Monday, July 15, 2013

7 Steps to Effective Copy-Editing

Most writers need an Intellgent Editer [misspellings intentional]
Like most writers, I loathe editing. It is boring, time-consuming – but necessary. Copy-editing requires detachment. Which is difficult, since we all tend to get attached to our work – an issue I addressed earlier using the lens of Behavioral Economics' IKEA Effect.

Humans struggle with new tasks: assuming I would edit better as I grew more experienced. This seems universal. But not with editing. Months later, however, I still sucked at copy-editing.

I realized a truism: “I had no process for efficient and effective editing.” And processes at work – from checklists to project management flow charts – make me more effective than many.

But how do you bring in rational process so it does not kill the creative sparkle? I think I succeeded. But it required discovering a free online copy-editor called Pro Writing Aid (http://prowritingaid.com/).

Copy-Editing Process (Using Pro Writing Aid)

Though it seems mechanical, stick to the process. It focuses you on how your text reads -- not what you think it says.

1. Select a small sample of rough-draft text.

2. Eliminate Overused Words -- Like "could," and "feel/ feeling/ felt"

  • Locate your Overused Words and correct what you can.  ANALYZE corrected text.
  • If Overused Wordshas green check-mark, continue.
  • If not, make the necessary corrections. Repeat until clear.

3. Check your Writing Style 

Follow Writer's Workshop saws like "Lose the adverbs, and use stronger verbs" and "Avoid the passive voice."

 [FYI. The adverbs section is not 100% reliable. It counts all words ending in “-ly,” such as “jelly," as adverbs.] 
  • Locate the errors in your Writing Style Report. Correct what you can. ANALYZE corrected text.
  • Check both Overused and Writing Style
  • This begins the cycle of editing, and ensuring that your edits did not break what you fixed earlier. 
  • If both have green check-marks, continue.
  • If not, make the necessary corrections. Repeat until clear.

4. Tighten Sticky Sentences -- which are wordy and hard-to-read.

  • Check Sticky Sentences. Make necessary corrections.ANALYZE corrected text.
  • Check prior reports along with this report -- OverusedWriting Style and Sticky Sentences.
  • If all have green check-mark, continue.
  • If not, make the necessary corrections based on the reports. Repeat until clear.

5. Eliminate Clichés & Redundancies.

Don't say "little infant" -- "infant" suffices. And avoid cliches, like "par for the course." Instead, keep your writing unique and less predictable. 

  • Check Clichés & Redundancies. Make necessary corrections. ANALYZE corrected text.
  • Check prior reports along with this report -- OverusedWriting Style, Sticky, and Clichés. 
  • If all have green check-mark, continue.
  • If not, make the necessary corrections based on the reports. Repeat until clear.

6. Swap names and brief descriptions for Pronouns to add clarity. 

Many pronouns are ambiguous – is “he” Frank or Jimmy? Substitute formal names or brief descriptions -- like "the musician" -- for pronouns as often as necessary.
  • Check Pronouns. Make necessary corrections. ANALYZE corrected text.
  • Check prior reports along with this report -- OverusedWriting Style, Sticky, Clichés, and Prounouns.
  • If all have green check-mark, continue.
  • If not, make the necessary corrections based on the reports. Repeat until clear.

7. Print the text – or add to an eReader.

Read through and make sure it works. Indicate any needed changes, and then rewrite.

Once you make your final changes, run through the process again. Each time through, there are fewer errors, and the writing emerges more clearly.

One final point: a machine is not a person.

The program cannot tell you if a topic is well argued. It does not know that you used the word “heroin” – a drug – instead of the “heroine” – a female hero. Nor can it tell you that a character is stereotyped, or your story dull. Nor does it know if your ad copy is persuasive.

That is your job as a writer.

But a tool like Pro Writing Aid really makes the dullest job any indie writer faces – editing – a lot easier.

Image CreditMajor Clanger via Flickr



1 comment:

  1. A dissertation editing service provides professional editing and proofreading services to improve your dissertation. Even if you have completed your rough draft dissertation, a professional dissertation editing service can make all the difference in the final quality of your dissertation. paraphrasing mla

    ReplyDelete