How to Edit and Polish Your Writing

The ability to write without errors is very important, whether you are writing for the entire world to see, or writing for just your department. Even a few errors can make a writer look beyond unprofessional. Errors indicate laziness and poor presentation much the same way a stained shirt indicates lack of effort at a business meeting.
Most manuscripts start out a little messy. Try out these thoughtful approaches to polishing your prose;
1. Proofread - Proofreading doesn't just mean glancing over the article. Try reading it aloud, or even reading it backward. This will allow grammar, spelling and just basic syntax errors to be noticed before you move on.
2. Run a spelling and grammar check software program. Don't count on your personal idea of how to spell a word, or how to organize a sentence. But on the other hand don't allow yourself to depend on software, because many times it may suggest something that isn't what you should do, and it may miss words that are used incorrectly because they are actually spelled right. Words like weight and wait, descent and decent can be skipped over by a software spelling and grammar check.
3. Bold Title and Subheadings - The presence of a bolded title and subheadings help break up the solid wall of text that an article can appear to be when viewed online. This makes it easier for readers to read online.
4. Bullets and Numbered lists are your friends. Again these formatting options make it easier for readers.
5. Check your word count. Most writers could write several hundred words above what is needed to convey the information in an online article. Cut out the fluff and keep it simple.
6. Check spacing and punctuation. It is important that your article looks uniform and fluid without needless commas or extra exclamation points. The rule for writing online articles is K.I.S. which means Keep It Simple.
7. Save the article throughout your editing and polishing process or else you risk losing all the painstaking changes you have made.
8. Add images when possible to further polish your article into a complete work.
9. Do a keyword check. While online writing means using a keyword throughout the article you don't want to make your article stilted and stuffed with keywords, the keyword should be used naturally. Change some around if you have too many keywords, and add some if you need more.
10. Proofread one final time checking not only the way the words flow but also spelling, usage, punctuation, formatting and the overall feel of the article.
Most writers can’t edit. Editing and polishing your prose is hard work, but if you put your mind to it you can learn it, and your writing will improve.

3 comments

  • “Bullets and Numbered lists are your friends”, I cannot agree more with this line — to appease the usual online readers these days (you know with how short our attention span is now) , we usually go for “Top 10 things” or “The 8 things you need”, people like structure and something they can tick out against themselves. Anyhow, I love how you’ve made good points in this list too. Thank you for this and will definitely come in handy for me!

    Cheska J
  • I have to add a point to number eight-pictures are great, but keep them relevant. I helped look over an assignment a classmate of mine had written once. He was overly heavy handed with using images and many were too loosely connected to the main content. It just detracted from his main point. Used correctly, it definitely can add though. Great tips!

    Gary
  • I liked the comparison between a written work riddled with errors and a person attending a business meeting with a stained shirt. It really is the same. Even outside of anything professional, I’m surprised with how often I’ll see people neglect to check spelling on even things such as social media. It’s worse when it’s something written formally like a resume or essay, especially like you say when all you need to do is run a simple spell check.

    Ben

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