Stephen King wrote in his memoir, On Writing, “To write is human, to edit is divine.” This quotation suggests that when a writer finishes their draft, they aren’t fully done. This may come to a shock to those who learned that editing was strictly for their peers, or that it’s someone else’s job to edit their work.
So, you think you’ve drafted a tweet, an email, a short story, or even a novel. These are different forms of communication, but the process of bringing them to fruition has a necessary, sometimes overlooked step: editing! Unless you’re a professional writer, it’s unlikely that you have an editor who can review your writing regularly. Here are some tips to help you review your own work.
1 Give your writing some space
Have you ever felt a mix of pure relief and joy when you’ve finished a draft of something? Don’t downplay that feeling and the ability to walk away from your work before you start editing it. You may need minutes, hours, or days, but once you sit back down with what you originally had on the page, you’ll have the thrill of looking at it with fresh eyes. You’ll notice errors you may not have seen the first time. You’ll come to new realizations about its overall tone and structure. If it’s a text or email, maybe you only need a few minutes away from it. If it’s a story or essay, perhaps you’ll need longer. Regardless of what type of work it is, it will help your writing tremendously.
2 Use the editing resources at your fingertips
There are plenty of writing resources out there—but there are also tons of editing ones! If writing is a muscle, then editing is as well. Such resources include editing blogs and websites, podcasts, and books dedicated to this craft.
>>READ MORE: 14 Editing Resources to Improve Your Writing Skills
3 Don’t use overachieving synonyms
Looking at your work for the second, third, or fourth time around may inspire you to spice up your language with longer, more uncommon words. There’s nothing wrong with having a thesaurus nearby, but try to limit the repetition of long, pretentious-feeling words so your work flows well and doesn’t feel too bogged down. At the end of the day, you want it to feel true to you and the message you’re conveying.
4 Remember who the reader is
Don’t forget your own voice as the writer—but don’t forget who your reader is. Many writers get too close to their work; editing is a chance to try to get out of your own head. Who is your ideal reader? What do you want them to take away from the writing? It’s a unique time to step in their shoes, to make sure your communication is as effective as you’d like it to be.
5 Kill your darlings
This quote is usually wrongly attributed to Faulkner, but Arthur Quiller-Couch said these words in a 1914 lecture, “One the Art of Writing.” The advice has also been attributed to Oscar Wilde, Eudora Welty, G.K. Chesterton, Chekov, and Stephen King. So many wrong attributions can only mean it’s important! Don’t be scared to remove chunks of your work, even if it feels precious to you. If it’s a passage that’s really tough to part with, try saving it somewhere else, so you can return to it later in your piece or for another work.
6 Use Grammarly
Last but not least, Grammarly has countless resources for editing your work. The Grammarly Editor can help you find areas of your writing that are unclear or too wordy, as well as help you find mistakes you might not have caught.
>>READ MORE: How the Grammarly Editor Helps You Write Your Best
Editing may feel tedious, especially when you’ve just finished something and want nothing more than to never look at it again. However, editing is just as important as writing itself. In order to write your best, you need to be a reader of your work as well as its writer.