Effective Editing – 8 ½ Tips
Eight and a half tips that you may not hear anywhere else, but I can swear by:
- READ YOUR DRAFT WITHOUT A PEN OR PENCIL IN YOUR HAND – that way you will concentrate on the overall state of the work, rather than losing sight of these as you get involved in making detailed changes. (If you need to flag up passages for attention later, just use your pen/pencil for that.)
- ASK YOURSELF THE ‘BIG PICTURE’ QUESTIONS before you get sucked into detailed changes like punctuation and choice of words. For example, does it flow well, does it meet your objectives, are the structure and proportions right, is the tone right, etc.
- ASK YOURSELF, ‘WHAT CAN I IMPROVE?’ Whatever shape you think your draft is in, there will nearly always be things you can do to improve it, and if you have this mindset you will not just spot small mistakes and typos etc., you will turn an OK Draft into a Good one, or Good into Excellent.
- GIVE ATTENTION TO YOUR DOCUMENT’S CONTENT, STRUCTURE OR TONE – If one of these is failing, sorting it out should really improve your piece.
- LISTEN FOR SENTENCES THAT ARE TOO LONG, JARGON, SLOWING PACE etc. as you read – you should be able to spot them when you read aloud.
- DOUBLE-CHECK THE VERY BEGINNING AND END of your piece, where the reader’s attention will be at its greatest and where they will home into what you say. If these work well, you will nearly have them on your side.
- SMALL EDITS CAN MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE – it might be that all you need to do is small changes rather than large, structural ones. These can make a big impact: inserting word/phrases to link paragraphs together, introducing some recaps/summaries for clarification, signposts that navigate the reader, changing some the vocabulary to give a different impression, etc.
- ACCEPT YOU MAY GO THROUGH SEVERAL DRAFTS. Even the best writers take several drafts to get their work into shape. No, there is nothing wrong spending time editing … as long as your work is improving. If you feel bad about doing this, number it ‘1st Draft’ (ie more will follow), or write in some else’s name!
And the half…?
“One should aim not to be possible to understand but at being impossible to misunderstand.” – Quintilian