Fundamental Tips for Editing Your Own Writing

by Sandra Miller

There you are, thinking of great thoughts, gathering your essential information and using your laptop in writing creative pieces of work. But then you stumble upon the difficult part – editing.

If you think that editing another person’s paper is tough, it is much harder trying to revise your own writing. You may think that it should be easier since you are the one who wrote it, but the thing is, you might not be as open minded as you think you are. Since it is your own work you may still fall back upon what you think. Now that could be quite a challenge because with editing you have to look beyond what is on the paper. You have to find the errors and mistakes that should be changed. Another reason why editing your own write could be tough is because since you created those thoughts into words and sentences and you have read and reread the entire paper, it all makes sense to you. You understand the topic and you might not stray away from “your” thoughts and “your” ideas. It is easier for others to recognize the errors since they are basically starting from zero when they read your writing. Also, our eyes tend to play tricks on us. We might read over typos that we normally would catch in other people’s writings. Read over this sentence and see if you read throughout it without stopping:

“Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in what order the ltteers in a word are, the olny iprmoetnt thing is that frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can still raed it wouthit porbelm. This is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the word as a wlohe.”

Read through it, huh? That is one of the reasons why editing your own work could be a major pain. Self-editing is hard but necessary especially for those who do not have a copy editor waiting to review a paper we wrote. Here are a few fundamental guidelines in editing your own writing.

Write first!

Rule number one is NOT TO EDIT WHILE WRITING. Just get all your thoughts and ideas down and come back after to fix it.

Run spell check first

A good place to start editing is by utilizing spell check. You should not completely rely on it though with everything that you write because it cannot correct the thoughts and sentences entirely. Go ahead and run the spell checker before you begin editing yourself.

Relax and step away

After you are done writing, try stepping away from the paper. This is one of the best ways to recognize all the errors and mistakes because you are refreshing your mind. Try strolling around the house, fixing yourself a quick snack or getting some coffee. If you have enough time you could even let it wait until the next day to proofread it.

Format changes

This basically means, if you typed out your document, consider printing it out because you can actually catch more errors on paper instead of reading it on the computer screen. If you cannot print it out, then read it using “preview mode” or changing the font before editing.

Location changes

Besides the format changes, try changing your locations too. If you usually write in your bedroom or office, try editing your piece in the living room or at a coffee shop. Changing location could make a difference.

Read out loud

Reading the paper out load can actually make a big difference because sentences tend to sound difference from when you read it in your head.

Read all throughout the paper

Before you make edits, make sure to read all throughout your paper.

In conclusion:

Although editing can be challenging for many people especially when it is your paper, with the proper guidelines, you could still accomplish the task all on your own. Be attentive and focus on what you are doing so that you do not miss any errors and mistakes.


Sandra Miller is freelance short story author and graduate of Literature from the NYU, where she wrote for the students journal and tutored students in writing. She recommends authors use professional editing services Help.Plagtracker. Now she is writing her first YA novel.