Speakers, coaches, and authors, when it comes to editing and proofreading, there are many factors to consider. As writers, our main goal is to make sure our message is being communicated clearly and effectively. The purpose of the writing project should be known from the very beginning. But what happens when poor grammar and minor mistakes are in the way? Our message is lost and the errors distract our readers. To protect yourself from common writing errors and keep your audience interested, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Always write in the active voice
Active and passive voice can be used in any type of writing. However, active voice is the clearest. As you proofread your writing, pay attention to your verb usage; is the subject of the sentence “performing” the action or is it “receiving” the action? Keep your subject at the beginning of the sentence instead of the end to alleviate this problem and maintain a consistent level of writing:
1. Passive voice: Those shoes were purchased by me.
2. Active voice: I purchased those shoes.
Now is your chance to be the investigative reporter lurking inside of you! (Is that just my fantasy?) After you have checked for grammar and spelling errors, read your piece of writing again and focus on your overall message. Ask yourself questions like these:
1. Did I provide enough details to prove my purpose?
2. Do I sound credible? Have I included enough research or factual information to prove my points?
3. Is there extra information I can remove?
4. Did I contradict my own ideas?
Read your writing out loud
If you read your piece of writing silently, it is very easy to ignore grammar mistakes. Because we know our intentions and what we are trying to say, it is easy for us to ignore these errors. Once we slow down and read our writing out loud, we find those mistakes that could distract the audience. We can hear the missing words, mechanical issues, redundancies, etc. You don’t have to read your project to anyone else, just yourself.
Check for redundancies
Have you ever found yourself repeating words or ideas in your writing? This happens to us all! As you read through your first draft, highlight any words that repeat or sentences that are similar to one another. You may find that you can combine your ideas into one sentence and use a thesaurus to change your word choice. (The thesaurus is my best friend!)
This probably sounds like a strange tip, but it is very useful when trying to catch spelling mistakes. By reading backwards, you are able to isolate your language and how it is used. You will notice individual words instead of your key ideas. Keep in mind this will not help if you are checking for gaps in the content.
These are just a few of my tips and tricks to help you during the editing process. Try a few or all of them to see which will work best for you! Just remember the most important rule of thumb: state your purpose clearly to help your audience understand your writing, and remember to have fun.