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How to Proofread and Edit Your Writing

These editing and proofreading tips will improve your writing, and help you become a successful writer. I tend to edit as I write, which many a writing coach has spanked me for.

How to Proofread and Edit Your WritingIf you’re as weak at editing as I am, read Copyediting and Proofreading For Dummies. There’s no doubt about it: editing and revising the words you labored over will rip your heart out. But, fellow scribes, if you’re not crying over your revisions, then you’re not really writing. Proofreading, editing, and revising are the keys to great writing.

One of my goals is to separate writing from editing, which I believe is a faster and better way to write. Here’s what I’ve learned about proofreading and editing my writing….

5 Tips for Editing and Proofreading Your Writing

“The work was like peeling an onion. The outer skin came off with difficulty… but in no time you’d be down to its innards, tears streaming from your eyes as more and more beautiful reductions became possible.” ~ Edward Blishen

Print your manuscript and dig out your ruler

Don’t just proofread on the computer screen (do as I say, not as I do!). Print your article or book chapters, take out your ruler or a piece of paper, and cover everything except the sentence you’re focusing on. This way, you’ll focus your attention on one sentence at a time – and catch more errors.

Go “Double Dutch” when editing

In The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creative Writing, Laurie Rozakis writes, “Read the paper twice. The first time, read it slowly for meaning and to see that nothing has been left out. Then read it again (for grammatical and structural errors).” The first time you proofread your article or chapter, focus on clarity, content, and “grabbiness” (is your writing compelling? Unputdownable? Fascinating?). The second time you proofread, focus on the mechanics of sentence structure, active versus passive voice, unnecessary words, fragments, wrong verb tense, grammar, typos, etc.

Pay special attention to edited sentences

When you find and fix writing errors, reread those sentences. Rozakis says that when writers spot and edit errors in their sentences, they tend not to notice more errors in those same sentences. One of her most interesting editing and proofreading tips is to pay special attention to sentences that have already been edited.

Proofread your writing from the bottom up

How to Proofread and Edit Your Writing

How to Proofread and Edit Your Writing

This is way to proofread your writing works best when you’re focused on grammatical and technical errors, not content or organization! Read one sentence at a time, from “The End” to “In the beginning…” Reading backwards helps you see each sentence in isolation, which makes you a better editor.

Grab your partner and for a twirl ‘round the dance floor

Figuratively speaking, of course! “One of the best ways to proofread is to ready your writing aloud while another person follows along on a typed copy,” writes Rozakis in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creative Writing. “Say the punctuation marks and spell out all names. This is a very effective method, but it’s as slow as watching paint flake and just as dull.”

Use the “find” feature to eliminate certain phrases

“When writers have finished their first draft, they should use the “find” feature to identify the phrases “there are” or “there is” or “to be.” There are always better ways to write sentences — without using those phrases. This type of editing makes writing more action packed and creative.” – Meghan Sager, public relations specialist.

Fellow scribes, can you spot the irony in Meghan’s writing tip?

If you’re a new writer, read Strategies for Beginning Writers.

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If you have any thoughts or questions on these ways to proofread your writing, please comment below…

12 thoughts on “How to Proofread and Edit Your Writing”

  1. It’s useful to read the article out aloud. If you don’t want to read it out yourself, Microsoft Anna on Windows 7 and Vista can read out your writing for you. Her voice is clear and natural. Just install a text to speech program on your desktop or laptop, then you can listen with your ears. Now there are many text to speech ( TTS ) software programs, Panopreter Basic ( http://www.panopreter.com ) is one of the best free TTS tool.

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