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Common Editing Mistakes to Avoid

Editing is a crucial part of creating a written product, but can often feel tedious and unrewarding. Once we have the words on the page, our inclination is to be finished! And, just when we take that deep breath…we remember we have a lot of nitpicking to do before we’re finally finished, and the nitpicking can take as long as the writing! Sometimes our desire to get this part over as quickly as possible can lead to common mistakes that end up costing us more time…and patience. With a few tweaks to our process, we can avoid these snags to smooth and focused editing.

Pitfall 1: Tinkering.

Changing a word here, a phrase there; take this sentence out, then put it back; add a few more adjectives, and on into infinity. Constant tinkering can really hold up the editing process. As writers, we have to accept that when we put our words out into the world, we will always find just one more thing we could have done better. 

Solution: Simplify!

Most of the time, truly less IS more. After a bit of justified tinkering, cut yourself off! Approach your draft with a business-like eye and have a focused objective of what you are editing for (the next two solutions help with this too).

Pitfall 2: Rushing.

So often with editing, I hear the phrase “power through.” We decide, come hail or high water, we WILL finish editing in one sitting, even if it means we are up all night. This strategy, while admirable, works against what good editing is built on: a calm, focused, refreshed eye and brain. 

Solution: Take breaks.

For best editing results, taking breaks works in your favor. Reading a passage, then taking a break for a few hours, or even a day or so, then coming back to it, yields best results for noticing all those little mistakes we want to fix before putting our stamp on a final draft. While this adds time to the process, and more time is almost painful when the end is so near, in the long run, the patience and deliberation result in a near perfect final product.

Pitfall 3: Generalizing.

Pitfall 3 usually goes hand in hand with pitfall 2, since both have to do with the urgency we feel at the end of the writing process. Generalizing occurs when we try to edit for everything at once. Reading our draft and looking for a general ‘everything’ usually means we miss a lot. Our brains do not know what to look for, so much is overlooked. After all the blood, sweat, and tears that can quite literally go into getting our ideas to the page, nothing could be worse than a lot of sloppy little mistakes that were missed in the editing process.

Solution: Focus.

Read the draft several times, each time looking for only one or two specific things. For example: read through #1: punctuation only; read through #2: verb usage and transitions; read through #3: adjective and adverb usage. While this seems to add time to the process, it may actually save time in the long run (sadly, I learned this the hard way).

If the process seems harder than it should be or longer than the time you can dedicate to it, rely on others to help you. Em and a Pen offers editing services and can help smoothly get your product across the finish line. Through an organized, calm, and positive approach, editing can go from painful to productive and navigate around the common pitfalls writers fall into when editing.