While larger publications often use a copy editor, smaller publications often do not.
This means that it is doubly important for us to check over our own work.
Self-editing is hard, though. It’s easy to miss your own mistakes. That’s because when you read something you’ve written, your mind tends to “fix” minor mistakes in the copy. So what you think you read is not actually what you wrote.
Plus, time-rushed freelance writers may be tempted to skip this step. A good copy-edit takes time. If you’ve got a lot of deadlines, you may feel you don’t have that time.
In this post I share ten tips to make editing your own work easier. I call them the ten golden rules of self-editing.
Self Editing Rules
Most good writers know to review their writing before turning it in.
Even if you’re lucky enough to write for a publication that uses a copy editor, you don’t want to become known as that writer whose work always needs to be cleaned up before it can be published.
I’ve modified my self-editing steps over the years. I want to make sure that the work I turn in is as clean as possible.
Here are my self-editing rules:
- Don’t skip self editing. Sure, you feel good about that draft you just finished. It’s even possible there are no mistakes in it. But why take the chance? Include the time for self-editing in your writing quotes. That way you won’t feel quite so rushed.
- Let some time pass. Don’t wait until right before a piece is due to finish it. Allow yourself time to take a break between writing and reviewing your writing. You’re more likely to catch mistakes if you wait. I wait a few hours before I edit my drafts.
- Use spell-check. Sure, spell-check doesn’t catch everything. But it will catch some mistakes. So, go ahead and run that spell-checker. Check with an online dictionary for the spelling of any words you’re not sure about.
- Use other tools if you have them. There are many other helpful tools available to writers. If you have other tools, use them. I’ve already written about how I use the Hemingway Editor App to make my writing style more concise.
- Don’t rely on the tools. The tools are great, but in the end they are just based on algorithm. Even the best tools miss a lot of mistakes. Just because the tool didn’t find any mistakes doesn’t mean there aren’t any.
- Read your piece the way your reader would. One of the best ways to review a piece is to read it the way a reader would. Is the piece organized in a way that makes sense? Does it contain the information your reader would want to know?
- Read it from the end to the start. Reading your piece in a different order than it was written in helps you find and fix more mistakes. I don’t know why this works, but it does.
- Look at your piece again after it’s formatted. Grammar, style, and spelling aren’t your only worries. You also need to worry about formatting mistakes. For example, no one wants to read an article or post where you forget to turn the bold tag off.
- Double-check your links. If you’ve ever been frustrated by a broken link in an article or post, you can relate to this rule. Make sure each link works and that it is connected to the right site.
- Finally. You are done. Go ahead and turn the piece in now. There’s still a slim chance you missed something. But you did your best to check your work. Your odds of turning in error-free work are much greater after following these self-editing rules.
This post is a re-write of my post, Five Proofreading Tips That You Can Use Right Now By Yourself. As you can see, my self-editing process is a little more detailed now. I think the longer process is worth it since it helps me turn in cleaner copy.
What self-editing steps do you use to review your own work before turning it in? Share your thoughts in the comments.