The Art of Self-Editing – Tips for Polishing Your Work

Whether you’re writing an essay for school or trying to get your novel published, editing is an essential skill. But, it can be a difficult process.

It takes three to five revisions for a piece of writing to be completely polished. Those extra read-throughs help you spot errors that you might miss in your initial edit.

1. Read it aloud

No matter how well you’re writing, there will always be areas that need polishing. Whether you’re working on a short blog post, an essay, or a novel, editing is necessary to produce high-quality writing.

Read it aloud

Reading your work aloud helps you catch awkward phrasing, grammar mistakes, and punctuation errors that you might otherwise miss. It also helps you get a fresh perspective on your writing.

Use a hard copy

Many professional writers find it helpful to have a physical version of their work when they self-edit. This is because paper usually reveals more weaknesses than a computer screen does.

2. Check your grammar

Grammar is the system of rules for how words are put together to form proper sentences. It’s a complex linguistic field, and understanding it can be confusing and time-consuming.

Grammar checkers can help you find grammatical mistakes, including passive voice, subject-verb agreement, and other advanced errors that are hard to spot by yourself. A free version may skip these mistakes, but a premium tool will point them out and offer tips for improvement.

Another common grammar error is redundancy, such as “in order to.” This phrase can be a waste of words. Good writing uses only what’s necessary and nothing more.

3. Check your spelling

Spelling and grammar mistakes are a common part of writing, and even professional editors miss them. But if you can find a way to catch these errors early, it will make your final edits much easier.

The best way to check your spelling is to use a program that offers suggestions. Microsoft Word, for example, has a free spelling-checking feature that will flag any misused words and suggest correct spellings.

Using a tool like this can save you an embarrassing amount of time during self-editing. It can also help you avoid the habit of re-using the same tenses throughout your manuscript.

Often, writers get so caught up in a story that they begin to add words and scenes without thinking about their significance. This can leave the reader with a book that is long, confusing and unfocused.

4. Check your punctuation

Punctuation is a crucial part of writing, as it adds clarity to your sentences. It’s important to know when to use common punctuation marks such as commas, periods, and question marks so that your writing is clear and concise.

Another thing to look out for when self-editing is filler words. Words such as “actually,” “basically,” “just,” and “well, you know” are often unnecessary.

Other redundancies include “in order to,” which is usually used where it’s not necessary. You can also check for tense switches, which can make your writing confusing.

5. Check your sentence structure

Sentence structure is a crucial part of writing. It determines the logic and completeness of a sentence and helps readers understand what you’re trying to say.

Simple sentences are made up of just a single independent clause with no conjunctions (for, nor, but, or, yet, so). Compound sentences contain two independent clauses joined together by a coordinating conjunction, like for, nor, but, or, yet, and so.

Complex sentences include one main independent clause and a subordinate clause that expresses a different idea than the first. The subordinate clause usually comes before the independent clause, but it can be placed anywhere in the sentence for stylistic reasons.

Cut unnecessary words and adverbs until you have a clean, strong sentence. This will make it more interesting to read.

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