30 seconds of self-editing
Do you have a minute to look this over? If you’re the editor at work, you’ve heard this question before. It’s complete nonsense! But that doesn’t stop writers from asking—and editors from accepting the impossible assignment.
This is the moment to teach those writers how to fish! Ask them to do a little self-editing: run the spell checker first and then do a few 30-second edits. These are quick scans that help writers self-edit.
Editors can also apply these techniques to scan for weaknesses in the writer’s overall style and clarity.
Collect the whole set
Over the summer, I’ll be posting 30-second edits in the Durksenary (July and August 2019). Look for them every Monday on my blog and on LinkedIn, under five broad categories:
- cut the clutter
- look for the right word
- edit the punctuation
- add an actor
- reorganize for readers
Quick edits are handy techniques for writers and editors alike. They help writers improve drafts and fix obvious problems—without rewriting the entire document.
They help editors focus on finding the flaws that matter most. Flaws that distract senior reviewers and other editors, forcing them to clean up the clutter before they start editing the content.
As you put these 30-second edits into practice, develop a habit of spotting the problem, fixing it, and moving on quickly. At this stage, you’re not looking for errors. You’re looking for ways to make your writing more concise and readable.
Every scan is also an opportunity to spot problems that often travel in pairs within wordy sentences. While you’re there, it wouldn’t hurt to check the grammar. Would it?
- Save your edits in a Before / After file. Use the file when you’re stuck for a way to cut words or revise a sentence.
- Share 30-second edits with your writing team, editor, and senior reviewer. It helps if you’re all looking for the same things.
- Apply 30-second edits to clean up widely used templates.
- Create a style sheet or add your edits to the company style guide.