How I Edit My Writing: My 4-Step Self-Editing Process

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Ever read something you wrote weeks or months ago and cringed at the awkward phrasing or obvious errors? It happens to the best of us! That feeling of wishing you’d polished it further is exactly why strong self-editing skills are crucial. While getting external feedback is helpful, the ability to identify and fix weaknesses in your writing is a game-changer. Think of self-editing as a superpower – it saves you time, boosts your confidence, and makes your message shine.

Over the years, I’ve developed a 4-step process that makes editing my writing far more efficient and effective. This framework, which I call EDIT, helps me transform rough drafts into polished pieces I’m proud to share. 

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Why a Self-Editing Framework Works

my self editing technique in 4 steps

The self-editing process can feel overwhelming, especially when staring down a lengthy draft. A structured framework like EDIT provides a roadmap, guiding you through specific stages that ensure you haven’t missed anything crucial. Each step builds upon the last, helping you transform your writing from good to great.

Let’s dive into the EDIT framework and see how it can elevate your self-editing skills! We’ll tackle each step in detail, providing clear strategies and actionable tips you can implement right away.

Step 1: Eliminate the Excess

The first step of the EDIT framework involves streamlining your writing by ruthlessly eliminating anything that weakens your message. This includes cutting out redundant phrases, unnecessary adverbs, filler words, and overused cliches. Think of it as chipping away excess material to reveal a clearer, more sculpted version of your ideas.

Here are some common culprits to look out for:

  • Redundancies: Phrases like “very unique” can become “unique.”
  • Unnecessary adverbs: Often, a stronger verb eliminates the need for adverbs. Instead of “he walked slowly,” consider “he ambled” or “he shuffled.”
  • Cliches: Overused phrases like “think outside the box” lose their impact. Aim for more original and specific language.

Removing excess verbiage doesn’t just improve the aesthetics of your writing; it makes it easier to read and ensures your message gets through to your audience without them stumbling over unnecessary words.

Action Step: Take a previous piece of your writing and highlight or underline any words or phrases that could be removed without changing your core meaning. Do you notice a pattern? Perhaps you tend to overuse certain adverbs or rely on cliches when you’re unsure of a better way to express yourself.

Step 2: Decrease (Reduce)

Once you’ve eliminated the obvious excess, focus on finding places where shortening and simplifying improve your writing without the complete removal of elements. This stage is about creating a smoother flow and maximizing clarity.

Look for opportunities to:

  • Condense lengthy sentences: Long, convoluted sentences can be tiring to read. Break them into shorter, more focused sentences where possible. Example: Instead of writing, “The project was delayed due to unexpected supply chain issues, and as a result, we had to adjust the timeline and inform stakeholders,” try “Unexpected supply chain issues delayed the project. We adjusted the timeline and informed stakeholders.”
  • Simplify jargon: If your audience isn’t familiar with industry-specific terms, replace them with plain language. This ensures a clear understanding regardless of the reader’s background knowledge.
  • Reduce passive voice (Revisited): While some passive voice is inevitable, look for places where it makes your writing feel less direct. Aim for a balance between active and passive voice for the most engaging prose.

Action Step: Select a paragraph from your work. See if there’s a way to decrease the word count by around 20% without losing any essential meaning. Did you find any long sentences to break down, jargon to simplify or instances of passive voice?

Step 3: Increase (Improve)

Now that your writing is leaner, this stage of the EDIT framework is where you enhance its overall quality and impact. It’s about finding ways to add clarity, engage your reader, and leave a lasting impression.

Here are some key strategies to focus on;

  • Strengthen verbs: Trade in weak or generic verbs for more vivid and specific ones. This simple shift makes your writing more dynamic. Example: Instead of “The report showed the results” try “The report revealed the results” or “The report highlighted the results.”
  • Employ sensory details: Where appropriate, engage your reader’s senses. Make your writing more immersive and memorable. Instead of “The room was hot,” try “A wave of heat washed over me as I opened the door.”
  • Vary sentence structure: Mix up short, direct sentences with longer, more flowing ones to add rhythm and keep your reader engaged. This prevents your writing from feeling monotonous.
  • Figurative Language: If it aligns with your writing style and audience, carefully introduce a touch of metaphor or simile to make your writing more memorable. However, use figurative language sparingly – a little goes a long way!
  • Specificity: Replace generic words with more precise terms whenever possible. This adds depth and nuance to your writing.

Action Step: Choose a bland or uninspiring sentence from a previous work. Rewrite it in three different ways, focusing on 1) stronger verbs 2) sensory details, and 3) varying sentence length. Which version has the most impact?

Step 4: Transform (Overhaul + Elevate)

This final stage of the EDIT framework takes your writing beyond basic mechanics and may require the most significant time investment. It’s where you assess the big picture and make changes that significantly raise the overall quality and impact of your work. 

Consider the following;

  • Flow and Structure: Do your ideas flow logically from one to the next? Would rearranging paragraphs, adding transitions, or reworking your introduction or conclusion create a smoother reading experience?
  • Voice and Tone: Does your writing have a consistent and authentic voice? Is the tone appropriate for your target audience and the purpose of the piece?
  • Argument/Narrative Arc: If your writing is persuasive or tells a story, is there a clear arc? Does tension or intrigue build effectively? Is your point or message conveyed with impact?
  • Fresh Perspective: Revisiting your draft after some time away can reveal areas needing restructuring, rewording, or even significant rewrites for maximum clarity and effectiveness. I’ve found this particularly true when it comes to the overall flow of my writing. Sometimes, simply shuffling sentences or paragraphs can make all the difference in ensuring my point unfolds logically and engagingly.

Action Step: Reread your entire piece of writing from start to finish. Instead of getting caught up in sentence-level edits, focus on the bigger picture. Does it hold your attention? Are there places where your point gets lost or an anecdote or example would deepen your message? Trust your gut and note any areas that need a transformative overhaul.

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Proofreading: The Final Polish

taking notes as you proofread during your self editing process

While the EDIT framework focuses on transforming the content and structure of your writing, it’s essential to remember that a polished piece is more than content and structure. It’s crucial to then proofread meticulously for typos, missed words, inconsistencies, and basic grammar errors before publishing.

Even if your ideas are strong, errors will undermine your credibility as a writer. In the same way, typos and incorrect punctuation can hinder clear communication and distract your reader from your message. Proofreading fixes all these and also signals a high level of professionalism and attention to detail. So how do you go about this?

Tips for Effective Proofreading

  • Take a Break: Step away from your draft for some time before proofreading. A fresh perspective helps you catch mistakes more easily.
  • Read Aloud: This forces you to slow down, increasing the likelihood of noticing errors your eyes might gloss over.
  • Tools: Use online tools like Grammarly to assist with error detection. You can also use AI tools like ChatGPT and Gemini. However, don’t rely on them solely, as there’s no replacement for human proofreading.
  • Focus: Proofread in a distraction-free environment, giving your full attention to the task. Read one sentence at a time for maximum accuracy.

Your Self-Editing Journey Starts Now

By adopting the EDIT framework, you’re well on your way to becoming a more confident and skilled writer. Remember, self-editing is an ongoing process. With practice and a commitment to improvement, you’ll transform your writing and achieve your desired impact.

Here’s a recap of the power of each EDIT stage;

  • Eliminate: Creates clear, concise writing.
  • Decrease: Enhances flow and readability.
  • Increase: Adds impact and engagement.
  • Transform: Elevates your work to the next level.

Ready to try the EDIT framework? Share your biggest editing struggles in the comments below. Do you find yourself overusing adverbs? Struggling to craft strong openings? Let’s learn from each other and discover solutions together!

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