Oct 18, 2012 - Posted to
Editing, though falling at the end of the writing process, is by far one of the most important steps in producing engaging, publishable, high-merit essays. Editing speaks to the overall quality and respectability of your work. Did you ever consider that, despite an excellent topic, challenging vocabulary, or top-notch research, if your grammar and writing is poor then no one will bother to read your work? Editing is crucial to the writing process and is done across the board for both beginning and novice writers. All you need is a bit of time and an eye for errors.
What is editing?
Editing, by definition, is to correct or modify written material in preparation for publication. When editing, your overall objective is to examine the quality of your work. This includes a few things, for example; fluency, proper organization and clarity, style, word usage etc.
Editing and proofreading. What's the difference?
This is a good question because the two are often confused and explained as if they are one and the same. The major difference between editing and proofreading is that proofreading deals with the mechanics or 'technical' aspects of writing such as grammar and punctuation while editing involves at content as a whole and the readability of a paper.
Proofreading demands grammatical precision and clear indications of what is correct and what is incorrect. Editing involves finding solutions to posed styling and structure problems and may be explained as achieving complete coherency in your writing. Though both are essential to a successful paper editing
is usually more time consuming than proofreading because it may involve several instances of rewording and rethinking of organizational techniques.
A side note: When using programs such as Microsoft Office you may notice that you still have to do a bit of your own editing. This is because the program will not pick all mistakes. For example if you wrote 'hole' instead of 'whole' or something of that nature. But common sentence structure errors are usually highlighted, such as problems with comma-splices, run-on sentences, and the misuse of various phrases and clauses etc.
What to look for: Areas to edit
Main idea relevancy:
Editing requires for the reviewer to pay attention to several things, one of which is the connection between the main idea and support statements. Are all your paragraphs relevant to your argument? Do you need to omit weak sentences that do not properly support your main idea?
There are numerous methods of organizing your paper. Whichever one you choose make sure its logical (fits your topic and thesis) and is used uniformly throughout your paper. For example if you decided to organize your environmental paper according to problem-solution/resolution you shouldn't then stuff various solutions under one problem. Only the solution(s) that match that particular problem should be in that section.
Fluency is key to successful editing - its what being 'readable' is all about. As a writer you want your paper to ultimately sound good
and proper fluency is what makes that happen. To facilitate a smooth and fluent paper
you should use a variety of sentence beginnings, lengths and structures throughout your work. And other additions such as alliteration, rhythm or other sound related improvements.
For example, for alliteration, you may see the following in a food article: "tasty, tantalizing selections." Small adjustments such as this may be just the thing to spice up your paper and provide your readers with a great experience.
Does each paragraph demonstrate a clear beginning, middle, and end? Are your topic sentences right on the mark? Additionally you want to add transitions where needed and strengthen the support of each topic sentence but eliminating unnecessary details. A proven method of structuring a paragraph is the TRI method:
Topic sentence - the main idea of your paragraph, the key statement
Restatement - using different words to restate your main idea
Illustration - develop, support and explain your main idea with examples and evidential support
Editing for style can be difficult because it means different things to different people. But some basic things you can look for are
(a) excessive use of the passive voice: Here's the issue. The passive voice is okay to use but should be done sparingly because excessive use of it can cause serious problems for the reader. The result may be an essay that is very vague, cryptic, and overall hard to understand.
(b) wordiness: Many people tend to fall into the 'filler' trap when it comes to writing. Too many filler words and sentences in your essay may make you appear unlearned on the topic or void of adequate research. Try to find the 'shortcut' to certain sayings and phrases and be as straightforward as you can with support details (when possible).
(c) appropriate tone: Make sure that the tone of your writing matches your audience. If you're constructing an academic paper
try to maintain a formal tone and avoid any type of slang. For other purposes, if using a small amount of slang or 'casual speech' then do so but stay consistent (i.e. try not to go from ultra-conservative speech to slang or casual speech).
Tips for easy editing
Edit as you go along
Some people prefer to edit at the end in order to see the 'big picture' which is a great strategy but editing as you go along also has some great benefits. One key advantage is that you make less work for yourself at the end and develop good habits in the process. As you constantly check yourself on prime editorial blunders you'll make a mental note each time, and hopefully avoid the same error in your next paragraph or sentence.
Print it out or change the font and color
After typing for a long time and being very close to the information you need to edit, many small things can go unnoticed. Printing out your article and then editing or likewise changing the font of your material to something very large and bright may assist you in pinpointing style and structure problems. Sometimes a simple 'change of scenary' can go along.
Give yourself a break
This should have been number one! There is no way that you can be on top of your editing game if your brain is fried and completely exhausted from writing. Take a small or large break to allow your thoughts to regroup and start fresh looking for errors within the next hour or day. Great ideas often come when we allow ourselves to 'take a step back' and see things from a new angle or perspective.
Read out loud
Reading aloud, and even better, reading slowly and aloud can help you spot serious errors in fluency and content. This technique is also good for sentence structure and mechanics. Hearing the words along with reading allows you to apply audio and visual perceptions in reviewing your work.
If applied correctly and consistently the editing tips provided above should sufficiently aide students, professionals, and writers in general, in publishing well-polished and properly structured material.