Okay by this point, you should have written something…anything…
You should also have resources at your disposal about the writing process from so-called “experts.”
Now comes what I actually find to be both the most rewarding and the most challenging part of the writing process—editing what you have written.
The amount of editing and revision that you will want to do on whatever you have written will obviously depend on what you have written and who will see what you have written.
But I have learned to look at the revision and editing process much like the zoom-in function on Mapquest…first look at the overall picture, and then zoom into different lenses as needed.
So let’s being with the 100% zoom-in lens…
Print out a hard copy of what you have written, and then approach the article as if you were either a reader reading this article for the very first time or a teacher grading a student’s work, not the person who has actually written it.
It is also a good idea to take the time to read the paper out loud, checking for run-on sentences, awkward pauses and transitions, unclear ideas, and other small grammatical and organization issues.
Another good idea would be to have someone else read what you have written and offer feedback. A new reader will be able to help you catch mistakes that you might have overlooked…
Examine the entire article that you have written, asking yourself “big questions” such as…
- Am I writing this from the right point of view?
- Am I writing this with the right tone of voice?
- Do all of the ideas in the article make sense?
- Do any sections or sentences need to be explained further?
- Does the article have a specific purpose?
- Does the article accomplish its intended purpose?
- Have you made your best points obviously stand out?
- Is any additional information needed?
- Is it appropriate for my target audiences?
- Is it clear?
- Is it organized?
- Is there any irrelevant information that should be deleted?
- What is my “bottom line”?
- What would you say is the most successful part of your article? Why?
The final step at this 100% level is to make sure that you are completely satisfied with your conclusion.
Now zoom down to the 75% Level and examine your paragraphs…
- Are my paragraphs in the right order?
- Does each paragraph have a clear topic sentence?
- Does each paragraph have enough evidence to support this topic?
- Should any of my paragraphs be eliminated completely?
Then zoom down to the 50% level and examine your sentences…
- Do all of my sentences actually make sense?
- Do all of my sentences move easily from one sentence to the next?
- Do all of my sentences start with short, simple words and phrases?
- Do any of my sentences have introductory clauses that are too long?
- Do any of my sentences seem out of context?
…and the 25% Level to look at the specific words…
- Are any of the words I have used simply “extra” words that I can delete?
- Are any of the words I have used too vague?
- Are any of the words I have used actually misused?
…and finally the 10% level to look at nitty-gritty details.
- Commas—Make sure that any sentences with two main clauses are connected with a comma and a conjunction, separated with a semicolon, or rewritten as two sentences.
- Omitted or repeated words—Read the paper aloud slowly to make sure you haven’t missed or repeated any words.
- Parallelism-Look through your paper for series of items and make sure these items are in parallel form.
- Pronouns—Stop at each pronoun. Look for the noun that the pronoun replaces. If you can’t find the noun, insert a noun earlier in the writing or change the pronoun to a noun. If you do find a noun, make sure the noun and pronoun agree in both number and person.
- Sentence Fragments—Make sure each sentence has a subject and a complete verb. Use “helping verbs” if you need to. Make sure that dependent clauses are not written as complete sentences.
- Spelling—Move a pencil under each line of text to help you to see each word individually. Do not simply assume that using spell-check will automatically fix every misspelled or misused word in the paper.There is no shame in actually checking with a dictionary.
- Subject/Verb Agreement—Find the subject and verb that goes with the subject in each sentence. Make sure that if the subject is plural, the verb is also plural.
Obviously there’s no reason to edit every single thing that you write to this extreme, but being the obsessive-compulsive person that I am, I have found that having a series of questions like this helps my ADHD brain to stay focused as I read something that I have already written and read too many times to count already.