A Few of My Favorite Things: Tips to Become a Better Editor
All editors are not writers, but all writers should be editors. I have been both at one time or another. It’s hard to edit your own work. That's a fact. I’ve found myself in the midst of numerous time constraints, without a second set of eyes to edit my work. It was all on me.
It's a hard pill to swallow when I don’t have a second set of eyes to review my work. Those times when I’ve walked away from the words, and then come back to them with fresh eyes, are never quite the same as having a new perspective. With a quarter of a century of experience under my belt, I’ve learned a thing or two that makes editing less tumultuous. Many writers say: 'take my advice I’m not using it.'
Cut yourself some slack if a mistake slips through the cracks. Deal with the embarrassment by acknowledging the error(s) and making the corrections. Often, we can use humor to edit our fumbles. CAVEAT: if you’ve erroneously passed along information about another person – DO NOT use humor unless you know them well enough to know they won’t be offended.
Select a style guide:
This isn’t on most small business owner’s radar and it should be. The two most predominant style guides are The Associated Press and Chicago Manual of Style. As a former journalist, I am a follower of AP Style. It just makes sense to me. Still, there are some style points I don’t observe and that’s your prerogative, too. Whatever you decide remember to be consistent. Selecting a style guide to follow is going to take a lot of the guess work out of editing.
Go Back to School:
Reacquaint yourself with grammar and punctuation. Don’t roll your eyes. This isn’t your seventh grade English class with Charlie Brown’s teacher at the lead. You can learn at your own speed from a plethora of online sources. Look for trustworthy sites like Grammar Girl.
Stop Second-Guessing Your Word Choice:
There’s a fine line between editing your material for long-winded, rambling sentences to over editing – or as I like to think of it: being a perfectionist. You don’t need a twenty-five-dollar word if a twenty-five cent word works. Keep it simple. And audience appropriate, which brings me to the next one:
Know Your Audience:
Whether you’re editing an email, marketing collateral or a business letter, think about your audience. Ensuring your content is suitable and valuable for your audience shows them you’re fully engaged with their needs/wants. It’s a great way to build trust with clients and prospective clients.
Listen to What Others Have to Say:
This requires you to check your ego at the door and be open to constructive criticism. You’ll quickly learn the difference between a personal attack and professional feedback. Don’t immediately write off comments as negative. Take what you like and leave the rest.
Do Your Homework:
Being a good editor begins with doing the legwork – reading, research and writing. Make sure you take robust notes when conducting research. Check and double check your facts. Don’t take shortcuts. It will show in your writing and editing. And repeat. Practice makes perfect – well it makes it easier. No one is perfect.
Lastly, slow down. In the words of John Wooden, the legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach: If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?