I'm not a formally trained editor. So how do I help my clients improve their written content? I've learned a lot from the seminars I've taken at the Editors' Association of Canada. I have some favourite online and offline references. Sometimes I will even Google (with caution) to find an answer.
In 2008 I researched and wrote a style guide so I could have all of the most common editing questions at my fingertips, and so you could, too!
My editing – like any other skill – has improved the most by doing lots and lots of editing. But it all started with an intuitive gift for seeing that something just didn't "look right."
Here are some ways to hone your own intuitive editing skills so that you can express yourself professionally in your written content.
1. Take the time. The most important step is to read through your work carefully – preferably out loud – before you publish or email it. No matter how much of a hurry you're in. No matter how inspired you felt as you were writing. No matter how gifted a writer you are.
2. Trust your gut. When something doesn't look right to you, check it out with someone else or browse through a list of common writing errors to see if you can spot an example of what you're looking at (there is a helpful editing checklist included in Write Your Way to More Clients Online).
3. Immerse yourself. When you come across examples of people who write well, subscribe to their blogs/newsletters and make a point of reading them. It's amazing what you soak up through osmosis. That will naturally raise your standards and help you notice when your own writing falls short.
4. Set a limit. Having just completed the final (I hope) proofread of my newest book, I can tell you that the intuitive editing process never ends – until you end it. There will always be something that catches your eye and has you wondering, "Does that look right?" At some point you need to either let it go or turn it over to someone else.
By using these tips to harness your intuitive editing skills, you can improve your credibility, confidence and results. And that will spur you on to keep writing!