Editing is actually not one skill, but many. There are several types of editorial polishing each used at different junctures in the writing process. Each of these is a skill unto itself and requires its own consideration.
If you ever consider hiring an editor, one question will be asked…What type of editing do you need? The best way to answer the question is to familiarize yourself with the different types of editing and when each is used. Let’s take a look at how you as a writer can perfect the work at different stages.
Content editing. Consider the order, clarity, readability, and accuracy of the writing. Do the sentences and paragraphs flow? If fiction, are your characters believable and consistent throughout the book? Is the plot credible
During this type of editing, we trim the “fat!” What is the “fat?” Identify those extraneous sentences, descriptions, and paragraphs that weigh the text down. Snip, snip! Using an editor’s unbiased eyes, take a deep breath and cut those from your writing.
Copy editing. Read each sentence looking for mistakes in spelling, usage, grammar, and capitalization. Make sure your writing adheres to a specific style, important when submitting to a specific publishing company. Here are some specifics:
- Sentence Structure… Look for extra words, adjectives, and adverbs. Cut away the verbosity. Make your sentences clean, concise, and simple. For a clear viewpoint, read the text backward, one sentence at a time.
- Word Choice. Use words that are descriptive, short, specific, and concrete. Invoke the reader’s five senses.
Verbs speak volumes. Use active verbs not passive ones. Make sure the verb and subject agree.
A resource I use is The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale. At over fourteen hundred pages, it is the most comprehensive thesaurus in print.
Technology. Most word processors like Microsoft Word have built-in spelling and grammar checks. However, automatic scans won’t identify all the flaws. Even though a word is spelled correctly, it may still be misused in context.
Take a look at these automated editing tools…
- Grammarly…My favorite online software is Grammarly. There is a free version and also a premium upgrade which costs less that $12/month, totally worth it if writing is your passion. Download it into your word processor and install it onto your internet browser. Grammarly takes care of spelling, grammar, even sentence structure in texts, emails, social media, and anything else you may be composing.
- AutoCrit… For $30/month, AutoCrit is an online editing wizard. It analyzes word choice, repetition, pacing and momentum, dialogue, and strengthens your writing. This piece of online software is especially suited for fiction writers.
- ProWritingAid…This online tool checks grammar and spelling, improves readability, finds overused words, clichés and redundancies. ProWritingAid is free with an upgrade to Premium for $40/year.
- Hemingway Editor… Hemingway Editor is a basic tool for any writer and only $20 in a downloadable version.
Proofreading. This is the last step in the editing process. After the formatting and design work is done, edit once more for double spaces, typeface styles, or misplaced page numbers.
Write. Edit. Rewrite. Edit. Edit. Edit! Until the process is complete.
James Michener once said, “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.”
Editing is hard work. Go slowly. Be thorough. Take your time. The end product will be worth the effort.