When you start writing, you generally start writing for yourself, for your own pleasure in finding the right words to express your feelings. Some people start writing to give others pleasure, such as A.A.Milne who wrote the famous Winnie the Pooh books for his beloved son, Christopher, but it is often a small audience at first, so those little errors don’t really matter.
However, when you want to publish your writing, you do need to care about presenting a clean copy with no errors for the publisher to read. You need to edit your own work before you give it to a publisher. Editing is a completely different skill to writing, so it is not always easy to edit your own work. In fact, it is often easier to edit someone else’s work, because you are less familiar with it. The author often knows what is intended by a particular sentence, but the reader becomes confused. The main trick to editing your own work is to look at it as if you are reading someone else’s work for the first time.
Ask yourself questions, such as:
- Does that sentence make sense?
- Have I left out important information that would help the reader make sense of my writing?
- Does my writing flow from paragraph to paragraph in a smooth manner, or do I repeat myself?
- What questions do I have after reading this?
- Am I assuming the reader has the same knowledge I do?
If you write at a computer, it is a good idea to print out your article and proofread from the printed copy. It makes it easier to spot the simple errors, such as the typographical errors, and you can circle the error quickly and keep reading. Edit the entire piece and then go back to the computer to make all the changes, so that you don’t forget anything.
Read your writing aloud. This helps you to spot the instances of awkward wording or phrasing, because you will naturally stumble over the words when you read them aloud. If it doesn’t sound natural when you read, you need to do some editing.
I’ve often heard authors say that the first draft is nothing like the published version, and that’s probably a good thing! Editing and proofreading is a continual process that adds the technical side of writing to our work. We all need to polish our writing until it shines and reaches to the heart of the reader.
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