Writing and Editing Polished Prose
Writing leaves an impression. Readers will come away from your work feeling informed, entertained, inspired, even moved.
Or will they?
When I was in high school and during my early college days, I wrote papers and turned them in without giving them so much as a second glance — no revisions or rewriting and no proofreading or editing. My papers often came back marked up, and the markings almost always pointed out grammar, spelling, and punctuation rules that I already knew – but because I hadn’t bothered to edit my work, I’d accidentally broken the rules and turned in an unpolished piece of writing that was peppered with typos.
Writing and editing are essential steps in any project, but too often, we skimp on editing and end up with unpolished prose.
The Importance of Editing
In time, I learned the value of revising my work, but it was a lesson that did not arrive in the form of essays hatched with red markups. I learned the value of editing as a reader.
The first time I caught a typo in a novel, I felt smug. I thought myself quite smart to have found a mistake that the author had missed. Later, when I understood that each novel is reviewed by several editors, I felt even more smug when I’d find errors in books or articles. Not only had the writer missed the mistake, the editors had missed it too!
I also noticed that each error was a speed bump, which interrupted the flow of my reading. I’d be enjoying the story, and all of a sudden, a blatant misspelling or poorly structured sentence would throw me off course, and I’d be yanked out of the tale.
That was enough for me to develop a careful practice of editing everything I wrote. When people read my work, I don’t want them to pause to contemplate the rules of grammar. I want the reading to flow smoothly and totally uninterrupted. So writing and editing now go hand in hand.
The Absence of Editing
I’ve learned that in the world of blogging, editing is sorely lacking – and it’s easy to tell when a blogger doesn’t understand the rules of proper English or is simply being careless. In some cases, the work contains information and ideas that can’t be obtained elsewhere, so the value of the content overrides the necessity of good grammar. In other cases, the material is so riveting and entertaining, minor mistakes are easily forgiven.
Some readers will ignore grammatical hiccups or confusing verbiage. Others won’t notice them at all. But there will always be those who are so completely turned off by an unpolished piece of work that they’ll simply stop reading whatever you publish. Is that a harsh reaction on the reader’s part? Maybe. But if your work is so riddled with mistakes that it’s difficult to read, then why should anyone waste their time?
As writers (and particularly for bloggers who produce tons of written material on any given day, week, or month) it’s nearly impossible to hire a professional editor to check everything we put out in public. No matter how carefully we proofread and edit, chances are that a few typos will slip through over time. But if you aren’t polishing your work at all, and your writing is weighted down with mistakes, you’re sending readers a message that you don’t care very much about your work or the impression that it leaves.
Your Writing and Editing Habits
I’ll leave you with a few questions that you can ask yourself about your own writing and editing habits. Feel free to share your responses in the comments section or simply share your feelings about writing and editing (or lack thereof).
- Do you edit every piece of writing that you submit, share, or publish?
- How many times do you proofread a piece of writing?
- How careful is your writing and editing process? Do you do a quick scan or a careful review? Do you pause to edit sentences as you’re writing them, or do you wait and finish a draft before editing it?
Remember, editing is one of the keys to better writing, so be sure to incorporate it into your writing process.
If you have any writing and editing tips to share, feel free to post them in the comments.