Most freelance writers will struggle with self-editing at some point during their career. Once you’ve spent so much time with a particular set of ideas or even a finished piece, it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees.
One thing you shouldn’t do is overcomplicate the content or the process.
If you want to get great at self editing, you have to learn how to think like an editor. This will require you to keep a few of the following things in mind:
Define an Editing Process
Editing is far more than spelling and grammar. It’s about stepping back and looking at the bigger editorial picture.
It’s about making sure that a finished product aligns with your original intent in a way that consistently conveys your desired message and is compelling for readers.
It’s also about making sure that nothing, from sentences that run on too long to ideas that contradict one another, gets in the way of those goals.
Once your writing stage is complete, start reviewing with your outline in front of you. Ensuring all key points and sections are included and beefed up with supporting facts, samples, and industry relevant phrases.
Take Your “Writer Hat” Off and Put Your “Editor Hat” On
Writing and editing are two completely different processes and you can be good in one and less than adequate in the other.
So when self editing, it’s important to treat “you the writer” and “you the editor” as two different people.
When you begin editing a piece you’ve written, pretend that you didn’t write it at all.
If a friend or family member (or better yet, someone you don’t like very much) gave you the same block of text, what would you say about it?
Would you immediately know what the writer was trying to say? Would you be able to tell where they were and were not successful, or suggest changes that improve clarity and tone?
If you as the editor aren’t making tough decisions that may frustrate you the writer, you’re not digging deep enough.
Read Everything Out Loud
Another great way to help make self editing easier is to read everything you write out loud.
Sometimes things just sound differently when spoken than they do in our heads.
Forcing yourself to say the words you’ve written as opposed to reading them internally is a great way to identify clunky phrases, passages that are difficult to read, and more.
Cut Filler & Ensure Value
As you review your piece, remember your reader and your aim to provide them a clear, concise, valuable resource.
To do this, keep in mind that every sentence, every word must be essential and all else be removed. Simplicity is the way to a readers heart.
Don’t attempt to overcomplicate things, being overly verbose or technical no matter how abstract the concept or you’ll quickly lose your audience.
Can you easily explain the premise of your article to a twelve year old? Then you’ve done your job.
Never Assume You’ve Done Enough
The most important best practice that you can use for self editing success is never assuming that you’ve done enough too early on.
As you continue to edit your own work, you will naturally become a better editor and a better writer.
You’ll start getting better at doing both at once and you’ll significantly streamline the way you write. You may even think you’ve gotten to a point where you don’t need to self edit at all.
You haven’t. Or you should never assume you have. Always be on the lookout for ways to improve and strive to make an edited piece better than an unedited one.
The minute that you publish a piece of content without a standard editing process, is the day you risk quality, and your audience.