Five Self-Editing Tips
Self-editing is an important piece of the writing process. It is the last piece of the writing process and is usually done before a final draft manuscript is sent to an editor or agent. Many writers do not enjoy self-editing and find it to be a tedious task. Some writers might compare self-editing to a household chore nobody ever wants to do that has to be done.
Self-editing doesn’t have to be difficult. Every writer will have his/her own techniques for self-editing. However you choose to self-edit, find a system that works the best for you. Take breaks whenever you need to. Print your manuscript and edit on paper if that works better than editing on a computer screen. Use the “find” feature of Microsoft Word and other word processing programs to help you look for particular words.
Many writers will read books or websites with self-editing tips and guides. Use these websites and books as references when self-editing or to make reminder lists of things you want to watch for in your writing.
Here are five self-editing tips to help you get started.
1. Eliminate repetitious words/phrases including “pet” or favorite words/phrases.
A “pet” or favorite word/phrase is a word/phrase that a writer uses frequently in writing. This word/phrase may be something a writer often uses when speaking. The writer may use the word/phrase in speaking often enough that the writer doesn’t realize the word/phrase has crossed over into his/her writing.
2. Eliminate unnecessary modifiers.
Unnecessary modifiers are words that lessen impact or emphasize for no reason.
Some common unnecessary modifiers are: really, very, sort of, simply, extremely, kind of, quite, mostly, usually, so, terribly, seriously, practically, and probably.
3. Eliminate clichés.
A cliché is a phrase so common, a reader speeds right past it. A cliché can lose the effect you were trying to achieve.
4. Eliminate extraneous (and often unnecessary) “thats” and “hads.”
5. Eliminate redundant words/phrases.
- revert back = revert
- return back = return
- thought to herself = thought
- merged together = merged
Passed vs. Past
When Passed and Past are Commonly Confused
Example 1: They walked passed/past an abandoned building.
Rewrite the sentence in the present tense. They walk pass the old house. Does it read correctly? Is another verb used in the sentence? If it doesn’t read correctly and there is another verb, then past would be correct as you need an adverb.
Example 2: They passed/past an abandoned building.
Rewrite the sentence in the present tense. They pass an abandoned building. Does it read correctly? Is another verb used in the sentence? If it reads correctly and there isn’t another verb, then the past participle (past tense) of to pass (passed) would be correct.
Passed is a verb in the past tense. As the past participle of the verb “to pass,” it can be an intransitive verb (doesn’t take an object) or a transitive verb (requires both a subject and one or more objects).
Example (intransitive verb): The days passed quickly. The subject is days, and there is no object.
Example (transitive verb): Thomas passed his final exam. The subject is Thomas, and the object is his final exam.
Example (transitive verb): Silas passed Nico the book. The subject is Silas, the direct object is the book, and the indirect object is Nico.
Past relates to location and locates something in time (and sometimes in space). It can be used as an adjective, noun, preposition, or adverb.
Past as an Adjective
Definition 1: Gone by in time; elapsed; done with; over.
Definition 2: When attributed to a group of people, it can also mean having served one’s term of office; former.
Example 1: Her days for partying are now past.
Example 2: All past presidents of the United States were male.
Past as a Noun
Definition: The time that has gone by; a time, or all the time, before the present.
Example: In the past, many homes did not have indoor plumbing.
Past as a Preposition
Definition 1: Beyond in time; after; beyond the age for or time of (when stating time of day in minutes, quarter or half hours, or a particular time).
Definition 2: Location; at or on the farther side of (something); up to and beyond (a person or place).
Example 1: It is half past five.
Example 2: My house is the first one past the park.
Past as an Adverb
Definition: So as to pass or go by.
Example 1: The ball sped past Susan’s head.
Example 2: Sylva pushed past the crowd.