Quick-view Self-Editing Tips and Tricks:
Reference materials and helps:
- Respected style guides (eg. Chicago Manual of Style)
- Other good references (eg. The Elements of Style, The Copyeditor’s Handbook)
- Editing checklists
- Automated editing resources (eg Word’s built-in spelling and grammar; Grammarly)
- Refer to lists of commonly misused words, commonly misspelled words; readability levels http://www.readability-score.com
- Seek critiques from writers’ groups and beta readers
- Use the Comments margin notes feature in Word 2010, and possibly Track Changes, both found under the “Review” tab
- Use the find/replace feature (under the “Home” tab in Word) for your commonly misspelled words
- Add unusual spellings, names of your characters, place names, etc. from your manuscript to your spellchecker
- Use a word cloud site (e.g. wordclouds.com ) to upload your manuscript and find out which words you use repetitively
- Use text-to-speech software to listen to your manuscript (here are some reviews )
- Check out detailed tips on use of “Find & Replace” and other editing features in Word: http://www.molly-greene.com
Some useful self-editing tips:
- Multiple read-throughs for different purposes, with time breaks to keep your mind fresh
- Focus on one part of the manuscript at a time
- Read aloud or tape, then listen
- Listen to someone else read to you
- Write the first draft without editing; revise and edit in later drafts
- Jot down margin notes on hard copy print-out, and use proofreader marks
- Write summaries of the plot from different character POVs (points of view)
- Highlight 3 or 4 pages of adjectives, similes, metaphors, etc. and examine your use of imagery
- Highlight bland words, “to be” verbs, etc. on 3-4 pages; realise what bland words you commonly use and replace them with better words throughout the document
- Highlight first words of sentences for a few paragraphs; do you use too much repetition?
- Do a highlight exercise to check for use of evocative sensory words and descriptions (colour, shape, texture, size, weight, emotion)
- Check and consider carefully all words flagged by your spell/grammar checker (but remember that spell checkers often won’t notice homonym or similar errors so you still need to proofread the document yourself, and grammar checkers aren’t always aware of your reasons for choosing particular wording, punctuation, etc.)
- Notice your common errors; make a list and watch out for them and correct them
- When planning, make lists of descriptions of characters, setting, etc.; then refer to them as you write and as you edit, for consistency
- Proofread chapter headings, page numbers, front and back matter, etc. (as well as the story)
- Watch carefully for homophones (both homonyms and similarly spelled words)
And some useful self-editing and proofreading “tricks”:
- Start at the end of the manuscript and move to the beginning (sentence by sentence, or paragraph by paragraph, or chapter by chapter
- Use a ruler or cut out frame to focus on individual lines
- Take a break: fresh eyes
- Print out and read on paper instead of the computer screen; try using pastel paper; When you think you have the manuscript perfect, have one copy of the book printed out and read through again, as you’ll often find things you’ve missed, due to the change in format.
- Try a font change (style and size)
- Place a transparent pastel sheet over your computer screen (to find mistakes you’ve missed and to prevent eyestrain)
- Watch out for use of jargon, cliches, platitudes, buzzwords, coined words, and bureaucratic language.
For more in-depth information on some of these self-editing tips, check this article on my blog.
Help! What self-editing tips and tricks would you add to this list? Please add them in the comments. Thank you!