By: Marilyn L. Davis
“Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.” Collette
What’s Wrong with my Articles?
Each writer needs to think more like Collette’s definition of an author – someone who is not afraid to destroy the components of their article that do not demonstrate good writing abilities. If you find that you are getting articles rejected, it is better to write your article first, and then revise and edit, making these separate, yet important checks.
Editing: What Good Writers Do and Bad Writers Don’t
Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette stated that most good writers are merciless in their editing. One reason for this is that first drafts lean towards all the jumbled thoughts, feelings, ideas and opinions writers have about the topic and are not ready for publication.
They write an engaging story, give their perspective on politics or a social injustice, comment on the latest trend, or research and link to an interesting historical time or person. While all of those can make a good article, without good editing, readers will leave. Why is that? Because readers don’t have time for amateurish writing and editing.
With the competition today, you cannot depend on quick wit, knowledge or ability to string 1000 words together to get you by as there is content, and then there is corrected content.
I recently wrote about revising, which is looking at the various components of the article’s structure. Revising finds the bad passages, redundant sentences, off-topic tangents, conflicting tone, style and syntax issues. Therefore, if you have revised and restructured your article, it should be ready to publish, right?
No, not quite yet, your revision made the structural changes, now you have to check for mistakes – that is one type of editing that can set your article apart from others.
Corrected content demonstrates that you respect your readers by doing the best job of editing that you can. When I read articles that are badly edited, I feel dismissed and unimportant; like the writer just wanted anything published that day without a thought to the craft of writing.
Editing is the final changes to your revised drafts. Yes, I wrote plural – drafts. As I wrote in revising, there are no deadlines for many online sites, so you have time to work on your craft, and that means multiple drafts for most of us.
For a comprehensive listing of grammar rules and guidelines, the Guide to Grammar and Writing and Principles of Composition lists over 400 easily corrected writing mistakes. However, there is a simple formula – Write Well – Edit Better
But I Use Spell Check
In editing, you cannot depend on spell check to find all of the problems. While it is a good beginning, it is limited. For instance, it will not catch homophones, such as:
All of those words are spelled correctly. However, they may not be the correct word. After writing and revising, you have looked at your writing too long. You know how it is supposed to read, and you will inadvertently read it correctly. For instance, he instead of the or she instead of he, is instead of it or if.
Those are the little sneaky words that a spell check will not find because they are words; they are just not the correct words. While we will all understand Leah McClellan’s quote, look how it emphasizes the point, ” …“donut truss spiel chick, these words will get through just find.”
Potato/ Potahto/Tomato/Tomahto: Editing/Revising/Proofreading
Editing and proofreading are similar concepts, regardless of which label you use. The purpose of them is synonymous. It is taking your final draft and looking for the annoying types of mistakes that make your writing look unpolished and unprofessional.
I am frustrated as a reader when there are mistakes that editing and proofreading will catch. Knowing which type of errors we typically make means that our editing is specific to those mistakes and types of problems.
Jarod Kintz’s humorous take on types of writers reinforces the point: “There Are Two Typos Of People In This World: Those Who Can Edit And Those Who Can’t.” How many of you read the word “typo” as “type” because that would make sense? Why do we writers and readers do that?
- The average reader fills in the logical blanks and continues reading.
- The average writer isn’t concerned with a few “minor typos”.
- The better readers judges this as poor writing.
- The best writers fix it before they publish it.
Find the typos; diligently look for the problem words, grammar, formatting, or other errors you did not correct in your revision. Make your article as close to excellent as you can. If you want to be an above average writer, pay attention, here is your chance to change a bad habit – not thoroughly editing.
Print Out Your Article – With a Few Twists
We engage with paper differently than we do with a screen. Most studies conclude that we experience heightened attention when we hold the paper in our hands, actively engaging other senses into the reading experience; therefore, it makes sense to edit in print.
Many writers print out their final draft to finish their editing. However, I have a few twists on this editing tip. Rather than print out your draft as written, change some of your writing. Look how differently the words show in these examples:
After you have made the differences in font, color or spacing, print your article and move away from the computer, so you are not tempted to correct the article as you edit. Take this opportunity to read the article out loud after the corrections.
- How is the flow?
- Is it helpful?
- Did you write it to the best of your ability?
- Are you satisfied with your writing?
- Have you respected the reader?
Pared Down, Proofread, and Ready to Publish
Thinking like Collette means that we’re not afraid to destroy the components of the article that do not demonstrate good writing practices.
Now? Go write, edit and then publish.