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How to Edit Your Own Writing

By Sandra Miller 

Although most writers hate editing their own work and leave that task to a team of professional editors, no one can deny that the quality of editing is what separates really good pieces of work from mediocre ones. If you still haven’t become a famous writer and you’re not writing for a big publishing house or a famous magazine, you probably have to edit your own writing and there is no way to avoid it. If you are a blogger or a writer working on the first novel, you are left on your own and you have to do your best if you love writing and you want to keep doing it for an indefinite period of time. 

Learning to edit your own writing isn’t an easy job, but you will learn how to become better in it if you follow the eight tips provided in this article. 

1. Start with structure and content editing

Starting the editing process by polishing up each and every word and sentence in the document is the worst thing you could do. You have to realize that staying true to the big picture is the most important thing you should keep in mind. Some sections and chapters of the document will need to be left out, which means that starting by polishing up each sentence is pointless. 

You will also notice some gaps in the story and you’ll need to add missing information that may even take a whole new chapter or sections. This is why you need to pay attention to the radical revisions before you continue with the details. 

2. Forget about editing while you are writing

Having the big picture in mind brings us to another important editing tip: avoid editing while you are still writing the piece. It is acceptable to make small corrections on the go, such as restarting some sentences and correcting obvious typos, but if you find yourself going back to rewrite or delete entire paragraphs or sentences – you will soon fall into the trap of a writer’s block.

3. Use a different format for the editing process

Turning the document into a different format from the one you used for writing will provide you with a new viewing aspect, which may make the little mistakes more obvious. For example, it is recommended to read the manuscript of your novel on an e-reading device, or view the blog post by using the ‘preview’ function of the platform before you publish it. This will enable you to detect some problems that weren’t that obvious in the original form of the document.

4. Allow yourself a rest before you start editing

If you just finished writing an entire novel, trying to edit your own writing on the same day can be disastrous. All ideas, impressions and excitement will still be fresh, so you won’t be able to approach the writing from a reader’s point of view. By putting the work aside for few days or even weeks, you will come back to it with fresh ideas and you will be able to see the big picture, spotting any plot holes, ill-fitting chapters and improper characterization. 

5. Using the Spelling and Grammar tool is not enough!

Computers made writers’ work much easier, but relying solely on the Spelling and Grammar tool to edit your own writing doesn’t cover the complete work of editing. Some errors keep slipping though the software, so you will need to use your careful editing eye as well. 

6. Get rid of 10% of the word count

This is one of the most effective tips of making your writing clearer and focused: cut out 10% of the total word count! Many established writers and editors rely on this technique and it has been proven to be successful many times. Make sure to leave out any unnecessary adjectives, wishy-washy phrases and pretentious sentence structures during this process. 

7. Try reading the document backwards

This may sound strange if you never tried it, but reading the document backwards may actually help you to notice the mistakes that are sliding past your careful eye. That’s understandable at this final stage of editing, when every word of every page became too familiar and natural to you. By reading the document backwards, you will see each word as a new one. 

8. Finally: let go!

When some writers start editing their own work, the process never seems to come to an end. Beware of the moment you find yourself having second thoughts about some corrections, deleting them and then placing them back into the text for hours. After all, leaving your work unpublished because you can’t let it go won’t bring you any good. You will always have second thoughts and a sense that the final result could be better, but you have to eventually stop editing in order to edit your own writing well. 

Sandra Miller is a freelance writer, lives in New York. Two times a year watches Friends sitcom, loves salsa. Use editing service to write great material. Her passion is Latin American culture.

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Written by Bryan Cohen

Bryan Cohen is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on creative writing and blasting through that pesky writer's block. His books have sold more than 20,000 copies. You can find him on and Facebook.

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