Self-Editing Checklist for Content Writers

Geri Mileva on Content Marketing

Self Editing ChecklistThe writing process involves several steps, including brainstorming ideas and writing a rough draft. However, good writers move beyond the rough draft by editing their work. A self-editing checklist can help them stay unbiased during this process.

In this article, you’ll find the meaning and purpose behind self-editing. You will also see a step-by-step editing process and detailed self-editing checklist to help you get started on your next piece.

What is editing?

Editing is the process of rearranging and refining words so that the product contains correct grammar while accomplishing its purpose.

At this stage of the writing process, you’re cutting, adding, and reworking content to a satisfactory end. Following that definition, self-editing means rearranging and refining words from your own work.

What is the purpose of self-editing?

Many experts advise against self-editing, and they have good reasons. You gain valuable insight from asking other people to review your work and provide suggestions.

On the other hand, self-editing proves a valuable tool when used alongside constructive insight from others. When you self-edit, you stave off reviewers commenting on obvious problems. Then, they can focus on other areas you might have missed.

Follow 7 basic steps for self-editing.

1. Read your work.

To start editing, you should first read what you have written. If you have some time, consider setting your content out of sight for several hours or days.

Why? Taking time away will rest your mind from any thoughts or emotional attachment you have. Once you come back to it, you’ll be looking at the piece from a new perspective.

Then, try reading the work on a different medium than the one in which you wrote it. If you typed the content on a computer, print it and read it on paper.

This change will prevent you from missing problems simply because you’ve seen the content before. In turn, you will edit the piece more carefully and find more problem areas.

Finally, when reading your content, take the time to read it out loud. Again, spoken words register in your mind differently from written words. As you hear the words aloud, you’ll catch awkward sentences and wording.

Throughout this step, note general problem areas you know will need some work. Then, you can move onto editing the areas listed below.

2. Correct grammar errors.

Once you’ve read the content piece, go through it again. This time, focus on finding and correcting grammar issues, such as incorrect pronouns or use of possessives.

This step will get incorrect words out of the way so that you can see the deeper problems with content. A few common grammar errors include:

  • Lie/lay

  • That/which

  • Fewer/less

  • As/because

  • Using they when referring to a person or company

  • Between you and I should be between you and me

  • Hopefully in place of I hope

For a detailed list of grammar errors, refer to the self-editing checklist below.

3. Cut unnecessary words.

Then, you should cut unnecessary words from your writing. For instance, many people add prepositions to show direction and location. If these are already understood, though, the prepositions are unnecessary.

Jenny sat down at her desk. The only way to sit is down.

Look inside of those envelopes. The word inside already means “within.” Delete of.

To test unnecessary words or phrases, ask yourself if you would change the content’s meaning by omitting those words. If not, you should omit.

Again, see the self-editing checklist for commonly used words you should cut.

If you do need to keep a lengthy phrase, think of ways to express the same idea in fewer words.

4. Criticize your content.

Now that you’ve worked with minor grammar issues and wordiness, it’s time to focus on content. In this step, you should start by looking at your content as a whole.

Look back at your title or brainstorm. Ask yourself:

  1. What is the purpose of this content?

  2. Is it accomplishing its purpose?

  3. What could you take out that readers wouldn’t notice?

  4. Could you add images, graphs, or another written section that readers would find helpful?

  5. Do you find the information interesting?

  6. Have you included all the sections your managers required? If possible, refer to their written instructions.

Make any changes necessary based on your answers to these questions. Then, go back and look at your content in sections. Repeat the above questions while focusing on the sections.

Continue criticizing how each section, paragraph, and sentence contributes to the content as a whole. If any of the parts do not further the content or help the reader, take it out.

5. Look at content structure.

Next, you’ll want to note how you’ve structured your content. Do the sections follow a logical order?

Be sure that any introductory information is explained at the beginning and that complex information lies later in the piece. You may want to break up complex parts with less complicated ones to give the reader time to process it.

If you decide that the structure needs work, try reorganizing or relocating content. The information may still help the reader but may not make sense in the section it’s located.

Finally, read through your headings and make sure they accurately represent the content in their sections. If not, you should rename headings to help your readers.

6. Check format.

When writing content for your company, you may receive a style guide or other project instructions to follow.

A style guide is a manual for grammar, content structure, or format that is specific to a company.

You should refer to this style guide first when checking your content’s formatting. However, if you haven’t received instructions, use these format rules:

  1. Use a standard font style, such as Times New Roman or Courier New.

  2. Use a 12-point font size.

  3. Keep paper margins at 1 inch on all sides.

  4. Use a ½-inch indent for paragraphs.

  5. Double-space content, especially if managers will be writing or typing comments directly on your work.

  6. If needed, place page numbers in the header section, top right corner.

Other specifics you may need to know include printing on a single side or adding a cover page to hard copies. Talk with your manager about these questions before your content’s due date.

7. Repeat self-editing checklist 1-2 times.

Finally, you have reached the end of editing and made helpful changes to your work. Before turning in your content, though, you should repeat these self-editing steps 1-2 times.

By repeating them, you can catch other problems and ensure that your work is the best quality possible.

Complete the steps: a self-editing checklist.

Read through your work.  

  • Read a printed copy.     

  • Read out loud.             

Correct grammar errors.

Capitalization:

  • Specific names of companies/people

  • Names of places, such as a country or city

  • Brand names: Kleenex tissues

  • Titles of books/documents: The Chicago Manual of Style

  • Days of the week/holidays

  • Abbreviations

Punctuation:

  • Periods at end of statements

  • Question marks at end of questions

  • Commas after listing items: apples, oranges, and bananas

Note: Some companies may not use the last comma in the list. Check the style guide if unsure.

  • Commas around phrases not essential to the sentence

  • Commas after introductory phrases: for example, however, in addition

  • Italicized titles for books/newspapers/magazines: ABC News

  • Quotation marks for titles of book chapters, articles, short works

  • Quotation marks around a person’s exact words

Parts of speech:

(check that these are used correctly)

  • Do you have mostly active verbs?

  • Did you keep verb past, present, or future tense consistent?

  • Have you identified correct subject/verb agreement?: Attendees of the afternoon meeting are going to lunch late. Not attendees is going.

  • Did you use correct pronouns?: The company changed its policy. Not their policy.

Troublesome words:

  • sit/set

  • rise/raise

  • lie/lay

  • affect/effect

  • between/among

  • as/because

  • good/well

  • its/it’s

  • less/fewer

  • that/which

  • their/they’re/there

  • your/you’re

  • in/into

  • hopefully

  • thankfully

Cut unnecessary words.

  • that

  • very

  • really

  • extremely

  • just

  • inside of/outside of

  • down/up/out

  • other unnecessary adverbs

  • clichè phrases: fit the bill, goes without saying, get a leg up

  • wordy phrases: at this point in time, come in contact with

  • unexplained industry-specific words

Criticize content.

As a whole:

  • Does the content fulfill its purpose?

  • What could you take out that readers wouldn’t notice?

  • Could you add helpful images, graphs, or written sections?

  • Do you find the information interesting?

  • Have you included all sections your managers required?

Each section/paragraph/sentence:

  • Does each part contribute to the content’s overall purpose?

  • Would the content make sense without this part?

  • What information could you take out?

  • What information might help the reader if added?

Look at content structure.

Does it follow a logical order?

Should you reorganize sections or paragraphs?

Should you rename headings?

Check format.

Followed style guide/project instructions

or

Used standard format:

Standard font (i.e. Times New Roman, Courier New)

12-point font size

1-inch margins

½-inch paragraph indents

Double-spaced

Page numbers in header, right-hand corner

Repeat self-editing checklist 1-2 times.

 

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