If you are in business for yourself, then you need to learn the finesse of editing for yourself. Those blog posts that are brilliant and chock-full of information may or may not be riddled with typos. We get carried along with the muse as we're creating content. There's nothing wrong with that. But if you are not taking the time to review your work before you throw it up online, you are missing an essential step in the process.
5 Tips for When You Need to Be Your Own Editor:
- Read a sentence backward, word for word, to check for typos.
Why? Because our brains have been called “the original autocorrectors.” When we read sentences, our brain fills in to replace missing words or sub in correct ones. Reading a sentence in a different pattern to normal reading isolates individual words, and makes spotting mistakes easier. Check out this article from Poynter: Why good copy editors are ‘abnormal’ humans. Embrace the abnormality!
- Writing and editing should be done separately, not "as you go.”
Why? Because when you multitask, you are doing several things at once, and divided attention makes mistakes. When writing, let it flow. Screw the initial-capping, screw the their/there/they’re... and just WRITE. Wear your writing hat while you’re writing. Wear your editing hat at a separate time. Both your writing and your editing will improve from the individualized attention you give them.
- Shelve it. Come back to it later.
Why? See Tip 2. Writing and editing should be done separately, AND there should be a space of time between the writing and editing (if you can manage it). This tip is ESPECIALLY helpful for when you are writing fiction. If you are getting caught up in the story as you are writing it, you may not be able to see the forest through the trees. A little space of time between writing and editing may reveal gaping plot holes you could drive a truck through, inconsistencies like a character’s hair changing color from one page to the next, and various other problems.
- Create a “style sheet.”
Why? (and what is a style sheet?) A style sheet is a document that you create to store/show different terminology and style, and where it appears in your document. A style sheet is a good idea when you have a longer piece that you’re working on, but can be very useful to use as a guideline when you are doing the same kind of work over and over (for example, a blog series). A style sheet is also useful for fields of study or businesses that have specific terminology. Do the work of finding out how the specific term is spelled and how it is used, add the word to a style sheet, and then you don’t have to re-invent the wheel or do all the research work every time the term appears: you look at your style sheet instead.
- RUN SPELL-CHECK.
Why? Because we’re human! Most editors (even me) aren’t walking dictionaries or spell-checkers. But the great part of that is that we don’t have to be. The software exists, and while spell-check may not be able to catch frequently confused/misused words, it WILL catch outright typos... and some spell-checks now come equipped with grammar checks, too.
BONUS TIP: Read what you wrote aloud. This circles back to Tip 1 but is an addition on top of it: when reading aloud, your brain is less likely to fill in the words it would if you were reading silently to yourself. From time to time people may catch me at my desk “talking to myself”, but it’s WORTH IT. I have caught many mistakes this way! I hope these tips help you when you need to be your own editor. Please don’t beat yourself up if a typo/wrong word goes up in a blog post, e-mail, or newsletter. No one is perfect!
The biggest tip I can leave you with is this: you are in service to the reader... so your editing should reflect this. If you think something you wrote is confusing, keep your reader in mind: will they think it’s confusing? If the answer is yes, then absolutely make your edits until your thought is clear. Clarity is key!
—Hilary Parry Haggerty
- Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia T. O'Conner
- The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller
- 25 Editing Tips for Tightening Your Copy
- 7 Simple Edits That Make Your Writing 100% More Powerful
- 5 Tips for Editing Your Own Work
- 15 Copy Editing Tips that Can Transform Your Content into Persuasive and Shareable Works of Art