What Editing Tip is Indispensable for Literature Professors Refining Literary Works?

    What is one editing tip you find indispensable when refining your own literary works?

    In the quest for literary perfection, we've gathered invaluable advice from authors and editors alike, distilling their wisdom into seven essential editing tips. From the critical practice of reading aloud to refine prose to the art of enriching narratives with compelling details, discover the strategies that these literary professionals deem indispensable.

    • Read Aloud to Refine Prose
    • Collaborate with Skilled Editors
    • Edit in Separate Rounds
    • Assess Your Overall Tone
    • Slow Down
    • Stay on Theme, Avoid Tangents
    • Enrich with Compelling Details

    Read Aloud to Refine Prose

    An indispensable editing tip I swear by is reading my work aloud during the refinement process.

    After I finish a draft, I'll do all the routine things—run spell check, tighten wordy sentences, examine flow. But the game-changing final step is always reading the entire post out loud, verbatim, before publishing.

    Somehow, hearing my writing vocalized exposes weaknesses and areas needing polish I otherwise skim over. Awkward phrases, confusing transitions, and repetition jump out immediately when spoken versus reading silently. I'll catch myself stumbling or rushing, which pinpoints sentences requiring rework.

    More importantly, reading aloud helps me ensure my writing voice sounds natural versus stiff, "written" prose. The tone and cadence transform, hearing it as an actual conversation versus a blog post. This step brings immense clarity, helping my financial advice resonate conversationally.

    While it initially felt silly, this simple editing hack never fails to unlock another level of refinement. Our brains process language differently when we verbalize it. I cannot recommend enough trying this final step before sharing any written content with an audience. That outside perspective is everything!

    Brian Meiggs
    Brian MeiggsFounder, My Millennial Guide

    Collaborate with Skilled Editors

    One indispensable editing tip for refining literary works is the collaboration with a skilled editor. A great editor offers an objective, professional perspective that can identify areas for improvement that you might have missed. Their expertise in language, narrative structure, and genre conventions can elevate the quality of your writing.

    Additionally, thorough planning and organization before you begin writing is crucial. This involves outlining your narrative, understanding your characters, and having a clear vision of your story's direction. Well-organized thoughts lead to a coherent and compelling narrative, making the editing process more about refining rather than restructuring your work.

    Lastly, obtaining feedback from trusted colleagues, rather than friends, is invaluable. Colleagues in the writing field can provide constructive, actionable feedback, particularly on voice and tone. They are more likely to offer honest, critical insights that can enhance your writing, whereas friends might shy away from giving candid feedback to avoid hurting your feelings. This professional critique is essential in honing your literary voice and ensuring your message resonates with your intended audience.

    Chris Dyer
    Chris DyerCulture Keynote Speaker, Chris Dyer

    Edit in Separate Rounds

    Separate rounds of editing into different categories instead of trying to edit for everything all at once—especially for smaller pieces.

    For example, start with a developmental or substantive edit. Turn off your spell checker to keep yourself from getting distracted, and reorganize sections, add intros or conclusions, and ensure the overall structure of the piece is clear and consistent.

    Then, move to a stylistic edit, where you refine language, smooth jagged transitions, and add helpful elements like bullet lists and line breaks to ease readability.

    Work through those as many times as you need to before moving to a copy edit, where you check for proper punctuation, spelling, and capitalization. Once you're finished, do a final proofread to catch any last typos or errors.

    While multiple rounds of edits may seem like a lot, focusing on one type of editing at a time will keep you from getting distracted and provide you with cleaner, more consistent content. Plus, for many writers, breaking it into smaller, digestible tasks can be a lot less overwhelming than trying to do everything all at once.

    Brittany Foster
    Brittany FosterFreelance Writer, Editor, & SEO Expert, bfostercreative

    Assess Your Overall Tone

    Reading your work aloud is an invaluable tool when editing. Listening to the piece allows you to assess whether the tone aligns with the intended voice.

    Additionally, it assists in identifying awkward sentence structures, enhancing clarity and flow, while also identifying verbal crutches such as “like,” “that,” “actually,” “very,” and “really.” Ultimately, this practice enhances the manuscript's quality and ensures a more engaging and refined product.

    Amy Lyle
    Amy LyleAuthor, magazine contributor, podcaster, TEDx speaker

    Slow Down

    Read out loud. When I'm working on my own material, I get to know it so well that my mind sometimes unintentionally skips over words and phrases. By reading aloud—in private, of course—I can hear the sound and music of my writing in a way that I can't when reading to myself.

    It also makes me slow down and read more carefully. Thus, I can locate clunky language, sentences that are too long, clipped phrases that are too short, and other mistakes that I wouldn't catch otherwise.

    Phillip Mandel
    Phillip MandelOwner, Mandel Marketing

    Stay on Theme, Avoid Tangents

    Remove any words or thoughts not on the theme, throughline, or central idea. I can go on tangents, and this keeps the gravitational force on the central message rather than chasing literary rabbits that take my readers down holes I can't explain or connect.

    Scott Martin
    Scott MartinOwner, Groundswell Origins

    Enrich with Compelling Details

    Apart from checking for grammar and typos—a real speed bump for writers—I strive to use lots of details to create scenes and characters that are compelling. Details make a story.

    A recent reader praised my novels because, he said, they made him hungry, since I describe food so vividly. Another sheepishly asked if a certain female character might be included in a sequel. It seems he developed a crush on her.

    Henry EasonWriter