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9 Tips to Improve Your Editing Skills

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By Susan Hoffman
Online Career Tips Contributor

When other people read your writing, they make a judgment about your intelligence and diligence based on what they see. Whether that writing is on paper or online (such as a webpage or a blog post), your readers gain a negative impression of you if your writing contains misspellings and grammatical errors.

The cost for bad writing can be heavy. A well-written email or white paper, for example, might be the difference between winning new business or having your customers go to another vendor. If your writing is published in a paper format, such as a direct mail letter or a newsletter, an expensive reprint is sometimes necessary.

When you’re applying for a job, errors in your writing will cost you an interview for a job you really want. Submitting a resume or cover letter with mistakes shows that you’re unprofessional, which is not an impression you want to give to potential employers as you’re job-hunting.

Fortunately, editing mistakes are easy to avoid. To improve the overall quality of your editing, try these nine tips:

  1. Never guess the rules. If you’re not sure about the exact spelling of a word or how to use a punctuation mark, take a minute to check on it.
  1. Watch the numbers. It’s easy to accidentally transpose numbers or add an extra digit as you’re typing. You don’t want your resume to indicate that you started a job in 2040 or 4002, if the correct date is 2004!
  1. Confirm all of your dates. At first glance, a date such as “Monday, September 4” appears correct. However, a quick look at a calendar may reveal that September 4 falls on a Sunday or a Tuesday.
  1. Use your own eyes and the spell-checker. Although spell-checking software is handy for catching typos, it’s not foolproof. It can’t tell the difference between words such as “from” and “form”.
  1. Read your words in reverse order. Sometimes your eyes skip words or even entire lines as you read over your work. By reading your writing from the very end to the very beginning, you’re more likely to spot errors.
  1. Make multiple passes through your writing. Read it once for spelling and grammar. Go through it a second time to determine if your sentences flow logically or if ideas need more explanation. If other people add corrections, be sure to check the final version to ensure that no new errors appeared in your writing.
  1. Have a friend, coworker or family member read your writing. Another reader may see errors you missed or have questions about an idea that you haven’t fully explained.
  1. Take a short break. If you’re writing quickly and constantly revising while you’re under stress to meet a deadline, errors are even more likely to happen. Take a quick, five-minute break and return to your writing with a fresh perspective.
  1. Pay attention to visuals. When clip art or photographs accompany your writing, check them also to ensure they are error-free. Look for blurry pictures or images with unwanted elements (such as a light flashing against a glass window or wall) that need removal with Photoshop.

When you take the time to re-check your work, your writing and any art that accompanies it appear more polished and professional. Writing is a critical skill for all careers. Quality work will help you stand out from your competition, whether you’re seeking a new job or helping your company earn new business.

Susan Hoffman is a Managing Editor at APU Edge, whose articles have appeared in multiple publications. Susan is known for her expertise in blogging, social media, SEO, and content analytics, and she is also a book reviewer for Military History magazine. She has a B.A. cum laude in English from James Madison University and an undergraduate certificate in electronic commerce from American Public University.

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