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Be Your Own Best Editor

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A quick and easy guide for freelance editors and writers on improving their skills, presented at the national conference of the American Copy Editors Society.

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Be Your Own Best Editor

  2. 2. The ACES program that shows how to make lifeeasier for yourself.(And who doesn’t need that?)
  3. 3. Because life has changed drastically for writers andeditors, in less than a decade.Electronic media technologies improved, endingprint media’s dominance among readers.Of course, print media’s mistakes in managing itsfuture hastened that decline.
  4. 4. The “anyone can publish” movement spawned a raftof mainstream-media imitators/substitutes.They wanted to be fast, nimble. Copy editing wasan extra step; it slowed them down. Furthermore,copy editors were not seen as “content creators.”To save time, and money, new and old mediadecided, “Let the writers edit their own copy.”
  5. 5. This strategyalso has costthousands ofjournaliststheir jobs ─ anestimated40,000 jobssince 2007.* Source: Paper Cuts
  6. 6. Yet, we read more words than ever …
  7. 7. And with more words comes more chancesto make errors. …
  8. 8. So, this may beturning into agolden age forcopy editing.Businesses realizegood grammarbuilds credibility.
  9. 9. Still, nobody’s rushing to hire copy editors. (We’ll never see a copy desk of this kind or this size again.)
  10. 10. The new paradigm:It’s all upto you.(Writing and editing)
  11. 11. The writing part may be easy for you.But what about the editing?Despite what many people believe, it’s not“the opposite” of writing.The two talents require distinct skills.
  12. 12. Writing and editing are right brain / left brain functions. You must shut off one to do the other, even for an instant.*Source:
  13. 13. So, get your mind ─ both sides of it ─ in theproper condition to edit.The better you prepare, the better you serveyour writing, your readers/viewers,and yourself.
  14. 14. Step 1: Be accountable• Shut off the social media• Make a to-do list of what you want to accomplish in a certain time frame.
  15. 15. Step 2: Get comfortableThis may take awhile. Find a spacewhere you can work without interruption for long periods.Seek silence, or seek noise. Sometimes, our efforts atblotting out ambient sound help us focus.
  16. 16. Step 3: Admit your weaknessesKeep a second list ─ one that contains your pet peeves aboutthe language, words you never remember to spell correctly,grammar rules that flummox you, or anything you considera hindrance to smooth, consistent workflow.
  17. 17. Step 4: Research hard, write and edit easyThe more work you do before sitting down to write, the lesspainful it will be to write or edit.“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” ─ Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, metal detector, hydrofoil and wireless communications (among other things)
  18. 18. Step 5: Keep it simpleIf rewriting is your responsibility, just oneidea per sentence and two beats per word.Simplicity begets clarity.
  19. 19. Step 6: Plan for at least 3 edits• One for spelling• One for structure• One for sense (If you must, highlight all the punctuation.)
  20. 20. Step 7: Change your perspective• Alter the font size, background color.• Read the story backward.• Change browsers / platforms.
  21. 21. Step 8: SkimYou should skim the material before editing but also after.This helps you understand the material and see whetheryour changes affected that understanding.Bill Cosby says, “Think of your eyes as magnets. Force them tomove fast. Sweep them across each and every line of type.Pick up only a few key words in each line.”
  22. 22. Step 9: Read it out loudGive your eyes a rest; let yourears do the work. They maypick up tone and inflectionthe eyes miss.Or, find a friend to read it aloud to you.
  23. 23. Step 10: Leave no doubt; print it outSometimes we see words and sentences betteron paper than on a screen.
  24. 24. Step 11: Step awayPut time and distancebetween yourself andthe work, to clear yourmind of it.
  25. 25. Other editing advice:Be patient ─ Good work takes time; give yourself enough of it.Be honest with yourself ─ Admit when you have a problem.Don’t fall in love with the words ─ You may have to killsome of them. (Good writing is mostly rewriting.)Don’t fall in love with tech ─ Spellcheck can help, and hinder.
  26. 26. Last but not least …Pretend you’re the audience(Put yourselfin theirposition.)