Slowly Back Away from the Computer: Five Editing Tips for Self-Publishers
By Michele Barard
Self-publishers often serve double duty as both writers and editors for their own work. Since they are intimately familiar with their own writing, it’s easy to overlook errors or inconsistencies. Despite this possibility, many self-publishers act as their own editors as well. For those writers who wear both hats, here are five self-editing tips:
1) Read the piece aloud. It’s common for us to miss typos, misspellings, and poor word usage when we read silently. When we read aloud, errors tend to stand out either because something doesn't “sound right” or because we tend to stumble over incorrect words and phrases when reading aloud.
2) Use a ruler as a guide. Use a ruler to isolate each line of text as you review it. Reading ahead may cause you to overlook errors. Using a ruler as a guide helps focus your attention and prevents reading ahead.
3) Change the typeface. If you originally typed the document in Times New Roman, change it to Arial. If your default font size is 12, increase the size of the font to 14. Changing the look of the document helps to refocus your attention which will help you catch typos and misspellings.
4) Edit in short time blocks. It’s fine to edit short articles or stories all in one sitting; however, longer articles and books need more time. To avoid eye fatigue or just plain boredom, break the editing job into smaller parts. For longer articles, give the article one good review and then take at least a 30-minute break before reviewing it again. In the case of a novel, schedule time to edit three or four chapters at a time.
5) Walk away. Walking away from a project you’ve obsessed over for months or even years may sound ridiculous when you feel like you’re in the home stretch, but this can be one of the most effective ways to enhance your self-editing process. When you’ve finished writing, put the manuscript into a drawer and do not look at it for at least one week. When you start editing it after a break, you will have fresh eyes and a little more perspective to help you edit more effectively.
In the end, the best solution to the self-editing dilemma is to hire a professional editor. An editor reviews your writing objectively to help you elevate your writing from good to great. However, even if you do hire a professional editor, it’s a good idea to conduct preliminary editing for grammar and spelling yourself. Use these self-editing tips to prepare your work before handing it over for professional editing. If you choose not to hire a professional editor, be sure to use these editing tips and our Editing Checklist for Self-Publishers before hitting the submit button.