Let’s face it, folks. Editing is one of the hardest things about writing. Sure, it can be tough to sit in front of a blank page and get started, but I think it’s even tougher to sit in front of a completed piece with red pen — metaphorical or not — in hand. When faced with a piece that you have deemed finished, it can be difficult to decide where to cut and where to pare down. Even more difficult, in my opinion, is taking that step back and surveying your piece as a whole to see what is missing and what needs to be addressed as you pursue the editing process.
Yes, editing is a thorny practice. Luckily, there are a lot of great tips out there for you. For instance, there is this Lifehacker post that contains five great tips for editing your own work. Their big, main points include printing out the piece you want to edit, putting distance between you and the completed piece, reading the piece aloud, pretending to be in the piece’s intended audience as you look at it, and being ruthless with what you’ve created. These are all fantastic tips and I think they’ve really hit on the five main tenets to remember when editing your own writing.
My personal favorite on this list, which is a piece of advice that I swear by for my own work, is reading your work aloud. Quoting from the post:
“…actually listening to your written syntax is one of the best ways you can catch areas with jangling phrasing. Read your work out loud and change anything that doesn’t make sense or that you stumble over.”
When reading something silently, it’s easy for your eyes to simply gloss over possible errors or clunky sounding phrases. When you’re reading it out loud, for some reason that forces your brain to work harder at deciphering the words you’ve put down. This will immediately ferret out anything that doesn’t sound quite right.
Check out Lifehacker’s post about tips for editing your own work, and happy editing!
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan