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How to edit your own work like a pro

by Nicole Dillon

Do you struggle to edit your own work, whether it be an assignment or a piece of your own creative writing? Well, those days are over!

In this month’s Created by You, Open Colleges student, Nicole Dillon, provides her top 8 editing tips to help you get the most out of your work!

editing tips

As an educator I am often marking and editing students’ assessments and as a writer I need to edit my own work. Currently I am working on a newsletter which I have reviewed twice, sent it on to two others to review, and had returned to me for another review, only to still find mistakes!

Self-editing should not be seen as a chore, but as a means to perfect your work. Learning the skills to self-edit will help to improve your writing skills.

Here are my top 8 editing tips, collected from editors, writers, and what works for me.

Take a break

Walk away, get a coffee, or go to bed and sleep on it. Any of these methods will help you regain enthusiasm and clear your vision.

They say if you are angry, write it down, walk away, read it in the morning and then throw it away. Similarly, you can do this with your work; hopefully you do not have to throw it away.

A change in view also works. Change the font or the size of the print if you are working on the computer, the errors should start to jump out at you.

Use track changes

If you use your computer to write, or are like me and start on paper and then transcribe to computer, you will probably find the first attempt at a story bares no resemblance to the final piece you write.

In order to monitor your changes on Word or Pages (Mac) you can use an aid called Track Changes located in your menu bar. This will keep track of all your editing changes.

Read over and over and over and over

Ask family or friends to read over your work. Read aloud, sing it, print it off and read it. Read it on the bus or train, ask the person next to you to read it, and then read it again!

Use grammar/style guide

It is pointless sending poor work to your employer or publisher. You need to be sure what you send is appropriate for the job or story you are writing. If you are unsure, ask!

Your employer can provide you with their style guide or provide a brief on the style they expect.

Omit needless words

This is one of my favourite tips from You need to be concise to capture the audience’s attention and keep them on your page.

Use the active voice

Active voice happens when the subject of the sentence performs the action.

An example of passive voice is: “at dinner time ice cream was eaten by Lizzy”

An example of active voice: “Lizzy ate ice cream at dinner “.

The active response indicates the subject, “Lizzy”, performs the action “ate ice cream”.

Drop excessive exclamations

I am an exclaimer! I tend to overuse exclamation marks.

Try to avoid the overuse of punctuation, particularly exclamation marks or using question and exclamation marks together for emphasis.

I need to go and change half my Facebook comments now!!!????

Hire a professional editor

And one last tip from upcoming author Jane Abbott is to “hire a professional editor; there’s a damned good reason why they get paid to improve other people’s work”.

Jane has just signed a two-book deal, with her first book “Watershed” due on the shelves in June 2016.

Find out more

There are many self-editing tip sheets available, and are just two examples online.

Put together your own tip sheet and pick the tips that work for you and in no time, a polished, grammatically correct, eye catching piece of work will be yours to display. Be proud of it. Your employer will be pleased, which will guarantee further employment, keeping your bank manager pleased too…

Now I’m off to re-read my work.

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