By July 29, 2014 Read More →

Tips for editing your own work

Editing your own workAre you afraid your writing might let you and your business down?

In today’s guest post home working editor Suzanna Henry shares some insider tips for editing your own work.

They will help you to get started, make sure your work is error-free, and maybe even find a publisher:

These tips apply to daily communications such as email and writing letters. They also apply to bigger writing projects such as essays, blogs, articles, books etc.

1. If you are itching to get started but can’t seem to write anything that’s ‘good enough’ (in your own opinion), just make a start. Get your ideas down on paper first, in whatever jumbled up order they come out. Word processors make it possible to rewrite and rewrite.

The first draft is only that – a draft – so don’t let the temptation to aim for a perfect-first-time masterpiece put you off! Rewrite until your work evolves into a draft that you are generally happy with and then be prepared to let it go.

2. Write about something you enjoy. If you aren’t interested in the topic, you are likely to become tired of writing about the subject early on. You are also less likely to connect with readers if you don’t have an interest in the subject you are writing about.

3. Write about what you know. If this isn’t possible, make sure to do adequate research. And always remember to use reputable sources for your information.

4.Never plagiarise: you will get caught. There are programmes out there which can filter writing for content cut and paste from the web and copying someone else’s work without their permission could lead to legal action. It’s much better to be original!


5. Use a variety of vocabulary, adjectives, etc. Avoid repetition of words and phrases and use the active voice rather than the passive voice, e.g. ‘Sarah baked a cake’ rather than ‘a cake was baked by Sarah’. This is your chance to show off your language repertoire, so make the most of it!

6. Use an online thesaurus if you are stumped for vocabulary or alternative words. [Or something like The Penguin A-Z Thesaurus if you like flicking through books!]

7. Don’t be tempted to use long sentences. They are off-putting and the main point could be missed. The shorter and more concise you are with your sentences, the less room for misinterpretation.

8. Avoid using language like ‘obviously’ and ‘of course’, which can appear patronising to the reader.

9. Be aware of your audience, formal or informal, and adopt a tone that’s appropriate.

10. Aim for consistency in your writing. If you are using American spelling/UK spelling, use the same throughout. If you are hyphenating certain words at the beginning, or using caps, or spelling out numbers from the beginning, try to retain this style.

11. Always re-read your work before sending it to anyone/publishing it on the web. This particularly applies to emails. Read aloud if necessary. If the wording sounds incorrect when spoken aloud, the chances are, it probably is. Also, look at your writing from different points of view, paying particular attention to tone and how it might be interpreted.

12. The most off-putting thing for anyone reading your work is bad spelling, grammar and punctuation. You might have some really great points to make, but if they aren’t well presented, the message could be lost.

Consider investing in a book on punctuation and grammar. Eats, Shoots and Leaves or The Penguin Guide to Punctuation are two small, useful examples that are easy to navigate and are written in plain language.

13. Don’t rely on autocorrect or spell check to correct your mistakes! Spell check can’t check for context so the best proof-reader is always human, not a programme.

14. Ask a well-read friend whom you trust to check your writing for you. Pick someone who won’t be overly critical, but who will make constructive suggestions.

15. If you are writing an essay for college, consider polishing up your work by using an inspiring quotation which links directly to the subject matter. You can purchase books containing quotations by famous individuals or source these online.


16. If you are writing a book/poetry collection, invest in the annual Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. It will give you helpful tips and also provides a list of the different types of publisher so you will know who to approach depending on the genres they publish.

17. If you are writing a longer work, such as a novel, and you have been writing for years and are losing faith in what you are doing, consider giving a synopsis and sample chapters to a publisher or someone who works in the publishing profession.

Some smaller publishers give feedback on proposals, can tell you where you are going wrong and guide you in the right direction. Be willing to be flexible and be open to feedback.

18. Always include your name on your work. This is especially important for writers who are submitting material to publishing houses. Include your name and contact email on a header or footer that appears on every page.

If a manuscript is misplaced and the author’s name is missing, you might never receive the credit for being the author of the work and you might never have your work published.

Do you have any tips about editing your own work? Or any ways of remembering correct grammar, spelling and punctuation? Let us know in the comments!

work from home secrets

Suzanna has worked in the publishing industry as a book editor for 12 years, and has started writing for pleasure. She lives in Sligo on the west coast of Ireland.

Posted in: Routine

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