The most effective editing techniques for your writer’s toolbox
If you want to grow as a writer, you have to learn how to do thorough editing of your own work. This process includes cutting the fluff and elements that are out of focus, checking for the flow and organization of your writing, as well as proofreading and editing of the content.
Many writers hate the process of editing because they tend to express themselves on creative personal level and they don’t like technicalities. However, as Hemingway said, you should “Write drunk. Edit sober.” If you fail to edit your piece of writing properly, you will miss achieving its best potential. In the worst case, you will end up delivering chicken scratches that no one would like to read.
This article will provide you with the most effective editing tips that will instantly improve your work. You don’t have to be a beginner in order to use them, because they can turn anyone into a better writer.
1. Learn what editing is
Editing includes not only rewriting sections of the blog post, article or manuscript, but making structural changes of the big picture as well. The editing process focuses on all levels of the writing piece, including the sentences, sections, chapters, logic, style, organization and content, as well as punctuation, spelling and grammar. Everything needs to be brought near perfection if you want to achieve success with the piece.
2. Learn what proofreading is
Proofreading is all about the small changes that are difficult to be noticed during the editing process, such as spelling mistakes or typos, stylistic matters (such as underlining and italics), numbering, formatting, spacing and minor errors in punctuation that don’t need textual changes.
3. Plan your time and maintain your focus
Making a schedule and sticking to it will allow you to maintain the focus and do the work properly. It is recommended to allow yourself some time to rest after you finish writing and before you start editing. It would be great if you had few days, but allow yourself at least few hours if your schedule is too tight.
Although editing and proofreading overlap at some points, you should focus on the editing process before you start proofreading. It is recommended to finish all the rewording and rewriting before you start proofreading the small mistakes. Otherwise, you would lose your focus and make new mistakes.
4. Even if you hate outlines, the ‘five-point essay’ rule still applies
You don’t have to use an outline, but it is still very important to write an introduction that contains your main point, support it with three points and end with a summary or conclusion. Although writing styles vary a lot between different pieces and writers, almost all types of writing follow these basic rules of structure.
5. Add additional structural elements if necessary
If you consider it necessary, you can expand the five-point outline structure with additional elements and include variations such as opposing opinions, comparison with other ideas and supporting your statement with relevant background information.
Most short stories and novels include similar points to this type of essay structure. Before the rising action, an exposition has to be made. The climax, falling action and denouement follow the rising action.
6. Maintain the logical flow within the writing
It is very important to remain focused, so make sure that all your supporting points are in clear correlation with the main objective. Going off topic is a trap many writers fall into, and the reason is simple: they love writing and their minds are full of ideas. Observe your writing with a clear head and remove every part that is out of focus.
7. Check the accuracy and relevancy of the supporting points
You have to know everything about your topic, so make sure to do a thorough research and check every single fact. Urban legends, stereotypes and cultural myths are often being presented as facts, and you have to make a difference between them. If you want the writing to be convincing, it has to be accurate, clear and convincing.
8. Make clean transitions between ideas and sections
The transition between ideas and sections has to be made smoothly and logically. You can use groups of words or single words that have the aim of taking the reader smoothly from one point to the other. Some of them are: finally, even though, furthermore, however, as in the previous example, in this case, on the other hand or on top of that.
9. Cut the fuzz
Minimize the usage of unnecessary modifiers in the form of adjectives and adverbs. Your style has to be clean and influential, so you need to use precise nouns and strong verbs in order to create a more focused, sharper writing that won’t bother the reader with lengthy descriptions.
10. Get rid of all off-topics
During the process of editing, you should make sure to get rid of all parts that aren't associated to the big picture. This doesn't only include unnecessary statements and words, but entire ill-fitting parts as well. Don’t get too attached with what you have written; you will make your work much better if you get rid of everything that needs to be removed.
Sandra Miller is a writer from New York. Writes her first book and learns the art of self publishing. Uses editing services to improve her book and make it perfect. She has a PhD in English literature, NYU graduate.