Three Tips for Editing Your Own Writing

Editing your own writing is hard. You can be the best editor in the world, but it will always be easier to edit someone else’s writing than your own.

I always recommend hiring a professional substantive editor and copy editor. However, you can get your writing in decent shape if you follow these three tips.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

1. Create a Reverse Outline

A reverse outline is an outline of what you’ve already written — not what you think you’ve written.

Working from your completed draft, use two columns to create your outline. In column 1, write a short summary of each paragraph. In column 2, explain how each paragraph summary supports the main idea of your piece.

A reverse outline can help you

  • assess whether the piece is logically structured,
  • check for unnecessary repetition,
  • identify gaps,
  • and ensure it will make sense to the reader.

2. Look at It in a Different Format

Save it as a PDF and read the PDF on a tablet or ebook reader or print out a hard copy. It will give you a different perspective and help you catch errors.

3. Read It Aloud or Use Your Word Processor’s Read Aloud Feature

Reading a piece aloud can help you notice awkward phrasing, repetition, and unnecessary words and phrases that you might not notice when reading it on the screen or on paper.