Remember that famous quote by Hemingway “Write drunk, edit sober?” Fun fact: it wasn’t Hemingway (it was actually Peter De Vries, and the quote didn’t even sound like that). But we’re not here for painstaking fact-checking. You see, even this bogus of a quote highlights the importance of editing when you’re most reasonable, alert, and concentrated.
Editing your writing is a skill every writer should possess. Mastering it would be even better, but let’s be realistic: editing the words you worked so hard to put together is almost physically painful. Well, don’t worry, this isn’t an intervention. We simply want to show you how to edit your writing for the web without that feeling of your soul being strangled.
Proofreading vs. editing
When we’re talking about editing yourself, we don’t mean proofreading. We mean developmental editing. Proofreading is something an app can do for you, but developmental editing means seeing the bigger picture, understanding the goal of the piece, and altering it in ways that help reach the goal faster.
Now, a moment of hair-splitting:
- Proofreading means correcting typos and grammatical errors.
- Editing means fixing structures, senses, meanings.
Observe: here’s an example of proofreading.
Before: For heder bidding servers to catch all of the bids the price buckets match must be ensured.
After: For header bidding servers to catch all of the bids, the price buckets match must be ensured.
And here’s an example of editing.
Before: For header bidding servers to catch all of the bids, the price buckets match must be ensured.
After: You need to make sure the price buckets match if you want header bidding servers to catch all bids.
Tips for editing your text
Now that we’re clear about the terminology, our wise Raccoon is ready to give out its tips on how to edit yourself.
When you’re in the process of developmental editing, ask yourself:
- Is the order of paragraphs logical?
- Are there any sentences that contradict each other?
- Do sentences in one paragraph support the same idea and each other?
- Are paragraphs not longer than five lines?
- Can you say something in a simpler manner, using fewer words, less complicated constructions?
- Can the words ending in -ion be substituted?
- Can the passive voice be avoided?
- Do the facts stated in the piece have proof?
- Are the sources up-to-date (not older than two years)?
- Is the tone neutral (not overly excited or pessimistic)?
- Does it sound natural? Is the text academic or too businessy?
- Are there cases of tautology?
- Are all proper names written correctly?
Sure, when you’re a creative writer, not all of these rules may apply to you. But if you’re a web writer who earns a living by writing blog posts, articles, case studies, landing pages, and so on, keeping to this checklist while enditing yourself is mandatory.
Tricks for editing your text
The hardest thing about editing your writing is the fact that you’re editing YOUR writing. You like all the words and sentences written, the puns and adjectives, the idioms and epithets, and, of course, the “not only but also.” Every detail feels important, and you fear that taking even one of them away will influence the rest of the piece (it usually doesn’t).
On top of that, your brain has accustomed to this text so much it doesn’t even recognize errors and can’t see what can make this perfect piece even more perfect. So your job is to let your brain forget it. Here’s what you can do for that:
- Change the setting. If you’ve been reading from a monitor or your laptop, print the piece out. Even reading the text from another medium will help you get a fresh view.
- Go for a walk. Seriously, 20 minutes of walking can make a major difference, and when you come back, the text won’t look so familiar anymore.
- Read it aloud. Reading your text aloud is similar to changing the setting, but it has an additional perk: maybe someone who’s in the same room with you will hear you and offer some opinions or suggestions.
If we could leave you with one tip for editing your writing, it would be this: edit for the sake of the reader and not yourself. As long as you’ll be thinking about yourself and feeling proud of the things you wrote, you won’t be able to edit your text properly. But if you’ll be asking yourself, “How can I make the piece better for the reader?” when editing, you’re sure to nail it.