Friday, 2 November 2012


Self-editing is a quintessential part of making your writing look polished and professional. It can be a tedious task, but the following tips will make it all worth your while. 

Most publishers will expect your work to be pre-edited to a certain standard before submission. The final stage of self-editing is not about elements such as character development or plot; that should have been done already. It’s about stylistic mechanics such as the overall layout, spelling mistakes and repetition. There are several things to bear in mind when editing your own work.

1. Firstly, you need to distance yourself from your writing. Set it down for an hour or two before you begin.

2. Once you've given yourself this much needed space, print your work off. When reading a hard copy you are far more likely to pick up on obvious spelling and grammar mistakes. 

3. A good place to start is by looking at the visual layout of your writing. Bear in mind that a whole page without a break is uninviting to the reader. Are there paragraphs in appropriate places? Is speech appropriately indented? Look at existing published work to get an idea of what a finished novel looks like.

4. Once you've done this it will be easier to read your work aloud, which allows you to see how your writing flows. If you stumble over words or phrases, then you know what parts to rewrite. This will also inform you whether you’re using the most appropriate word for the piece. 

5. When self-editing you must check for unintentional repetition and emphasis; you don’t want an excess of exclamation marks and italics cluttering up your writing. You should also cut out the clich├ęs and replace them with more original descriptions of your own. 

6. Finally, after reading your piece as a whole you should completely dissect it. Read it sentence by sentence, analysing whether each word conveys your intended point. Rewrite extraneous words or phrases and importantly, remember to vary sentence structure and check for consistency.

Thorough self-editing should leave you with a smooth and refined piece of writing. 

Robyn Paul

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