Editing Your Own Work: The Key Steps

When sending your writing to a copyeditor isn’t possible, how can one ensure the best possible work? While it’s true that feedback from a professional is best, there are times when it’s just not possible to take the time or to incur the cost of those services. In those instances, there are steps you, as the author, can take.

Step 1– Content

In reviewing your work, it’s important to remember the purpose of that particular piece. If it’s an academic journal article, have you included all the pertinent sections required by the journal? Check if you have removed all personal identifiers from your work: we, our, my, us, etc. should all be removed from the document before submission. As well, ensure all emotionally toned words/phrases have been eliminated.

For novels or short stories, skim over the story arc: Have you wandered from the original story line too much? Now’s the time to determine if anything needs to be reworked or rewritten. Look for places where your characters are acting…uncharacteristically.

Step 2 – Clarity

One of the best tools editors use when checking writing is the human voice. Reading the work out loud tends to highlight areas of potential problems. If it doesn’t read smoothly when being said aloud, it won’t read smoothly to your audience. Tongue twisters that aren’t deliberate should be weeded out! While reading, make sure that you are able to determine who’s speaking–can you tell–or does clarification need to take place?

For academic writing, verify that any abbreviations are clearly enumerated the first time they are used. Check that your references are properly cited in text and are in numerical order (if required). If you are using colloquialisms native to the area of research, consider explaining for a lay perspective so that your article may be accessible to all readers.

Step 3 – Capitalization

Capitalization, punctuation, run-on sentences, and spelling issues can be a determiner of how well your writing will be received. A poorly written work may have the greatest story line ever, but will turn away the audience simply for the difficulty of reading it. Utilize the built-in spell-check, grammar check, and dictionary provided in your word processing program. When reviewing by reading the work aloud, read the punctuation, too. Pause where you see a comma, if it doesn’t sound right, maybe that comma should be removed. Sound like a query where there is a question mark, add the emphasis when there’s an exclamation mark. Determine from how it sounds if the punctuation written is truly on point.

Working together, these three steps will tighten up your manuscript and allow you to submit the best possible version of your work outside of using a professional copyeditor.