Not every business has the luxury of having its own editor on staff. Not every company has enough staff to even grab a second pair of eyes on a piece. Especially if you don’t have the budget to have someone edit for you, you are on your own! If you’ve gotten over your writer’s block and created some not-so-bad-if-you-don’t-say-so-yourself content, it’s up to you to make sure that your writing is free of grammatical blemishes. It’s your responsibility to publish/send content that is not going to embarrass you as the writer or the company you’re representing. Even the most well-established, highly respected websites end up with errors in their content. But that doesn’t mean you can’t avoid them yourself. As an editor, I come to you with some words of wisdom and secrets that I use when I do online editing.
Sleep on it
This may lead you to procrastination, so be careful, but one of the best ways to take care of your writing is to walk away from it. The best case scenario is when you write something a couple of days before it’s due, and then you can have at least one night’s sleep between the time you’re drafting and the time you’re editing. Every time I sleep between writing and editing, I catch way more errors than I would if I edit immediately after writing. And it’s not just about errors, either–it’s about crafting your writing to be fresh. Any unhelpful repetition or any word or phrase where you can place an external link but there isn’t one aren’t necessarily errors, but they are missed opportunities of keeping your writing at its best. So take a nap! If you don’t have the privilege or time to sleep between every assignment, at least work on something else, especially if it’s not writing-related, to help clear your mind and give you fresh perspective when you go to edit your work.
Turn off music and other distractions
I know, the temptation to listen to Otis Redding while you do your work is tremendous. Or maybe you’re more of a Taylor Swift fan. Either way, music might not help you get your editing crap done. Some of my colleagues I’ve had in the past work from home, and they actually watch TV shows while they work. This is a no-no. It’s similar to texting and driving, except it’s a little less life-or-death: you don’t do it. Don’t give yourself more distraction than you’ll already inevitably get. One of the easiest ways to miss mistakes in writing is to be focusing on anything else. It’s very easy to glaze over while reading your writing, especially in draft form when it’s not yet engaging to readers, and this is why it’s important to limit the possibility as much as you can. For some, music helps them focus. But are you one of those people, or are you just trying to listen to One Direction at work? At the very least, try listening to music without lyrics.
Consult the style guide
Does your company have a style guide? A style guide is a document that gives the rules and standards that an organization is supposed to use in all of its content, sometimes even including internal email communication or in social media. Not every business has a style guide, but they are helpful tools when it comes to the matter of consistency. Do you know if your company uses the serial/Oxford comma? Do you know if your content is supposed to capitalize job titles when referring to people within the organization? Different people approach these questions differently, and knowing what your company is using will help guide you when editing. If you don’t have a style guide, and it’s within your jurisdiction, it may be worth creating one!
Read it out loud
I’ve mentioned this before, but this is the secret to editing your writing: read it aloud. Find a private place in your office and say the words you’ve written aloud. If you feel too silly to take such a step, you probably are not that interested in editing your content well. It’s truly one of the best ways to catch errors. How do the words feel in your mouth? Are you repeating one word much more than the others? Do you have only one adjective you use? Are there any sentences that are so long you have to take a breath or two just to finish reading it aloud? Are you getting bored reading it? Reading aloud forces you to slow down with your writing. Our eyes when we read silently are forgiving; they are much more willing to add or remove small words for us so the sentences make sense. Reading aloud is much more deliberate in nature, and it’s absolutely worth the time it takes. And it’s worth the potential embarrassment. 🙂 I mean, really, if someone comes up behind you in your cubicle or office and they ask you why you’re talking to yourself, just tell them this great editor you know told you the secret to editing your own writing. Feel free to let us know how it goes! Soon everyone in your business will be talking to themselves. Most importantly, they will be crafting content that will be more professional and more pleasant to read. — Photo Credit