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Editing is a process that all writers must go through – and it is often painstakingly slow. Sentences must be re-written, verbs must be re-evaluated and played around with, and you might have to cut out or add large sections. Add to that messed formatting, grammatical errors and inconsistencies in writing style, and you end up with a truly nightmarish task.
Well, it’s just one of the strange joys of being a writer, isn’t it? Turning a disorganized, meaningless jumble of words into a coherent and engaging piece of writing, is what we writers live for. It’s what makes us happy. But we all love shortcuts – so here are six!
- Lump tasks into categories
Editing comprises of analysis, correcting grammar, proofreading, rewriting, and fixing formatting and layout. If you start from the beginning and try to do everything at once, you’ll have a lot to deal with (and remember), which will affect your efficiency. Instead, break the process down into tasks, and do one thing at a time. Fix formatting first. Then grammar. Then analyse what needs to be done, and begin rewriting. This way, you’ll be able to work faster and better. Some of the tips below might help speed up those tasks.
- Fixing messed formatting
Word processors have bad days too, and sometimes, they like to do their own thing. When you’re in the flow, you can’t afford to stop and fix your formatting, so you end up with a messy document. To fix formatting on MS Word, select the entire text, paste it into a new document, and click on “Match destination formatting”. That’ll restore all formatting to default. Or, you can paste all your text into a text-based website, such as Blank Slate, or even Facebook or email. Now, save the new document.
- Get basic corrections done with software
You can use Grammarly (or MS Word) to get grammatical errors and erroneous spacing out of the way quickly. Personally, I prefer MS Word, because that’s what I use for writing, so all my work stays in one place. Plus, Grammarly helps a little too much – which I’m afraid might make me lazy. But if you have a large workflow and want to save time, Grammarly might be a good idea. This will save you a big chunk of time, and if you see something that needs correction during the process, make a quick note!
- Use a text-to-speech tool
This is really handy for proofreading, because it’s a lot faster than reading all the text. Windows has an on-screen narrator that you can use, and another easy option is Google Translate. Paste your text into the first box (up to 5,000 characters), and then click on the sound icon below, to hear a narration. The software starts narrating from the very beginning, so if you pause to make changes and want to start where you left off, simply delete the text preceding it, and click the narration icon.
- Remove distractions
If you’re distracted easily, word processing software can be difficult for you to use. They have so many buttons and options crammed into one small window, and every time you look up from your keyboard, you notice them and it takes your focus off work. This problem can be solved by using a simpler word processor. Blank Slate is a great option – and I use it often for to-do lists and short bits of writing (such as messages, outlines and emails). Another option would be to write on paper, but you’d need to type it later.
- Colour code your writing
When you edit, grab a bunch of highlighters of different colours, and colour-code your writing to speed up analysis. For example, use green for ‘fluff’ or unnecessary sentences which may be removed, yellow for dialogue, orange for description, blue for action, and so on. Depending on what you write (story, article, essay, promotional copy), the parts you divide your writing into may be different. Colour coding helps because then you know at a glance what your writing has too much or too little of, and that makes it easier to fix.