Editing helps get your “geese in a row.”
By Shelley Widhalm
Editing is the hard part of writing—it’s not as sexy or as fun, unless you love fixing sentences, repairing paragraphs and restructuring the content.
There are many approaches to editing from looking at each line of the test to the flow of the overall story, blog or article. Editing can be as involved as the writing process, because it takes time and precision to find errors and make large-scale adjustments.
When I write novels, I do six or more editing rounds that take hours of work, whereas the writing is spilling out the story, trying not to think too hard about the sentences—I’ll get stuck if I do. Editing articles is quicker—usually they get two to three rounds to find those errors and check for flow, transitions and overall meaning.
In a general sense, editing involves anything from fixing sentences and paragraphs to looking at grammar, punctuation and mechanics and the entire document for the structure and intended messaging.
Top 3 Editing Rules
- Editing once isn’t enough—editing takes several reads to catch errors, because not every error can be noticed the first time around.
- Editing is best done by at least two people, bringing more perspectives to the project and additional ways to find or notice the mistakes.
- Editing is best in layers. Do a first read-through for errors in spelling and grammar, words that are missing or misused, and sentence structure that is awkward or clumsy. Then ask if there are missing details or areas to be cut that give too much detail or repeat. Edit the overall structure to determine if everything makes sense and is in a logical order with any explanations and examples fitting with the message.
7 Things to Look for While Editing
- Determine if there are boring parts or parts that are over-explained.
- Look for needless repetitions, awkward transitions and poor word choice.
- Cut unnecessary words and sentences that do not move the message along or confuse what you’re trying to say.
- Use the active voice whenever you can.
- Get rid of any inconsistencies in how things are stated and look for any elements that don’t carry through, such as a dropped idea or an incomplete example of the main topic.
- Vary the sentence structures, so that not every sentence reads subject-verb-object.
- Get rid of clichés, unless used for a specific purpose, because they demonstrate a lack of creativity.
Writing without editing is a rough draft and work that is incomplete. Editing helps get the writing to the core and essential components of what you want to say.