Self-Editing: Can You Really Do It?

In last week’s class for Backpack Your Book, I talked about when (and how!) to hire a professional editor. Even though I work as an editor for others, I KNOW that it’s impossible to catch every single mistake…

111715-EditsAnd some “mistakes” are really a matter of preference or perception. Like the Oxford Comma!

But the question is, can you really self-edit your manuscript?


And no…

There’s a lot you can do to catch things that need to be edited. Especially when it comes to grammar, spelling, or punctuation. But for structural problems, flow, and things not making sense, it’s always a good idea to have a second set of (trained!) eyes.

Let’s see how good your editing skills are! See if you can spot the problems:

  • Most public campgrounds in have paths between sites to the bathrooms, trash, etc.
  • When the sun begins to sweat you’ll get a chill.
  • A fist aid kit is a must for any camping trip; you just don’t know when you’ll get a splinter.
  • I recommend packing in a duffle big.
  • And never underestimate the importance of a pair of slip of shoes.
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None of the sentences above have any grammatical error that will be caught by a spelling or grammar checker. It’s up to a real editor who carefully reads each sentence to find them.

111715-GrammarSo how do you spot things like this in your own writing?

  1. Read the manuscript backwards. Start with the last sentence (reading it from start to finish). And then the second to last sentence; the third to last sentence, etc. By reading the manuscript this way, you’re able to focus on one sentence at a time and your brain isn’t “assuming” it knows what will come next.
  2. Print the entire manuscript, grab a cuppa something and red pen, and go to town. Looking at the project in a different format really causes errors to jump out.
  3. Read it aloud. It’s not a quick (or even entertaining) process, but hearing it can help identify mistakes and sentences that don’t flow.

After your manuscript meets your personal editing standards, be sure to pass it along to a copy editor to go over it again. No matter how good you are at self-editing, a copy editor will find mistakes!

Be respectful to your reader and hire an #editor for your #book. Click To Tweet

The biggest advantage to carefully self-editing before passing it off to an editor is that you know the editor will have an easier time of editing. There might only be half a dozen changes on a page, instead of half a dozen in a paragraph!

Many editors (myself included) look at a sample before settling on a per-page rate. So the better you self-edit, the lower your fee for professional editing can be.

Kim Galloway
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