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Writing Tips: How to Edit Your Masterpiece

Writing is a process for which confusion exists where editing fits into the mix. Editing is NOT the same as writing. Let me be very clear. Editing is NOT the same as writing, as a different set of skills are required.

Let me build on the editing checklist I offered many years ago:
Editing Checklist:

First, let’s discuss the concept of time regarding writing and editing. When we sit down to write (regardless if an email or a dissertation), there are many processes we need to have in place as part of our writing system. If writing remains a chore email-after-email, academic assignment-after-academic assignment, or dissertation page-after-dissertation page, this tells me that your writing system is not yet fully developed.

Writing System:

When we have that blank page in front of us, our mission for writing is to create a logical and persuasive argument to persuade our reader of the merits of our conclusions. Often writing is a combination of very unique skills. As we tell our story, sometimes we are creative, sometimes logical, sometimes we need to use our puzzle skills as we piece together and organize the details of the journey as we bring our reader along.

Editing skills are vastly different than writing skills. Again, let’s review the concept of time. NEVER edit EITHER as you are writing or directly after you have written ANYTHING. Why? A few reasons. To edit effectively, one has to shift gears to edit one’s work (or anyone’s work), as editing is a different set of skills.

One edits with very critical eyes. Our goal is to first look at mechanics (spelling, grammar, & punctuation). In this digital age, there are many tools at the disposal of the quintessential editor. Focus on the simple tasks first. Be sure to run Spell Check. Microsoft Word even has a Grammar and Spell Check feature to adjust the settings on your personal computer. Many universities and online providers have writing editing programs as well. HOWEVER, do not assume that these writing and spell check program (to include Turnitin for Plagiarism review) are not artificial intelligence quite yet, perhaps only 75%-85% accurate. Use of these tools may be a good place to start, but these tools are NOT a substitute for the human critical eye.

Editing also takes several reviews. Until one becomes an experienced editor, one cannot edit for all things every time one reads through the document. Perhaps one might focus on mechanics the first time through, the story content the next, and perhaps APA format the third. Each of these elements again requires a different skill set.

Let me offer a wonderful piece of advice. Two heads are always better than one. Always find a friend or hire a professional editor to edit your work. Even as a 21-published award winning author, my work is ALWAYS edited by my colleagues or professional editors.

My best to your writing AND editing success!

Dr. Cheryl Lentz,
Publishing & Editing Consultant


November 3rd, 2014 by admin