Editing and proofreading. It may seem like something journalists or teachers practice all day, every day, but the truth is, if you write, whether, on a computer or using a pen and paper, you must carry out these essential tasks. Michael Jordan doesn’t simply net basket after basket when he plays basketball; he must practice and refine his technique over and over again before it’s perfect. That’s exactly what you’ve got to do with your writing.
To give you the best chance at editing and proofreading your written work to perfection, no matter what the subject or context, here are five essential steps you must take.
Stop and Return
Let’s say you’ve just completed a short story for your Literature project and it’s a couple of thousand words long. You may be eager to finish and say that it’s done but without reading through it, you’re going to miss any critical errors you may have made. To avoid this, once you’ve finished your work, take a break, whether that’s twenty minutes or a whole day, before returning to your work to read it through again.
If you’re re-reading your work in your head, the chances are that you’ll be reading what you think is written or what you think you wrote. To counter this, so you read exactly what’s on the page, read your work aloud. Do this word by word, slowly that your usual reading speed. This is a lot harder than you may think but, over time, you’ll learn to perfect this skill.
Be the Audience
Whether you’re writing a school report, an essay, a job application or anything in between, pretend you’re the person who will be reading your written work. As you read, ask yourself if you’re using the proper language. Are you conveying the actual message that you want to communicate with your readers? Are you using slang when you should be writing formally? Ask yourself whether your sentences flow together properly. If not, you’ll need to complete some editing.
If you’ve spent hours writing your work, you may seem reluctant to want to start messing around with it all. However, when it comes to writing, writing your work is the easy bit. It’s the proofreading and editing process that takes time. No matter who is reading your work, aim to have them think ‘wow, this is the best thing I’ve ever read’, with every piece you write. Be ruthless with your editing and only accept perfection.
Take it Step by Step
If you’re editing thousands and thousands of words, proofreading and editing can seem incredibly boring and overwhelming. There’s simply so much to do! Instead of trying to tackle all your work in one go, simply implement the process line by line, paragraph by paragraph. You can even use two rulers or sheets of paper to cover the surrounding text. This technique will help to keep you focused, enabling you to spot even the smallest errors.