No matter what type of writing you do, it can be easy to miss your own mistakes in the editing process. Since you wrote the words, you often read what you intended to write (and not what is actually written). You can’t see any flaws in your writing because you’re just too close to it.
Use these five tips to edit your own work more effectively — and to improve your writing.
1. Let Your Writing Rest for a Few Hours or Days
The more distance you put between yourself and your writing, the easier it is to make improvements and find mistakes. When possible, let important writing sit for a few days. When you pick up the material again, it’s almost like proofing someone else’s work.
If you don’t have the luxury of letting your work sit for days, then a few hours will have to do. Find another activity that will help you distance yourself from the writing. You might want to take a jog, wash the dishes, or take your dog to the park. Do something that clears your mind. Ideally, you can approach the work from a fresh perspective.
2. Read Your Writing in a New Format
Seeing your writing in a different format can help you correct everything from misspellings to poor word choice. If you have access to a printer, make a paper copy that you can use to note changes.
If you don’t have a printer, you can get a fresh look at your text by changing it to a different font, color, or size. You can even convert your text to HTML for a new perspective. It’s almost like reading someone else’s work on the web.
3. Read Your Writing Out Loud
This is a helpful tip for writers of all skill levels. Brains are tricky machines that often see what they want to see. Reading silently makes it easier for your brain to correct mistakes and fill in gaps. If your brain expects to see the word “off,” then it will quietly transform similar words, such as “oft” or “of,” to match those expectations.
Reading out loud disrupts your brain’s attempt to make everything look perfect. You will likely find yourself stammering through poorly worded sentences and pausing at misspelled words. If you have difficulty reading a section, then you know you’ve found a piece of writing you could improve.
4. Read Backwards
Disrupting narrative flow can help you find mistakes you would otherwise miss. Try reading your work backwards, starting with the last paragraph and ending with the first. This approach forces you to pay careful attention to details and makes it harder for your brain to correct mistakes. When you’re fully engaged in reading, you’re more likely to see opportunities for improvement.
5. Use Grammarly to Find and Avoid Mistakes
Grammarly is a writing app that acts as a fresh set of eyes to look over your work carefully and spot spelling and grammar mistakes. Grammarly checks more than 250 advanced rules to find mistakes such as:
- double negatives
- run-on sentences
- comma splices
- sentence fragments
- double pronouns
- dangling modifiers
Writers who use Grammarly can also avoid future mistakes. The proofreader acts as a grammar coach that points out common writing problems and explains how to correct them. After Grammarly proofreads your work a few times, you’ll start to see common weaknesses, so you know what skills you need to improve.
Editing your own work takes a lot of practice. When you have the right tools, though, it gets easier. What are your favorite tips for editing your own writing? Do you find that some techniques work better than others?