Some of the best writers are just great editors! A first draft is never your best work – it requires refinement and a few great editing techniques! Here are our top 20 article editing tips for writing engaging, professional content.
1. Edit at the End
It’s tempting to try and perfect your sentences and correct errors as you write. But this isn’t always the best idea. Editing as you write slows down the writing process and disrupts your creative flow. It is easier to fix a lousy sentence than to write a great one right away. Use your first draft to get as much information from your brain to paper. Later drafts can be used to revise errors and perfect language.
Editing after you’re finished writing also helps to maintain consistency. You can ensure the article flows and maintains stylistic rules throughout.
2. Edit With Fresh Eyes
Tired, preoccupied people don’t make great article editors. Instead of squeezing in the editing process, schedule in a set time to read over your work. Make sure you are in a location that is quiet with no distractions.
Remember to take breaks while editing. Complete a different task, or go for a walk, to reset after your first edit. When you return, your second look over will be more effective.
3. Read It Out Loud
Things that sound great in your head may sound strange when read out loud. Reading out loud uncovers difficult passages, and helps to check the rhythm of the writing. Revise sentences that don’t flow or are hard to understand when vocalised.
4. Get a Second Opinion
Staring at the same document for hours will make you blind to obvious errors. A second pair of eyes can spot mistakes faster and may also know some grammatical rules you weren’t aware of!
5. Use a Style Sheet
A style sheet is a list of styling rules to follow. This is important for long publications like yearbooks where there is a lot of text to keep track of. How we style numbers and dates, or use hyphens, is a matter of personal taste, which is why we must keep track of them! Here are some examples that require styling rules:
- The School Name: Should you write it in full? How is it capitalised and punctuated? Is it ever shortened?
- School Year Levels: Year Eight, year 8 or yr 8?
- School Terms: Term 3 or Term Three?
- Article Bylines: How are stories signed off? Should you include the student’s year group or the teacher’s department? How do you format the contributor’s name?
6. Question Your Word Choices
The more people who can read and understand your article, the better. School communities are diverse – people of all ages and language backgrounds will want to read the yearbook, so don’t alienate them with your words. We sometimes need to use large words, but always check if a simpler alternative would do the trick.
7. Avoid Chunky Paragraphs
Large paragraphs are a chore to read. It is easy to get lost in a mountain of text and lose understanding of the topic. Short paragraphs feel more lighthearted and are easier for the reader to digest. Make sure each new idea is the beginning of a new paragraph.
8. Shorten Long Sentences
Sentences under 20 words are stronger and easier to read. They also let the reader catch their breath and take a needed pause between points. Highlight long passages in your text and see if it reads better when commas are changed to fullstops!
A long sentence is sometimes necessary. Just make sure you follow it with a shorter sentence. Varying sentence length provides a nice rhythm to your article and keeps the reader engaged.
9. Reformat the Article
Document formatting can both hide and highlight errors. Once you think you’ve rid the article of errors, adjust the font or line spacing, or even print the document. Those once-missed mistakes may now be glaringly obvious! This is a great technique for spotting repeated words or accidental double spaces.
10. Pay Attention to Headings
We are likely to scan paragraphs meticulously while not giving headings a second look. It is easy to overlook errors in large, capitalised titles – so don’t forget to triple-check them!
11. Identify Duplicate Phrases
Some of the best article editing is just simplifying your work. Short words, short sentences, short paragraphs and short stories are often the most enjoyable to read.
Every sentence should serve a purpose and introduce a new idea. If we aren’t careful, it’s easy to write three sentences that say more or less the same thing. Scan the text for phrases that aren’t serving a purpose, or merge two weak sentences into one strong one. Succinct writing is confident writing, and keeps the story flowing!
12. Condense Long Quotes
Quotes bring stories to life and provide personal perspectives on events and issues. It’s a good idea to include quotes in yearbook articles, but they aren’t always as succinct as we would hope. This is especially true of spoken quotes.
Don’t be afraid to cut a quote in half or remove a middle section if it isn’t providing value or context. Just make sure that the essence of the quote remains.
13. Use Editing Software
14. Use the Right Language
UK and US English have different rules and ways of spelling words. You may overlook basic errors if your computer is set to the incorrect version of English!
Tell yearbook contributors to check their language settings from the get go to avoid mistakes and maintain consistency.
15. Check for Popular Errors
Here are some common word errors to lookout for:
- Mixing up is and are,
- Alot that should be a lot,
- Would of should be would have,
- Which requires a comma beforehand when placed in the middle of a sentence. That does not.
Some of the sneakiest typos are real words used incorrectly. These may slip by unnoticed by spellcheck. Here are some words to look out for:
16. Axe the Adverbs
Adverbs add a descriptive element to actions:
- ‘The girl ran slowly’
- ‘The man was really angry’
While they help to paint a picture for the reader, too many adverbs look cluttered and lazy. Scan the text for adverbs (they are often descriptive words ending in -ly) and ask yourself if they add value. Instead of using adverbs, search for a stronger verb that can get your point across:
- ‘The girl jogged’
- ‘The man was furious’
17. Check for Double Spaces
A subtle and hard to spot error is the presence of two spaces instead of one. This may happen after rearranging or removing sentences. Some contributors may also double space at the beginning of a sentence – a habit picked up from typewriter days. Use the search feature located in the document and press the spacebar twice. This will highlight any double spaces in the text.
18. Use Appropriate Apostrophes
Apostrophes come with a lot of rules and can be confusing to get right. As they are small, they are also easy to miss! Always double-check apostrophe rules and don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion.
19. Edit Three Times
Run through the writing twice to check for technical accuracy and a third time for sense. The final edit is to make sure the story flows, is compelling and includes the necessary ‘who, what, when, where and why‘.
20. Retain Your Personality!
There are lots of article editing rules to follow but you don’t need to rid your work of personality and flair! Even the most simple articles should be compelling not clinical. Make sure your work feels authentic and inject facts that will interest your audience.