Monday, May 10, 2010

Guest blogger Karen Cioffi on the "Final Stages of Self-Editing"

There is so much involved in self-editing; the lists and checkpoints can fill a book. But, in this article we’ll look at how to do a final once over. These are steps to be taken after you’ve proofread and self-edited the manuscript and had it critiqued, checked for grammar, storyline, punctuation, showing, etc.

1. Read you manuscript

Read it again. Try to read it slow and watch for all the self-editing tips you’ve learned and think you’ve applied. Spotting one’s one errors is difficult since we know what we wrote and intended. Some of the other tips here will help with this problem.

2. Change the font and read it again.

Surprisingly, you will spot errors you just glazed over before. You won’t run through it the same way you did with the original font.

3. Read each paragraph from the last sentence to the first

This is an interesting method for an additional self-edit. It’s helpful because your brain won’t be on auto-pilot. You will spot glitches within sentences that you would glaze over when reading normally.

Note: I don’t mean reading each sentence backward; read each sentence as you would normally, but read the last sentence first and work your way to the beginning of the paragraph.

5. Print your manuscript

Okay, I know what you environmentalists are thinking . . . I’m one also. I try very hard not to waste paper and protect our trees. But, there is a difference between reading on a computer and reading paper copy. I’ll be honest, I don’t know why our brain perceives it differently, it just does.

As you’re reading your manuscript, use a colored pen or pencil and mark the text you find errors in. Once you’re finished go back to your computer document and correct the errors.

The other practical aspect of this process is it’s a good idea to have a hard copy of your manuscript near its final stage. Unless you have an offsite backup, you can’t be too careful (I’d be skeptical of this also – you never know with any online system). I’ve lost a number of files when my computer broke. And, I’ve even lost files on zip drives when the drives failed. So, from experience I’m cautious when it comes to saving my work.

Another step to take, if you print this copy of the manuscript, is to recycle it. I reuse paper I print by using the back for notes; when it can be discarded, I recycle! You can either rip it into pieces or shred it so your valuable content isn't usable to others.

Karen Cioffi is an author, ghostwriter-for-hire, freelance writer, and reviewer. She is also the founder and manager of VBT Writers on the Move, and co-moderator of a children’s writing critique group. You can learn more about Karen at: and be sure to sign up for her FREE monthly newsletter, A Writer’s World, at: You’ll get a free e-book for doing so!


Mari said...


Great ideas! I agree with you about printing. I've missed errors when just reading online. As soon as I print it, the mistakes leap right off the page!

I'll use these tips on my current manuscripts. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

kathy stemke said...

GREAT TIPS!! I love the editing tips about the different font, and reading it backwards.

Darcía said...

Great tips for all writers, Karen! I've tried not printing it out (trying to be nicer to the environment) but, like you said, it just doesn't work. I thought it was my own idiosyncrasy. Good to know I'm not alone!

Dana Donovan said...

I like the change of font idea. It's simple & different. I also have a list of "search-and-destroy words that I look for. Common typos that Word might never notice were used wrong like, Affect-effect,Grisly-grizzly,Picture-pitcher, Naval-navel,and so no.And then there's the ever-sticky, Its-it’s, their-they're, your-you're, etc.Of course we all know the difference, but somehow they do have a way of sneaking into our prose and camouflaging themselves well.

Anonymous said...

I never thought of changing the font and re-reading the MS, then read it again backwards. Sounds like a lot of work. Think I;ll pay my editor to do that for me.

But I do a lot of self editing myself. As much as I can. Makes life easier on my editor that way.

Stephen Tremp

elysabeth said...

Great tips. I'd heard the read it backwards one before, but I have a hard time doing that - lol. I can write backwards (really, I can; it's called mirror writing but I don't need a mirror to do it). I print mine out mostly for figuring out which clues are best as discussion questions for the back of the book and which would be better off in the study guide.

Changing the font is a new one on me. Think I'll do that next time - thanks for sharing - E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad, 50-state, mystery, trivia series
STATE OF WILDERNESS, now available
STATE OF QUARRIES, now available
STATE OF ALTITUDE, coming May/June 2010

Where will the adventure take you next?

Janet Ann Collins said...

Thank you for sharing such helpful ideas.

Mayra Calvani said...

Thanks for the great tips and for being a guest on my blog today, Karen!

Nancy Famolari said...

Excellent advice. I've used most of them and best of all -- they work!

Karen Cioffi said...

Hi, All, Thanks so much for visiting today. I haven't tried the reading your manuscript backwards yet, but I will. And, I agree, I think it will be time consuming.

And, Dana, those homonyms are so tricky and seem to sneak in when least expected.

Mayra, thank you so much for featuring me today!

Anonymous said...

This is great information. I'll be copying them and following them when I'm editing.
J. Aday Kennedy
The Differently-Abled Writer

Katie Hines said...

Great tips. When I print, my printer has an automatic front/back printing option which I use. That way I save paper.

Karen Cioffi said...

Hi, Jessica, I'm so glad you found the tips useful.

Katie, I never thought of using both sides of the paper. I think my printer has that option, I'll have to check.

Thanks for the tip!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

This is a timely article for me as I’m going through an edit now. You’ve listed several clever ideas, I’m going to try. Thanks.

Karen Cioffi said...

Hey, Jane. I'm glad they're coming in handy!

I'm in edits now also.

Martha said...

Great tips. I never thought of changing the font. Thanks for the advice.
Martha Swirzinski

Karen Cioffi said...

Your welcome, Martha.And, thanks for stopping by!

Accountant, Author & Freelance Writer said...

Karen, These are great tips for self editing. I have a hard time catching errors on the computer screen and find printing the document to review works better.

Thanks again for sharing these tips!

Dallas said...

What a great post! I especially love your tip about changing the font. I never would have thought of that but it is so true! Thanks Karen and Mayra for this helpful post.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

This is a great list, Karen. I hope readers will also consider my book The Frugal Editor (; it gives some editing/content advice straight from the mouths of top agents. Let's just say that they all seemed to have plenty of pet peeves. (-:

Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Karen Cioffi said...

Hi, Brigitte, Dallas, and Carolyn. I'm so glad you found the post useful.

And, I have The Frugal Editor and it's jammed pack of great advice, tips, information, and resources.

Thanks all, for stopping by.

Debra Eckerling said...

LOVE THIS! Will definitely share!


Karen Cioffi said...

Thanks, Deb!