Editor, Edit Thyself.

There are three kinds of editing. Here’s how to be better at each.


Think that all writers are capable of, or even good at, self-editing? Unfortunately, proofing and polishing their own work can be a challenge for even the most talented wordsmiths. Well then, you say, that’s why the world has editors, right? Sure, and those people appreciate their jobs, but that doesn’t mean that writers can or should be sending in their copy without doing any self-editing. If you would like to bone up on your personal editing skills, here are the different types of editing and how you can improve at each.

Substantive edits

This type of editing is the mac daddy. The big cheese. The heavy weight. Otherwise known as revising, substantive edits can be time consuming and often involve shifting content, deleting information and maybe even rewriting sections. This is about getting the content laser focused and right.

 Substantive edit helpers: An outline or a client brief that details what content is to be included in the article or project can help make this form of editing move much faster.

 Copy edits

The next level down in the editing hierarchy is copy edits. Once you have the substance on track, then it is the time for going through and looking out for grammar or spelling mistakes. Maybe there’s a word repeated three times in one paragraph or a phrase seems out of place. The copy edit is when that would be fixed.

 Copy edit helpers: In today’s lovely, modern world, there are a whole range of apps that can help you ferret out bad writing choices, clichés, etc. in your copy. Try the Hemingway app, Cliché Finder or Grammarly.


Finally, there is proofreading. This is the final look over to catch any mistakes that slipped through or maybe were even introduced during the previous rounds of editing. You want to look for misspellings, missing punctuation or other typos.

 Proofreading helpers: A good, old-fashioned real person is best. Reading it out loud can help, too. Then do a spell check.

Finally, no matter what kind of editing you are doing, the best thing you can do is give yourself some space. Walking away from your writing and then re-reading it an hour or day later will allow you to see things you missed.