How to Edit Your Own Proposal Writing
Writers around the world agree... it's nearly impossible
to edit your own writing. We tend to fall in love with
our words the moment they burst onto the screen and, as
you know, love is blind.
Obviously a professional proofreader/copy editor is the
ideal solution. It takes a village to raise a child, and
it takes a village of helpers to nurture a masterpiece
like the one you're writing. But what if you can't afford
it or you're under deadline pressure with no time for a
second opinion? This is not a happy situation, but in a
pinch you can edit your own material. Here's how:
- After you've finished the piece and spell-checked it,
give it a rest. Wait as long as you can -- sleep on it,
if possible -- before coming back and proofing it for
errors you missed the first time. Re-read it at least ten
times. Then read it backwards, last sentence to first.
- Be ruthless. Whittle convoluted thoughts down into the
fewest words without losing the meaning. For example, "She
received the support of 21 senators among those senators
who were present for the vote" becomes, "Twenty-one
senators voted for her."
- Root out passive statements and flip them into active
ones. Your Microsoft Word spell checker has a feature that
will tell you how many passive sentences are in a document.
It even tells you what grade level your piece is written
for. Hint: Aim as low as possible - below grade eight if
you can. (To activate this feature, check the box beside
"show readability statistics" on the Spelling and Grammar
- One idea per sentence, please. You will immediately
understand why when you read the following lead from a
published news story:
"Carlos Manuel Geronimo Alfonseca, one of the supposedly
confessed authors of the murder of the Senator, told
journalists at the New City courthouse when he was being
taken back to his cell after being questioned by Judge
Nelson Rodriguez on the day of his hearing that he was not
the person who wore the mask when the Senator was killed."
- Check the math. In economics stories especially, it's
easy to drop a zero and even easier to duplicate somebody
- Double check for double meanings. For example, the
following site description recently turned up in an ad for
casinograpevine.com: "The Casino News Portal for Women
that Men Can't Resist!" So it's a portal for women who
are irresistible to the opposite sex or... ?
- Keep an eagle eye open for the little oopsy-daisies we
all make. Typing "you" instead of "your" is a common one.
So is using "that" instead of "who". Example: "All the
people THAT proofread their stories carefully win Pulitzer
Prizes." If you need a grammar booster shot, visit any of
- Find out what style manual/guidelines are used by the
publication you're writing for and be sure your piece
agrees with them.
- Now do the first item on this list again. I can't tell
you how many times I've caught my own bloopers or found a
better way to phrase something on the 15th or 20th pass!
So that's how, in an emergency, you can do your own
editing. Sure, working without an editor can have its
upside. It means never having to say, "You messed with my
art, you creep!" But the downside is that you will
probably overlook mistakes that the "village" would have
Whenever possible, get a talented friend or a professional
editor or even an English major to lend an eyeball.
Believe me, they aren't nearly as in love with your words
as you are!
How can you free up more of your precious time and
improve traffic and revenues? Hire an experienced
professional to write and refresh your content.
Heather Reimer was a journalist and broadcaster for
16 years. She now specializes in custom e-zine and
web content, sales letters, press releases and
articles like this one.
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