How to Edit a Paper? A Step-by-Step Guide


How to Edit a Paper? A Step-by-Step Guide

Text editing means a clean-up of a particular material. Unlike proofreading, editing of a text is limited to work on language, style, presentation of thoughts, accuracy and logic of statement, as well as the depth of content. The main goal of this process is to polish material, make it maximum readable and interesting.
If you need to edit many texts and do it often, this post is right for you. One who works a lot with texts knows everything about torturing stuck, search for the most optimum solution, tortures related to the situations when a piece of a text is perfectly written but does not fit in the general concept, and it is necessary to remove it. Also, there are search for triggers and rhythm. Our tips will help you look for inspiration, pay attention to something important, and… edit, edit, and once again edit.
Publication of an article can be compared with a rocket launch. Let’s imagine that we are Elon Musk, and we need to launch Falcon Heavy into outer space. There will not do “well, we can refine and finish it later” or “let’s launch it at least somehow”. It will not work like this. A text is as much important as the launch of Falcon Heavy. Every word has its value. It is important “to clean” everything, to think through, and to turn a text into a powerful rocket.

What to consider when editing a text?

Stage #1: lexical (vocabulary) check. At this stage, it is necessary to check carefully the validity of use of different words, and if it seems that a text can be shortened without prejudice to its quality, shorten it, then. As a rule, almost every time when a text is being edited, about 5-15% of text can be cut or improved. Check carefully that a sentence should not contain the same words or cognates. For example, a sentence “It was a good day, we did a lot of good things” is better to optimize to “It was an excellent day, we did a lot of good things”.

lexical check

Stage #2: stylistic check. At this stage, it is necessary to make sure that the whole text has a single stylistic format and corresponds to its topic.

  • Stylistic format is a single format of material presentation. For example, a text should not have official style in the beginning and ironic style in the end. Learn more about language styles here:
  • Compliance with the topic: it is necessary to ensure that the style of material presentation should fit in the topic of a text. For example, speaking about bank sector, it is necessary to write for specific audience, to possess the skills of business writing, some special terms, etc. And vice versa, when creating a text for junior school students, it is necessary to consider real abilities of audience, making a text as much simple for comprehension and learning as possible.

stylistic check

Stage #3: structure editing. At this stage, it is required to edit a text in accordance with the requirements for proper formatting of text structure. Ensure that the paragraphs are not too long and logically complete. Also, at this stage, it is important to check subtitles, create bullet-pointed lists, and so on.

edit a structure

Stage #4: final check. At the last stage, it is necessary to conduct final editing. You check credibility of presented information, look for misprints, factual mistakes (wrong numbers, dates, and so on) for the last time.

final revision

When the process of text editing is finished, it is important to read a text out loud. Only after all these procedures, a text a considered edited.

Why is editing more important than a text itself?

There is research that says that creation and editing of a text activate different work modes of brain. That is why many writers cannot switch quickly from one activity to another. Thus, it would be nice to find out as early as possible whether you are able to edit your own writings.

Reason #1: the way of thinking when writing. Any text a priori contains inconsistencies and errors. When an author writes, his / her brain is in the mood for creation and efficiency. However, at this moment, we cannot notice roughness, weaknesses, and illogic links. Smoothness of reading depends on how many errors and inconsistencies you have found and fixed.

Reason #2 (deeper one): almost all writers are lazy. Editing is a hard work. The one who can edit better than others will succeed. The size of a text does not matter – it can be a short post on the web, an article, a short story or even a whole book.

2 main steps in text editing

If you are aware of these steps, it will be easier to edit texts. First and foremost, check text for logic and stylistics.

  1. Logic. Check a text for logic inconsistencies. It often happens that when we plan text structure in the beginning, we see everything in one way, and when we write, it goes the other way, and thoughts are mixed up. That is why do not pay attention to spelling and punctuation. Check the text only for logic flaws and mistakes.

  2. Stylistics. Now it is time to pay attention to stylistics, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. In short, clean everything you can to make it look proper.

Only 2 steps, but the point is that, taking the first step, you check your own text in one plane, and taking the second step, you shift focus to another plane. Do not try to hold everything in your mind at the same time. Try, and you will see that your text can be much better than you think.

More techniques: 16+ tips

The techniques that we are going to present will seem obligatory to someone or secondary and unimportant to someone else. It is up to you, just check them out. We have gathered the best ones. You just need to select those that work for you the best and refine your texts based on these tips.

  1. To read through the eyes of an enemy. Imagine a person who obviously does not like you. Perfect, now try to read your text through his / her eyes.

  2. Down with metaphors. It is really not easy to create metaphors. Most often, aspiring writers create clichés. That is why it is better to remove them mercilessly. “White as…”, “sweet as…” – the first thing that comes to mind is a cliché. Most likely, this is “snow” and “honey”. Here is a helpful piece of advice: make up at least 10 different metaphors. Creating the tenth one, you will probably have a “fresh look”.

  3. Cliché. There is a problem of vile phrases. Nabokov believed that cliché is the key to bad art (not only literature). By the way, if you are interested in British set phrases and how to use them properly, read this post:

  4. Dual repetitions: to go up upstairs, to come down downstairs.

  5. Oxymorons: “O loving hate” (example from Shakespeare's “Romeo and Juliet”).

  6. To let “professional readers” read your text. Do not show it to your close relatives, neither to your friends. The first reader should be an editor, and if there is no editor, there should be a professional reader. Not your mom, because mom is always happy about any step you take. If a reader cries and shouts “This is about me!”, “I recognize myself!”, “Your text makes me cry!”, this is not the best reader, to put it mildly. The reason for this is that such a reader projects the text only onto him(her)self, and a reader, a sane person, should not do this.

  7. When you finish writing, put it aside. Return to the text later with a clear head.

  8. Read aloud. Read what you have written out loud or ask someone else to read it also aloud. Change the pace of reading. It helps focus on different sides of a text. For example, when we read quickly, we pay more attention to meaning and rhythm. A medium pace helps us see better stylistic inaccuracies, and a slow pace helps detect mistakes and typos.

  9. It is better to fix separate fragments, scenes, dialogues – it helps have a fresh look every time, and the process of editing seems emotionally easier, in general.

  10. Witty statement, homilies, and all the fragments of a text that are not related to the main subject – remove everything that makes it unclear. For example, get rid of lengthy reflections that can be easily omitted.

  11. Also, remove everything that overloads, distracts, and repels.

  12. Get rid of exaggerations (be “honest” in your text). “The worst enemy of clear style is insincerity. When there is a huge gap between your real and stated truths, intuitively you start turning to long words and tiring idioms, reminding cuttlefish that uses ink to protect itself”, - George Orwell.

  13. Do not try to write the closing part of your text when you still do not know how it is going to end. Do not waste time on work on plot complication before you do everything that precedes it. “Be direct, simple, brief, brave and clear”, - Henry Fowler.

  14. Do not use more than necessary words and try to avoid “colorful” or “decorative” words. Mark Twain claimed that he would not write a bigger word if he could use a smaller one and get the same money for it.

  15. Ensure that the number of adjectives and adverbs in your text is not bigger than the number of verbs and nouns. S. King said that one will find many adverbs on the way to hell.

  16. Rest from text. Take a break every time you work on a text. A perfect option is to review everything the next day. However, if it is not possible, get distracted at least for 15 minutes. Otherwise, your sight will be less “sharp”, and you will stop noticing even the most obvious mistakes.

Rest and reread it once again. Eventually, edit everything a couple of times. A good text has clear rhythm, and it sounds as music. Sometimes it can be crazy rock and roll, sometimes a calm lullaby, and in both cases melody has its own goal. The same is about a text. Let it sound like music and be pleasant to listen to. If you do not stumble upon anything when reading, it means that a text is ready.

P.S. One more tip: if you are sick and tired from your text, if you hate it and do not want even to come close to it, if you perfectly know all its strengths and weaknesses and think about how to improve them, it means that you are close to the end of editing.

Almost everyone experienced tortures with editing. So do not get despaired and keep on working. Of course, there is a surefire way to avoid tortures related to editing. All you need to do is to delegate this work to professionals. Essay-editor com specialists will be happy to assist you with it. The best experts in the field are right there for you round-the-clock. Send us “edit my paper” request, and our support team will react immediately providing you with first class help.

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