How to Self-Edit

Posted on August 5, 2013


ImageDon’t get me wrong. Hiring an editor is very important. You will still need to hire an editor to look at your piece; however, you can reduce the time and money spent with the editor by doing a little self-editing before you hand off your work. Here are some tips to use when editing your own piece.

1. Put some distance between you and work

Once you’ve written the final word, don’t immediately begin to edit. Take a few days off from this piece before you come back to it. Fresher eyes will help you catch mistakes.

2. Spelling and grammar check

The most obvious step is to make sure everything is spelled correctly.  Oftentimes your word processor has already run this program for you. Go through your piece and make sure spell check caught everything.

3. Read it aloud

This sounds silly, and it will feel silly, but it will greatly help your piece. Reading your work aloud forces you to slow down to pay attention to what you are reading. When you read slower, you catch mistakes better. You can also hear how the piece sounds to someone else reading it for the first time. This is your chance to make sure all the sentences make sense and that you are conveying your points.

4. Remove emphasis

 Oftentimes writers will include too many italicized or bolded words to get their point across.  They may also use too many exclamation points. When done too often, the words lose their emphasis. If you are going to emphasize, be sure you really mean it. You don’t want to bog down your reader and lose the truly important messages.

5. Know your faults

Nobody is a perfect editor. Know what your weak points are and pay extra attention to those areas. For example, if you know you have difficulty remaining in the same verb tense, pay special attention to those changes.

6. Try synonyms

It can be helpful to use the thesaurus on your word processor to find new words. Your reader will be bored if you use the same word many times. Be careful, though, because you also don’t want to use words that are too complex for your reader. You need to know your audience and your topic to be able to identify which words are the best fits.

7. Delete commas

A very common writing error is the use of far too many commas. Carefully read through your work and see if you can spot where you have used a comma when you didn’t need to. Commas will slow down your readers and may even confuse them. Try to keep only the commas that are absolutely necessary.

Although there is no replacement for a “real” editor, you can save not only time, but also money if you do the best you can to edit your own work. It’s okay if you miss some mistakes. You are bound to. Nobody is a perfect editor. But with your pre-editing and the professional advice of a hired editor, your work can become nearly flawless.

Stacey Selz, Editor and Writer, Asta Publications 

Asta Publications has a long history of helping writers tell their stories and get published. Since 2004, Asta Publications has helped hundreds of authors bring their book concepts to life and we are ready to help you too! Our dedication to our authors is unmatched. We deliver first-class products and services that are accurate, high quality, and exceed our authors’ expectations.

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