Editing Your Own Work

Four Tricks to Publishing Error-free Copy

In an ideal world, everything you publish gets the benefit of an editor’s eyes—and even a bit of copyediting and then a round or two of proofreading. But if you’ve ever rushed to get a blog, email, or social post out there, you know that sometimes there simply isn’t time for all that thorough review.

But you can catch a surprising number of things when you give your own writing a second look! The trick is to do a little more than merely rereading what you’ve just typed up.

Here are my favorite four ways to edit my own work.

open laptop on a desk next to an open notebook and a ceramic mug

1. Read It Out Loud

This sometimes catches people off guard. Your readers aren’t likely to read a blog post or email newsletter aloud to themselves, after all—and unless you’re writing a script for audio or video content, neither are you.

Even so, reading your writing out loud can help clue you in to awkward phrasing, repetitive language, or errors that your eyes glossed over but your ears picked up right away.

You don’t need to make a big production out of it; sometimes just saying the words out loud as you type them can make a big difference. So can whispering them to yourself when you’re done with a first draft. Of course, if you are writing a script of some kind, taking it a step or two further and recording yourself reading it back can be extra helpful before you decide to call it finished.

2. Read It Backward

Just as our eyes have a tendency to gloss over suboptimal sentences, they also have a habit of fixing typos before we actually see them. If you’ve ever seen one of those “the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef” posts on social media, you know that your brain is exceptionally skilled in skipping mistakes and still grasping the meaning of misspelled words.

That is great news for being able to read or skim with ease, but it makes proofreading especially difficult—particularly when it’s your own work. You already know what you’re trying to say, so errors aren’t likely to trip you up.

Starting at the end and working backward makes it much easier to spot mistakes. That’s because you’re working against the flow of your writing, giving your mind enough of a pause to see what’s actually on the page—instead of what you’re already expecting to see.

3. Read It Formatted

You might draft your writing in a plain old Word document or Google Doc (or maybe you’re super old school and handwrite it). So try reviewing your writing once it’s formatted! Don’t spend your time editing in that draft file. Instead, get those words into the social media platform, web editor, or other publisher you’ll be using and review your writing in ready-to-publish format.

Like reading it aloud, editing this way can help you go beyond misspellings, typos, and missing words and find issues that aren’t strictly errors. That’s typically when you should be doing your proofreading anyway. That way, you can catch spacing concerns, bad line breaks, broken links, and problems with photos, captions, or other design elements.

4. Read It After a Pause

This is the best tactic I use for my own writing. Rereading something right after you’ve written it isn’t likely to help you see gaps, mistakes, or other issues. If you’re short on time already, letting a piece of writing sit for a day or two (or even longer) before you come back to it may not be possible.

But take advantage of any time you have available. Stepping away overnight or for a few hours—or even just for 10 minutes to take a body break or to think about something completely different—can make all the difference in being able to read it with fresh eyes.

It’s true that it sometimes feels like we do our best proofreading after we’ve hit send. That’s why I still like to reread what I’ve written right after I click publish or post. In most cases, I can quickly edit that caption or blog before too many people have seen it. And even if it’s irrevocably out there—like with email—at least I’m aware of it and can decide whether I need to send a correction or just steel myself to catch some grief over that typo.

Pro tip: This one can be especially useful when paired with one of the first three suggestions! Force yourself to walk away for a bit and then come back to read it backward, out loud, or as formatted copy.

Bonus: Hire a Proofreader

I help my clients hit send or publish with confidence!

I’d love to talk to you about reviewing your marketing emails, sales newsletters, blog posts, white papers, press releases—whatever you’re sending out into the world to connect with your audience and attract customers. Tell me what you’re writing!

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