During a writing project for school it is common for the teacher to require you to switch papers with a classmate so that a fresh pair of eyes can catch any little mistakes or make suggestions to improve readability.
That's because your teachers know that it can be difficult to edit yourself. We tend to glaze right over our own work!
One of the most difficult parts of editing yourself is knowing when to do it, and when not to do it. It is natural for a writer to want to write well the first time.
As we write, we tend to rework troublesome sentences or constantly check for grammatical errors. However, this "editing interference" can hinder the writing process.
In order to function as both a writer and an editor, you must be able to separate the two.
First do your job as the writer and creator, then take a step back and take a look at your work from an editing point of view. This way you'll be able to read with a fresh perspective.
Once you begin the editing process, there are several tricks that can help you catch the little errors in typing and improve the fluidity of your work.
- Make Printouts. Often students want to reread their work from the computer screen and fix it as they go. However, this can actually slow the editing process down. When you print out your work, you can mark corrections and notes more quickly as you read.
- Read out loud. Sometimes when we read, our brain can fill in gaps without our knowledge. If we are missing a word somewhere, especially in our own writing, our mind will automatically fill in the blank.
- Try thinking like your audience. You know yourself and your intentions, but try to see your work from a totally different perspective. How might your parents interpret your work? How would a teacher, fellow student, or brother?
- Watch your timing. While you might want to take a break between writing and editing, don't take too much time. You want your eyes and your mind to be fresh, but you don't want to lose interest in your work. It is easy to get distracted by other projects and just want to be done with your writing. The more time you let go by, the more likely you are to let it go.
- Reorder. It is easy to become too familiar with your work and thus harder to catch simple mistakes. Try reading each sentence as a separate entity, in any order. You can start with the last sentence and work your way to the beginning.
Once you feel you've done all you can on your own, it is still helpful to have an outside perspective. Letting a peer read your work will not only help you with your present work, but will help you in your future endeavors as well.
You can discover your strengths and weaknesses and develop them over time. Also, being able to receive creative criticism is one of the most challenging and valuable lessons of all.
Whether you are looking to writing as a career or just to get through school, there will always be someone grading or editing your work.