Self-editing: Its Essential Role for Professional Writers

How many times do you hear professional writers say they are not very efficient with editing their own writing? It’s a very common complaint and while many people do lack the skill for self-editing, you will have a difficult time becoming a published writer unless you take the time to polish your work before you submit it to an editor, publisher or agent. There is no quicker way to get your work tossed into the slush pile than to submit a manuscript that is full of spelling and grammar errors. If you also failed to follow the formatting guidelines during your haste to submit your writing, you already have two strikes against you from the start.

One of the reasons so many writers fail to take the time to edit what they write is because they develop a mindset that tells them the editor will find any errors they may have made. While it is true that publishers and agents will edit all work they receive for submission, they will not continue to read pieces that are poorly written and include numerous errors the writer could have caught during simple proofreading. Why they develop such a lackadaisical  attitude about something as important as their own creativity is difficult to understand. However, it is essential for any unpublished writer to learn the importance of self-editing.

What should you do if you are not comfortable editing your own work? While editors will review your work in terms of plot and other specific writing areas, it is up to you as the author to make sure your manuscript is free of spelling and grammar errors.  After you run your manuscript through a spell and grammar check in your word processing program you can ask a friend, relative or co-worker to review it for you. You are not looking for a critique at this point but rather a second pair of eyes, someone to ascertain you didn’t miss anything during your self-edit for grammar and spelling errors.

Anyone who wishes to make a career out of writing needs to learn how to self-edit his or her own work. Hiring an editor should be something you do as a final step in order to ascertain your manuscript is in perfect condition before you send it to an editor or publisher. However, if you lack the ability to conduct even simple proofreading you should definitely have someone look over your manuscript before you send it to anyone.

Although editors and publishers understand minor errors, they will not take a second glance at a writer who submit work that is below even the standards for a high school English student. One of the most essential tools for any writer to have in his collection of reference material is a good grammar reference manual–I personally own several in addition to the Chicago Manual of Style. If your grammar is less than perfect it is well worth your time to enroll in a class either online or in your local community. Keeping up to date on what is acceptable in the world of publishing is a difficult task–rules many of us learned even ten years ago have been revised or have become acceptable. You need to know all of the current grammar rules in order to provide a perfect manuscript to an editor, publisher or agent.


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