A Checklist for Self-Editing

I have given self-editing tips to myself as well as to family, friends and clients. We tend to pass through our days in a haste. Wordiness then becomes obsolete. In many instances, that is. So, here is a checklist for our own writings. A source which spoke to me as far as common sense. Hence, the reason behind my sharing it with you. I hope you will enjoy and apply the tips toward your next writing. The one at hand will do also.

Self-Editing

 

Sentence-Length

Throughout our early schooling, we hear how poor of an impression “run-on” sentences make on behalf of our composition homework. This “warning” does not stop after our school years are long over. My focus here is not those red flag-language aspects, however. Long sentences need to be tenderized as well. Even those where the structure is grammatically sound. After all, a sentence must contain an idea. When we resort to long sentences, several ideas may end up finding a comfortable home in them. A red flag! Our readers will unavoidably lose focus. So, let us make an effort to provide them with a breather. Let us also consider eliminating comma-rich sentences while we are in the midst of some spring-cleaning. Gifting each sentence with an idea of its own could and would help the process.

A Perfect First Draft?

I am not going to mince any words today – for my own or for your psyche, dear reader. So, be prepared for pure bluntness.

Are you by any chance one of those writers who conclude that the first draft of their text is perfect? If so, think again. For the sake of your readership foremost, but also for your own ego’s unbruised preservation.

Who among us is unaware of the American literature classic, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee? (I want to safely assume that we all have at least heard about this masterpiece, even if we have not read it cover to cover as of yet.) It is not at all difficult to assume that this great writing was completed in one single sitting session by the author. Based on the outcome – meaning, readers’ and critics’ responses across the globe. Not so! In fact, it has taken the author several rewrites over more than two years to arrive at the final draft of her novel. Several rewrites over more than two years . . .

How many of us have known that the first draft, published in 2015 as Go Set a Watchman transpired as one of the most effective lessons to a writer, to any writer who erroneously would consider his / her first textual drawings to be perfect? As it is stated time and again in- and outside the field of literature, without the help of an editor, without continuous hard work and without substantial editing, history may have never heard of the author of one of the “Great Books” in English.

Before we – any of us, published writers and / or author-candidates – even begin to entertain the thought that our text is complete in its first draft, we had better re-think our stance and re-evaluate as to what it is we are in actuality placing in the hands of our readers. One of us, maybe even several of us, may already be holding on to the material worthy of becoming another ‘great’ novel or short story, or the ‘great’ epic / hybrid / prose / narrative poem, or the ‘great’ play, etc. Without the help of an editor, without continuous hard work and without substantial editing, however, that initial text-drawing may never have a chance to take flight . . .

And the Saga (of Self-Editing) Lives on . . .

Today, we will continue to take more steps on the way to fine-tuning our written word. Once again, I am here to share a quote with you. These brief notes tend to attract my attention for their succinct message as far as the core focus, as opposed to depending on either my extensive texts or lengthy write-ups by others. Hoping that you will enjoy today’s post enough to come back for another visit, I leave you with my best wishes.

[*] Be A Verbal Sniper

“Editing is little like being a verbal sniper—you’re going back to readjust your aim continually. So I don’t necessarily like to get too far in front of myself without having edited the piece. Sometimes I’ll reread and edit 30 times or more. (Of course, you’ll probably still catch typos in this writing!)”

Dr. Barbara Oakley, bestselling author of A Mind for Numbers and former Army Captain

And the Errors on Last Post’s Proofreading-Practice Text Were . . .

As with the previous posts, the original text shared here before for only a proofreading practice follows below. The errors are underlined.

“The question as to what we mean by truth and falsehood, which we considered in the proceeding chapter, is of much less interest than the question as to how we can know what is true and what is false. This question will occupy us in the present chapter. There can be no doubt that some of our beliefs are eroneous; thus we are led to inquire what certainty we can ever have that such and such a belief is not erroneous. In other words, can we ever know anything at all, or do we merely sometimes by good luck believe what is true? Before we can attack this question, we must, however, first decide what we mean by ‘knowing’, and this question is not so easy as might be supposed.

At first site we might imagine that knowledge could be defined as ‘true belief’. When what we believe is true, it might be supposed that we had achieved a knowledge of what we believe. But this would not accord with the way in which the word is commonly used. To take a very trivial instance: If a man believes that the late Prime Minister’s last name began with a B, he believes what is true, since the late Prime Minister was Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman. But if he believes that Mr. Balfor was the late Prime Minister, he will still believe that the late Prime Minister’s last name began with a B, yet this belief, though true, would not be thought to constitute knowledge. If a newspaper, by an intelligent anticipation, announces the result of a battle before any telegram giving the result has been received, it may by good fortune announce what afterwards turns out to be the right result, and it may produce belief in some of its less experienced readers.” [Source: “Free Weekly Proofreading Exercise” at www.proofreading-course.com]

Corrections:

  1. The word “proceeding” is semantically incorrect as far as the intended context. It should be replaced with “preceding”.
  2. There is a spelling error with “eroneous”. The correct spelling is “erroneous”.
  3. Like with the first error, the word “site” is semantically incorrect and it is to be replaced with “sight”.
  4. There is another spelling error in question here: “Balfor” should be “Balfour”, if researched, which at times becomes unavoidable during proofreading any text.

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