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Reading Notes / How to Edit Your Own Writing

Posted On 03.15.2022


Why editing?

Writing is like thinking. You will not know precisely what you are going to say before you say it. And many people make mistakes by saying something they’re not supposed to say or getting a hard time explaining what they want to talk about.

On the other hand, writing offers us a rare chance in life: Do over. We can take a lot of time to get everything right before saying it aloud.

So keep in mind that what you write first is always a draft. You will need to edit and rewrite each line in the article multiple times before it becomes a good article.

How to edit?

It’s recommended to read “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White for a how-to guide on writing good, clear English and avoiding most common mistakes.

For most of the cases, pay attention to these mistakes:

  • Overuse of jargon (or use without a clear explanation): try to find alternative and shorter words to make the article more readable to the expected audience.
  • Use passive voice: passive voice makes it sounds distant and lacks authority. For example, “This article was written by Harry” will not make it a strong statement as “Harry wrote this article”.
  • Rambling: saying too much unnecessary stuff and not getting to the point, usually found when you are unsure about what you are going to say.

Some good tips when editing an article:

  • Give it some time before editing: you need to step away from your work before going to the editing phase. Somewhere between 30 minutes to two days is a good enough break.
  • Kill your darling: OK, this is a catchy statement. It’s a quote from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch: “In writing, you must kill all your darlings”. What it means is, don’t hesitate to cut unnecessary words, sentences, phrases from your article, make it shorter. It will tighten the work and make everything more straightforward.
  • Spend the most time on the beginning: the first few sentences and paragraphs are the most important part of catching your audience’s attention. Briefly lay out all the points in your writing from the beginning, then you can go deeper in later parts.
  • Pay attention to the structure: a good structure will help the audience read better. And it’s normal if your structure change between drafts. It’s a sign that you are developing the article as a whole, not just fixing some minor problems.
  • Use some help: when writing on a computer, use grammar helper software. It can catch some common writing mistakes and offer suitable alternatives. Also, ask a friend or relative to look at your work with a fresh mind. They might spot something you missed.