10 Ways Editing Helps Your Writing

Ottawa Freelance Editor for HireA good editor will always check these 10 important writing errors:

1. Spelling

The proper placement of letters to form the correct words for the sentence. Editing spelling includes checking for typos of words that are spelled correctly, but aren’t the correct word for the sentence, example bind vs. blind. Unless otherwise agreed upon, spelling should be edited to Canadian usage.

2. Grammar

The rules governing the structure of the English language. Editing grammar ensures that the proper nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, etc. are in place to ensure clarity and professionalism.

3. Punctuation

The proper use of spacing, conventional signs and typographic figures as aids to understand meaning of a text. Editing punctuation ensures the proper punctuation is used, including instances of misplaced apostrophes that affect the meaning of the word, for example: its vs. it’s. Punctuation editing also ensures consistency of style, such as the use or avoidance of the Oxford/serial comma.

4. Syntax

The way in which words are put together to form phrases or clauses. Editing syntax analyzes sentence structure and proper phrasing.

5. Word Usage

Correct usage of terms and expressions. Editing word usage ensures the right word is chosen for the specific context. This includes editing the misuse of homonyms, such as check vs. cheque, as well as improper prepositional usage, for example: capable for (this is incorrect and should be capable of). In some cases, words may be repeated too often and an alternative word is required.

6. Argument and Organization

A set of reasons given to support an idea or opinion arranged in a way that is rational and easy for the reader to follow. Editing argument includes identifying instances, whether examples or claims, that are in direct conflict to your argument or are not very supportive. Editing organization may include moving entire sections of writing, such as paragraphs or chapters, to ensure the most logical progression of ideas.

7. Context

Words, phrases or arguments that influence the meaning of an idea or statement. Editing context ensures that the information presented, such as situations or background events, is relevant to the subject at hand. It also ensures that outside material is not taken out of context, which would compromise the writer’s authority.

8. Continuity and Flow

The logical connections between arguments, ideas, and sentences to help readers easily move throughout the document. Editing continuity and flow ensures the use of transition words, concise sentences, and a varied sentence structure to avoid repetition and reader confusion.

9. Voice

The distinct personality, narration style, or point of view of a written work. Editing for voice ensures consistency to avoid confusion in the writer, while ensuring that changes in perspective are logical and add to the value of the written work.

10. Citation Style

The rules and conventions of citation and formatting by an established organization. Some schools include the Modern Languages Association (MLA), the American Psychological Association (APA), and the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS). Editing for style includes ensuring that the rules of one school are consistently adhered.

 

Definitions derive from the Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, or Wikipedia.

The Importance of Editing

Editing-importance-HewettRipley-JackieLefebvreAs a writer, you are close to your work. Whether it is your life story, tips for succeeding in business, or a fiction, you have full authority of what you say and how you say it.

Despite this authority, you also have an obligation to your readers to give them the information in the most fluent and easily accessible way possible. How do you do this? Editing. You have to edit for word usage, punctuation, spelling, grammar, syntax, flow and structure. The English language is riddled with rules. These rules exist because it is a complex language. With Celtic, Germanic, Latin influences and more, English today is as unique as ever—especially when new words such as “selfie” are being added to the dictionary every year.

When the rules of the language are not followed, you risk confusion and frustration from your reader whose experience is constantly interrupted. Think about how annoying it is when you are really starting to enjoy a story and all of a sudden a typo appears: “he was bind to her lies.” Wait, bind?  A spellchecker will not catch this type of mistake, and a writer who is not careful may be blind to its existence. When you own a work and have spent so much time and energy on it, you gets so used to your own content that you can easily miss minor details. This is especially true for writers on a deadline, rushing their proofreading process. Someone approaching your work for the first time, will catch small mistakes easily.  Today, with the Internet riddled with mistakes and typos, most readers are forgiving of these types of errors. but you may lose your credibility, especially if you are trying to market yourself as the expert in your field.

While there are general rules for spelling, grammar and punctuation, citation rules are specific to different schools of thought. These include the Modern Languages Association (MLA) for non-fiction and research papers in the arts and humanities, American Psychological Association (APA) for the social and behavioral sciences, and Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), for fiction and non-fiction stories. I won’t get into the specifics of these styles, but you can find helpful resources online at:

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

Yet, editing does so much more than just checking for typos, spelling, punctuation and grammar. You have to know your audience and make sure your writing speaks to them. My word usage and voice are going to be different in a blog post for the general public than it will in a research paper for a peer-reviewed, academic journal. You, as a writer, have a unique voice, but there may be aspects to your writing that disrupt the flow of reading. For example, you may be a writer who enjoys repeatedly using introductory adjectives to tell your story: “Exhausted, he entered the house.” Or: “Lazily, she flopped onto the couch.” Although these sentences are grammatically correct, a reader who is constantly bombarded with them is going to get board fast. Again, as the writer, you may not recognize when certain types of phrases are being overused.

A good editor will not only recognize the basics of grammar, but will check your word usage, flow, sentence structure, and argument. A good editor will recognize when your story does not make sense. He or she will see when you assume that your readers knows more than they do, or—even worse—when you over-explain a point and assume you have an ignorant reader.

So all the best with your work and remember to get yourself a good editor!

 

*All examples are contrived.