For experienced writers, editing can be as simple as reading through your work to catch typos and misspelled words; but it can also include making changes in what you wrote, correcting facts, polishing, or reworking parts that seem rough or awkward. In truth, editing is what you do after you've written down what was in your head and the complete story, article, book is in front of you on the screen, or written on the paper.
Proofreading and editing is one of the most challenging parts of writing, if you do it correctly. Moreover, it's also one of the most important parts of writing. It's critical that you know what proper editing entails and how to ensure your work is completely edited before you submit it for publication or publish it.
Self-editing is just as it sounds. It's when you edit your own work. You can hear some writers say that they edit while they write, or that they never edit anything they write because they don't want to dilute the story. We're here to tell you that any new writer who takes that outlook on editing is never going to be very successful. Editing is an important process. Self-editing is the first step in turning your work into a polished masterpiece.
Editing starts when you finish writing whatever it is you're working on -- whether it's a book, short story, poem, screenplay, or memoir. However, editing should never start as soon as you finish writing. Whenever a writer puts something down on paper (or on the screen), they are no longer able to read it as it is written. Instead, they read it how it is written in their minds – because it's still fresh.
That said, before you ever start to edit yourself, it's important to put your work away. Whatever it is you just finished, put it away. Put it somewhere you can't see it. Get it out of your thoughts. Let it sit – without looking at it -- for at least 24 hours. Don't read it in that time, and try not to let yourself think about it too much. If you want to work on something else, that's great, too. If you let it sit for more than 24 hours, even better.
Once you let it sit, then go back to it:
Read it through completely one time without changing anything. You should read it out loud, but if you can't, read slowly and make sure you read every word.
If you have trouble reading a sentence or a section, simply highlight it. Don't change anything.
Next, read through it again, looking for and changing the following things:
· Big words.Big words are words that you may use that your readers may not understand. You should always keep your writing on a junior high level. Get a thesaurus, and if you see a word that you don't hear people speak a lot, try looking for a synonym.
· Check your similes and metaphors. A lot of new writers will try to be clever and use similes and metaphors.This is okay, but not if the reader can't understand what you're trying to say. Make sure everything you've written makes sense and doesn't distract the reader from the story. Also, get rid of any mixed metaphors (comparing something to a bicycle and later comparing it to the sunshine).
· Use the dictionary. If you aren't absolutely, 100 percent sure of a meaning of a word you used, look it up.
· Make sure your verb tenses match. It's a common mistake to start out writing in present tense, for example, then switch to past.
· Make sure your point of view stays the same. If you are writing a story with several point of views, make sure the reader can clearly understand the transitions by starting a new chapter or using section breaks.
· Make sure your writing is easy to read, and you aren't trying to be too clever. Don't try to impress anyone. Just tell the story.
· Make sure your sentences all make sense, and your sentence structure is correct.
· Last but not least, check for typos and misspelled words. Don't rely on MS Word Spell Check to catch all your errors. It won't.
If you're going to submit your work to a publisher or you're going to get it printed, you may want to pay the expense of hiring an editor. An editor will go through your work in the ways we just listed above and catch errors you might not see. For example, you may think a metaphor you used is perfectly okay.The editor may realize it doesn't make much sense. They will also align your work to a certain style. Style refers to the text and the layout of your work.The Associated Press Stylebook is an example of something an editor might use.
That said, some publishers will provide editing services to you, but it is always a good thing to have your own editor look over your work before you even submit it to a publisher. You should want it to be perfect. Hiring an editor will cost anywhere from a dollar to a few dollars a page or upwards of $20 per hour. Always ask an editor what book of style they use, ask for examples of other work they've edited, and ask them to "sample edit" a few paragraphs or a page of your book. This will help you to get a feel for what they can do for you.
If you can't afford an editor, find someone in your family who is a good speller and grammarian. Ask them to do it for you.Tell them to make sure everything you wrote makes sense. If they have any questions, they should jot them down. Having a professional editor look over your work is an important thing, but – in the absence of that – you'll just want someone to double-check everything you've written so it's as perfect as possible.
AIP Style Manual: For Guidance in Writing, Editing, and Preparing Physics
The AMA Style Guide for Business Writing
Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors (Medical editing and proofreading)
The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual (Journalism, non-fiction, and fiction as well)
Geowriting: A Guide to Writing, Editing, and Printing in Earth Science
The Chicago Manual of Style (Non-fiction, fiction)
Scientific Style and Format: The CBE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers.
The ACS Style Guide: A Manual for Authors and Editors
A Style Manual for Citing Microform and Non-print Media
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