Read Forward, Read Out Loud, Read Backward

One of the best editing tips I can give anyone when self editing is to read your work out loud, preferably to someone else other than yourself, before you submit it anywhere and after you’ve done all your editing. You’d be amazed when you read it to someone else how you change the inflection when you read it – the inflection you use when reading to someone else is the same inflection others will likely have in their head when they read it themselves.

Then, after you’ve done that, your next self editing tip is to read your work backward – not one word at a time, but rather one sentence at a time.

You see, after writing it, then editing it, then reading it out loud, your brain forms a pattern and it anticipates what to expect, and oftentimes will fill in any mistakes with what it knows should be there instead of what is there. Reading it backward, one sentence at a time will surprisingly catch a bunch of little mistakes.

If you have time, I highly recommend that the last two steps – reading out loud and reading backward – are steps you save for a day or two after you complete the writing and the editing. Taking a break for a day or two really makes a difference in how you see a piece of writing.

The biggest problems that tend to get overlooked is ‘person’ and ‘tense’. If you’re writing in present tense, then you need to make sure it stays in present tense. If writing in past tense, and adding dialogue, such as in a fiction work, you will have the narrative in past tense and the dialogue in present tense, so it makes flipping back and forth hard to do and easy to miss a tense change that was not intended. Reading out loud and reading backward tends to catch these things.

As for person – it’s not unusual to see things written in third person and then stuck smack in the middle of the article a wandering ‘you’ gets thrown in. You is second person. If you use she, he, it, they, them… you cannot turn around in the same writing and change to second person. Sadly, this is one I have done and not caught myself because sometimes I get this ego of thinking that the quality of the writing somehow bypasses me from the requirement of using good grammar.

Yeah, not.

I wish.

If that were the case, I’d never get a rejection, now would I?

Ignoring grammar when writing quick keyword stuff articles for a few bucks a pop might cut it, but it won’t do much to build your writing reputation and it sure isn’t going to help you get into the bigger paying markets.

Yep, you heard it here first: Grammar IS important!

So the best way to write the best is to actually write it first, and then edit it well. Revise it – it’s the revisions that make a piece sizzle, pop and sing… the writing is really secondary to a good editing.

And I don’t say that just because I’m an editor too. You don’t have to hire someone to make editing good – you just have to take the time to do it right yourself, and that means: write, edit, revise, tweak and perfect… then let it sit for a day if you can, then read it out loud to someone else, then read it backward.

I think you’ll find if you do this, you’ll start catching 99.9% of all your ‘typos’ and silly errors.

Keep writing – keep editing – keep reading!

Love and stuff,