“Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.” —Patricia Fuller
Editing is something that we all do almost daily. From blog posts to a book chapter, a grocery list to an email, proofreading and revising is an important step.
If you want the best results for your writing, you need to edit your work. No matter your industry or audience, typos are going to set you back a few paces, not to mention more egregious errors like inconsistencies in information or plot. Simply put, errors show that you’re not paying attention and that you don’t care enough. Errors also steal away some of your credibility.
Deciding what level of editing you need — professional, self-editing, a trusted friend’s or mentor’s once-over — depends on what type of writing you are working on.
Most bloggers self-edit and do it quite successfully. The secret here is to leave some time before writing your blog post and hitting publish or scheduling the post to be published. I write a post then save it as a draft. The next day I’ll revisit the post with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective and clean it up, proofread, then hit publish. Waiting 24-hours to self-edit is important because it gives your brain time to reset and refresh. Also, reading your draft later will reveal any holes in whatever information you want to convey.
Important Marketing Emails & Letters (queries, letters of introduction, pitches)
A trusted friend or mentor is your best bet here. Who you are emailing and the topic of the email will determine who should proofread. Now, most people’s networks are not large enough to have an expert in each field available on-call — that’s fine! Generally, anyone who works in communications, marketing, or deals with hiring will be a great person to ask to proofread your important emails. The best way to go about this, especially if you plan on sending out more than a few pitches or queries, is to create a stock email that you can insert company specifics as needed. This way, your helper only needs to read through one email, and you can use that email over and over and over again, as long as you’re careful about replacing the important text, like the name of who you’re emailing! (I’ve made that mistake before… Ugh, so embarrassing!)
Long-form Writing (books, essays & articles, short stories)
Here is where you definitely want to pull in a professional — and I’m not talking about your friend who teaches 7th grade English (although I’m sure she’s wonderful!). A professional editor will not only clean up your writing, but will also ensure that your entire piece flows, is cohesive and consistent, and that the language and voice are well-suited for your intended audience. Keep in mind that different editors do different types of editing: some only copyedit while others offer developmental and substantive editing. And, as always, ask for a sample edit to be sure that what you want and what the editor thinks your writing needs are the same!
What do you think? How do you know when it’s time to call in a few favors or hire an editor?