Whether you are writing a book or a blog, there is one rule that you must always remember. Always go back and double check your work. Editing may seem tedious but it’s a critical step in any form of content development. Your aim is an accurate and complete manuscript/post that is publication-ready.
1. Revise first, then edit.
Start your review by ensuring that the text is logical, the structure flows easily, has original text, and credits the proper sources.
- Is the main point clear and specific? Does it jump out at you from the beginning?
- Is the tone and language appropriate for your target audience? For example, are you writing to kids or to retirees?
- Do you answer all of the reader questions about your specific topic?
- Do you use evidence and examples to support your points?
- Do you use transitions to move between paragraphs and ideas?
After you have finished revising the original text, then begin looking for grammar and spelling errors.
- Are sentences complete thoughts and contain a noun and a verb?
- Do your verbs agree with your subjects?
- Do proper nouns begin with capital letters?
- Is it in active or passive voice?
- Are quotation marks included where needed?
- Have you checked your spelling?
- Have you eliminated redundancies and repetitions?
- Are there any run-on sentences?
2. Check it twice.
After you have finished reviewing and editing your work, go back through it again. Look for common writing and grammar issues.
- In journalism-style or blog articles, get to the point in the first paragraph. Put the most important point up front to keep your readers interest.
- Keep your paragraphs short. Every time you change your focus, insert a paragraph break.
- Cut all extra words or phrases.
- Check your punctuation; this includes all commas, hyphens, dashes, semicolons, and parentheses. Also, don’t use double spaces between a period.
- Try not to repeat your point. State it once and move on.
- Try to write in active voice, not passive.
- Look for unanswered questions in your text. If you bring up a question but never answer it, readers will get annoyed.
3. Use third-party programs
Running your word processor’s spelling and grammar check is a great second or third step. Using free online grammar and vocabulary tools are also recommended. Here are two of the most common tools.
- Grammarly is a useful tool for checking grammar, spelling, and enhancing your vocabulary. There is a free version you can use online, in Microsoft Word, or on your desktop. There is also a paid version that includes help with plagiarism.
- Hemmingway is an app that highlights common errors such as run-on sentences, passive voice, and misuse of adverbs. It also indicates lengthy or complex verbiage, so that you can tighten up the sentence.
Remember to always verify the suggestions. Sometimes they do make unnecessary suggestions and you will need to catch them.
4. Read your work aloud.
Sometimes as we’re writing, it’s easy to skip words as our brain often “autocorrects” missing text. Reading your text out loud will help you catch missing or repeated words. It will also help redundancies or awkward text stand out.
5. Step away and come back later.
Unless you are on a super tight deadline (like the article is going to press in an hour), it’s always helpful to step away for a few hours. Sleep on it overnight. When you come back, read the text again with fresh eyes. It’s likely that you will find typos or misused words that you didn’t catch the first time.
It sounds like a lot of repetition and it is. However, editing and re-editing your story is the best way to ensure that it is clear, concise, and readable.