Useful Tips on Editing
The editing of one’s written work is an integral part of the process of writing a paper. Even though a paper may contain some wonderful ideas, these will not come across well to the reader if the paper is disorganized and laden with technical mistakes. If your readers are to be able to see and understand your ideas clearly, your writing will need to be fine-tuned until it is not only perfect in terms of content but also in the technical sense.
What the Process of Editing Involves – The Steps
Print your written work for editing. While editing on your computer screen might hold more appeal and seem the best option, this is not true where small quantities of text are involved. The primary reason that this is so is that printed copies allow you to see both the original version and the edited copy simultaneously, which makes them easier to compare. Read what you have written aloud, but do not do so in a monotonous way. Put passion into your reading using accents and inflections just as though you were delivering a speech to your intended audience. This method allows you to hear how your written work sounds, if your arguments seem sensible, and if your work includes all the required information. Moreover, this mechanism enables you to spot awkward-sounding sentences that need modifying. Going from the general to the more specific, read your written work again, this time looking at the length of each sentence and the syntax. It is syntax that helps phrases sound clearer and flow more smoothly, so particular attention should be paid to these. You will also need to check your written piece for punctuation and grammar mistakes, in addition to looking for typographical errors, imprecise vocabulary, too much passive voice usage, and other potential problems. Now read your text out loud again to see how the revised version sounds. The above steps should be repeated if you feel this is necessary.
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Important Points for Consideration
It is harder to follow and understand long sentences. Therefore, where possible, you should trim any long sentences or break them down into two or three shorter ones, and remove any surplus words. Dense chunks of text can be very difficult to read and understand, not just because the content or information within them is complex, but additionally because of how they can psychologically affect readers. While certain complex words and specialist terms may appeal to you, this enthusiasm may not be shared by your readers. It is best if you try to find simple language to convey difficult terminology and material. Longer sentences and phrases can be replaced with shorter ones to reduce the overall number of words. The passive voice is never used to excess in successful writing. When you are proofreading your paper and editing it, remember that the active voice should be predominant so that the tone is vibrant and energetic.
What You Should Do
- Edit your paper in short chunks at a time rather than the entire thing in one go. This holds your attention better and helps you concentrate because you may miss critical mistakes if you try reading a text all at once.
- Identify a quiet environment where you can edit your paper. Outside distractions e.g. the sound of others moving around, can be very distracting and absorb your attention. Set aside a time when you will not be disturbed, and find somewhere you can be on your own. When this is the case, you can begin editing.
- Imagine this is the first time you are seeing your text. Usually, when people first read a text they tend to spot errors you missed. So, put yourself in the place of such a person and try to be simultaneously objective and kindly, and possibly a little critical.
- Allow sufficient time to edit your paper. Leaving this crucial step to the eleventh hour will not only prevent you spotting mistakes but may cause you to make more.
What You Should Not Do
- Do not attempt to edit while you are still writing. While you might feel it is efficient practice to edit a sentence as soon as you have written it, this is not actually true. As well as distracting you from the task in hand, you will not be able to see the full picture and so your work will still require editing upon completion.
- Do not be tempted to leave in word constructions you think sound clever. If you try to sound too smart, the more likely it is that readers will not understand your words. Being able to explain complex material in an easy-to-understand manner rather than in extravagant language indicates good writing.
- Do not be afraid to ask friends or other trusted people to proofread your work. Often, a fresh perspective is of great value.
- Edit on a printed copy rather than a computer screen. Once all edits have been done manually, you can input them into your electronic version.
- Not spotting repetition. This is an especially common error among writers who edit on computer screen rather than on paper. On occasion, you may erroneously remove part of a sentence instead of the whole thing and you may not notice this. For instance, if the first word of a sentence is “an” you may end up with “An an …”
- Using too many “filler” phrases or words. When a word or phrase does not add value, remove it.
- Viewing the editing process as not worthy of much time or attention and therefore overlooking it or cramming it in at the end. It is unsurprising then that those texts submitted straight after completion are frequently laden with all types of mistakes.