Tips and Tricks Tuesday: Editing My Own Work

I’m always curious about what works for writers. What rules are most important? What spurs on their thoughts when up against a dead end? How do they organize a paper and why? old typewriter

I’ve read from the cannon: Hemmingway On Writing, Strunk & White, ect. But at this point I’m really curious about writers like me, ordinary Joes and Janes doing it in their spare time.

I’m combing the blogosphere for posts about this, so if you know of one or have written one, please save me some time and link to it in a comment. In the meantime, because I shouldn’t ask anyone to do something I’m not willing to do, I’ll post some of my ideas too. (I don’t profess to be an brilliant essayist worthy of dolling out expert advice to the masses, so don’t get your hopes up too high!)

That said, sit back and enjoy. Here comes my first installment of:

Tips and Tricks Tuesday
Editing My Own Work

(I realize it’s actually Friday, but I will be doing this on Tuesdays henceforth.)

Each time anyone writes anything, they should at least read through it once and edit it. I always do, even for text messages and facebook comments. After I write a paper or blog post I edit a little more in-depth (this is what I will write about today). And then of course there are other more formal writing projects that almost require more tweaking than writing! But there’s no need to go that far here.

  • The first thing I do is address all the red and green squiggly lines. I don’t change them all, just double-check them.

    blank paper 1

  • Then I read through for continuity. Which spots feel funny? Do I need a transition or more explanation anywhere? Is there anyplace where my words draw attention to themselves and therefore detract from the meaning? I re-word these parts so that hopefully my words are either invisible or add to the meaning when attracting attention. I don’t want the audience to think too hard about the structure of my sentences or my word choices.

  • Then I check the flow. Does the order of topics and/ or paragraphs make sense? Would a different order be more helpful? Obviously intros and transitions have to be adjusted a little bit if you change the order, but that doesn’t have to be a big deal.

  • After that it’s time to prune. Every single word and line has to count. If it doesn’t proactively add to the point; it detracts and must go. This part can be tough, especially if you’ve worked hard on a bit and have to toss it. I look closely for extra words like ‘really’ and ‘very’. These can almost always be eliminated, and the point is stronger for it. I look for extra commas. There are almost always a dozen or so commas that can go. I also check to see how many times I’ve used the word “was.” If I’ve used it more than 3 or 4 times I try to replace it with a stronger verb.

  • When I’m happy with all of that I check the look and feel of the piece. Would a different font or size be helpful? Do I need a picture to break up all the writing? How about a bulleted list or other device?

  • Then comes the home stretch. I read through one more time looking for anything that stands out in a negative way and tweak it. I make sure I’ve said everything I want to say. Then if there’s time, I sleep on it and check again in the morning.

Geez, now that I’ve written this out I no longer wonder why it takes me hours to write a post! But there’s nothing as rewarding as the feeling associated with a job done well.


4 responses to this post.

  1. This is a great post! I don’t have anything to add because this is actually what I do too, and pretty much in that order. Sometimes, if I feel like it really isn’t working, I will send my blog post or writing to a friend to have them read and get some feedback. Sometimes this really helps, but sometimes they just tell you what you want to hear. If you want good feedback you have to find someone who is willing to take the time and who will also be honest and tactful. It never ceases to amaze me that even after all of that, errors still sneak through. If I come across any other ideas, I’ll be sure to post them. 🙂


    • That’s interesting that you basically do the same thing. I guess if we both do it that way we’re on the right track!

      I also love it when people are willing to give honest criticism. I figure if they rip my piece apart, they’re doing me a favor. I’d rather have all of my weaknesses pointed out to me before I display them to the world.


  2. Thanks for posting this it was useful for a paper I am at this time writing for my thesis. Thanks

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