5 Steps for Editing Your Own Writing

Like every other profession, writing has its own set of basic tenets. Most of them have to do with editing because when you get down to it most of the writing we do is editing/revising anyway.

Here, then, is a very handy guide to self-editing that we found recently on a site called The Muse. which we hadn’t been to before but will definitely be keeping an eye on now.

Even if you think you know all about editing your own work you probably should take a look-see here. It might jog your memory a bit, just as it did ours:

by Caroline McMillan

Like most newspaper reporters, I got into the biz because a) I love writing and b) I’m pretty good at it. But it’s a sobering profession. You file your masterpiece, only to find your editor thinks it’s two dozen “tinks” shy of publishable. (No lie: One editor refers to the process as “killing your babies.”)

Repeat this scenario a couple hundred times, and you’ll find you’ve grown some thick skin. You’ve also gotten pretty darn good at self-editing, so as to avoid the aforementioned scenario as much as possible.

So, I’m here to impart some wisdom on the art of quickly perfecting your own work—how to hone, trim, and morph clumsy words and phrases into a clear, concise message that will wow your audience. It could be a company memo, a PowerPoint presentation, an email, or a report—but no matter the medium, these quick editing skills will always come in handy.

Some other bonuses of good self-editing skills: People are less likely to misunderstand you, and bosses and peers will pay more attention to the meat of your message.

So here we go. Let’s say you’re working on a personal assessment for your annual performance review. You’ve written the first draft, but you want to make sure it’s in perfect condition before you submit it. Here’s your game plan:

1. Print Out Your Work

Always do this. Always. It’s a pain, but when you’re talking performance reviews, that 20-yard hassle of a walk to the printer could mean the difference between a 4% or a 5% raise.

Here’s why: As any writer or editor will tell you, critiquing someone else’s work is much easier than deconstructing your own, because outside eyes bring a fresh perspective. To approach your own work critically, you need to simulate this “outsider” perspective by viewing it in a form other than the one you wrote it in.

If you typed it, print it out. Give it a quick read-through, then wield your red pen and start slashing. (Ruthlessly. More on that below.) If you hand-wrote the first draft of your evaluation, type it up, print it, and analyze. That’s right—either way, you should still be heading over to the printer.

2. Take a Break

If you’re on deadline and this step is a luxury, proceed to No. 3. But if you do have a few minutes to spare, putting a literal distance between you and your work creates an emotional distance as well. When you come back to it with fresh eyes, you’re more likely to spot awkward wording, unnecessary phrasing, and plain ol’ mistakes. So take a stroll, go to the bathroom, chat with a co-worker. If you can let it simmer overnight, that’s best of all. Then you can be more ruthless with your edits….

Read it all at TheMuse.Com