The Ultimate Editing Checklist for Every Writer
Editing is the magic button that can make or mar your work; it can show the beauty of your research or reveal the ugly skeletons of your laxity. The choice is yours! How often do you return from the grocery store rebuking yourself for forgetting to get an item you have always craved for? Yes, it happens to everyone especially if you don’t fancy the idea of making a list of your needs. It takes about five minutes to create a checklist but we often trivialize its importance. A checklist is a lifesaver!
Are you ready to polish your work? All you need is a toolbox of tweaks and it’s embedded in this checklist. It’s a goldmine for all who care to learn.
Today, I have made an audacious attempt to give you an ultimate editing checklist that you can use for your writing projects. It’s simple to use and void of complex theories of semantics or mechanics. If you are a freelance writer or you write for fun, this checklist will come in handy. You need an editing checklist to save you from unnecessary embarrassment especially when you are in a rush to complete a project.
When you have a piece stained with errors and mistakes, your readers tag you either as unserious or unprofessional. A single error can make a reader lose interest in your writing. It’s in your interest to ensure that you present a written piece that reflects your professionalism and diligence. Writers fall into the trap of unpardonable errors because only a few consider editing as a job on its own.
Writing is beautiful and spending a lot of time on research is commendable. What justifies the number of resources you have invested in your writing is the output. However, the output is at the mercy of editing and therefore editing can’t be shoved aside. It’s the most crucial stage of your writing process.
The checklist will handle the basic things you should watch out for when editing; it will fine-tune the quality of your work. You can download a copy for your personal use in your future writing projects.
Before you use the checklist for the editing of your work, do these two things:
– Take a break – this helps you to check the written piece with fresh eyes.
– If possible, use the hard copy (printed on paper) for your editing.
- Avoided tricky subject and verb agreement traps, such as “One of the girls are (is) running” or “Neither of the tires are (is) good.” I have also done the same for other indefinite pronouns such as everybody, anybody, either, each and any.
- Chosen the right pronouns for my sentences. For example: “Sam and me (I) ate pizza” or “The boxer slapped he (him) and I (me).”
- Paid attention to the three-fold purpose of an apostrophe. (1)”The Obama’s lodge is for sale.” (shows possession) (2)”Don’t” (form contractions) and (3)”It’s high time you stopped using if’s, and’s, or but’s.” (to pluralize special words)
- Avoided pluralizing nouns that have only a singular form, such as furniture, feedback, cutlery, wheat, happiness, scenery, news, advice, lingerie, information, luggage, and bread.
- Deleted all unconventional or shorthand abbreviations, such as “Ped Xing (Pedestrian Crossing)” or “OK (okay).”
- Spelled out a recurring acronym at the first point of its introduction.
- Written out all numbers less than 10 in full, numbers 10 and above were represented numerically. For example: “There were eight balls on the pitch during the soccer game” and “The king has 20 wives in his palace.”
- Substituted “said” with powerful and acceptable verbs such as: replied, whispered, answered, asked, commented, shouted, murmured, demanded, and inquired.
- Crossed out unnecessary and extraneous words especially glaring redundancies. For example: “stand up,” “sit down,” “clap your hands,” “end result,” “basic fundamentals/essentials,” “false pretense,” “final outcome,” “unexpected surprise,” “unintended mistake,” and “repeat again“
- Removed unneeded sentences.
- Deleted “that” except when it is needed for coherence.
- Rewritten lengthy sentences to achieve more clarity.
- Improved my punctuation.
- Replaced long words with short ones, such as “Heidi is not smart (dull),” “Bill did not remember (forgot) the Super Bowl Sunday.” Another example of brevity is: “U.S. President Donald Trump …” instead of “Donald Trump, who is the president of the United States.”
- Deleted all the common metaphors and similes used in print. For example: “life is a journey,” “the apple of my eyes” and “ideas in motion.”
- Substituted all the passive sentences with active ones. For example: “The broken cup was replaced by Martin” should be “Martin replaced the broken cup.”
- Replaced all complex and ambiguous words with simple words.
- Used strong nouns and verbs instead of overusing adjectives and adverbs.
- Read it out loud; observe its flow and smoothness. (Let this be the last thing you do)
After attending to the checklist, you can use a grammar spell checker software such as Grammarly
or Microsoft Word Spellchecker. They detect some errors but I will advise you to be careful because they could be unreliable. For example, a spellchecker can’t distinguish between nights
, and fast
– provided each is spelled correctly.
Therefore, it’s advisable that you go through the text meticulously until you are satisfied with the flow and clarity of your words. You can use Hemingway
as an editing tool for removing complex and passive sentences from your manuscript before hitting the “publish” button.
For extensive studying on editing, I recommend The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. The book is my grammar bible and I think every serious writer should have a personal copy.
Also published on Medium.