Self-Editing: 3 Challenges and 3 Tips
In copywriting without a designated editor, sometimes self-editing seems like the worst thing ever. When crunch time hits and you only have a few hours to complete a 10+ page website, it can be easy to not put much effort into editing the pages before sending on your copy.
While this may improve your productivity, it will greatly decrease the quality of your writing. Editing is an essential step of writing anything because it ensures that correct grammar and spelling are used and that your writing is easy to understand for readers.
Self-editing can be tricky to get the hang of, and there are many challenges associated with reading your own writing. However, I think the tips below will make the process easier.
3 Challenges of Self-Editing
- Failures of Microsoft Word
Microsoft Word’s programming has many issues, as it apparently can’t detect any grammatical issues with starting a paragraph with “Deer stew dents.” So, when you accidentally choose the wrong version of a word or write a verb in the wrong tense, chances are Microsoft won’t catch it for you.
Microsoft also seems to have problems figuring out what the verb of a sentence is or why it’s not a fragment. I cannot tell you how many times I have written a sentence that Microsoft considers a fragment because it can’t determine what word I used as a verb. The grammar squiggly lines associated with this problem might make you second-guess yourself, which will cause your self-editing to take longer than necessary.
- You Know What You Meant to Say
Tying in with the problem above, perhaps the most challenging part of self-editing is the fact that you know what you meant to type. When you go back and read your copy (especially if it’s very shortly after you’ve written it) your brain will gloss over issues and tell you they’re correct because you know what you meant to say.
For example, I was recently writing a page about gas fitting, and I accidentally typed “gas-fried” instead of “gas-fired.” Microsoft had no idea there was a problem with the sentence, and in my first editing glance, I didn’t notice the problem either. It took a second, much more thorough look for me to realize the error.
- You’re Tired of Staring at a Screen All Day
Not only will your eyes grow tired from working at a computer all day, so will your brain. If you spend hours and hours writing about the benefits of dental treatments, such as dental implants and teeth whitening, you’re not going to want to go back through and read your riveting copy to edit it because it sounds boring and you’re burnt out.
3 Tips for Self-Editing
- Wait before You Edit
You’re on a deadline and you don’t have a lot of time to edit, but you need to make time! Copyblogger outlines 15 steps that start with this basic idea – you need to step away from your writing to give it an objective, thorough edit. Your writing, even for a client, may feel personal. Taking a break from it before going back to edit can take that feeling away and allow you to focus on the task at hand. Plus, your brain will be able to distinguish between things you meant to say and what you actually wrote.
- Read Your Copy Out Loud
Especially in an office setting, reading something out loud might make you feel self-conscious. But trust me, this will making editing so much easier! Even reading the words under your breath will help because you’ll be able to notice problems, like words you forgot to add to the page. It will also help you make sure your writing is readable. You’re writing for a target audience, and you want them to understand you. Reading out loud will allow you to make sure your writing sounds like a human wrote it.
- Work in Stages
If you wrote an entire 15+ page website and have to edit the whole thing yourself, don’t do it all at once. Instead, edit the pages in stages. Edit 5 pages, then take a break, and repeat the process. You’ll want to re-read each page at least twice as well, looking for big errors the first time through and then focusing on the small details the next time. This will ensure that you find all of the problems before submitting your work.
Self-editing might seem like a hassle, but your clients will be much happier with you and your writing if they don’t see “gas-fried” on their website.
What dumb mistakes have you made that Microsoft hasn’t caught? Let us know in the comments below!