Self Editing

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It is one thing to write a story, but something else to edit it. There’s always the option to send the first version of your text – whether short or longer – off to an editor, but there are a lot of things you can do to self edit your texts.

The Editing Checklist

Mechanics
  • Capitalize the first word of each sentence.
  • Capitalize all proper nouns (place, people, titles).
  • End each sentence with a period, a question mark or an exclamation point.
  • Use punctuation correctly.
  • Check your spelling.
  • Indent the beginning of each new paragraph (this is optional).
Grammar
  • Check for sentence fragments and remove them, unless they have a real purpose.
  • There are no run-on sentences that should be two separate sentences.
  • Subjects and verbs agree in number (singular subject, singular verb / plural subject, plural verb).
  • Pronouns clearly refer to someone or something.
  • Use the same verb tenses (past, present, future) throughout your writing.
Style
  • Use different lengths of sentences – long, short and medium in length.
  • Choose for clear, interesting, colorful, precise words and make sure they are a fit for your audience.
  • Don’t use the same words/phrases repeatedly.
  • Cut out any un-needed words.

More tips to self-edit

  1. Structure the task – put the largest elements, such as the plot structure first. Once you are satisfied with that, you can focus on details of language (grammar, style, spelling, punctuation).
  2. Use free tools – there are some free tools on the net that can help you to edit your text, such as Pro Writing Aid. This helps to point out overused words, sentences that are too long, passive voice and other things you could change to make your words more dynamic.
  3. Check tense – make sure you have consistently used the same tense throughout your story.
  4. Be ruthless – don’t be afraid to cut parts of your story that aren’t working and start afresh. The cut piece may have been a vital preparation for something much better.
  5. Take a break – after finishing your draft, put your work away for a day or a week or as long as it takes for you to come back and look at it with fresh eyes.
  6. Read aloud – hearing the rhythm of your words, will help you edit for flow. Also, your ears can help you find errors your eyes miss.
  7. Mix it up – reading your texts over and over again will make you miss the errors. Try reading backwards from the last word of a paragraph to try and spot those errors that are hard to find.
  8. Change the picture – try changing the font and the font size in your word processor when you edit.  The altered appearance could help you to see the text differently.
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