How to edit your own writing

Posted on August 14, 2015 by Nikki Lane

Noticing mistakes in your own written work is much harder than seeing mistakes in someone else’s. You know what you meant to write, you understand your own phrasing and intonation, and you are used to your own spelling mistakes so your brain tends to auto-correct any errors.

The problem is other people’s brains won’t auto-correct your mistakes and there are few things more unprofessional than a grammatical or spelling mistake in a document.

If you want your business to make the best possible impression, you need to make sure that all of your written work, whether it be emails, pitches for new business, planning documents, marketing, your blog, invoices etc, are impeccable.

Plus, with so many other businesses getting sloppy about their written work, this is a great way to help your business stand out from the crowd.

So, learning how to edit your own writing is imperative… but what can you do to make sure your writing is error free, particularly if you work alone?

  1. When you have finished working on a document have a break and do something else, then come back and re-read your work. You’re more likely to find mistakes than if you proof read it as soon as you finish. It is even better if you can wait until the next day to re-read it.
  2. When re-reading your work, saying it out loud can help identify mistakes and bits that aren’t clear. It forces your brain to slow down and actually think about the words so you’ll find anything that needs to be changed much more easily.
  3. A computer spell check is mostly accurate but make sure you go through its suggestions change by change. We all have words that we habitually misspell and spell check is brilliant at picking them up (plus any typos) but it is also notorious for not recognising names or unusual words, so make sure you use your discretion and not use the ‘accept all changes’ button.
  4. Print out your work. It is much harder to pick up mistakes when they are on a screen. Instead print out your work and then place a ruler or piece of paper under the line you are reading – this will slow your eye down and you are more likely to find mistakes.
  5. Use of an online dictionary or thesaurus can be helpful – use them to check words and phrases but also to find alternatives if you find yourself overusing a word.
  6. If in doubt get someone else to cast an eye over your work. This could be a friend, colleague or even your partner. The problem with proof reading your own work is that you know what you meant, so even if they don’t pick up any errors they will be able to reassure you that you have made your point.

If you find you’re struggling with your business writing it might be worth considering employing a freelance writer to help you. They don’t have to be expensive and it might be a better use of your time and resources than struggling with your writing and being dissatisfied with the finished product.

Do you struggle with your business writing?

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