15 Copy Editing Rules To Improve Your Writing

Posted by Olivia Albers

The articles and stories people have an interest in reading serve the audience instead of the writer. As writers we often become too attached to the words we use and the sentences we craft that it becomes difficult to step back and be objective. In order to write more captivating stories look to your editing process. The job of editors is to “transform basic text into powerful stories (in all media) that persuade people to take action,” said Stefanie Flaxman in 15 Copy Editing Tips That Can Transform Your Content into Persuasive and Shareable Works of ArtHere are ten ways to make your editing process a little less painful.


Photo via Nic McPhee on Flickr

Before revising:

  1. Walk Away – Sometimes we need a breather and time to clear our heads while writing. If you feel like you are stuck while editing take a quick walk or another mindless activity so your brain can take a break.
  2. Release Attachment – Come at your writing with the mindset that you are editing somebody else’s work. If the sentence you spent an hour writing still adds nothing to the story cut it. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes.
  3. Create a New Document – If you cut content from your blog post, story, or article, save it for later. You never know when that information could come in handy. It could even be inspiration for your next piece of writing.
  4. Be a Skimmer – Skim your writing once to see if the perpetual skimmer could still understand what your story is about.
  5. Self-Evaluate – Write notes for yourself with ideas, changes, or places where content needs to be added or taken away.

While Revising:

  1. Summarize Your Goal – Make your main point clear and specific. The reader might not understand what your intent is if you are not straightforward.
  2. Eliminate Questions – Edit your writing in a way that makes it impossible for readers to be confused. If you ever worry that a sentence or concept is too complicated, it probably is and should be fixed.
  3. Master Your Mechanics – Check, double-check, and triple-check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. If readers can’t get past your mechanical errors they might stop reading all together.
  4. Don’t Rush – Content has to be solidified before you start proofreading and copy editing. Don’t try to edit at the sentence or word level until your ideas are all crystal clear.
  5. Assess Progress – Once a paragraph is flawless move on to an area that needs help. Color coding your sections can help you determine where to focus most of your attention. Use one color when a section is finished, another when the writing is almost perfect, and then a third color for the paragraph or section that needs a lot of TLC.

I listed only ten of the 15 rules mentioned in the article because I felt they were the most important. Let’s just say I was practicing being concise with my writing.

As a writer, which tip do you feel is the most relevant to your own writing? Were you surprised at some of the tips in this list? Do you think copy editing has changed since you started writing?


3 responses to “15 Copy Editing Rules To Improve Your Writing

  1. Pingback: My Writing: Day 29 and 30 | Firefly's Journal

  2. As a writer is it so important to make sure the reader is not confused. It is very easy to get wrapped up in your own writing you forget how the reader will feel when they read it. I need to work on not rushing through my editing. I get to a point when I just want to be done with a story and I do a crappy editing job just so I can be done with it.

  3. Writing should be simple. Ironically, that’s quite hard to achieve!

    Nice post.

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