Knowing how to edit an article is almost as important as knowing how to write well. A well written piece, loses its sheen if it isn’t edited properly. Therefore we need to talk about a few sacred rules of editing, which can make a piece of good writing great.
1. I am pretty sure that most of us think that the first and foremost part of editing is to spell-check. But I would beg to differ. For although it is extremely important, it often happens that once we are done with it we think that that is all the editing we need to do. This is of course far from the truth. That is why I suggest that even before you spell check your article, you read it thoroughly to make sure that the sentences and paragraphs are in place, and that everything makes sense when put together.
2. Next comes the checking of spellings. The word processing spellchecker is not foolproof. So beware! Whenever in doubt, use a dictionary to check your spellings.
3. What follows next are grammar, capitalization, subject/verb agreement, tenses and word usage. Tips: verbs have to agree with their subjects, a sentence cannot end with a preposition and cannot start with a conjunction and infinitive words are not meant to be split.
4. Make sure that the sentence construction is up to the mark. Each sentence should have two parts: the subject and the predicate. Use sentence combining words wherever possible. And no sentence fragments please.
5. Avoid very long sentences as there are more chances of you making mistakes there.
6. Please do not use repetitive redundancies. They can put off a reader no matter how interesting the theme of your piece of writing might be. Avoid clichés as much as possible. Better still, avoid them completely. And while you are at it try doing away with comparisons as well- they are almost as bad as clichés. Try and be as specific as possible, using and choosing your words economically.
7. If you want your readers’ attention, talk to him. For this you need to do away with the use of passive voice altogether. Remember, you are not writing a novel.
8. The three things you must not do:
§ Do not repeat a point you want to stress on. Remember, understatement is the best as well as the surest way of putting forward an earth shaking idea.
§ Do not exaggerate.
§ Do not go overboard with your use of punctuation marks. They can kill an article when in excess. But do not forget to use them where necessary.
9. Avoid using quotations, similes, metaphors and rhetorical questions unless the point you are trying to make cannot be made without them. Avoid generalisations as well as one word sentences.
10. Keep the use of foreign words and phrases at bay.
11. We are not living in the Shakespearean era, so avoid old English. Use British English or American English, according to the demands of the article. In either case make sure your English usage is in the correct form. Avoid the use of funny English, unless you are writing a funny article of course.
12. Alliterations should be avoided. They sound good when used judiciously in poetry and prose, but will probably not have the same effect when used in an official or a formal document.
13. Always finish with sentence with a full stop. This is a very common oversight, but one that can easily be avoided.
14. Please place your footnotes at the bottom of each page and not at the end of the chapter. Make sure you number your notes and references correctly.
15. Bibliographical references should be in alphabetical order and in the proper format, for example, use the full name of the author and the book when referring to a book, the complete email address when referring to an email etc.
16. And last but not the least, proof read religiously to see if anything is amiss. Read forwards and backwards, read each sentence separately, making sure that each makes sense even when read alone. Double check if you feel unsure. But don’t overdo it. Learn to trust yourself.