Five copy editing tips to make you look like a pro

Ernest Hemingway once said, ‘The first draft of anything is shit’.

As you can see, I'm pretty hard on myself when editing my own work. This was version one of today's blog post.

As you can see, I’m pretty hard on myself when editing my own work. This was version one of today’s blog post.

And he’s absolutely right. A good writer uses a first draft to pour all of their thoughts and ideas onto a page. It isn’t about worrying over style and structure, perfect sentences and perfect punctuation; it’s about getting the ideas out on paper in a somewhat cohesive manner.

As a good editor, you then transform that first text into a powerful work. It’s not always an easy process and, if done right, can be almost as time-consuming as writing the first draft.

Walk away. Unless you’re under deadline, when you’re done writing let it be for at least a day. A break will turn your good ideas into great ones.

Detach yourself. As the writer, you’re emotionally invested. As the editor, you have to release yourself from your writer ego. As the editor, assume that what the writer-you wrote is terrible and go about making it right.

Try a fresh perspective. I have a non-environmentally friendly bad habit – when I edit my work, I do it with pen and paper. A different view allows for you to be more critical of your work.

Don’t rush it. Editing means scrutinizing every word, sentence and paragraph. It means asking yourself ‘why do I need to know this?’ after every sentence and it means always trying to find a better way to write it.

Proofread. You’ve rewritten and revised but you’re still not done. Now you have to make it perfect. Read every word slowly and out loud if you can. Did you skip an ‘at’ here or a ‘a’ there? Did you write ‘their’ when you meant to write ‘there’? These are the little things that you may have overlooked but your readers most certainly won’t. If possible, get someone else to do this for you because by now, you practically know the piece by heart and you’ll read what you meant to write, not what’s actually written.

Taking the time to properly edit and proofread your writing has a huge impact on your work. In your first pass – the writing stage – the thoughts and concept you’re trying to get across may not present themselves as you had hoped. Editing gives you the ability to rephrase those thoughts.

In writing, you only get one chance to get your point across – if it’s not perfect, your reader will simply stop reading and move on.

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