Editing Your Writing Study Guide
Editing Your Writing
The worst thing you can do is censor yourself as the pencil hits the paper. You must not edit until you get it all on paper. - STEPHEN SONDHEIM (1930– ) AMERICAN COMPOSER AND LYRICIST
Now is the time in the writing process to imagine that you are the reader, or the teacher. Get out your red pencil and begin editing your work. Look closely; you're after small errors that make all the difference between sloppy and superb writing.
Now it is time to pay attention to the finer details of your writing; you will now learn how to edit, which is defined as the process of improving individual words and sentences in order to ensure they are conveying your exact meaning. This lesson will provide advice and tips on how to edit your document to make it the best it can be.
Where To Do The Editing
Are you writing with pen or pencil or are you composing your essay on the computer? Whichever way you do the original writing, it is best to do your editing on paper. When you're looking at the computer screen, it is often difficult to notice your errors. You'll catch more errors, and be better able to see the problems in your writing if you are doing your editing on paper, which is called hard copy.
When you're ready to edit, print out your document, pick up your pencil, and keep the following challenging questions in mind as you begin the editing process:
- How many unnecessary words can I find and cross out?
- How often have I repeated myself, saying the same thing unnecessarily just to fill up space?
- How many clichés have I used? Have I used slang or vulgar language inappropriately?
- Have I been pretentious, using the thesaurus to find fancy words?
- Have I remembered to vary my sentence structure?
If any of these questions strikes a chord of recognition, it is time to do some serious editing on your essay. Here are guidelines for eliminating the most common writing errors.
Bad Writing Habits to Avoid
The most common error that writers (even professionals) make is wordiness. This error usually results when a writer is trying to pad the essay, to make it longer to meet a word-count requirement. Be conscious of this bad habit and try to correct it. Wordiness is a sign of sloppy writing, and while you may be relieved that you've met your word-count requirement, your reader will be bored and critical of your tendency to jabber on and on. Note the difference here:
The students were in an uproar on account of the fact that the teacher had not been exactly cool and had given them an assignment to write essays over the weekend.
The students were in an uproar because the teacher had made a weekend writing assignment.
Repeating the same idea two or three times in different words is another sign of sloppy, unedited writing. If you take the time to present your idea well the first time, repeating it will only clutter up the page and interrupt the flow of your ideas. This error usually results when a writer gets stuck and can't think of what to say next. When you come upon such unnecessary repetitions in your writing, delete them. Your essay will be better for it.
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