Editing your own work 😬

Posted February 23, 2021 in
Content Content

John Becker

Revenue and Features Editor at IMPACT

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Hey content writers!

I imagine some of us out here are armies of one — serving as both writer and editor in our organizations

What are your tips for editing your own work? How do you bring a fresh set of eyes to something you yourself have written?

Liz Moorehead ? Adam Stahl ? Ramona Sukhraj ? Jennifer Barrell ? Stephanie Hurd ? A penny for your thoughts.
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Blake Cormier
Hey! "Army of one" content manager here too. I've done a couple of things to try to get a fresh look at the content that I write.

One is to wait at least 24 hours after I'm done writing before reading it again -- there's been plenty of times where some clunky phrasing or other problem jumps out at me.

I also like to re-read the content after it has been formatted and put into its final form. So for a blog post, I'll put it into WordPress and open it up in preview mode before hitting "publish". Something about the change in font, colors, and background tricks my brain into thinking I'm reading something totally new. It's also a good opportunity to make sure I didn't miss any links or images that I should have included.

Finally, if a piece of content was requested or suggested by another member of our team, or I used them as a SME resource, I'll have them read it over before publishing. I'll ask them if it makes sense, if I hit all of the important points, and that I didn't take (too many) creative liberties with the facts of the subject. I mostly work with tech people who don't fancy themselves writers, so usually I get a "Yep looks good!", but it's a good sanity check before publishing. (Bonus hint: make sure to get them to use the Track Changes or Comments feature in Word or Google Docs to specify exactly what needs to be changed or re-worked. Saves lots of back and forth.)
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Elle Spears
Agreed! Awesome points! I change my font to Calibri Light and double space my sentences and I have become such a better writer because of it. 
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John Becker
I love talking about fonts ;)
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John Becker
Blake Cormier Great points! I totally agree with you about how a change of font somehow makes it seem new!

Sounds like you're doing great work. 🙂
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Elle Spears
The best advice ever given to me was, read your work out loud. If you sound too wordy, robotic, longwinded, you'll get all those answers from reading the content out loud.

I usually take a five-minute break from what I'm working on, then read my doc while asking myself: 
  1. Who is my audience?
  2. Does my tone match my audience?
  3. Does my audience know what they are reading/the purpose of my content by the third or fourth sentence?
  4. Would I want to read my content? 
  5. Which part of the content do I not vibe with?

If I don't like my answers, then it's time for more editing. 

If the content is for websites or emails, I'll put the docs in a test environment and read the content from there. Sometimes you just need that change of scenery. 

For grammar, spelling and etc., I paste my work into every imaginable checker source out there. More often than not I don't find any errors but it just gives me mental peace. LOL. 

Lastly, I keep a list of my screw-ups (words I commonly miss, errors that have happened, reminders to myself to check XZY). It's just a little gift from past me to future me. 
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John Becker
Great points,  Elle Spears  ! Thanks for sharing your processes!
Lia Parisyan
I'm a good writer, but I've become the editor. It's outside my comfort zone. 

How I'm surviving...

  • Grammarly Pro
  • Reading what I wrote to non-technical family members
  • Editing from the last sentence to the first
  • Forgiving myself for dangling modifiers 

    English is my second language, so I've always been self-conscious about writing, but that's what made me pursue it as a profession — to grow.

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Connor DeLaney
Editing from last to first?? Like reading it backward Lia Parisyan ? I've never thought of that but what a great way to flip the script and force you to focus in a different way.
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Lia Parisyan
Yes, my 7th grade English teacher, Mr. Lon Blais, taught me that trick. 
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Adam Stahl
Hello all,

I think most of my go-to strategies have already been covered in other answers but for me:

  • Reading things out loud - this has been much easier since working from home. When proofreading I'll always read everything out loud and if something strikes my ear funny, more often than not it needs adjustment.

  • Reading from bottom to top - after a first read through or two, I'll also read from bottom to top. This has been helpful for catching typos and grammar issues especially after working on a a single piece of content for a significant amount of time.

  • Avoid writing towards the end of the day - when I'm able, I'll tackle the bulk of my content writing work earlier in the day. It just seems to work better for me.

  • Walk away from the writing - when I think my content is done, I'll still close it out completely, doing a different task or go for a walk - anything to let my mind and eyes switch gears. Then I'll come back to that writing and give it another read through with fresh eyes.

  • Have a clean read through before publishing - This may be my own idiosyncrasy but I have to have a full, clean read through of a piece of content with no hiccups before I'm comfortable publishing it. If I'm reading through and catch something that needs an edit I will make the change then start over from the top.
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