Imagine you’ve completed your first draft to a significant piece of writing. Maybe you’ve finally written that novel. Maybe you’re writing a column for a prestigious magazine or local newspaper. Maybe you’re writing an important blog post that will (hopefully) drive more traffic to your business. Whatever the cause, you have your first draft sitting in front of you, and your next task is to push it from its current awkward, ungainly state to a polished piece you can be proud of.
Welcome to the exciting world of editing!.
Preparing for success
You’ve probably heard that you should never edit during the drafting process (you should ideally wait until after you’ve completed your first draft). While this is true, there are things you can do before editing to make the process easier once you arrive there. The number one tool that will help you edit efficiently is an outline. Think of outlines as a map – outlines tell you how to get from point A (your beginning) to point B (your conclusion). With your outline in hand, you can read through your draft and examine it for a correct sequence of topics. Did you repeat anything, and did you use the correct examples for your subject? Did you argue your position in a logical flow? Having an outline is an effective, time-honored way to scan for these things.
Components of the editing process
Once you’ve determined that your content is where you want it, your next step is to examine the fabric of your writing. This would include issues such as passive sentences, run-on sentences, huge paragraphs which need to be broken up, and basic grammar (spelling, capitalization, misplaced modifiers, misuse of commas, etc). If you can, read your piece aloud to yourself or to another person. Not only will this force you to scan your writing for details, but if you have an awkward turn of phrase, it will show up quickly if you are forced to say it. Some of these awkward phrases will include unnecessary adverbs (especially awkward “ly” adverbs) and jargon that makes your sentences sound overly technical.
Tying it all together
Last minute checks include finalizing citations if you have them, adding page numbers, making sure your headers for specific sections work, and formatting. Pick a readable font and a readable font size (industry standard ranges anywhere from 9 to 11 points). If you can, have someone else proofread your piece because by this time, your eyes are probably no longer picking up errors.
Need a second pair of eyes to look at your piece? A guiding hand through the editing process? Set up a consultation with me!