Self-Help: Proofreading / Editing

The last post I shared with you here had come with a promise that there will be more steps to consider on the same subject; namely, self-editing. The intent of this writing is the same as the previous one: To help you to form a habit toward “proofreading” and, as an outcome, “copy editing” your draft text – regardless of the genre. The more involved process of “content editing” will be addressed in a different post.

  • A large amount of style guides are available online through respectable sites. Identify one (or more) about which you have a positive (i.e. trusting) feeling. Read it (or them) carefully. You will find that you are able to catch grammatical errors on your text you might otherwise overlook. For you are now familiar with an overview of potential mistakes, which you also have readily available at your fingertips when your selected style guide is concerned.
  • Apply a merciless fact-check on your written work. Then, double check. And, second-guess.
  • Make sure your draft flows by concentrating on the length of your sentence structures. Seek variation. Sentences should not appear as cookie-cutters.
  • Pay attention to the amount of your use of certain words (such as “or”, “perhaps”, “and” and “in fact / in actuality”). This attentive reading will help you to achieve a smoother flow in your text.
  • Keep a dictionary handy. At least a few times as you read, single out a word and spot-check to make sure its spelling is correct. By getting into a habit of doing so, you may catch an error along the way.
  • After you have done all you can with your draft, have someone else to review it in an active reading mode. Not to merely do a scan-reading, but rather to go over it attentively / critically.
  • If at all possible, designate a reading partner who would be willing to exchange editing with you.




Let us picture a scene from our daily lives:

You have invited guests for dinner, for which you have been preparing a menu of delight. If you are a planner like I am, everything is set at least two days prior to your date as far as the necessary groceries -including meal-accompanying drinks, fruit (or dessert) and coffee (or tea) to be enjoyed with the servings of fruit or dessert. The appetizer, the soup and the entree together with its side-dish are cooked, waiting for their starting call on the burners of your stove, inside the oven, or anywhere you find to keep them warm enough to be palatable. You look at all your prepared dishes, and feel proud: Each detail is intact and looks good in their best possible outfits. Your guests can now arrive. And they do. One at a time, or every invitee all at once.

Pleasantries are exchanged, maybe cocktails are consumed, music is played, etc. Then comes the time to sit down to eat. You now realize that you have not spent much thought or time in planning a seating strategy nor how to serve the various dishes. Guests are left to just stand there. Around the dining table. Waiting for your directions. You have none. Nor do you have space on the table to strategically position those diligently beautified servers. Having given up on any potential organization chart at this point, you ask your guests to help themselves with a seat. Any seat. Anywhere. After all, the food you had prepared cannot and should not go to waste, right? Your guests, polite enough, have done the semi-impossible. Everyone is seated somehow. But, . . . wait . . . where to place those appetite-whetting dishes now? Those adorned serving trays? Let alone to serve anything from them. There is barely room on the table for elbows!

Do you see what I am seeing in this imagined picture? I am sure that you do. Hence, the importance of self-editing . . . of seeing in its actuality what we have written down for a readership, regardless of the number of the readers. One fact remains: They are our endeared guests. For, we have invited them.

To present details of our writing as we have painstakingly put it together, but moreover, to enable our presentation  fluidity – a no-detour-flaw (read conciseness) that is visually (read grammar, spelling, punctuation), mentally and emotionally appealing (read cohesive) as well as desirable to the palate (read clarity) constitute that which we owe to ourselves first.

Inviting guests over for a dinner gathering when only the planned dishes are complete will take us only so far . . .