Hi everyoneToday I want to talk about how to edit yourself.I’ve been a technical editor for almost 20 years, so I know a little about editing. But I think this presentation will actually be MORE helpful to those who are primarily writers, especially with tight budgets and timelines that don’t allow the luxury of dedicated editors and long writing (and editing) cycles.
You are “finished” with a document…You have been working on it FOREVER! ∞You have written all you can write on the topic.But you know it’s not ready to go out in the world…it needs to be edited…all you want to do is hand it off to someone…the editor…a co-worker…your boss…the dog…anyone!
What do you do?You know it needs to be looked at again, because you know you are NOT perfect (though we all like to think that what we do the first time is just great, it’s usually not!)…but you don’t want to do it! Wah But it has to be done….preferably before your deadline or the weekend.You can’t put it off any longer.
Oh no!Like this woman, you are thinking, I can’t stand to look at this document on this laptop for another second!But get a hold of yourself….it’s not that bad, is it? This document is important, right? You don’t just want to throw it out there to the world….
The first thing you need to do is change your mindset…Take off your author hat: stop thinking about this document as your baby…your precious that you have spent countless hours on filling with everything you know on a topic.Put on your editor hat: start thinking about this document from the point of view of the reader.
Why is this important? When your brainis still in writer mode, it reads the words as you intended to write them, not as you actually typed them into the computer.When you have your editor hat on, you can see the words as they actually are on the page.
If you work from home in your office, go to the kitchen, make yourself a cup of something (coffee, tea), and sit with the printout and give it another look.I prefer to sit on the couch and do it, but that’s just me.Even just looking at it on an iPad would be different than looking at it at your computer.
I don’t often read words out loud, unless a sentence strikes me as wrong somehow or if I have rewritten one and I will still unsure of it. I do peruse the document, moving forward and backwards.I sometimes use color and space to see the document differently. Sometimes I increase the font. I always switch between page width or 100% AND 200%. That’s my favorite. But I’m an editor….
P 137This quote is from a book you have thought would have been REALLY helpful, but it was only mildly helpful.Some of his advice: Look for your most common errors (perform a separate pass for each error)Look for subject/verb agreementLook for parallelism
Questions to ask yourself:Does your paragraph take up a whole page?Does your sentence look like a paragraph?Could you break up a long sentence into bullets?Is your bulleted list too long? 7±2 is about right
Readers will stumble, too, and lose confidence in your material.You’ve been there! You’re reading a document, and you’re like, WHAT was the writer trying to say? Don’t be that writer…give your reader a chance to understand what you’ve presented/put together.
Go back to the basics!Subject + verb +objectRemember diagramming sentences? If you’re a writer, you often break them up in your head without realizing it, but if you’re stuck, try doing it manually. It just may help you break through an awkward sentence.
Beyond paragraphs and sentences…what should you look for?Common items: HeadersFootersHeadingsTitlesProduct namesCompany nameTrademarksCopyrightsSPELL CHECK
So many times we write the document we know how to write, even if we really need to write another type of document!If your document was created to answer a question: did you answer it?If your document was in response to a request; did you fulfill all of the requirements of the request? So many times I get caught up on the first couple of requirements, then don’t realize until I am almost done that there were more requirements! Go back and look!
Now let’s talk about what NOT to do…This is your chance to be the reader’s advocate.Look at it with fresh eyes…from their perspective.Use your multiple passes to look for very specific things:Are all your tables consistent? If there is a style guide, do they follow it? Go through each piece of each table, one by one looking for discrepancies.Take another pass to just look for glaring errors…this is easier if you’ve followed my advice for resetting your brain.
Provide them the information they need and references for where to find more info if available.Don’t make assumptions:Spell out abbreviationsProvide background info they need (and nothing they don’t…see next slide!)
Do you words sound like a textbook or a legal document? Unless you’re writing one of those, rethink how you are writing. Do not bore your readers.Have you put everything you know about a topic into a document? Then cut it in half. No one wants to read all of that! Tell your audience what they need or want to hear.
the $18M “missing hyphen” that caused the failure of the Mariner spacecraft in 1962misspelled domain nameswrong published numbers for major companiesmisspelled candidate names on ballotsThese types of examples are used to show just how important our jobs are…why you need a professional to look over your document before you send it out in the world!Don’t let your document become the stuff of legends for the wrong reason!Remember why you are editing…to make your document the best it can be.
If nothing else, take the time to look for mistakes that would easy for others to see:HeadersFootersHeadingsTitlesTablesBulleted/numbered listsThese are the things that others would see if they only perused the document…low-hanging fruit.And then you have finished, you’ll REALLY be done, like the woman in this graphic….
And the woman standing in front of you!Thanks!
Editing yourself kelly schrank - spectrum 2013
Rochester Chapter Editing Yourself Kelly Schrank