Editing your writing is something you need to do strategically to be successful. Here are some pointers to help you edit with purpose and confidence. 

What is the difference between editing and proofreading? 

Editing and proofreading are commonly confused terms. Both are equally important for polishing your writing. 

Both are necessary steps for revising a text. Editing is the most involved, and what many people struggle with directionally. It includes changes from sentence structure to word choice. Proofreading is the final check for spelling and grammar, punctuation and details like capitalisation. 

Why is editing important?

Editing is important because revising a document needs to go beyond spelling and grammar. There is a saying, “write without fear, edit without mercy”. Leaving a lot of important decisions to your editing means you can write your first draft with fewer inhibitions and let your creativity fly. Writing is the substance. Editing, then, is returning to your draft with an objective eye and refining the style. 

Top 10 editing techniques

1| Come back to your text with fresh eyes 

Once you’ve drafted your text, it’s a good idea to step away for a while. This is so you can be more objective when you return to edit. You’ve been thinking with your creative brain, so it’s useful to distance yourself from that. Then you can go back with an analytical mindset. This is especially useful if you are someone who edits and proofreads their own work. 

2| Read your text aloud 

We can all get too “in our heads” sometimes. When this happens, it can be hard to read objectively. We lose sight of how the reader would process the information. A good way to resolve this is by reading the text aloud. If something feels awkward to say, it is probably an awkward experience to read. 

3| Edit long sentences

Editing your text for readability instantly makes your text more enjoyable for your readers. You can measurably improve the readability of your text by editing long sentences. Readable highlights your text for long sentences and very long sentences. Then you can systematically improve your text by using our issue scroller to work through each highlighted sentence. 

4| Review your word lengths 

Once you’re happy that your text has fewer long sentences, you can consider your word usage. Readable’s synonym suggester intelligently highlights long words and suggests alternatives with fewer syllables. This takes a lot of guesswork out of your editing process. With the click of a button, you can make a huge difference to the clarity of your writing. It’s not that your audience wouldn’t understand the words you’re using - it’s that opting for clear and plain language makes reading a less laborious task. It improves transparency and builds trust with your reader. This is crucial, particularly in business writing. 

5| Check your style guide

Now it’s time to check that you’re striking the write tone. Refer to your company style guide and make sure you’re making the right impression with your language. For example, your company might want to be more on the formal side. You can use our tone of voice sliders to match your writing with your style guide’s recommendations. 

6| Check for passive voice 

Using the active voice in your writing shows accountability and is another factor to building trust. You can improve your active voice by using our passive voice detector - this scans your sentence structure and tells you when your writing may seem to distance yourself from the topic. 

7| Improve visual readability 

As you’re approaching the end of your editing process, it’s important to ensure your text is easy on the eye. You can do this by including plenty of subheadings, which help to make the structure clear for the reader. 

Where possible, use visual imagery to illustrate information - such as a chart or an infographic. 

8| Check the whole document backwards

This may seem like a strange suggestion, but if you’re struggling to view your text objectively and your document still needs work, you may want to start from the bottom. Going through your work in reverse, paragraph by paragraph, can help you remove yourself from the overarching narrative. 

9| Proofread for spelling and grammar

Hopefully, your text is a Readable grade A at this point and you’re ready for your final checks. Use our spelling and grammar highlights and suggested replacements to correct any mistakes. What looks like a subtle error for you may be glaring for your reader - so make a good impression with impeccable grammar and spelling.

10| Final read to ensure a good flow 

Now it’s time to read through your work a final time to make sure none of your edits have interrupted the substance and flow of your text. Make sure your document has a logical beginning, middle and end. Once you’ve got to this point, it’s now ready for a second pair of human eyes. If you’ve followed the editing steps we recommend, you can confidently hit send.

Laura Kelly

Laura is a freelance writer and worked at Readable for a number of years. Laura is well-versed in optimising content for readability and Readable's suite of tools. She aims to write guides that help you make the most out of Readable.