I’ve been there, association friends: a staff of one, just you as the editor and writer for your association publication, relying on freelancers to do the rest of the work. So how do you edit your own work and continue to improve your writing?
Here are a four tips on how to self-edit.
(By the way, this works for freelance writers too, as you strive to turn in not only a great story, but clean copy.)
1. Print it out. I’ve been printing out my draft articles since journalism school. Even as my writing has improved tremendously, I continue to spot story holes, structural issues and grammatical errors or typos not picked up by spell check. I have found that my eyes don’t skim as much when I’m reading a printed page as they do with a computer screen. Plus, it’s much easier to see a 2,000-word feature all at once and recognize paragraphs that need to be switched around; I just easily renumber them on the page before restructuring the story on my laptop.
2. Print in large, strange fonts. I’ve discovered a use for comic sans. Print out your work in 14-point type in comic sans. This makes your eyes stop on every word and is especially helpful to catch extra words or typos.
3. Read for specific reasons. Don’t just read your story as a reader would. Read it a few different times for specific reasons. Read once looking at every verb to see how you can improve your word choice. Read another time looking for extra adjectives. I always read at least once to fact-check, lingering on every sentence to make sure that it is completely accurate—including the spelling of names and people’s affiliations.
4. Know your trouble spots. Every writer develops a particular voice and style, but that has negatives as well as positives. Do you tend to write “very” a lot? Are you em dash happy? Do you forget to add the second comma after a clause? Read your draft to catch those trouble spots and strive to knock them out of your writing.
This wonderful career that we have chosen (or that we fell into) allows us to continue to improve, learn and try new things nearly every day. Being able to write for a living is a gift; let’s continue to be better at it and give readers what they deserve.
What are your tricks for self-editing?