Top 6 Tips for Editing Your Own Writing
There is a famous saying among writers: “all writing is re-writing.” This means that writing the first draft is only the beginning; to improve your work, you should re-write and edit as much as necessary. This is just as true for research papers as it is for any other kind of writing.
All researchers know the many challenges involved in creating a successful research paper. To give your article the best chance of being accepted by your target journal, and having the impact you hope for, careful editing is essential. You should aim to be clear and concise in your academic writing, while also avoiding missing anything out or repeating yourself. It is important to avoid grammar and spelling mistakes, which might make editors think little care has been taken with the paper.
Researchers writing in a language that is not their native tongue can face particular challenges. Even if you are proficient in a second language, it can still be difficult to spot mistakes, and to find the words to convey what you really want to say. Ideally, you might find a native-speaker colleague or friend to check your work for you. However, all researchers are busy – and even native speakers are not necessarily good editors! One alternative could be to find to do this for you.
Be Your Own Editor
The ability to edit your own work is a valuable skill for all researchers. While journal editors will of course edit your paper, you should try to make your work as “finished” as possible before you submit it.
Where should you start? It is helpful to have a plan to follow when you proofread and edit your own work. This will ensure that you do not miss anything out. It could even increase your chances of a successful submission. While editing may feel like a lengthy process at first, once you get used to it you will get faster – and it is definitely a worthwhile investment.
Every writer takes a slightly different approach to editing their own work. However, there are some important steps you should always try to remember.
Tips for Editing Your Own Work
- Take a break
It might seem strange that the first thing you should do is take a break! But it is important to give yourself time away from your writing, once you have completed the first draft. Then, when you return, you will be able to look at it with fresh eyes. This means you will be able to spot mistakes you missed before. You can also check the overall structure of your work – does it make sense? Have you repeated yourself? If so, now is the time to fix those things.
- Read aloud
Read your work aloud; to yourself, or to a friend or colleague (be brave!) This makes it much easier to spot mistakes or parts that are not clear. If you find yourself struggling to read out a sentence, a reader will likely struggle with it, too.
- Remember your reader
This is something that is very important for researchers. Sometimes, we can forget that our readers might not know as much about our subject as we do. For your work to have an impact, it needs to be understood. Have you made your writing too complex? Can it be simplified? Do you need to explain anything in more detail? Which leads neatly to our next point…
- Limit jargon
Jargon – specialist words or phrases that are difficult for others to understand – can weigh heavily on your work. While some jargon is unavoidable in academic writing, make sure you only use it when it is necessary. Consider whether there is a simpler way to say something, without losing meaning. The same goes for clichés – phrases that are so stale, they no longer have an impact. Avoiding jargon and clichés will make your work much more readable.
- Be active
Wherever possible, try to avoid using passive voice. The passive voice – where you make the object of an action into the subject of the sentence – tends to drain energy from your writing. Occasionally, the passive voice is the right choice – but it is usually much better to re-phrase your sentence to make it active. Most standard grammar checkers can help you to identify the passive voice in your work.
- Be brave
As a writer, one of the hardest things to do is to cut your own work – something that is often described as “killing your darlings.” When you have finished your first draft, you will probably find that you have written too much, rather than too little. Now is the time to be ruthless. Words, sentences, paragraphs: if it isn’t necessary, or doesn’t add anything to your article, cut it out. This makes your writing far more impactful.
One final thing: when you have tackled all the above steps, take a break, then read through your work one more time. Check that the structure flows, and run a final spelling and grammar check.
Where to Get Help
Editing your own work can be daunting, especially if you are not working in your first language. Don’t worry – there are to help you.
You might also consider using an editing service like Trinka. Trinka is an advanced, AI-based grammar and language corrector. Unlike other services, Trinka is specifically designed for academic and technical writing – which, as we all know, has its own unique challenges.
Trinka does far more than simply check your spelling and grammar. It also looks at style, tone and word choice. The end result is polished, professional, error-free writing. You also have the option to choose either US or UK English, so your work will be well prepared for many leading international journals.
If you need more help and advice on writing and editing, why not take a look at Trinka’s many useful posts.
What are your experiences of editing your own work? Do you have any more helpful tips for other researchers?