Self-Editing Tips from an Editor

You know how it is, you read your work over and over, and soon, reading it becomes like driving on autopilot. Except, sometimes, you miss your exit and end up on the wrong side of town. Reading on autopilot can be a lot like that. After countless reads, you start missing the errors.

Now, I’m not suggesting you don’t need an editor (ehem, waves), especially if you plan to self-publish, but I am saying that you can be a lot more effective at self-editing with a few nifty tricks.


Use your search function to look for common filler words like just, very, really, you know, those words we think we really need but don’t. Unless you’re using them in dialogue, which might contribute to the voice of a character, these words are generally unnecessary.


Make a list of common errors and use the search function to find them. My list has things like preferred word spellings and hyphenations, space before closing punctuation, and abbreviations.


Print out your manuscript and read it beginning to end. Reading it as a paper copy helps you see it in a different way so that you can spot errors more easily. So, get out your red pen!


Load it onto your Kindle or another e-reader. Like printing the manuscript, this gives you a fresh way to see it. On a Kindle you can also add notes and highlight, making it easy to find your corrections when you’re ready.


This one is my absolute favorite! You convert your Word document to a PDF and then under the View tab, choose Read Aloud. Then, slip on your headphones and start listening! Since I have two screens, I always have one screen showing the PDF where I’m following along as it reads and the other screen showing the Word document where I’ll make corrections. If you don’t have two screens, you can easily switch back and forth between documents, or use a printed version to make corrections on.

This technique is valuable in helping to find those small missing words like “a” and “the,” incorrect word usage, repetitive words, phrases, or sentence structure, and it can help you identify wordy or awkward sentences.


What self-editing tricks do you use?

Happy editing!

In a Perfect Word Editing

My name is Erin Beth Liles, and I have several years of editing experience. Aside from my bachelor's degree, I have a certificate in copyediting from UC San Diego, and I have studied developmental editing with the Author-Editor Clinic. I've worked with both independent and major publishing houses, but my true love is working directly with authors. I also write young adult fiction. My YA novel Phoenix Burning is represented by Mansion Street Literary (and I have another novel in progress) and my short stories have been published in Ladybug, Stories for Children, and Knowonder. Several of my nonfiction articles have appeared in Austin Family Magazine, Mothering Magazine online, and Mamapedia. My children's picture book A Friend for Freckles was published by Guardian Angel Publishing in 2013. My novelette, Outside the Walls, is featured in Clean Teen Publishing's Wonderstruck Anthology. I am a member of the Professional Editors Network, Copyediting, SCBWI, and She Writes.


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