Ten great tips
- Edit other people’s work if you are asked
If a member of your family, a friend, or a colleague has a draft text, they would like you to look at, agree to the request if you possibly can. Even in the event you are very busy, do not feel much like doing it, or are bogged down in writing projects of your own, accept the request. The more proficient you will become at editing the more of it you do and this means you will also become a better editor of your own written work.
- Read the text first
Read the text you are given quickly even before you take the cap off your editing pen. When you make edits in the first round, it may be that you have to return and unpick some of your previous revision and mark-up. This often happens because you may not have yet got the gist of the content, flow, and style, because you have not understood where the text is going in terms of content, or because your primary focus is on identifying mistakes rather than understanding what the piece is about. If possible, read the text first and then return to begin editing.
- What hat have you got on – Proofreading or editing?
While you are editing, make sure that what you are embarked on really is editing. Put another way, you need to be sure that your editing is not a mere examination of the piece for incorrect punctuation and the odd typo. The process of editing is more about strengthening a text including the sentences and the paragraphs within it. The stage that comes later is proofreading. Of course, this is not to say that the editing process does not involve some amount of proofreading or at least it does for most people. Still, it is vital to do one round of revision that is completely dedicated to editing and a separate one dedicated to proofreading. It is commonplace to do several rounds of editing and proofreading in the case of relatively complex texts.
- Do your editing on-screen using the change tracking feature
A great many editors and writers prefer to work with printed pages of text. However, this method of editing is not always efficient and can be quite messy. Once you start to edit your work on-screen, it should not take you long to become accustomed to this new way of working and you should soon find it is a lot more efficient and easier than correcting and marking up a printed copy. If your revision is extensive and you have any concerns about losing track of your original work, use the Track Change tools in MS Word. This tool does exactly as you might expect. It keeps track of every change an editor makes during the editing process. You can then go back and review your edits and accept each change or reject them one at a time or all at once. This method is an excellent way of editing a text twice – the first time to make corrections and the second round to check them again and approve or reject them.
- Look up anything you are not sure of – Be aware of things that are unknown to you
The best wisdom an editor has is being aware of what they do not know. Therefore, having an arsenal of resources is one side of the coin. Being able to use them is an entirely different thing. Laziness in these cases does not pay. Do not forget that whenever you have to check something out, you acquire new knowledge and become a better writer. Additionally, the more often you look new things up, the less often you will have to look for the same information again. These things eventually come natural to you while you write.
- It helps to keep a style and grammar guide to hand
It is important to be mindful and meticulous while you are editing and proofreading any document. If there is any punctuation, spelling, grammar, or contextual issues you are unsure about, it is imperative you are able to refer to a style or grammar guide, so check that you have the resources you need to hand. It is important for editors to be correct, vigilant, and to be able to use sound judgment, bearing in mind that it is sometimes necessary to bend the usual rules a bit. However, you can only do this if you understand the rules thoroughly and why you are bending them.
- Use your spell-checker and grammar-checker first
Prior to beginning any editing task, use the spell-checking and grammar-checking features in your word processer program (assuming your program has these tools). While it is true to say these checking tools will not spot every error, they do highlight most obvious errors. This will leave you with a fresher brain and a greater amount of time for doing a manual edit. Most word processing programs also have a feature known as find-and-replace. This enables an editor to find multiple occurrences of any one error and replace them in the quickest possible manner. Take double spaces after periods for example. A lot of people still put two spaces after full stops. Find-and-replace will allow you to quickly replace all instances of these with single spaces.
See also: "MLA formatting style"
- Read aloud slowly
A very critical part of editing and proofreading – perhaps the most critical – is to review every word (one by one) and examine the entire piece at every level – words, sentences, and paragraphs. Each manuscript or document should be assessed as a whole for organization, flow, and legibility. This implies going over every part several times. To put a level of objectivity between yourself and the content in order to evaluate it in the best possible manner, you should read aloud and slowly. This should help you spot most typos and other minor errors.
- Listen to the rhythm and wording
There is more to editing than just looking for spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. Pay careful attention to the text’s rhythm while you read out loud. Is the flow of the text smooth? Are the sentences of alternate length or is there a burst of very short and/or very long sentences that give a droning sound to the rhythm? If there are chunks of long sentences, break them up and see if there is any way of joining some of the smaller ones together. This can add more musicality and rhythm to a written piece.
- Formatting needs careful attention
The formatting of a document is actually done separately from the editing. This part includes paying attention to such elements as font (style, size, and other aspects such as italics, bold, and so on), line spacing, paragraph spacing, and the indentation of lines/paragraphs. For example, it is important that the same style of font and line spacing is used for subheadings and the titles of chapters. It is also important to use a consistent style of formatting for citations, preferably according to a particular style manual. Look out for any inconsistencies in this respect.
See also: "College essay writing services"