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Navel Gazing: How to Edit Yourself

Writers around the world agree... it's nearly ... to edit your own writing. We tend to fall in love with our words the moment they burst onto the screen and, as you know, love is blind. Obvious

Writers around the world agree... it's nearly impossible to edit your
own writing. We tend to fall in love with our words the moment they
burst onto the screen and, as you know, love is blind.

Obviously a professional proofreader/copy editor is the ideal
solution. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a village
of helpers to nurture a blockbuster like the one you're writing. But
what if you can't afford it or you're under deadline pressure with no
time for a second opinion? This is not a happy situation, but in a
pinch you can edit your own material. Here's how:

-After you've finished the piece and spell-checked it, give it a
rest. Wait as long as you can -- sleep on it, if possible -- before
coming back and proofing it for errors you missed the first time. Re-
read it at least ten times. Then read it backwards, last sentence to

-Be ruthless. Whittle convoluted thoughts down into the fewest words
without losing the meaning. For example, "She received the support of
21 senators among those senators who were present for the vote"
becomes, "Twenty-one senators voted for her."

-Root out passive statements and flip them into active ones. Your
Microsoft Word spell checker has a feature that will tell you how
many passive sentences are in a document. It even tells you what
grade level your piece is written for. Hint: Aim as low as possible -
below grade eight if you can. (To activate this feature, check the
box beside "show readability statistics" on the Spelling and Grammar
options page).

-One idea per sentence, please. You will immediately understand why
when you read the following lead from a published news story:

"Carlos Manuel Geronimo Alfonseca, one of the supposedly confessed
authors of the murder of the Senator, told journalists at the New
City courthouse when he was being taken back to his cell after being
questioned by Judge Nelson Rodriguez on the day of his hearing that
he was not the person who wore the mask when the Senator was
killed." Come again?

-Check the math. In economics stories especially, it's easy to drop
a zero and even easier to duplicate somebody else's mistakes.

-Double check for double meanings. For example, the following site
description recently turned up in an ad for "The
Casino News Portal for Women that Men Can't Resist!" So it's a
portal for women who are irresistible to the opposite sex or... ?

-Keep an eagle eye open for the little oopsy-daisies we all make.
Typing "you" instead of "your" is a common one. So is using "that"
instead of "who". Example: "All the people THAT proofread their
stories carefully win Pulitzer Prizes." If you need a grammar
booster shot, visit any of these sites:

-Find out what style manual/guidelines are used by the publication
you're writing for and be sure your piece agrees with them.

-Now do the first item on this list again. I can't tell you how many
times I've caught my own bloopers or found a better way to phrase
something on the 15th or 20th pass!

So that's how, in an emergency, you can do your own editing. Sure,
working without an editor can have its upside. It means never having
to say, "You corrupted my work, you creep!" But the downside is that
you will probably overlook mistakes that the "village" would have

Whenever possible, get a talented friend or a professional editor or
even an English major to lend an eyeball. Believe mePsychology Articles, they aren't
nearly as in love with your words as you are!

Source: Free Articles from


Heather Reimer has been a professional writer for 16 years.
She now specializes in writing and editing e-zine and web content,
sales letters, ads and articles. For fast, effective and memorable e-

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