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Five Tips for Effective Editing

By Molly Kozlowski, PR/Media Director, Spring 2021

An effective writing process may not always begin with a perfect first draft. However, it always concludes with a thorough editing session.

As simply putting words down on an empty page can require an immense amount of mental energy, editing can become an overwhelming afterthought. Thus, once writers’ fatigue sets in, a final review of your draft can turn into a rushed read-over that misses crucial mistakes and opportunities.

With planning, revising your work can be a satisfying part of the writing process if you give it time, attention and structure.

Here are some tips and tricks to take your editing beyond a simple spell check:

Give Yourself Time:

Editing is a process, not a quick task. Instead of glancing over your work as you rush to hit the submit button, schedule a day or two in advance of the due date to request feedback from others and complete several rounds of your own editing. Additionally, allowing for breaks between read-throughs will allow you to look at the work with clarity and fresh ideas.

Edit in Layers:

With a seemingly endless to-do list of revisions and corrections to work through, it is easy to get lost in your writing. However, by identifying exactly what you are looking to spot in each pass of your draft, you can prevent yourself from meandering off course.

A streamlined way to make your editing sessions more effective is revising in a series of targeted layers. For example, during your first read-through, scan for any “red-flag” errors you come across and make note of any questions that arise during your review. Then, move on to content and consistency edits, making sure that your argument or message is air-tight. Finally, the last set of reviews should focus on grammar and mechanics, taking the time to scan for pesky copy edits and AP style errors.

Look Out for “Crutch” Words and Errors:

The first step towards better writing is admitting you have a problem! Whether it’s a word you use too frequently or extremely long sentences, everyone has a “writer’s crutch.” In order to break bad writing habits, you have to identify them.

The next time you review a piece, jot down repetitive words or mistakes that consistently appear in your work. Not only will you become more aware of your writing habits, but you will also create a list of specific errors that you can cross-reference during your next editing session.

Cut, Cut and Cut Again:

When it comes to writing, less really is more. Even if there is no word count holding you back, conciseness is the key to clarity.

Throughout your editing process, take the time to examine the intention and clarity of any long sentences or paragraphs. Are there any unnecessary adjectives? Can you cut any clauses cluttering your sentences? Does your paragraph make the same point twice?

Read as your Audience:

As a writer in the communications field, the goal of your work is to connect with a specific audience. While you have done the research to understand the complexity of the client or product, your target should not have to.

As you read over your work, read it from the perspective of your audience. For example, if you are advertising a computer repair service to a senior audience, would they feel overwhelmed by the amount of tech jargon? Is it clear what services they offer and how to make an appointment? Are you speaking to their anxieties about tech repair in an appropriate way?

Finding a revision method that works for you is essential to become an efficient and effective creative. While there is no formula for the perfect final product, making your editing sessions a strategic process will help your writing reach its greatest potential.

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