The Art of Perfect Editing – The Urban Writers

The Art of Perfect Editing

by The Urban Writers

Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited is unarguably a masterpiece revolving around the exploration of desire, duty, and memory. But the version that most of us have read is quite different than the original book from 1945.

In the beginning, Waugh was dismissive of the critique, declaring it “embittered by class resentment.” A few years later, he decided to increase the number of books from two to three and revised some famous lines. The edited version was comparatively toned down because Waugh believed the needs of time had evolved.

The time might not always call for it, but editing is necessary for all content, from manuscripts to blogs.

Editing vs Proofreaing

What Is Editing?

Editing means revisiting what you wrote, organizing it, and presenting it to the readers as clearly as possible. It is not a one-time thing; in fact, a series of revisions that begin when you complete your first draft and continue until you finalize it.

There is no rigid way to edit your work; it all depends on the type of content and goal behind writing it. However, roughly, it includes:

  • Self-Editing: The first step is to check for areas of improvement in your own work and make changes before sending it away for professional editing. Remember that self-editing is not enough in itself. For finer content, you need a professional editor to see your work.
  • Beta Reading: Once you have improved your work, you send it to beta readers who read it from an outsider’s perspective and provide their suggestions. The draft comes back, and you make the changes again and forward it for a professional review.
  • Structural Editing: At this stage, the matter reaches a professional developmental editor who will review your ideas and how you present them. They might point out some loopholes or understated areas in your writing.
  • Line Editing: The line editors or copy editors do not comment on your story. Typically, they focus more on things like general word usage, style, tone, and overall clarity.
  • Proofing: After making the proposed changes, you check your draft for basic errors and inconsistencies.

Are Editing and Proofreading the Same Things?

Most of us think of correcting surface errors such as grammar, spelling, and punctuation when we hear the word editing, which is not the case. Proofreading itself is a distinct stage in the process of content production. It requires a nuanced understanding and a good grip on the language, but it still differs from editing.

While editing enhances the bigger picture, proofreading makes minor and aesthetic changes in the document. You might often see amateurs using the terms editing and proofreading interchangeably, but do not get confused; they are two different sides of the coin.

At the same time, many novice writers run their text through AI tools assuming they have proofread it already. In actuality, effective and proper proofreading goes beyond what a computer’s basic spelling or grammar-checking app can do for you.

It is always better to have someone more knowledgeable and skilled to proofread or edit for you. It is because the human brain is naturally better at picking errors, but you would not register your own mistakes.

Why Is Editing Important for Content?

Many novice writers question, “How does editing affect my book or make it any different?”

As a writer, I would also not want my work to go through several weeks of screening until I learn how it helps me.

For starters, thorough editing of your work makes it more readable and clear. After all, you write for your readers, and your months of efforts will wash down the drain if it does not hit them where it should.

Furthermore, it helps you grow as a professional and improves your art, thus benefitting your credibility. You would not have to read your book for the umpteenth time and focus that energy on more creative ideas.

What to Do While Editing?


Stick to Your Goals

You will obviously have goals planned before you start writing the content in the first place. If you do not have a plan, you better whip up one to save yourself from frustration later.

There must have been some thought process behind devising those goals, so having them as a roadmap will help you with your editing and proofreading.

The tip is to stick to your original thought process behind writing the given piece. By this, I mean shape and tame it around the idea of its inception.

Edit the Big Picture First

You would not want to spend hours fixing and pruning an excerpt of your document only to realize later that it does not sit right. It is also one of those few common mistakes every writer makes until they understand the correct way.

Before proofreading content for small errors, replacements, and fixes, think of it as a bigger picture. Consider the whole text and decide what you want to keep, scrape off, or elaborate further. At this stage, you might also feel like moving some of the paragraphs or subsections around and changing their order.

In simpler words, the aim is to focus on sentences, paragraphs, and even sections rather than individual words.

Revisit Your Opening Paragraphs

You might have heard about forming the right first impression quite a number of times; it is the same for editing as well.

Your opening paragraphs should be inviting enough to get the reader hooked to read further. It is preferable to revisit your introductory paragraphs once at the beginning of your editing process and once at the end.

At this stage, if you think that the start is not strong enough, erase and re-write it from scratch. Remember not to drag too much about your inspiration to write the following content because that comes across as very off-putting sometimes.

Sprinkle Some Fancy Words

Have you read something crisp and with the right hint of flavorful words? The smart ones never agonize overachieving such kind of perfection within their first draft.

It does not matter how meticulously you edited it; if you read your previous work, you are highly likely to find better words to replace the existing ones.

Creative content editing for authors is majorly about adding perfect words, mind-boggling phrases, and interesting connotations. I am quite certain that most of the amazing dialogues and greatest punchlines from your favorite reads were not there before the editing stage.

Mop Up the Useless Information

Speaking of the right words, you must not forget to add the right information too. After erasing the repetitive and incorrect, you might want to address the vagueness in your writing.

For this, read your draft thoroughly and see what areas need more details. If it is a phenomenon that you think an average person might not be aware of, provide authentic facts about it. Do not include anything without reading about it thoroughly beforehand.

It is another reason why editing for authors matters a lot, as it helps establish the credibility of their penmanship.

What not to Do When Editing?

Editing for success

Don’t Edit While Writing

Almost every writer has made the mistake of editing while writing at least once at the beginning of their career. I am certain that there might have been multiple times when you would have written a piece, scrapped it, and started all over again.

Having a rough outline of what you want to address in your writing helps, but it is high time you shun the habit of trying to perfect your pieces while you write. In addition to being it hampers your creativity and slows down the process.

Editing and proofreading content is a whole different procedure, and the best time to do it is after you have finished working on your first draft. The goal is never to hit backspace while typing and only to progress forward.

Don’t Jump Into Editing Right Away

Blogging is relatively quicker because companies need to post a specific number of pieces in a month. So, it is understandable that you will sit and edit your writing as soon as you complete drafting.

However, it is advisable to take a break and let it sit for a while if you have enough time. A day or night away is perfect, but sometimes, even a lunch break is enough.

Coming back to your document after a break will enable you to see it from a fresh perspective. The errors will be easier to spot because you will not be closer to the content. Likewise, you would know better what parts to rearrange, scrape out, or improve.

Don’t Expect Software to Catch Everything

As we talked about, editing and proofreading are two distinct stages of content creation. Most emerging writers underestimate the need for proofreading content until they realize the strain it puts on their writing.

You might be in a hurry, but spellchecking tools are not your best friends. So, do not expect these tools to catch minor errors for you and proofread your content.

After editing, take a break, and then look for inconsistencies and missing punctuation marks and fill them in. You are more likely to spot weak areas if you read your document out loud to yourself; try that.

In Summary

Great writers are pros at storytelling and build characters and plots in a way that keeps readers hooked. But, they must also master the art of editing, which is a non-negotiable requirement for the publication of any content.

When you expect readers to read your book, you expect their time and energy. Before holding such expectations, you must ensure your work is worth their attention.

None of the literary works you hold in your hands today became masterpieces that they are only after their first drafts. They kept sitting on an editor's tabletop for weeks or months.


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