7 Tricks For Editing Your Own Work

Shhh… Don’t tell the boss, but I’m going to give you some tricks for editing your own work.

Lol. J/K. He’s totally on board with what I’m about to do.

Yes, Penmob editors are happy to point out that typo in your second paragraph and tell you you should be single spacing after periods now – BUT where our editors really earn their keep is by making deep, developmental edits. The stuff you can’t catch in your own writing because your craft is still developing or you’re too close to your work.

At Penmob, your revision process will have a workshop vibe, so you get high value notes from your team of editors. Because we believe you’re smart and you’d totally catch that typo… Eventually. Here are some tricks to find it even faster.

The Challenge
WIRED breaks down why you can read your piece a gazillion times and still miss a super obvious typo. Basically, your brain is designed to make meaning out of whatever you’re reading. So, if it needs to flip two letters around or plug in a missing verb, it’ll do it without you even noticing to give you a seamless reading experience. Which is cool, except your readers’ brains don’t have the same advantage because their brains didn’t write your story. So, they’ll trip over all of those minor issues while reading your writing.

The Tricks
To get around this issue, you have to trick your brain into thinking that you’re reading your writing for the first time. You can do this by:

  1. Print your work. Shifting from reading your work on the screen to on the page will help shake things up.
  2. Fiddle with the font. Changing the size, color and type of font you use can help reset mind when reading over a piece for the thousandth time.
  3. Setting change. Sometimes I’ll copy and paste a piece from a word doc into my email. The change of scenery can give me fresh eyes.
  4. Put it in reverse. Begin reading your piece from the last sentence. Your mind won’t be as focused on making meaning of the plot, so you can pay more attention to each individual word.
  5. Read out loud. I always recommend reading your work out loud to get rid of clunky sentences, but it also slows you down slightly and can help you catch misbehaving words.
  6. Give it a rest. Put your piece aside. Take anywhere from a few days to a few months to give yourself a chance to look at your piece differently. Even when I’m working on a deadline, I try to finish a piece in the evening or return to it in the morning. At the very least, I’ll get up and do something physical like go check the mail or make lunch before giving a piece a final once over.
  7. Divide and conquer. Copy and paste one paragraph at a time into its own separate work document. With more white space on the screen, you can dial in better on the limited number of words in front of you.

Your Turn
What are some tricks you’ve found helpful for editing your own work? Share them with us on Twitter: @Pen_Mob. You can also tweet us questions or suggestions for posts you’d like to read on our blog.