Writing can be tough. No matter what you are writing, it can be a difficult task to do and to do well (especially if you are being graded on it)! With this being said, each person can run into different problems when they are writing, which can depend on anything from the type of writing you are doing to the environment you are in. I am no expert in this area, but have picked up on a few things from having to write so many of my own papers. At first, I never edited my papers. Luckily, I was able to still get good grades doing this, but quickly realized I could improve a lot more if I spent a bit of time editing. I’ll admit here that I really should spend more time editing these blog posts too, but it is a weakness of mine!
Taking Commentary with a Smile
Editing can seem like a scary task. It is even more scary if it is someone else’s work. I don’t know about you, but I can sometimes take criticism personally. I’m growing better at not doing that, but it is understandable that you may feel personally attacked when someone suggests an alteration. That piece of writing is your baby! You created it, nurtured it, and now someone is telling you that there is something wrong with it. It is understandable to be upset. However, I quickly realized some things about receiving literary criticism. Firstly, your editor really wants to help. Chances are they are a friend, family member, or being paid to help you! It takes a lot of time and effort to edit so I doubt someone would do it just to be mean. Secondly, just because someone says it needs to be changed doesn’t mean you need to listen. This is a good recognition to keep in check though. A lot of times, editors see things we can’t since we are so connected to our piece. With that being said, they are not always experts on the topic you are writing about and may not recognize the creative ways you are expressing yourself. Perhaps you chose to write in an ungrammatical way on purpose! An editor may not understand that, so feel free to assess what they suggest to change as objectively as possible and decide your course of action. Thirdly, having corrections in your work can lead you to new ideas and give you the ability to improve your piece. This is one reason I love feedback. Sometimes a comment will be made on a section of my paper that I admittedly think is weak. The editor leaves me a note and that note is enough inspiration to get my brain to sort out how to made my idea clearer or on how to better argue a point. Another example, is when an editor leaves a comment that I disagree with. It makes me think of more ways to prove the point I am arguing and to show them why my point is valid.
When the tables are turned
As a person who has edited many friends’ and even professor’s writing, I can understand how daunting a task it can be. It is a weird sensation when the tables turn and you are the one with red pen. However, don’t get overwhelmed! This is something you can handle. One thing to remember is to be confident in your abilities. Trust that you know how to write and if you have a question, look it up. Secondly, be gracious when you are editing someone’s paper. When you make a note, try to make it kind and perhaps use less demanding language. When I edit, even for professionals, I always try to make suggestions rather than outright claim something to be wrong. Another good tip is to make positive comments too. Was there something that really struck you as amazing? Let the writer know! Lastly, really make an effort to understand the author. Sometimes sentences don’t make sense, but sometimes it is lack of effort on the readers part. People tend to skim read, which is isn’t a good habit for editors. Read a sentence a few times if you need to try to understand. Though, if you have to read a sentence several times, there may be a problem.
Put on your spectacles
As beneficial as it is to have someone else edit your papers, sometimes that isn’t an option. If you have to edit your own work start by being object. Imagine you are someone else reading your piece. A good tip is to imagine you are someone who knows nothing about your topic or that you are the person the piece is for (ex. a teacher). From there, slowly read through your paper. I hate doing this, but try to read it out loud. You really do catch more mistakes this way, even if it is awkward. If your computer has the ability, you could get it to read your paper back to you. This way you can use your eyes and ears to look out for mistakes. If time allows, do something else for awhile or even a few days and then edit your work. The longer time you wait, the fresher your eyes will be to any mistakes you may have made. Lastly, try to print out your piece when you edit your own work. This may not always be possible since it costs money, but it is really helpful. Something about looking at your writing from a new perspective really helps catch mistakes.
Remember, writing takes practise and time. It is not something that comes to a person overnight. Don’t be afraid to scrap your writing as you create new drafts of your work. Throw the old drafts into the fire, relax in the glow of the fire, and keep going!
Good luck and happy writing!