Maybe your editor is on vacation, or maybe you’ve never had an editor. Maybe you’re just trying to expand your skill set. Whatever the case, you’ve suddenly found yourself faced with a whole lot of words that you’re going to have to make sure actually are words. Take a deep breath, and go through these steps to edit your own blog posts. It might be time-consuming at first, but you’ll eventually get the hang of it.
Read for Meaning
This is the most important step. Bad grammar is embarrassing; bad thought structure can make you, and your post, irrelevant. So, read your post and make sure that you’re actually saying things. Identify the goal of the post. If it’s a how-to article, make sure it’s actually telling people how to do something, and not just telling them how important it is to know how to do that thing (the one that you’re not telling them how to do).
What are your main points? Is the entire post a series of anecdotes, or do you have actual advice and wisdom in there? If you’re uncertain, make every piece of actionable advice bold. If you’ve only got one or two bolded items, try again. If you feel comfortable with your ratio, it’s time to move on to checking facts.
It’s every journalism intern’s first duty. Fact checking is a necessary process. If you find yourself without a fresh-faced J-school student, you’re going to have to do it yourself. Anytime there’s a link, click it. Does the advice match up? Does the link work? Okay, now check your stats. Are they right? Are they correctly cited? Awesome. Continue on to grammar, friend.
If English is your first language and you’ve graduated high school, you have at least 16 years using it. That’s a whole lot of practice with something to not be at least halfway decent at it. However, some people still aren’t comfortable with grammar rules. It’s okay, though. You can still edit if you know what verbs, nouns, parenthetical phrases and direct objects are.
Print out a copy of your post. The trees that die for proper grammar go to tree heaven, so don’t feel guilty about the paper use. Underline nouns once and verbs twice. Prepositional phrases get parenthesis. Connect direct objects with a sweet arrow. Once you feel comfortable recognizing a sentence structure, do it in your mind. Hold open phrases in your mind until the phrase is closed. It’s tough starting out, but it can make you an editing savant. You’ll just be a slow editing savant at first.
Stow Your Pride for Spellcheck
Don’t be one of those jerks who turn off spell checking programs because you think you’re too awesome for it. As a certified editor (seriously, I have heavy-weight thermographed papers that tell me I am one), I can tell you that spell checkers are useful. They might alert you to an extra space, a typo or maybe even a misspelling. It’s okay; you’re human. You’re allowed to let our robot overlords help you out.
So, now you’ve checked your content, your facts and your grammar. What’s left? Oh yeah, read it through one more time to make sure nothing wonky happened during the process. Then, read it through one more time just to be sure. Then—off to publication! Congratulations, you now understand why people hire editors.
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