By Lesley Vos/ Being a writer myself, I understand perfectly how difficult it can be to proofread your own texts. That's why I decided to share some tricks with Novel Publicity blog readers on self-editing. Sure, there are always some editors to rely on, but a writer should not forget, that this is not editors' job to correct every spelling or grammar mistake, especially if there are dozens of them in a small piece of writing.
Let's be honest: writers hate editing.
Moreover, many of us don't consider editing our job. All those spelling and grammar mistakes shouldn't be a reason to worry when you're the creative person. Everything a writer thinks about is an idea, a plot, a protagonist, and a source of inspiration for writing a really cool story. Sorry for tautology, but the ugly truth is, that this, is simply not true.
Editors will always find something to change in your story, but that doesn't mean they should correct your every spelling and grammar mistake. This is not their job, they are not teachers of English at school after all. It's your job! Some writers are afraid of editing, as they consider this process difficult and really bo-o-o-oring. False! You can become a successful self-editor to improve your writing skills and please your editors, leaving them less trivial work to do and more time to focus on the bigger picture.
Remember, that your sloppy editing is one of the 5 ways to turn readers off! Use these tricks to see how exciting the process of self-editing may be.
Lets talk more about those 7 tasty tricks:
1. Never rely on spell checkers
If you write a lot, you've probably noticed the problem of all spell checkers already. They can't give you a 100% guarantee, that your text doesn't contain any spelling errors at all.
For example, let's take such words as “here”, “her”, and “hear”. All of them exist, and no spell checker can be found which would underline these words as incorrect; but, all three words have different meaning, and the big chances are they will not fit the meaning of your sentence after all. The same situation is with the words “where” and “we're”, “its” and “it's”, etc.
Use spell checkers as an extra tool for your proofreading, but do not make it the only one tool to rely on.
2. Don't rush!
It can be difficult for a writer to stop when their muse appears, and words pour out in a flood, running into sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. When you're inspired, you want to finish your writing as soon as possible, and send it to an editor at once for him to see how good you are.
It's a trap! Never rush, and always leave enough time for self-editing!
3. Proofread it (but later!)
Don't proofread your writing right after you've finished it. The best plan of action is to re-read it next day with ‘a fresh eye'. Chances are high that you will notice lots of spelling mistakes and grammar constructions that must be changed. If you don't have time to wait, try to proofread your piece of writing in 2-3 hours after finishing it. That's enough time to look at it with a different lens.
4. Imagine yourself being your reader
Just step back from your writing and forget all your writing tips for a moment. Forget that you are the one who has written it, and imagine yourself a reader of this story, article, blog post, etc. Is it interesting for you to read it? Is it easy to read? Do you understand anything you are reading now? Are all words and grammar constructions easy to perceive?
You write for other people, not for yourself. As reader of your story, would you be pleased to see tons of spelling and grammar mistakes there?
Watch out for habit words too. We all have them: “so”, “well”, “actually”… English language has many words to use, but that doesn't mean you should start using words no one will understand. Try to avoid your own habit words where possible.
5. Read it backwards
This is a really awesome trick to use! Proofread your writing, starting from the very last sentence of your article. This will make your brain think differently, not allowing it to see what it expects to see, and you will start noticing some mistakes that would be missed if you read it in a general way.
Backwards editing works perfectly if you need to check your spelling and grammar. When you read your text backwards, you perceive every separate sentence, not the whole text in general, and it becomes easier for you to see if your every sentence is internally coherent.
6. Read it out loud
When you want to know how your writing will sound to others, this trick is a great help. The point is, that writing may make sense and look good for the eye (especially when you are an author), but when you hear it from a side, you may notice how strange or even awkward some sentences sound.
7. Make a list of your common mistakes
Writing a lot helps us learn where the weaknesses are. There are definitely some words, word expressions, habit words, grammar constructions, punctuation rules that seem difficult for you to remember and use in a right way. So, we often make the same mistakes while writing, and our editors can't stop telling us about them.
Make a list of your common mistakes. Post it somewhere you can check it, and read it every time when you write. It may sound boring, but you,ll start to see how your writing improve.
Some extra tricks to use for self-editing may include
- use reliable dictionaries for spell checking
- ask your friend to check it as a potential reader
- imagine yourself an editor. Would you accept this text for publishing?
- cut (writers have a habit of writing much, but all those words are not always useful and worthy; don't be afraid to cut some sentences if needed)
- no adverbs! As Stephen King mentioned in his book On Writing, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs”. It doesn't mean that you should not use them at all, but they are overused so often… For example: “He runs quickly.” If you run, you are quick already, aren't you? There is no need to emphasize this action with an adverb here.
Lesley J. Vos is a blog writer for Bid4Papers company. She also works as a private educator of French language from time to time. Lesley enjoys the process of writing and essays proofreading itself, and you can always contact her at Google+.