How to Self-Edit

The human brain takes no nonsense. As long as you feed it with logical information, it is happy. As soon as you start feeding it with nonsense, it tries to decipher the nonsense and turn it into logic.

Read the following sentence:

I dnot konw why but I ahve no porlbem uderntsaning tihis snetcne.

Most people will realize in the wink of an eye what this sentence is saying: I don’t know why but I have no problem understanding this sentence.

That is what makes the task of self-editing your work so difficult. As you scan over something that you have written, you tend to miss mistakes that you may have made. You simply read what is not there because the brain expects it to be there.

How do you deliver work that is as free from mistakes as you can possibly get it?
There are some techniques that you may use:

* The first is to read it out loud. In that way you do not rely on the eye alone to send information to the brain. The ear also kicks in. This is very helpful in identifying awkward sentence construction.

* Some people use a technique called read in reverse. You start at the end of the sentence and read word for word backwards. This is a way of taking the brain’s tendency to correct out of the equation. The technique is especially useful for finding spelling mistakes.

* A common mistake writers make is to finish writing and then immediately go through the work to make sure everything is right. The information is just too fresh in your mind. Where possible, wait a few days or a week before you edit your own work.

* A very helpful tip many established writers will give you is to cut and not to add. As their writing flows along, most writers tend to drone on a bit. When editing your work, be on the lookout for unnecessary sentences and words. Do not hesitate to take them out.

* We live in the 21st century and we should use the tools available to us. Using effective voice recognition software is a way of catching mistakes while you are ‘writing’, especially for those of us who are not 10 finger typists. As you talk, the words appear on the screen, which makes it easier to spot mistakes. The really good programs on the market have an amazing degree of accuracy.

When editing, be ruthless. Criticize yourself. If you have made a mistake, admit it and correct it.

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