November 27, 2008 Leave a comment
For the sake of the premise, I’ll pretend I’m not working this Thanksgiving day. Another part of the premise is that you are a writer without access to an editor. From the blog “Adventures in Editing,” here are 3 Tips for Editing Your Own Work:*
Editing your own writing is never easy; that’s why some people pay me to do it for them. But if you have a firm grasp on the basics of spelling and grammar, you’re not intimidated by dictionaries and style guides, and you’re willing to take the time to actually edit rather than “read-it-real-fast-one-time-and-hope-I-catch-everything,” you can make a significant difference in the quality of your writing.
Here are three methods I use to edit my work. These tips will help you approach your work with fresh eyes and a new perspective, which is exactly what you need to catch mistakes in your writing.
1. Set it aside.
Don’t write your last word and then go right back to page one and begin editing. Set the work aside for as long as you reasonably can. Hopefully you will be able to wait at least twenty-four hours. If you can wait a week or a month, do it. Even if you can only take an hour, do it. Go for a walk, do a load of laundry, watch a movie. When you come back and sit down to edit you’ll see your work with new eyes and catch errors you might have missed otherwise.
2. Read it out loud.
This trick is especially useful for catching any awkward phrasing. If you’re reading merrily along and suddenly your tongue is twisted, you may have some rewriting to do. Reading aloud can also help you spot repetitious passages and bland sentence structure.
3. Make it look different.
This is especially useful if you’ve already made one or two editing passes and you want to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Print the document out if you can. Errors you might miss on the computer screen will jump out from a printed page. If you can’t print your 300-page novel, try changing the font and/or font size (or even the color) and then edit on screen. Change the page size. Change the margins. Altering the appearance will give you fresh eyes for the document and help you see errors you hadn’t noticed before.
When editing your own work, anything you can do to approach things from a fresh perspective will help you. Try these tips, and please share any of your own favorite methods.
* Chicago tells us not to use complete titles the way I just did:
8.185 Title not interchangeable with subject
The title of a work should not be used to stand for the subject of a work.
Dostoevsky wrote a book about crime and punishment. (Not . . . about Crime and Punishment)
Edward Wasiolek’s book on Crime and Punishment is titled “Crime and Punishment” and the Critics.
In their book The Craft of Translation, Biguenet and Schulte . . . (Not In discussing The Craft of Translation, Biguenet and Schulte . . .)
But I don’t like that rule.