(Or Tips to Thrive During A Love/Hate Relationship: Part II)
While I have a love/hate relationship with writing, I have a like/dislike rapport with editing. Once I have something written down, the “writing” process begins. Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once noted, “There is no great writing, only great rewriting.” I agree. While editing may not be as creative as writing the initial draft, I find the editing process equally lengthy, although easier. However I recently read the following quote, “Self editing is the path to the dark side” -Eric Benoit, author. Thoughts?* For the rest of this post, I’ll examine how to avoid the Dark Side of rewriting.
Tip 1: EDIT, EDIT, EDIT—I edit each piece of writing multiple times. I try to schedule short, but frequent, editing blocks. For example, I might edit a paper for one or two hours and return the next day to re-edit for a similar amount of time. The brain has an amazing ability to self-correct bad grammar and golss oevr seplinlg meisatkes without alerting our inner editor!
Tip 2: READ ALOUD/READ BACKWARDS—During undergrad, an English professor suggested “backwards editing” to catch grammar/spelling errors. This doesn’t mean reading each word backwards! Instead, read your paper backwards sentence by sentence: read the last sentence, then the second to the last sentence, etc. This breaks up the “flow” of text, improving editing focus.
Tip 3: ASK A FRIEND—An additional editor with a critical eye can spot forgotten grammar/spelling mistakes and also suggest tips to improve the clarity/quality of your work.
Tip 4: ACTIVE VOICE—Always choose a precise, effective verb. When possible, utilize the active voice.
Typos: A Tragedy
Although no writer is perfect, poor editing can result in tragic consequences. I received approval from a friend to share his story. Many years ago, **Alex** applied for a competitive summer internship at **The Ice Cream Factory of Awesomeness**. After carefully editing his application and impressive resume, Alex submitted the paperwork. Several weeks later, Alex received an e-mail stating, “You are now hired by The Ice Cream Factory of Awesomeness. Thank you for your application…” Success! Alex informed his previous summer employer that he would no longer be available to work. Alex looked for housing near his new job. And then Alex waited. Alex waited. Alex waited. Alex waited, but never heard more from The Ice Cream Factory of Awesomeness. Mildly alarmed, Alex called the company. After a brief investigation, the Ice Cream Factory of Diminishing Awesomeness sent out a mass e-mail to the internship applicants, apologizing for a spelling typo in their latest e-mail. The corrected e-mail now read, “You are noT hired by the Ice Cream Factory of Awesomeness. Thank you for your application…”**
Don’t be like The Ice Cream Factory of Questionable Awesomeness. Be like Louis Brandeis: Supreme Court Justice, Harvard Law graduate, champion for social justice, author, and advocate for the power of great rewriting. Happy Editing!
*Apropos, as I recently saw the latest Star Wars.
**Alex went on to accomplish many successes 🙂
*** For more information about improve scientific writing, check out the following link. It is an old article, but a great one! http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/the-science-of-scientific-writing/1