product.

    1. Become familiar with “Track Changes” in Microsoft Word. This is an editing function that allows for inline edits, inserted comments, and formatting changes. When going over a draft, or having someone else go over one for you, use it. You won’t regret it.
    2. Use “ctrl f”. When you press ctrl and then f, it opens up a search box that will search the text on your page for whatever you’d like. This is especially helpful if you change a name, consistently spell something incorrectly, or know that you made a mistake somewhere. Find it, fix it, and move on.
    3. Use a standard format. That means stick with a regular sized font, double space, and ad page numbers from the very start. It makes editing easier, and whoever you send it to afterwards will love you for it.
    4. Read it out loud. Hearing things can really help you to figure out where there’s any awkward wording or jumpy transitions. If it sounds strange to you when you say it, it needs to be reworked. It can also help in catching small spelling and grammar errors because your eyes won’t just move over them.
    5. Be hard on yourself. If you feel deep down that a passage isn’t working, don’t leave it as is. Work on it until you are satisfied. Spend as much time as you need to make each word fit together.
    6. Don’t expect other people to fix your work. Before you send your work to someone else, it should be the best you think it can be. Don’t send something knowing there are errors or weak sections in it. Polish and smooth your work before handing it off.
    7. If, when editing, you find an issue that you don’t know how to fix, but don’t have time to look into it, mark it with a comment. Go back to it when you have time instead of putting a band-aid on it.

Editing is hard. Whether you are doing it yourself, or having someone else do it for you, it hurts. It’s a long process that can make you feel self-conscious and vulnerable, but ultimately it makes your story better.

It’s important to stick with clarity and consistency while you are writing, so that the editing process is easier later on. Remember to use a thesaurus, avoid repetition, and acknowledge your faults and weaknesses as a writer. Doing so will help you to create a strong piece of writing that comes through the editing process with a lot less red.

What are your self-editing tips? How did you learn to self-edit effectively? Are you comfortable with editing your own work or that of others?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.


15 thoughts on “Self-Editing Tips

  1. I hope I didn’t inspire this post in a negative way. 😉

    There weren’t many writing classes in junior high and high school, but when we had them they hammered in very good editing and writing rules. It really came in handy in college, when people would publish me when I wasn’t “classically trained” and they still thought I was good.

    I think the best self-editing tip you can have is, once you learn how to edit, the next time you finish a project, wait at least a month or two before you go into editing it. That way when you go to look at it again, you see it with fresh eyes and you can see where there might be problems and fix them.

    • Of course not, Rami!

      Unfortunately, we didn’t have the best editing or writing lessons in school. And I agree with that advice, it can help you to see new errors or issues that you were previously blind to.

      • And if you came away with a story thinking “There are a lot of ways this story could be better” but can’t think of how to improve it, time can help you come up with how to improve it.
        Yesterday for example, I was on the train to a castle near Paderborn, Germany and I had ideas on how to improve a story about a demon (tell it in a more Lovecraft-style narration from the POV of the psychiatrist character) and a haunted fairgrounds story (change the POV character and tell it a different way). When I get around to editing, I’m going to get some good storytelling out of these ideas.

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