The final step after writing is editing. It is important to self-edit your writing before sending to a professional editor. This is to save time and ensure the important work is not hindered by correction of little errors that could be avoided.
Other times, you might have edited your work well and still got feedback of minute errors you had missed.
You wonder why you did not see them earlier. There are answers to that, but that’s not the focus.
The focus is on common mistakes you can make in editing and how to avoid them.
- Repetitions: You may say you repeat for emphasis but do you really? Repetition is not only seen in sentence formation. It could be starting your sentences with the same pronouns, nouns or gerunds (-ing). You can avoid that by using varying sentence structures.
- Clichés: These are specific words that have become overused, and whose meanings are lost. They are often from figures of speech especially metaphors. Examples include: ‘heart of stone’, ‘tie up loose ends’.
When you use clichés, it shows you are lazy or you lack creativity. Use more imagery to paint scenes instead.
- Redundant phrases and sentences: Instead of ‘send advance information’, you should ‘notify’. ‘Ask’, not ‘ask a question’. Also, reduce the use of these words – of, the, in, on, at, that, is. You must cut off those extra words that add no meaning to your sentences.For instance, use this sentence: ‘With my good grades, I will achieve my dream of attending the University of Edinburgh.’
In place of: ‘Due to the fact that I got good grades, my dream of becoming a student of the University of Edinburgh is almost achieved.’
- Overuse of adjectives and adverbs: This violates the number one rule of ‘show, and not tell’. The presence of adjectives and adverbs in your writing is an alert for weak verbs. Rather than showing the action, it gives long descriptions that bore readers. Solve this by using strong ‘showing’ verbs.
Example: ‘She gulped down the drink’, instead of ‘she drank quickly’.
- Too long or too short sentences: Long sentences are hard to follow. Short sentences leave your readers hanging. Your sentences should be within the 11 to 18 word range, or you mix it up. And if you have to use either long or short sentences, make sure it’s not continuous.
- Passive voice: The passive voice is the one which follows the pattern: object, verb, and subject. For example: the newspaper was dropped by the postman. This voice often evokes a feeling of narration which readers do not like. Fix this by using the active voice. Thus, ‘the post man dropped the newspaper’.
- Writing only one draft: Your first draft is not good enough – no matter how excellent you are, or the accolades you’ve received. You need a second, even third draft.
If you avoid these errors as you edit, your writing will improve.