Finally finished a piece of writing that you want to submit to an editor? Woohoo! But before you hit the ‘send’ button, be sure to follow these vital steps to edit your article.
STEP 1: You make an effort so your reader doesn’t have to.
First try to write your rough draft freely, without worrying too much about grammar, style and form. Being a critical left-brain editor from the start squeezes all the life out of a piece of writing. Afterwards, be ready to go over your work with a fine-toothed comb to sort out faulty writing.
STEP 2: Read your piece as soon as you finish it, and note any obvious changes that you’d like to make.
STEP 3: Let it rest. What works is to have several pieces going at the same time, so that you can have a cooling off period (a few days to weeks) in which you can gain some objectivity, and can more easily see the changes that are required for a specific piece.
STEP 4: Use your editing checklist:
Your Print-Out-and-Keep 20-Point Editing Checklist
1. Does your piece deliver what you promised in the lead?
2. Is your angle clear? Is it fresh?
3. Does the body flow logically from point to point?
4. Do you have smooth transitions between points?
5. Did you provide all the information required?
6. Have you supported every general statement with specifics?
7. Have you shown, using scenes, rather than just told?
8. Is your conclusion strong?
9. Have you written in active voice?
10. Have you built each sentence around a visual, active verb?
11. Does each verb have a tangible, concrete noun?
12. Have you chosen a simple word over a long, obscure one?
13. Have you kept your sentences short?
14. Have you chopped out each unnecessary word – especially adjectives – and met your word count?
15. Are your tenses consistent?
16. Is your point of view (POV) consistent throughout your piece? (i.e. third person/ first person….)
17. Do most of your sentences begin with a subject and verb, and subordinate information placed to the right?
18. Have you avoided sentences starting with “There was…” and “It is…”?
19. Have you kept adverbs to a minimum? (very, rather, a little, completely, really, nicely, and other words ending in –ly)
20. Have you varied your conjunction usage?
STEP 5: Read your writing out loud to listen for rhythm and flow.
STEP 6: Get someone else to read your work so that you can find out if your writing makes complete sense to them.
And voila! Your article should be polished and ready to impress.
About the Author
Nichola Meyer has taught Magazine Journalism at NZ Writers College, as well as the sister colleges, UK Writers College and SA Writers College since 2004. She is passionate about helping writers improve their craft, and the Writers’ College websites offer free writing tips and writing resources for journalists, as well as links to writing circles.
Her feature articles have appeared in magazines such as Your Child, Baby & Me, Femina, Essentials, O, The Oprah Magazine, among others.
About the Writers College
NZ Writers College, UK Writers College and SA Writers College offer over 30 specialised online writing courses, tutored by professional writers. Each course provides the writer with a comprehensive course manual, and one-to-one tuition from an expert writer in that field.