Never start diving into detailed edits before you read the whole piece through. It’s important to reflect on it holistically so you can pinpoint places where the content and ideas can be made stronger. This may seem like we’re adding time here, but trust me, this’ll save you a lot of time and pain in the long run.
Some tips that apply to both editing and proofreading
- Get some distance from the text! It’s hard to edit or proofread a paper that you’ve just finished writing—it’s still to familiar, and you tend to skip over a lot of errors. Put the paper aside for a few hours, days, or weeks. Go for a run. Take a trip to the beach. Clear your head of what you’ve written so you can take a fresh look at the paper and see what is really on the page. Better yet, give the paper to a friend—you can’t get much more distance than that. Someone who is reading the paper for the first time, comes to it with completely fresh eyes.
- Decide which medium lets you proofread most carefully. Some people like to work right at the computer, while others like to sit back with a printed copy that they can mark up as they read.
- Try changing the look of your document. Altering the size, spacing, color, or style of the text may trick your brain into thinking it’s seeing an unfamiliar document, and that can help you get a different perspective on what you’ve written.
- Find a quiet place to work. Don’t try to do your proofreading in front of the TV or while you’re chugging away on the treadmill. Find a place where you can concentrate and avoid distractions.
- If possible, do your editing and proofreading in several short blocks of time. Your concentration may start to wane if you try to proofread the entire text at one time.
- If you’re short on time, you may wish to prioritize. Make sure that you complete the most important editing and proofreading tasks.
Editing is what you begin doing as soon as you finish your first draft. You reread your draft to see, for example, whether the paper is well-organized, the transitions between paragraphs are smooth, and your evidence really backs up your argument. You can edit on several levels:
Have you done everything the assignment requires? Are the claims you make accurate? If it is required to do so, does your paper make an argument? Is the argument complete? Are all of your claims consistent? Have you supported each point with adequate evidence? Is all of the information in your paper relevant to the assignment and/or your overall writing goal? (For additional tips, see our handouts on understanding assignments and developing an argument.)
Does your paper have an appropriate introduction and conclusion? Is your thesis clearly stated in your introduction? Is it clear how each paragraph in the body of your paper is related to your thesis? Are the paragraphs arranged in a logical sequence? Have you made clear transitions between paragraphs? One way to check the structure of your paper is to make a reverse outline of the paper after you have written the first draft. (See our handouts on introductions, conclusions, thesis statements, and transitions.)
Structure within paragraphs
Have you defined any important terms that might be unclear to your reader? Is the meaning of each sentence clear? (One way to answer this question is to read your paper one sentence at a time, starting at the end and working backwards so that you will not unconsciously fill in content from previous sentences.) Is it clear what each pronoun (he, she, it, they, which, who, this, etc.) refers to? Have you chosen the proper words to express your ideas? Avoid using words you find in the thesaurus that aren’t part of your normal vocabulary; you may misuse them.
Have you used an appropriate tone (formal, informal, persuasive, etc.)? Is your use of gendered language (masculine and feminine pronouns like “he” or “she,” words like “fireman” that contain “man,” and words that some people incorrectly assume apply to only one gender—for example, some people assume “nurse” must refer to a woman) appropriate? Have you varied the length and structure of your sentences? Do you tends to use the passive voice too often? Does your writing contain a lot of unnecessary phrases like “there is,” “there are,” “due to the fact that,” etc.? Do you repeat a strong word (for example, a vivid main verb) unnecessarily? (For tips, see our handouts on style and gender-inclusive language.)
As you edit at all of these levels, you will usually make significant revisions to the content and wording of your paper. Keep an eye out for patterns of error; knowing what kinds of problems you tend to have will be helpful, especially if you are editing a large document like a thesis or dissertation. Once you have identified a pattern, you can develop techniques for spotting and correcting future instances of that pattern. For example, if you notice that you often discuss several distinct topics in each paragraph, you can go through your paper and underline the key words in each paragraph, then break the paragraphs up so that each one focuses on just one main idea.
Proofreading is the final stage of the editing process, focusing on surface errors such as misspellings and mistakes in grammar and punctuation. You should proofread only after you have finished all of your other editing revisions.
Why proofread? It’s the content that really matters, right?
Content is important. But like it or not, the way a paper looks affects the way others judge it. When you’ve worked hard to develop and present your ideas, you don’t want careless errors distracting your reader from what you have to say. It’s worth paying attention to the details that help you to make a good impression.
Most people devote only a few minutes to proofreading, hoping to catch any glaring errors that jump out from the page. But a quick and cursory reading, especially after you’ve been working long and hard on a paper, usually misses a lot. It’s better to work with a definite plan that helps you to search systematically for specific kinds of errors.
Sure, this takes a little extra time, but it pays off in the end. If you know that you have an effective way to catch errors when the paper is almost finished, you can worry less about editing while you are writing your first drafts. This makes the entire writing proccess more efficient.
Try to keep the editing and proofreading processes separate. When you are editing an early draft, you don’t want to be bothered with thinking about punctuation, grammar, and spelling. If your worrying about the spelling of a word or the placement of a comma, you’re not focusing on the more important task of developing and connecting ideas.
The proofreading process
You probably already use some of the strategies discussed below. Experiment with different tactics until you find a system that works well for you. The important thing is to make the process systematic and focused so that you catch as many errors as possible in the least amount of time.
- Don’t rely entirely on spelling checkers. These can be useful tools but they are far from foolproof. Spell checkers have a limited dictionary, so some words that show up as misspelled may really just not be in their memory. In addition, spell checkers will not catch misspellings that form another valid word. For example, if you type “your” instead of “you’re,” “to” instead of “too,” or “there” instead of “their,” the spell checker won’t catch the error.
- Grammar checkers can be even more problematic. These programs work with a limited number of rules, so they can’t identify every error and often make mistakes. They also fail to give thorough explanations to help you understand why a sentence should be revised. You may want to use a grammar checker to help you identify potential run-on sentences or too-frequent use of the passive voice, but you need to be able to evaluate the feedback it provides.
- Proofread for only one kind of error at a time. If you try to identify and revise too many things at once, you risk losing focus, and your proofreading will be less effective. It’s easier to catch grammar errors if you aren’t checking punctuation and spelling at the same time. In addition, some of the techniques that work well for spotting one kind of mistake won’t catch others.
- Read slow, and read every word. Try reading out loud, which forces you to say each word and also lets you hear how the words sound together. When you read silently or too quickly, you may skip over errors or make unconscious corrections.
- Separate the text into individual sentences. This is another technique to help you to read every sentence carefully. Simply press the return key after every period so that every line begins a new sentence. Then read each sentence separately, looking for grammar, punctuation, or spelling errors. If you’re working with a printed copy, try using an opaque object like a ruler or a piece of paper to isolate the line you’re working on.
- Circle every punctuation mark. This forces you to look at each one. As you circle, ask yourself if the punctuation is correct.
- Read the paper backwards. This technique is helpful for checking spelling. Start with the last word on the last page and work your way back to the beginning, reading each word separately. Because content, punctuation, and grammar won’t make any sense, your focus will be entirely on the spelling of each word. You can also read backwards sentence by sentence to check grammar; this will help you avoid becoming distracted by content issues.
- Proofreading is a learning process. You’re not just looking for errors that you recognize; you’re also learning to recognize and correct new errors. This is where handbooks and dictionaries come in. Keep the ones you find helpful close at hand as you proofread.
How to Be a Better Editor
Don’t try to get your editing done in a meeting, or when you’re around chatty coworkers. Multitasking like that can make us far less effective at our work and increase mistakes and stress. And when you’re editing, you’re trying to catch those mistakes — so you want to be extra diligent.
Instead, find a place where you can plug in and concentrate fully on the piece in front of you. When you get there, turn off those pesky email and social media notifications, and put your phone on airplane mode (or, better yet, leave it in your bag).
If you’re working through a piece of writing that’ll require more than a few hours of careful editing, consider blocking out chunks of concentrated time separated by breaks. Otherwise, you may lose focus and begin missing things.
One of the great contradictions in the writing world is how many writers assert that they value the written word in its highest form, yet they can’t be bothered to avoid passive voice, know the difference between “its” and “it’s” or be certain of when to use “who” versus “whom.” Here’s the problem: Literary agents and editors DO know these rules. When they realize that you don’t know, they are likely to be less interested in working with you, regardless of the other merits of your writing.
Manuscript editing tips are sometimes too complicated or unclear. Many authors just want to know “what is the easiest way for me to edit my work?” because proofreading and editing are very important for academic manuscripts. The easiest answer is to hire an editor, but this isn’t always possible. Sometimes, because of budgets or time, you need to edit your work yourself. Don’t worry, we have some easy tips to help you edit your work. This article goes over five straightforward practices to help you improve any manuscript you write.
Speed is important for academic work and authors often want their research published as soon as possible. Spending a couple of days checking your work can save weeks during the publication process. How? Imagine sending your work for peer-review, but it gets rejected because of the English! It’s important to spend time checking your paper first to save time later.
7 Lazy Writing Crutches & Bad Habits to Avoid
Inexperienced writers often make the mistake of thinking that “good writing” is fancy writing. They mistake clarity for dullness. If this is your attitude, what you usually end up with is overwriting. It can come off as show-offy, and it’s uncomfortable to read.
The so-called elegant variation
“The elegant variation” is an old term (coined by usage expert Henry Watson Fowler) that refers to an overuse of rare or poetic synonyms for more common words. The term is meant to be ironic – the effect is not actually elegant. Instead, elegant variations usually feel overwrought (or as the kids say, “try-hard”).
It is the second-rate writers, those intent rather on expressing themselves prettily than on conveying their meaning clearly, & still more those whose notions of style are based on a few misleading rules of thumb, that are chiefly open to the allurements of elegant variation…. There are few literary faults so widely prevalent, & this book will not have been written in vain if the present article should heal any sufferer of his infirmity.
The elegant variation is common in journalistic writing, where writers often try to avoid repeating a noun – so you’ll see Google referred to as “the search giant” on second mention. But it crops up all over the place – when people say an author “penned a volume” versus writing a book, say. It’s cute to a point, but really easy to overdo.
A related bad habit is “said-bookism,” when writers feel the need to avoid the word “said,” so people are always “exclaiming” and “proclaiming” and “retorting” instead. There actually was a “said book” at one point, a kind of thesaurus of terms for speaking that writers could use to vary their dialogue tags. But as it turns out, most of the time, plain old “said” works better, and the repetition calls less attention to itself than the endless variations do.
These are fancy-sounding words that crop up on vocabulary tests and in spelling bees and are rarely uttered in everyday speech. Two of my particular least favorites are “plethora” and “myriad” (protip: if you ever apply for a job at WordStream, don’t use these in your cover letter).
A lot of writers have a favorite go-to ten-dollar word. My husband loves “proleptic” for some reason. When self-editing, look for words that you tend to overuse, especially if they’re above a high-school reading level. (We found that top-performing ads, like most bestsellers, are written at a ninth-grade reading level!)
There’s nothing wrong with Latinate words and you can’t avoid them entirely – but there are a lot of cases where choosing Latinate words over Anglo-Saxon or Germanic words can make your writing sound academic or clinical and therefore less friendly.
But truly, you don’t need to worry too much about the etymological roots or origins or your words; just try to write in everyday speech. For example, I rarely hear people say “utilize” but I see it in writing all the time. “Use” and “utilize” both ultimately come from French but “use” sounds much more natural and friendly.
Commonly misused words
For example, people are constantly writing “hone in on,” as in “hone in on the problem.” The correct expression is “home in on” – like a homing pigeon or homing device. A lot of editors will correct this use of “hone” (which means to sharpen, as in honing your skills or honing a knife) to “home,” but I prefer to just rephrase. After all, both “home in on” and “hone your skills” are clichés.
Other frequently misused words and terms include comprise, nonplussed, bemused, and beg the question. If you use them incorrectly, you’re going to tick off persnickety types, and if you use them correctly, all the people who don’t know what the word means are going to think you’re in the wrong. Accordingly I think it’s best to avoid them entirely.
This tic is especially common in business and marketing writing, where writers naturally want to sell the value of whatever product or service they’re talking about, but you run the risk of sounding like a phony or a snake oil salesman.
3 Ways to Make a First Draft Stronger
Add data, stats, authority
Remember when I said not to make baseless assertions? Here’s how you fix that – go looking for research and data to back them up. Stats are also great in an introduction to remind people why they should care about whatever you’re writing about.
For example, this post about how to write a welcome email begins with some stats on welcome email performance: Since they have on average 4x the open rate and 5x the click-through rate of a standard email marketing campaign, of course you want to get them right.
However, if you can’t find recent and authoritative research, skip it. And be wary of confirmation bias – the tendency to seek out sources that confirm what we already believe. It’s good to challenge your own assumptions, so if you find evidence that contradicts your argument, consider revising your argument.
Add INTERESTING details
So how do you add interesting details? Work on your powers of observation. Look for what is unusual, then filter for what is relevant. That’s the Sherlock Holmes way: Notice first, then analyze. Holmes doesn’t tell people everything he notices, just the details that illuminate the case.
Teach people something
Meet The Author
5. Trust “Said.”
From time to time, some well-intentioned rule-breaker tells young writers that avoiding “to say” as a dialogue tag means they’ll stand out. These bozos are correct. In my students’ work, characters have “spat,” “coughed,” “sneezed,” “yawned,” “yelped,” “caterwauled,” “slumped,” “shaved,” “demurred,” “shrilled,” “twitted,” “twittered” and “ejaculated” words. These works did indeed stand out, but only for the amusement these story-stopping lines created.
Assume a reader understands that the human body requires lots of muscles, joints and parts moving in tandem to accomplish any physical task. That’s a given. Don’t write “Sarah unbent her elbow as she reached out her arm and uncurled her fingers, pinkie to thumb, over the doorknob of the door leading down to the farmhouse cellar,” if the point is merely to communicate that she’s opening the darn door she has opened three times a day for the last 20 years to retrieve canned peaches or laundry. Go with “Sarah went down to the cellar.”
A tip on avoiding stage directions: Here’s one place where telling is more effective than showing. Unless it’s relevant that Sarah uncurls her fingers – maybe she’s 90 and so arthritic that this simple act is pure torture, which then leads us to wonder what’s so important on the other side of this cellar door that she accepts the pain – don’t include it. Be choosy with your details. Pretend, too, that you have to pay 15 cents for every word in your story. Do you now see places where summary, telling or outright cutting is the right choice?
8. Choose active versus passive voice.
If you see lots of “was” or “were” words, you’re probably using passive construction, such as: “The rear bumper of her Honda was damaged by the neighbor’s motorcycle.” Compare that to: “The neighbor’s motorcycle crunched into her Honda’s rear bumper.” Which sounds more active, more exciting, more interesting?
Go ahead and type the following: “Ant Emma? She is form Detroit.” Spellcheck will give you a thumbs-up because every incorrect word is indeed spelled correctly. Use grammatically appropriate words and make sure they’re spelled the right way every single time. Don’t blindly trust spellcheck.
A tip on spelling better: Any time an editor corrects a misspelling for you, write the correctly spelled word on a Post-It Note and stick it beside your computer screen. Let that word – and its spelling – burrow deep into your soul.
A bonus tip on catching spelling mistakes: Read your manuscript from bottom to top, right to left. Since you won’t be looking at words in any narrative context, you’ll see each on its own. Spelling mistakes will leap out at you.
The tips below cover everything from choosing the right video editing software to considerations such as where to cut scenes and how to make sure the music you use works alongside images. You can apply these video editing tips to all kinds of videos, so they’ll be relevant whether you’re working on films, a personal vlog, a documentary or creative shorts and should help you raise the standard of your video content.
5 Self-Editing Tips to Strengthen Your Writing
Editing is crucial to the writing process . If you try to make your first draft perfect, keeping track of everything will distract you and some good ideas might fall through the cracks. This harkens back to what sci-fi author C.J. Cherryh once said:
Like writing, editing is an independent skill with its own methods and career paths. We have a more in-depth guide on how to edit any type of writing , which covers the different styles of editing and advanced techniques, but what if you need to efficiently edit something you wrote, such as a school paper, cover letter, or email?
Let’s break down the process of self- editing, which is to say, how to edit your own writing if you’re not an editor. First, we’ll cover a broad checklist of problematic areas to look for when reading your first draft, and then we’ll share some expert tips on self-editing.
Video editing tips and tricks: the best software
First up on our list of video editing tips and tricks, is getting the right tools. With a plethora of editing software on the market, it’s not always easy to know which to use. In fact, there are so many programmes now, that it can be almost impossible to compare them all. However, if you considering working in video editing, it can be a wise move to make sure you’re familiar with the industry standards. These are Adobe’s Premiere Pro (opens in new tab) , Final Cut Pro (opens in new tab) (for Apple only) and DaVinci Resolve (opens in new tab) .
However, these are complex programmes with steep learning curves. If you feel that you’re not ready for that, then Adobe and Apple do offer simplified versions of their professional software in the form of Premiere Elements (opens in new tab) and iMovie (opens in new tab) , respectively. Just bear in mind that these have significant limitations when compared to fully fledged editing software. There are plenty of other options suitable for newcomers too, including Filmora and Pinnacle Studio. Fortunately, many of these tools offer a free trial, which allows you to try each of them out to see which is right for you. See our full guide to the best video editing software for more options.
Learn to use colour
There are two colour editing processes in video editing: colour correction and colour grading. Colour correction involves adjusting your clips for basic consistency. Shots from two different cameras or ones taken in different lighting conditions can look jarringly different when placed one after another in an edit, and this can often be fixed by adjusting brightness, contrast, and white balance.
Colour grading, on the other hand, is a global process that gives a scene a particular “look.” If you’re serious about this, certain high-end editing applications have detailed grading interfaces, but many also make it easy for newcomers to achieve using LUTs, which apply a preset colour style. This can really change the feel of a video. Consider how the tone of your video changes if you give it a colder or warmer look, for example.
Content Editing Services: Finding Great Content Editors
Use the following resources to find qualified editors. If you’re looking for content editing services, keep in mind that many editors use the terms substantive editing and developmental editing instead of content editing.
With that being said, any article we produce for customers is is refined until each clitent is completely satisfied with the piece. We handle all edits and revisions, including formatting, wording, design, and more. Find out more about how our content creation and promotion services work here.
Fiverr is renowned for connecting freelance sellers with interested buyers. Simply create an account, search for content editors, and find the best fit for your budget. Use the “Pro Services” filter to view only those sellers that have been vetted by Fiverr.
Upwork is similar to Fiverr, but instead of you choosing from an ocean of sellers, Upwork makes the seller come to you. To get started, just create an account, post a project, and watch the bids roll in.
Freelancer is similar to both Fiverr and Upwork, but it’s geared toward larger gigs that aren’t traditionally considered “freelance” in nature. Like Upwork, Freelancer allows you to post a job and have interested editors come to you. In general, Freelancer is geared more toward writing gigs whereas Fiverr places heavy emphasis on designers or video editors.