Tips for Effective Editing

| Posted in Writing.

business_man writing


The importance of editing cannot be stressed enough. Judicious editing can turn a bad piece of writing into a passable piece of writing, and an average piece of writing into a good piece of writing. It’s best to get someone else to edit your work as they will be more objective, but for those of you who can’t afford an editor here are some tips so that you can do it for yourself.


  • Always write in the active voice.
  • Vary sentence length.
  • Don’t use the same words again and again.
  • Make sure that sentences flow logically.
  • Read your writing out loud.
  • Get someone else to read your writing.
  • Use spell check (but don’t rely solely on it).
  • Make a list of the mistakes you make most often and then go back and do a separate search for these.
  • Makes sure that page numbers are correct.
  • Make sure that the font is the same style throughout the document.
  • Make sure that any tables, pictures, and graphs, etc. are not upside down.
  • Let you piece of writing sit for a bit before you attempt to edit it, as this will help you see it with clearer eyes.
  • Make sure that people’s names have been spelled correctly. There is nothing worse than getting someone’s name wrong.
  • Make a list of commonly confused words or malapropisms. Practice-practise, affect-effect, adverse-averse, for example, and make sure that you eliminate all these errors in your writing.
  • Keep prepositions to a minimum.
  • Watch out for mixed metaphors. For example, ”I smell a rat. Let’s nip it in the bud”.
  • Watch out for spoonerisms. For example, “A well boiled icicle” instead of “A well oiled bicycle”.
  • Watch out for typos.
  • Try to keep paragraphs to around the same length.
  • Make sure that stylistic decisions (like whether your write numbers out in full or not) are consistent throughout the text.
  • Activate your verbs. Use active verbs rather than adjectives. For example, “She galloped towards the train” is better than “She ran towards the train as fast as she could”.
  • Avoid dangling modifiers. For example “Reaching the station, the sun came out” should be changed to: “As I reached the station the sun came out”.
  • When using reported speech write in the past tense as this makes reading smoother.

Make sure that sentence beginnings and endings are powerful as these are what make the biggest impression on the reader.

For some more great tips see Sharon Schuman’s Ten Tips for Effective Editing and Editing Tips for Effective Writing by Walter McDougall and Tomoharu Nishino.

Have we missed anything? What other tips do you have for effective editing? We’d love to hear from you.


Written by Zara Jade Bosman

Image credit: kristja, Royalty Free, via stock.xchng


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