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How to Become a Better Editor: 7 Tips to Improve Your Editing Skills

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 1 min read

Novelists use many different kinds of writing skills in their journey from idea to completed book. One skill that can be overlooked by first-time writers, though, is editing. Many of today’s authors issue books via self-publishing, which can often mean that those authors edit their own work rather than use a professional editor. Great writers who self-edit handle broad conceptual editing to copyediting, proofreading, and eventually rewriting. Self-editing skills are important for any level of writer, whether you are working with a dedicating editing team at a major publishing house, with a freelance editor, or are publishing your own writing.



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7 Tips for Becoming a Better Editor

Behind every great writer is a great editor. Whether you’re working on your first novel or your twentieth, you can always strive to become a better editor. Here are some great editing tips to improve your writing:

  1. Keep an editing checklist. Track the writing issues you will look out for on every pass. Some are obvious, like grammatical errors. Others are less so, like the consistency of character throughout a story.
  2. Use digital tools. Most writing software has a function that allows you to track changes. This will help you keep your edits organized.
  3. Rely on style guides. When you copy edit, keep an authoritative style guide handy, like the Chicago Manual of Style. A thesaurus (either digital or printed) can also be quite useful at times.
  4. Do a read-through before you get into the details. When you’re editing completed the first draft, read through the entire manuscript before making line edits. That first read should be for big picture clarity, a consistent writing style, and to scan for glaring omissions. Do this before re-writing anything.
  5. Edit line-by-line. Do a line edit, which means going through each line to check the basics of spelling, grammar, and syntax.
  6. Use the active voice. Look for ways to replace passive voice verbs with active voice verbs.
  7. Break up long sentences. Making sentences shorter is often an improvement. See if you can reduce word count with each draft.

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