Ten Editing Tips for Writers

Editing your own work can be difficult. You fall in love with sentences. You don't notice you wrote than not then. You know the elements too well so you don't realise that something may be unclear or confusing. 

But you have to do it. Sometimes your partner doesn't have time to go over your copy. Or your ACD or CD. Sometimes you have to figure it out for yourself.

So now that you've written 5 or 6 versions (you did write several drafts and options right??) and have settled on the strongest, best-written piece, it's time to edit.

Ten Editing Tips from the Tweed 

1. Read it out loud.When you hear it you may notice sentences that are too long or too clunky. Edit those sentences that don't sound right.

2. Check your spelling and grammar. Use spell check then also go through for words spell check may not get - many homophones (pored/poured), common mistakes like than/then and it's/its.  (I always have to look for British spellings that still seep out of me) 

3. Read it backward. start from the last sentence and read to the first - reading them out of context helps you notice mistakes better

Now, start going through your work with a fine tooth comb and looking at ways you can really make it stronger.

4. Kill “That.”  In most cases it doesn’t add anything but more words.
5. Change “Get.”  Get says very little. Grab (see, I could've said get here) your thesaurus and find another verb. While you’re at it, kill most iterations of “to be,”  and any variation of “there is/are." Try to keep your language active and colourful.
6. Use words that work hard for you. Or – use hardworking words.  Very, really and easy are weak throw-away words. Use verbs, adverbs and adjectives that add to your sentence.

Is there one word that means “ran quickly” or “said angrily”?
7. Don’t get too friendly with adverbs and adjectives : You can be descriptive by using descriptive language, not just adding descriptors like adverbs and adjectives. 

He wore a blue jacket isn't really telling me much.  What shade of blue? How did he wear it? How did the jacket look? Feel? Smell? 
8. Be strange. If the word or phrase sounds familiar, change it. There are clichéd ideas and phrases. Check yourself anytime anything flows too easily out of your mind – that may be because you’ve heard it before.
9. Write it again. Rewrite it. Pen it over.  There are several ways to say the same thing, explore different options to make sure you’re saying it the best way.
10. Commit sentence suicide : Strip the piece down to its barest form and then rebuild from there. Does it need that word? Go through your copy line by line and make sure everything you put in is adding something to the piece and serves a genuine purpose. If it doesn’t: delete, delete, delete.
Bonus: Be your enemy. I read this advice from a well-known CD - look at your work as if your enemy did it - what would you tell them to change?