Why it’s Difficult to Edit your Writing

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Image by Xaverian Hawks via Flickr

Why are we so much more likely to miss simple mistakes in our own writing than anyone else’s writing?

Proofreading or editing something that you’re so familiar with poses several challenges:

  1. You have a deep understanding of the information and project’s goal. This makes it harder to judge how well the writing conveys the information or reaches the goals.
  2. While crafting the project, you become immersed in the nuances of your personal writing style. As a result, you may lose sight of small errors or ways to make the writing clearer to others.
  3. Crafting great writing is hard work! You may not have the necessary energy to edit the project well.

Many people that I work with say that they are so focused on the “big picture” that they don’t see the small errors of their own writing. Not only is this frustrating, it can be embarrassing! Here are a few tips for editing and proofreading better:

  • Don’t look at the writing for at least one full day. You have to take a break to gain a fresh perspective on the writing and the details. This is the most important thing you can do to catch spelling, grammar and punctuation errors, as well as reevaluate the writing’s flow.
  • Print it out. Editing a hard copy is more effective – especially for checking grammar and punctuation. Plus, it’s easier on your eyes.
  • Read every word out loud. “Listen” to your writing to determine if it’s clear and flows smoothly. This is the best way to improve sentence structures and transitions.
  • Edit multiple times. Go through the document once to improve syntax, organization and sentence structure. Second, check the details, including spelling. Then edit once more for good measure.
  • Have a professional editor or trusted colleague proofread the project. This is the best way to ensure your writing is clear and free of any errors.
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