Editing. The word that sends many a student and writer into a cold sweat, but if you know where to start the process, it’s not bad at all! In graduate school, I tutored over a hundred English/Creative Writing sessions and I found that the principles for basic editing are essentially the same whether it’s a 350-page novel or a 3-page essay paper.
- Print it out and read it out loud. The computer screen has this magical element that causes the eye to skip over comma splices, missing quotation marks and strange word choices, so print it out, read it out loud with your red pen in hand and start editing.
- Read it again at least 2 more times. A teacher once told me that a paper always has more that you can edit, which is sadly true. Even if you think you found all edits on round one, round two and three will reveal even more flaws. These next two rounds are where you will tighten sentences that need tightening and fluff sentences that need fluffing.
- Let it sit. At this point, your head is exploding. You need to set your paper or novel down and walk away quietly. I know the editing is almost “complete” and you just want to be rid of it, but you need a break and your work needs it too.
(Optional Bonus Step: Now, I could insert another step here as some people find that reading their work backwards helps them to find those extra little errors, but it just makes me cross-eyed, so I usually skip that step. However, if you are feeling adventurous, try it! It’s not fun, but it is effective.)
- Read it 1 more time out loud. This is polishing time! Make it sparkle!
(Optional Bonus Step: If you have a critique partner, send it to them and then apply their edits if you agree with them. If you don’t have a partner and feel confident that you don’t need to go through it one more time, send it off! However, I would highly recommend having a partner to bounce off ideas and to read your work. Click here to check out a post on how to find a critique partner!)
If you want a refresher on the rules of writing, The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White is a fantastic resource for quick answers on any English questions!
For a more in-depth approach to editing, click the titles below: