Editing is best done in multiple rounds to achieve error-free writing.
By Shelley Widhalm
In my personal work, I love to write—short stories, novels, poems, articles and, of course, blogs.
But I know, too, that part of writing is editing. I love editing the work of others, but when it comes to my own work, it’s mostly a chore. The first editing round isn’t so bad if I haven’t seen the manuscript for months, but by the 12th edit, I’m a bit sick of my work. So, how do I get over this?
First, I realize that a rough draft is rough and, for most writers, needs to be edited at the overall structural level for how the material is organized and then at the line level for the details. If I don’t edit, I have a messy manuscript stuck in a drawer or Word file.
Structural editing looks at how the material or story is presented beginning to end and at what occurs in the middle. Are transitions used to seamlessly move from one idea to the next? Are the ideas fully developed with the right amount of detail presented? Is the manuscript readable, or does it feel choppy or go off on tangents? How do the ideas in the sentences flow to the next paragraph so that everything makes sense?
Additional edits help tighten up the writing, get rid of errors and fix any mechanical, syntax or grammatical issues at the line level.
The first two rounds may require one or more passes—typically one for blogs and articles, but short stories and novels often need more to tighten up the writing and balance action with character, so that everything in the storyline keeps moving at optimal pacing.
Three Rounds of Editing
Editing, to be most effective, needs at least three rounds: structural, line level and lastly, proofreading. Proofreading is a final pass to catch the errors not caught in the first and second read-through, since it’s impossible to see every single mistake in a solitary read.
Line level editing and proofreading require a careful, slow read, word by word, paying close attention to every aspect of the sentence, including what is inside it and the punctuation at the end.
Here are some other random things to look for while editing.
- Identify areas that need more detail or to be cut because of overwriting.
- Look for dropped ideas or elements that don’t carry through but should.
- Make sure descriptions are consistent and accurate.
- Use the active voice whenever you can and vary the sentence structures, so that not every sentence reads subject-verb-object.
- Look for repetitions in ideas or ways of expression.
- Check facts, name spellings and any numbers that are used.
Lastly, make sure the content is to a specific audience in a specific voice and style. Consistency is the key to good, clear writing.