Now you are waiting for the rest of the joke, right?
I love writing posts from the top of my head, do it all the time. An editor friend of mine once said about that first burst of creativity:
Write everything as if it will never be read.
There is something freeing about doing that kind of uncensored writing. After all, that is how some of your best ideas take wing.
And yet, there comes a time when we need to tame the beast. Trim the post, shape it, make it consumable. Memorable.
At different times in my writing career, I have edited my own stuff and I have been edited by others. When I was a copywriter with my own clients, I learned to self-edit. Now, as I work on my novel, I have hired a professional editor.
But if you have done much of your own writing, you probably know that taking your scissors to a piece (which is much of what editing is) can be a painful thing.
Do it anyway.
I no longer stand in the corner, holding my words to my chest, refusing to let them go, but I still mourn the loss of some of them. Hey, I’m normal.
The Three Types of Editing
What about those three editors I talked about? Each wears a different hat. Each looks at a specific set of things. Together they make your rough draft shine.
It can be tricky to do it all yourself, but when you master them, you will have kicked the quality of your blog posts up at least ten notches. I have reached the point where I can do all three in one round of edits, but when you start, you may want to do them separately, in this order:
The Developmental Editor
The focus here is on your ideas. The questions you should be asking:
What is my ‘big idea’?
This is the whole purpose of your post, the one thing you want your reader to take away. Write it on a Post It note and stick it to your computer screen. As you read your rough draft, delete points that do not relate to your big idea. Be ruthless!
How is the flow of my ideas?
Does one point lead logically to the next? Is my draft organized by major points, with corresponding sub-heads if possible? Is the transition between sub-points smooth? Reading your rough draft aloud at this point can help you identify spots that are awkward or cause you to stumble.
Do I have a consistent tone and voice?
Does it sound like me? Would a friend be able to tell this is me without seeing my name? The write-like-you-talk, but without all the ums, comes into play here.
The Line Editor
The line editor does just that. She goes line by line, looking for the way the writer uses language, analyzing for clarity and fluidity. Some of the things to consider in a line edit:
Did I use any clichés?
Look for overused words or sentences, like “outside the box,” “awesome,” “raising the bar,” and such.
Am I repeating myself?
Even if you are explaining the same concept in different ways, it’s still the same concept.
Have I removed all the jargon?
Get rid of any terms or acronyms that may be known in your field, but would be Greek to your readers—or that have different meanings for different people. For instance, IRA can stand for Individual Retirement Account, International Reading Association, the Irish Republican Army, an so on. It all depends on your reader’s frame of reference.
The Copy Editor
The job of the copy editor is to address the technical flaws. You might call her a high-end proofreader. Examples of things to look for in the rough draft:
Did I make mistakes in grammar?
Watch for things like incorrect word usage, verb tenses and subject-verb agreement.
Are my words all spelled, capitalized and hyphenated correctly?
Keep in mind that spell-checkers don’t always catch wrong use of homonyms (“their” vs “their,” for example).
What about my punctuation?
Pay particular attention to your use of commas, apostrophes and that pesky overuse of the exclamation point.
And just so you don’t feel that the title of this post was deceptive, I leave you with this short video, “A Writer and Three Script Editors Walk Into a Bar”: