As VP Communication it’s easy to come under scrutiny when most tasks are performed in writing. There’s something to be said for well-written work. There’s also something to be said for errors you can’t believe you missed the full 10 times you went over your writing.
Three years focusing on improving my writing and I still make mistakes. Recently I left all my commas outside the quotation marks in an assignment. An embarrassing oversight and a huge blow to my ego when it was used as an example for the class.
We can learn from our mistakes and somehow I don’t think I’ll ever forget to check my commas again. While I am far from perfection, here are some tips I follow when editing. What are yours?
1. Take a break
If you’re afforded the time, leave what you’re working on and come back to it later. Fresh eyes catch different mistakes.
2. Read for structure
Does your writing flow? Read it aloud to ensure ideas transition seamlessly.
3. Check for active voice
Have you been able to make your point? Use active voice to make your writing clear and concise.
4. Read backwards
Possibly the best way to check for misspelled words. It can be easy to scan over scramble words or ones with an extra letter when we read from start to finish. Going backwards forces you to check each word and see what looks irregular.
5. One step at a time
Focus on one edit at a time. You’ll be more likely to catch specific errors.
6. It vs. their
We write about companies frequently in case study exercises. Determine whether the subject should be singular or plural (hint: companies are singular).
7. Finder, your new best friend
Repeating the same word or idea over and over makes for dull writing. Liven up your writing and use new descriptors. Search every term you want to eliminate or check for use.
My top five: of, is, by, was, that
8. Don’t trust spellcheck
Spellcheck on Word and CP Style are sometimes at odds. Always refer to your bible (I mean, Stylebook).
Its, it’s, its’. One does not exist. Do you know which one?
9. Have someone else read it
Have a friend review your writing. If you’re working in a group and doing the final edit, make sure your team can go over your copy before the due date. No one person in a group should be held accountable for a missed error.
10. Final formatting
Are your references in check? Refer to formatting guidelines to ensure you’ve used the correct font, sizing, spacing and margins.