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Editing Blues: Some Tips to Edit Your Writing

Friends, I have a very low opinion of my own editing. I tend to write a lot, but when it comes to editing, I tend to forget too much. I forget my own rules of thumb, what I know already, and err on silliest rules of grammar. That’s why I get sometimes rejection at Constant-Content when I submit my articles for the first time. But later on, I sit a few hours picking out minute errors in the article. Only afterward do I get the approval from the editor.

When this issue persisted, I went ahead and raised a thought in their forum, attracting other writers’ opinions about editing. Here are some of the opinions I got from some of those authors and some of mine.

Font Zoom

When I write in MS Word, I always keep the font at New Times Roman 12 pt. But the zoom level is very high at 180 %. This monster zoom enables me to see my writing very clearly and find out mistakes easily. Mostly, one read-through is enough to spot most errors. When the letters are larger and stare right at you, so do the errors. Whatever your pet font is, put the zoom to a very high level to spot more mistakes.

Listen to Your Writing

Some of my co-authors in Constant-Content suggested this for me. There are many pieces of software doing Text-To-Speech (TTS). Use one of them to listen to your own writing. It is easier to spot your errors this way. One such software, which I use for several years now (for listening to e-books and online journals), is ReadPlease. You can download this software free from that link. It comes equipped with the Microsoft TTS engine and can read the text just fine.

Plan Your Editing

Edit your writing by paragraphs, and once a paragraph is edited to perfection, tag it by coloring it. This way, you can gradually get ahead in your editing. One edit may be enough mostly, this way, to get your article edited to perfection.

Editing Delay

The most important tip, perhaps, is this. Before you begin your editing, you should allow your article to catch some dust. Leave it out to brood for two days, and then retouch the article. This is often good because you will get to see the article through a fresher, clearer state of mind. That state will spot more errors for you. Try it out, and you will be surprised at the errors and areas of awkwardness staring at you.

Most authors have suggested this. Look at Ed Patterson’s previous post on revising novel. Many writers give a delay of even months before retouching their writing. But in case of the web world, it’s like news articles. You can’t afford to put a delay of more than 2 days or so. So, give it at least one day before editing it.

Print out and Edit

My editor, Ed at CC suggested this. Printing out whatever you write and then editing it gives you a better look at the article. Looking at the monitor straining your eyes is not a great way to edit your writing. So, have a good printer ready in your office and print the article out soon after you finish it. And use marker for setting off those stinking regions. Edit it back in your article.

Show It to Your Friend

If one of your friends, knowing good English, is nearby, get him/her to see your article, and get his opinion. Many professional writers suggest this. And having a different eye scan your work is good because there are many regions in a written content, which are there due to your love of it. And your love of something doesn’t make it great. So, have a different pair of eyes scan it and see if they are actually very aesthetic.

Reading Backward

If you can read your article bottom-up, you may see more errors, and would know if the flow is right or not. Because flow is extremely important for your articles, you should see if it is right or not. This is also a suggestion made by a friend from Constant-Content.

Have your say here. What do you think of the tips given here? Please tell me.

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008


  1. Hi Lenin:

    Just wanted to comment on the "delay" factor needed between a draft and a revision. When I said "seven weeks," I was referring to a novel between 50,000 and 250,000 + words. Some authors put their draft manuscripts in the draw for a year or more. The reason for the delay should not be ignored.

    Time cleanses your creative mind and sets up your technical mind. The draft of any work should scintillate with the original spark, but since you're engaged in that process, you can't be trusted to see the brilliance the gems can become. Writing skills and revision skills are different and seven weeks is the minumum time needed,IMHO, to trot out a different set of tools. You are most unlikely to kill your darlings the day after they are born. Who can drown their young? But I'll take a willing axe to a "brtty teenage passage" after I have put those precious creative skills in the back drawer and whittle with the revision tools.

    I have dozens of other hints (some very obsure, almost to be arcane, but taught to me . . . well if I told you the acquisition sources, I'd have to kill you, darling). But I will share another bagful soon. Meanwhile, another suggestion: Be both drafting and revising simulatanously --- but on different works. I know it sounds like an assembly line, but you will never have writer's block if you are working on several works at once with all your tools out, fingers flying across the keyboard in your Jane Austen lockaway.

    Edward C. Patterson


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