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How to Clean Up Your Writing

I do a lot of public writing on my own sites. I’ve long joked on those sites that I want people to remember that “I am an editor, but I don’t have an editor.” It’s my nice way of discouraging them from judging me for typos or minor errors. But like other writers out there, I still want my writing to be as clean as possible. 

Let’s face it, errors in your writing are embarrassing. They undermine your credibility and lessen your authority. We all want our writing to be error-free, whether we’re sending it to an editor or publishing it ourselves. We want to submit the best possible content to display our professionalism and, in some cases, to keep a steady stream of assignments coming. This post provides some advice on how to clean up your writing.

Understanding the Types of Editing

You should perform two types of editing on every piece of content you write. Both are crucial in making sure your work is as error-free and professional as possible. Excellent writing is credible, authoritative, and gets attention because it has both. But no piece of writing can be excellent without both.

2 types of editing:

  1. Micro. Micro editing is reviewing the details. It’s probably what people most associate with an editor’s job. It’s correcting things like spelling and grammar by going line-by-line through the copy to ensure each sentence is the best it can be.
  2. Macro. Macro editing is checking all the big picture concepts in writing. It’s things like ensuring content accuracy, reflecting the proper tone of voice, revising for clarity, and checking for missing information or explanation.

All writing deserves good editing, and no writer is above editing. Every piece improves with both of these types of editing. But people most commonly think of micro editing when they think about editing and overlook the macro part of the process. That’s a big mistake. If you master both types of editing, your editors will love working with you, and you’ll always have work. If you don’t try, your copy will never really be yours. It will always be edited with a heavy hand and appear in publication different from what you submitted. That’s discouraging. 

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Steps for Editing All Content

Now that you understand the difference between the two types of editing and why they’re vital let’s talk about the actual editing process. You never want to write a piece and send it straight to your editor or post it immediately. It’s disrespectful of people’s time, and it sends a message that you don’t care about your writing. Instead, you always want to complete these steps, whether it’s a tweet or a book chapter you’re editing.

3 steps for editing:

  1. Read. Always read the entire piece before you make any revisions. You need to know what’s there before you begin. Yes, even if it’s your writing. Look at the piece as a unit.
  2. Edit. Start with macro editing. You may need to add or rewrite parts when you macro edit, so do that first. Then go back and micro edit each line once the piece as a whole is the way you want it.
  3. Reread. This last step is crucial. You’ll likely want to be done with the piece at this point but always reread one more time. It’s possible to insert errors when editing or to miss something important. One last read is the last line of defense between errors and publication.

Following this simple process with your writing will help make sure everything you write is cleaner and more professional.

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How to Clean Up Your Writing

Here’s the truth I alluded to in this piece’s intro. It’s challenging to edit your writing. Even when you perform both types of editing and go through the three steps, you’ll sometimes still find errors after shipping the piece. Don’t beat yourself up. No one is perfect. And there are reasons it’s so tricky to edit your writing.

3 reasons it’s difficult to edit your own writing:

  1. It’s Your Art. Your writing is a form of creative expression, regardless of the type of writing you’re doing. As such, it’s painful to cut big chunks out of it, even when you know deep down that you need to.
  2. You’re Too Close. You know what you meant to say, so you read over errors. You just don’t see them.
  3. You’re Human. People make mistakes. You also may not know what you don’t know. You might think a specific writing rule is correct, only to discover you’ve done it wrong for years.

But despite the difficulty, you have to try to edit your writing. Your professional reputation depends on it. This fact probably is why it’s so annoying when you press send or publish, and that’s when you see the error!

Tips for cleaning up your writing:

  • Just Write. Don’t try to edit while you write. Get the entire piece down, then edit it from there.
  • Step Away. This tip is most helpful for me. After you finish your writing, give it a rest. Try not to look at it for at least 24 hours if you have the time. Then you can see it with fresh eyes. If you can’t wait that long, step away from it for as long as you can before you start to edit.
  • Change Formats/Locations. Change the format of your writing and maybe even the location where you edit. I like to print my writing and edit it on paper. I usually edit from a comfortable chair outside my office or even at the kitchen counter.
  • Read It Out Loud. Read the piece out loud. If there are places where you stumble, rewrite them.
  • Leave It Out. If you doubt whether something is accurate, or you have questions about its validity to the piece, leave it out. It’s better to cut something than to confuse the reader.
  • Don’t Be Lazy. Look it up if you aren’t sure about a detail or a grammar rule. Ask a friend. Do whatever you need to do to discover the truth for your reader. Don’t just leave it and move on.
  • Write Around It. If you search for an answer and still aren’t sure, write around it. Change the sentence or the graph to make it easier to understand or avoid an issue.
  • Use Tools. Use tools like spell check and Grammarly. But remember that they’re flawed too. No tool is as good an editor as you are.
  • Reread. Always reread the final piece after you make changes. If you can wait a day to do your last read, that’s great too! Fresh eyes almost always find errors or areas to revise.

Let Content Journey Help

Writing and editing is a lot of work, especially when you’re trying to run a business. Content Journey has a staff of professionals ready to help you with your writing and editing needs. Book a call to learn more about how we can help your business grow through content.

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