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How to self-edit in a pinch

If you work in a small company and run the whole creative department on your own, or lead a team that creates dozens of documents every day, it's easy for mistakes to slip into our work. Not only do we make errors while writing, we often communicate poorly due to fatigue or distraction. While it’s undeniably best to get a third person to read your work, sometimes you just don’t have time or the help on hand.

For the first scenario, wherein you lack the time to self-edit, you might need to send something out immediately and can't wait on a team member to proofread it for you. Sometimes you have time, but no one to edit your work. Maybe you want to share something personal or confidential with a colleague but want to make sure your message is clear.

Whatever the reason, try these 4 self-editing hacks, to become a highly effective written communicator.

4 self-editing hacks, to become a highly effective written communicator:

1. Record yourself.

Grab your phone and activate the voice recorder. Read your work aloud and listen back to it. I have a useful but admittedly obsessive habit related to this: I listen back to my voice notes in my non-native language to Spanish-speaking friends. Of course, it’s too late to change anything, but I invariably notice some areas of pronunciation, pronouns, or precision that I could have improved. Next time, I'm more likely to catch this error while speaking or writing. This works for difficult emails too.

A long-haired writer sits on a park bench, recording a marketing tutorial.

Do remember in this case: the intonation you insert naturally to the wording needs to be reflected in the structure. For example, if you find yourself listing several similar statements, put them in bullets. If you realize you’re asking many things of the recipient but only really need one thing today, make sure you highlight that sentence with formatting.

2. Read it backwards.

When studying German, a language with complex rules around sentence structure, our teacher suggested we review our work starting from the last sentence and working towards the first. Reading backwards will encourage you to focus on one clause at a time and avoids you gliding over errors. This will also make you read slower, simply because it’s uncomfortable to read backwards, and this deliberate rallentando leads to more objective self-reviews.

3. Don’t be a hero.

There’s no need to take on the responsibility of something you can automate. So many people have taken the time to design apps that check your work for spelling, consistency, phrasing, simplicity, and grammar, why not take advantage of them? While these tools can’t compare to a professional editor, they’re a sound start.

There are countless tools to try, Autocrit and Grammarly are very popular. I like using ProWritingAid, which has a reliable review mechanism. It lets you copy and paste text onto the page and check for readability, sentence length, and so on. This makes it suitable for writers charged with running accounts without a support team or those how sporadically send mass communications.

A writer leans back on a reclining chair, wearing loose linen clothing and seeming relaxed.

4. Let it rest.

Just as bakers leave dough to rest, we should all leave our first draft for as long as possible before reviewing. At the least, aim to close the document, work on something else, and then come back to it. It’s even better to leave it overnight, you’d be surprised what you’ll discover in the second read-through.

Now you're ready to be your own editor! All this said, I still believe it's best for someone else to read anything you'll send out with sensitive information, or to a large audience. Even a friend or family member with no editorial training will be able to tell you what's unclear and suggest edits.

Want a professional editor to perfect your marketing writing? There's no need to tough it out alone!



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