How to Be a Better, More Efficient Editor of Your Own Writing

From Medium:

You need to edit your work even if you’re working with the world’s best editor. Especially if you’re working with the world’s best editor. Submit your best version — proofed and polished — and watch as the world’s best editor tears it apart.

Cry softly and tell yourself it’s for love of the craft.

Your editorial process can be simple and quick, but have one.

. . . .

Not all editing is the same editing. The three main types are substantive, copy, and proof. The type of editing you’re doing determines the kind of tool you want to use. For example, you don’t use a spell checker to do substantive editing.

Substantive edits

You’re rearranging sentences, deleting pieces here and there, moving the order around, adding or removing details, and otherwise messing with the content itself.

It’s intense and can take a lot of time. Also called revising. (Every writer knows the dreaded email subject line: “Revision request.”)

Copy edits

You’re adjusting grammar, switching out a word or phrase, fixing repetition or word usage or spelling errors.

Also called line editing, the idea is to look at your piece line by line. You’re fixing and improving, but not changing the substance of the piece.


You’re doing one last read to find any typos, spelling errors, or missing punctuation. Proofreading often happens right before you hit publish (or send, if you’re submitting your piece somewhere).

Of course, some tools help in multiple ways. Use as you will. And at your own risk. I don’t have insurance for this kind of thing.

The point is that you use them to become a more thorough and efficient editor of your own work.

. . . .

Hemingway App

Use the browser version or the desktop app. Hemingway lets you copy and paste your work in, then berates you for being terrible. Um, I mean, it highlights adverb use, passive voice, complex word choices, and hard-to-read sentences. You want to be aware of those issues, even if you don’t cut or change them.

Cliche Finder

Don’t fall prey to the unseen cliché. I wrote that little rhyme myself. Run your piece through this tool, because it’s easy to overlook clichés.

. . . .

Slick Write

It’s a good alternative to Grammarly; ironically, the interface is not as slick. But it’s thorough and helpful.

. . . .

Typely doesn’t mess with grammar. That’s cool; proofreading is not about grammar. Turn on the Markdown preview to check your formatting. Customize what Typely checks for from a wide range of options. Get a score, an estimated reading time, reading level, and a sentiment analysis. Not quite sure what that last one is, but I like it. Also it makes typewriter sounds. (You can turn them off if they get annoying.)

Link to the rest at Medium

2 thoughts on “How to Be a Better, More Efficient Editor of Your Own Writing”

  1. For me, the definitive classification of the different types of editing was written by Kris Rusch five years ago:

    Lots of people say “proofreading” when they really mean “copy editing”. I think that’s because most people work with manuscripts and have little experience with proofs.


    You’re doing one last read to find any typos, spelling errors, or missing punctuation. Proofreading often happens right before you hit publish (or send, if you’re submitting your piece somewhere).

    This is mixing up two different things.

    When you check for spelling mistakes, missing punctuation, and missing words just before submitting, that is a final copy edit. Your manuscript is “copy”, and you are editing it.

    A typo is a typographical error, which you can only have in a proof. Technically, a typo can only occur during the process of typesetting. So a manuscript is always free from typos because it has no typography yet. All its errors are the fault of the writer, not the typographer.

    So yes, you should check for typos before publication. In the old days, this included things like upside-down letters. Now that everything runs through computers, typesetters don’t make wrong-letter mistakes. There is an opportunity for punctuation mistakes with any character not found on the keyboard – such as dashes and curly quotation marks. If you’re reading a proof for print, you need to check headers and page numbers, as well as line breaks and page breaks. If someone else typeset your book, you’ll probably need to read the whole thing word-for-word to be sure they didn’t leave any words out.

    It’s nice to have a word for the work one does when checking a final proof. I call it proofreading.

    • Exactly this, and I go with Kris’s (well, it’s really the official definition) as well. I’ve always understood “substantive edit” as a synonym for “content edit,” where the person is looking at the plot. The OP describes it as more of a line edit. And like Kris said, line editing goes very well with copy editing, but poorly with content editing. There’s no point in caring about the spelling and grammar if the author has to go back and fix major plot holes.

      You might skip paying for a content edit if you have very good beta readers who also focus on your plot, but skipping the copy edit and proofreads is just asking for trouble.

      And you’re correct about when the proofreading happens. When I was an intern at a business mag I was officially a proofreader /fact checker. I never did the proofreading until after the page was laid out: I saw the proofs.

      And indies, by all means, take Kris’s advice about who wears the pants: the writer or the editor. Don’t hire editors who think it’s them. Honestly, just click on Jason’s link and bookmark it.

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