Improving your writing increases your credibility as a writer. Unfortunately, the English language has so many rules (and exceptions to those rules) that it’s hard to remember all of them when you’re reviewing your work.
A good rule of thumb is to proofread and edit your content in separate sessions. When you proofread, you’re looking for misspelled words, incorrect punctuation, and grammatical errors. Editing refers to tone, writing in the correct tense, and overall readability.
Becoming a better proofreader and editor takes practice. One of the easiest ways to improve is to focus on one proofreading or editing task at a time. These seven editing tips will help you take your content from good to great.
1. Download Grammarly to edit your content.
Use the Grammarly app on your desktop and mobile device to easily spot mistakes as you write. They have a free version of Grammarly that catches spelling, grammar, punctuation, and conciseness. The premium Grammarly subscription offers an elevated proofreading experience that includes tone adjustments, plagiarism detection, and clarity-focused sentence rewrites.
2. Read your content out loud.
When you read your writing aloud, you’re more likely to find missing words or hear sentences that you could have phrased more clearly.
3. Edit your content from the last paragraph to the first paragraph.
This method follows the same theory of reading your content out loud. When you read your content from beginning to end, you’re subliminally anticipating what comes next.
Proofreading from the end to the beginning disrupts you from seeing the full picture of your content. You’re able to review the content in smaller chunks without paying attention to flow.
4. Read each paragraph and summarize what that paragraph is about in one sentence.
This activity will help you understand the flow of your writing. Once you summarize each paragraph (or each section if you’re writing a blog article) into one sentence, read all of the sentences from beginning to end.
This will show you how readers will follow your writing. Does each paragraph naturally flow to the next one, or would the purpose of your content be more comprehendible if you rearranged some things?
5. Circle or highlight every comma in your writing.
The English language has over a dozen rules for using a comma. It’s hard to keep up with every rule for commas, so the editing process should include reviewing punctuation.
For example, you don’t need a comma to separate a comma from a verb. You do need a comma to separate lists.
Incorrect: My small dog, jumped on the couch.
Correct: My small dog ran, jumped, and barked when I got home.
This article from Grammarly is a great resource to use when you’re reviewing the punctuation (especially commas) in your writing.
6. Make sure your writing is consistent with the same tense.
It’s easy to start your writing in the past tense and finish in the present tense, or vice versa. Read through your content paragraph by paragraph to make sure you’re using the same tense.
This is also an excellent time to remove any sentences that use the passive voice. Passive writing isn’t grammatically incorrect, but it can impact how your readers understand your writing.
7. After you proofread your work, read your content out loud one more time.
Once you finish steps 1-6, read your writing out loud for a second time. The goal for the second review is to confirm that all of your edits still preserve the original message that you wanted to convey. If you have time, reach out to a friend or a professional who can put a fresh set of eyes on your work.
This second review also gives you one more chance to catch any mistakes that you may have missed previously.
Use these editing tips when you write your next blog post or article for work. You can jot these tips down in your favorite notebook to always have them handy.
Which tips are you applying to your next writing project? Tag us on Instagram with the editing tips that helped you the most.