A guide to editing your own work

After you write, take a break. Then divvy up tasks into manageable chunks such as spellchecking, eliminating clichés, adding transitions and improving flow.

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Even if you can afford to hire an outside editor, you’ll save money if you can trim and polish your copy first. Here’s how to approach the task:

Start by taking a break

If you’re writing a long-form project—such as a book or thesis—I suggest you take six weeks before you start editing anything you’ve written.

For shorter projects, such as blog entries, take a day if you can. If that’s not possible, break for at least an hour. Go for lunch, work on something totally different, or talk with a colleague.

After your break, divide the task into two main parts: substantive and copy editing. Which you attack first is a matter of preference. Doing the substantive editing first can save you time: Why clean up what you’re going to toss out?

Some prefer to make the copy clean before the substantive shoveling.

Copy editing tasks

Begin by running your piece through free readability statistics software. I suggest starting with Online-Utility.org. Just copy and paste your text into the box on its page, and hit the “process text” button.

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