Five tips for improving your editing skills

Our goal as writers and editors should be to tell stories accurately, clearly and with as few words as possible.
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The road does funny things to a man.

So does that time between when a completed newsletter layout receives client approval and when I review the printer’s proof. Without fail – and I have been writing and editing newsletters for nearly 15 years now – I will catch a misspelling or grammatical error.

No matter how attentive I am, regardless of how many times I read the copy, invariably I find something to correct. Usually these changes are minor (printers typically charge a modest fee to fix them), and they are just part of the process of making copy as accurate and readable as it can be.

In fact, getting a little separation from text that you have been poring over for days or even weeks is always a good thing. In fact, it’s one of my five tips for improving editing skills.

1. View with fresh eyes: Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and a little time away can do wonders for writing and editing, too. You can get lost in a project if you stare at it too long. Even an overnight can provide fresh, inspiring perspective.

2. Read out loud: Adding an oral component to your editing process is a valuable way of making your copy more accessible. And that’s what editing is: challenging yourself to write more clearly and more concisely.

3. Print it: Television, laptop, smart phone. We’re constantly staring at screen-based media. I find it valuable to work from hard copies, too, just as I augment my online reading with print magazines and books. I’m writing this post on my MacBook, but I will edit a print copy, too.

4. Stand up: This goes hand-in-hand with print copies and gaining a new perspective. Looking down at text just offers a different take than facing it on your computer screen. If you really want to kick it old school, use a No. 2 pencil to mark up your copy.

5. Write for a friend or family member: It’s important to know your audience. Too often, inexperienced writers lapse into jargon or toss around buzzwords that impede communication. Explain yourself plainly and conversationally.

Ultimately, our goal as a writers and editors should be to tell stories with as few words as possible. The five tips listed above will make our road trip more fuel-efficient.

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