7 Tips for Top-Notch Editing

Welcome back, Reader!

While it is good to write – and just keep writing – in order to get all of your thoughts out there, it is doubly important that your work makes sense to both you and your readers. This is where editing comes into play.

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

The Importance of Editing

We are constantly editing, and we’re not always aware of it either. We edit our thoughts and words before we speak, our text messages before we send them, and our papers before we submit them for grading. It only makes sense that we edit our written work before publishing.

Editing is the first line of defense and should happen sometime after finishing your first draft. The goal is to make sure your work is understandable and relatable for your intended readers. No matter how great of a writer you may be, you can always count on one small error tarnishing your work. Therefore, we edit!

How to Find an Editor

Reader, I will always highly recommend that you have a second (or third) pair of eyes look over your work. This is helpful because they may find errors in your work where you previously glanced over them. It is also helpful because they may ask questions for clarification, and thus, help you edit your work to make it easier to understand.

Your second pair of eyes does not need to be a professional, however, if you are looking to hire a professional editor to look over your work, here are some great resources:

You may also find editors within your publishing company if you are looking to publish traditionally, or in your line of work if you work for a newspaper or magazine.

My Top 7 Editing Tips

Now that we’ve talked about editing and why it is important, let’s review the following seven tips.

1. Use Layman’s Terms

In all honesty, what good is your work if no one can understand it? Keep it simple! Try your best not to use jargon you may use in your line of work or verbiage that makes you sound smarter than you are. It is important to remember your audience. What language will they be able to understand? If you were to describe your work to someone with no knowledge on the topic, what language would you use?

On another note, using layman’s terms can help when it comes to writing for different grade levels. Sometimes, the character count or complexity of a word can deem the word to be too simple or complex for the grade level you intend to write for. You might refer to sources like Readability Analyzer to help determine the complexity of words for grade levels.

2. Check Your Grammar and Punctuation

From one writer to another, please, please, check your grammar and punctuation! When editing, this is the first thing I look for. A misspelled word or misplaced comma can affect the meaning of an entire sentence or paragraph. For some quick grammar and punctuation tips, feel free to check out my post “5 Things to Think About Apart From Spell Check.”

3.  Use Logical Formatting

Reader, your words and topic(s) of interest should be able to flow smoothly throughout your work. My suggestion to you is to use paragraph formatting. Please, check to have a proper introduction, thesis (main point), body paragraphs with smooth transitions, and conclusion. Make sure to beef up your body paragraphs with credible information supporting your thesis and any supplemental points you make.

Additionally, if you feel the need to use other formatting, make sure it is easy to understand. For example, I like to use sub-headers to help me distinguish in my writing (and your reading) what I am writing/talking about. This makes it easier to see that I am talking about using logical formatting in this section rather than checking your grammar and punctuation like in the previous section. If my words and paragraph formatting wasn’t enough, then sub-headers should certainly do the trick. You might also consider using chronological, bullet point, and numerical formatting. Essentially, readers should not feel as if entire paragraphs are out of place/order in your work.

Furthermore, your writing may require you to use MLA, Chicago, or APA Style formatting. Please, look to view the appropriate web pages with guides for each of the aforementioned writing styles.

4. Don’t Be Redundant

You do not want to use the same words or phrases that mean to describe the same thing, twice. This is as confusing to write as it is for your audience to read – and it can bore them. So, before you go on and on about the same thing, please, clear your work of any redundancies. You may look to view this master list of Common Redundancies in the English Language on ThoughtCo.com.  

5. Be as Succinct as Possible

You know the famous coinage ‘short and sweet?’ Well, Reader, the same rules apply here. Please, make sure to keep your sentences short – “chunk your sentences,” as my professor once told me. It is far better to use shorter, simpler sentences than run-on, flowery ones in terms of writing and understanding your work. It definitely makes editing a lot easier, as well.

In my opinion, author Veronica Roth does an excellent job at ‘chunking’ her work in her novels – particularly, in her Divergent trilogy. I read this book when I was 13 years old, and it has greatly impacted my writing style and taste in literature.

6. Keep Positive!

Like I mention in “5 Things to Think About Apart From Spell Check,” excessive use of negatives can become confusing. Using positive verbiage allows you to be more straightforward in your writing. It also helps you to avoid double negatives! Keep in mind, there is power in the verb you use.

7. Use Descriptors

Lastly, don’t be vague in your writing. Even if you feel you are using a lot of chunked sentences, it is better to be descriptive and clarify your points than to use discreet phrases or modifiers such as ‘this/that’ or ‘these/those’ throughout your work. Additionally, using descriptors (such as names/nouns and adjectives) helps the reader to be reminded of your main point(s) or to imagine whatever it is you mean to get across. Including vague words/descriptions in your work doesn’t really cut it.

Share Your Thoughts!

Here we are, again, Reader – the end of another post. Did you feel these editing tips helped you? What is the first thing you look for when editing a first draft? Are there any editing tips you would suggest to your peers?

Some other sources for editing tips can be found below:

Thanks, again, for visiting my page, and feel free to follow this blog and Instagram @thereadywriter.blog. Additionally, we now have a Facebook page for The Ready Writer at @thereadywriter.blog! Please, feel free to check it out, and leave your thoughts below!


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