Many of you will be aware that we edit our own work here, meaning that sometimes a mistake slips by. But sometimes, I’ll get articles given to me, or I do some self-editing on an older piece. Over the past five years, I’ve come from writing in a very immature way, to the more conversational voice I try to write in today. I’ve learned so much from editing; so much so that I thought I’d share some of my personal experiences from editing my own and other people’s work.
DISCLAIMER: Before we get started, I am not a professional editor in any way, shape or form. I’ve been paid for a handful of pieces of writing, but I edit and write pretty much daily for enjoyment and to share my knowledge with others.
Furthermore, if anyone reads this and thinks I’m going to name and shame them, please don’t worry – That’s not the point of this article. Instead, I’m going to look at positive takeaways I’ve experienced from editing. These positive experiences can be applied to any form of writing, including blog articles, eBook writing, novels and even business documentation. Let’s just say I’ve seen my fair share of words and I have a lot more words in me.
Separating The Author From The Editor
Let’s start off by giving the best tip I can give anyone looking to edit; you, the Author, should not be you, the Editor. In other words, if you’re going to edit your own work, you need to look as the writing as being alien to you. You should pretend you’ve never read this before and you should aim to make it as readable as possible, which means you may need to rewrite whole bits that you thought were great.
Also, if you’re going to edit another person’s work as a friend, be sure you’re not being nice. Be honest, as I’ve had to do this for a few close friends and they were shocked at what I found in their work. They were also all very appreciative of the extra attention on their work.
There have been times when I have written an article that I was immensely proud of, but then I stepped away and re-read it to myself. It didn’t make sense… Or at least, it made sense to me, but it wasn’t worded as well as it should be. Take yourself away from the author and edit it, as if you had never seen it before. This article will no doubt be edited at least three or four times before I put it up for publishing.
Editors Are Not Perfect
May seem like a daft thing to say, but editors truly are not perfect. I have read a number of books that have been published and edited, which are littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Indeed, you may spot one or two throughout the course of this article, so I ask you to point them out to me in the comments below. See? Wasn’t that a sneaky way to drive engagement out of you? (No, it wasn’t.)
Whilst editors are not perfect, if you’re going to edit, or if you want someone else to be your editor, you’re going to need to be sure that you or they at least understand the process. When I started taking editing more seriously, I took a course on professional editing. They made me edit books, learn all of these various symbols and most importantly – They taught me to think more critically. I’d highly encourage you to look into editing courses, but if you’re low on cash, check out sites like Coursera.
Edit To The House Style
Whenever someone asks you to edit their piece, consider who or what is going to see it. Where is this being published? Will many people see the website, magazine, thesis, etc? Is there a house style you will need to learn? Do they use specific capitalisation, do they use a number of parentheses – or em dashes? These are all questions you’ll need to take into account before you start editing.
Whilst you will want to edit your way, you will need to meet the style that they’re expecting. Sometimes when I take an article for GeekOut, I will need to transform whole paragraphs. I try to keep the key imagery the writer uses, but I like to then go back to them to explain the reasons why I’ve changed sections. Perhaps it’s because they used too many commas in one sentence; or too few. In other times, the paragraphs could be too confused, talking about different points unnecessarily.
Read More Varied Content
When I started writing GeekOut articles, I started with a very simple premise: Write about what I love. This meant that my articles would talk about a bit of cosplay, going to conventions, running small-scale events, video games and so on. Over time however, I found that this meant my lingo was very limited, as I would only write to an audience that would already know about all of these things. My vocabulary and my writing style was therefore quite limited.
In an attempt to get more people involved, I’ve gone off and read a lot of articles and books. A lot of these were not aimed at me, with my experiences. I’ve read books on psychology, books on chemistry and even articles on history and philosophy. None of this has influenced what I’m writing about, but it’s certainly taught me a lot about how I write.
As a heads up, I’m not suggesting you go out of your way to read such a strange collection of books yourselves. I’d recommend you certainly do go out of your comfort zone once or twice, at least to challenge the way you look at writing.
I am sure there are countless more tips I could give you, but for now, I think I’ll close this by reminding you to be consistent. So long as you have consistency in mind, you’ll be a great editor. If you’ve been writing for a long time and consider yourself a bit of an editor, or if you’re an editor by profession, share your thoughts in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter.