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Tips for becoming a better editor

Thu, 03/11/2016 - 11:27

Ideally the concepts of writing and editing would be regarded as, basically, indistinguishable. Creating writing or content from scratch is of course separate from editing this new writing – but neither can exist without the other.

In that sense, every writer must be an editor. Sometimes, it’s wiser to wear two caps, however, especially when you’re creating content that will speak for clients.

Clarity matters more than sexiness

Flooding people with words because sentences sound pretty might be fine if you’re a novelist with unlimited space – it’s not ideal when economy is of primary concern. In basically all your writing for clients, you must aim for brevity and clarity. No one should read anything you write and come away confused. From guiding potential customers on websites to writing guides for clients’ services, your words create business for your clients.

When editing, consider finding synonyms and simpler phrases. Shorter sentences also matter. You should make sure sentences don’t run on and, where possible, you should cut them up or remove them entirely. Remember: “What’s essential is what’s essential”. If a sentence adds nothing, destroy it.

Another key to adding clarity is focusing on pronouns: Are the pronouns clear in who they apply to? Are you being consistent? When editing, keep an eye on every pronoun and ascertain they’re being used correctly.

Change font, style and read aloud

Changing perspective means seeing things in a new light. It might not seem like much, but changing the font of a draft helps put the writing in a new form. You will often spot mistakes this way, because word position and spacing changes. Once you’ve changed the font, read the draft out loud. This is often the best way to spot mistakes, since you’re forced to notice every word and can hear how sentences sound.

Distance matters

Put the draft down and walk away. This can be a few minutes or, if possible, an hour. Putting some space between yourself and the draft means you have time to let your mind breathe. Like changing the font, coming back to the draft after a while helps. Another way distance helps is giving the draft to someone else to look over. In this way, this is the most distant you can be from the draft since it’s an entirely new pair of eyes.

Start tracking your mistakes

Everyone has particular writing quirks. These can be harmless personal aspects that slip into drafts, but sometimes they’re damaging. Do you confuse pronouns, use too many commas, use “that” when it’s not necessary and so on? Start tracking what mistakes you tend to make frequently. Editing should be short or non-existent. One way to help make editing non-existent is to be preventative by not repeating mistakes.

Editing isn’t about making you feel bad as a writer, but bringing out the best. No one said this would be easy. But this hard work will pay off, if you stick to it, and produce consistent quality writing.

*This article originally appeared on The Marketing Site.