Stop! Don’t hit publish yet.
I know. You’ve written your fingers to the bone, researched and polished your piece to a high sheen. My best work yet, you think. I’m finally wrestling this writing gig to the ground.
Exhausted, but in a good way, you’ve decided to let go and hit publish. Time for a well-deserved break. A cold one and Netflix to recharge the neurons.
But wait. Not yet. I have one last task for you, a self-edit to catch the glitches that could mark you as an amateur and sink all your hard work like a stone.
One final edit can catch four pesky errors that easily slip by even the seasoned writer’s eye will give your work a chance to stand out.
By final edit, I mean you’ve already checked your piece for logical structure. You’ve included the links to outside references and tweaked the punch lines to your jokes. You know, the content we obsess over.
I’m talking about a final nitpicky read to catch the newbie mistakes nobody thinks are important — except curation editors, competing writers, and readers who like to leave snarky one-liners in the comments about typos.
Oh, typos? You’ve already run your article through Grammarly or some other spellcheck and grammar/punctuation program, right? Right. So now you’re ready for the final polish with a clean chamois to after these four essential self-editing rules.
Will they guarantee curation and viral claps? Nothing is certain in this treacherous world, all the more reason to give yourself every bit of edge you can. So let’s not waste any more time with the sales job. Let’s get editing. First …
Check for repetitions.
We all have favorite words and can lose track of how often we use them. But in your final read, look for words and phrases or variations on them you use more than once in a paragraph, a page.
Yes, deleting a perfect word means you’ll have to come up with a substitute. But who said writing was easy? Your nearest dictionary contains close to a million words. The job description of writer means you have to search through them for an alternative to the one that pops up in every other sentence. Because why? Correct answer: originality counts.
Check for missing words.
Our brains conveniently fill in a missing word that, in our rush to publish, we’ve neglected to include in a sentence. This step is crucial, however, because readers will catch them every time. The best way to find them is to read your draft out loud very slowly, or use a speech/dictation program to speak the piece back to you.
If missing words is your particular nightmare, see if you can coax a friend into reading your draft one last time, preferably out loud to you, until you become more proficient at typing all the words in a sentence.
Check for inappropriate words.
Two categories of inappropriate words humbug writers. Homonyms, words with the same spelling or pronunciation but different meaning, such as rain, rein, and reign; their, there, and they’re. So check you’ve used the correct word.
But we can also fall into the trap of using a word we think fits our purpose, the operative phrase being we think it does. Come to find out by way of a nasty review or comment that we’ve made an embarrassing blunder by using a word that misses by a mile.
Unless you have award-winning vocabulary and grammar skills, when in doubt don’t, and look it up. Some words that get us into trouble: fewer/less; accept/except; further/farther; comprise/compose. The dictionary function on your word processing program is there for a reason. Use it. It will make you look smart.
Check for missing apostrophes.
Make sure you bone up on the difference between its and it’s, in other words, the proper use of the possessive case. Use an apostrophe when you’re talking about something belonging to someone. A possession, get it? As in Joe’s cuppa joe. Apostrophes create order out of chaos, but only if you use them.
Writing is a long game.
You won’t master everything in your first article, or your first year of writing. But if, each time you publish, you make a habit of checking for these gremlins that pop up in every writer’s work, in time, your eye will find them quickly and your writing will shine so brightly, we’ll need sunglasses to read your work.
You might enjoy some other editing tips from me.
How To Do A Visual Edit Of Your Manuscript
If you want to capture a reader’s attention, you have to make your work look like a winner.
I Didn’t Read 4,389 Books This Year. Bite Me.
Read to learn, to write better, not to beat a record.
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