I’m forever clipping links to resource-rich articles without a particular plan as to how to use them. I realised at the weekend that what I was doing was creating a kind of virtual toolbox for my work as a writing coach – and that publishing them in bundles here would be a good way of keeping them organised (so the right tool is always to hand) – and sharing the resources with you.
I think I’ll also pop some long-planned book reviews into the box (eg on business writing, plain English, communication skills) but I’m starting with a bundle of links and tips on a key part of the writing process: editing your work.
It was my favourite editor-blogger (Lillie Ammann) who prompted the idea, with her list of 7 editing tips for professional and non-professional writers. As well as providing lots of practical suggestions Lillie sets the editing task in context:
Writing the first draft is only the first step – editing your work finishes the job
More suggestions on ways to improve your writing with these editing tips from Dustin Wax at Lifehack, including a plea for plain English:
Establish cognizance of pretentious language usages and eliminate such material: That is, watch for fancy words and cut them.
You can pick up repetitions, awkward phrasing, and transitional gaps when you read aloud.
Reading aloud won’t necessarily help you pick up spelling glitches, typos and homonyms (because they sound the same). You need to spend some time proofreading to catch them – and why not try Lynn Gaertener-Johnston’s suggestion Business Writing – make your text larger so you can spot the mistakes.
The success of your message depends on proofreading. Why not make it big?
If you write regularly you’ll want to build consistency as well as accuracy into your work. Tamara Berry and Lorna Doone Brewer at Freelance Parent have come up with their own list of style guidelines to keep themselves right (part of a wider manifesto on good writing: just because you can type it doesn’t mean you’re a writer)
The List contains all of our style guidelines. When we outsource our work, or if we simply need to remember our own rules, we can consult The List. It keeps us consistent with each other and with ourselves so that everything our company produces meets the same (read: excellent) standards.
Okay, so reading about style guides, punctuation rules and the detail of English grammar might not be everyone’s cup of tea… but that doesn’t get you out of the need to edit your work. For an entertaining reminder try Anna Goldsmith’s piece (guest writing at Copyblogger) on 5 easy steps to editing your own work:
See, you know what you meant to write, so your eyes just fill in the blanks, overlook typos, etc. That’s why you need to get a little distance. So after you write a first draft, go get a cup of coffee or take a walk to clear your head.
If you’re still not persuaded it might be that you’ve become drunk on your own words. In which case you’ll want to read Jon Morrow (another guest writer at Copyblogger) on 7 warning signs that you’re drunk on your own words.
Sober up – Walk away from the post for a few hours and give your internal editor a chance to wake up. He’ll tell you whether the post is good or not.
Find a driver – If you can’t afford to wait, ask a friend to read the post and give you honest feedback.
Regardless of how euphoric you are about it, trust their judgment.
As Lillie reminds us you haven’t finished when you type “ the end”… so the last word goes to Samuel Johnson:
Read over your compositions, and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.