Revising your writing as you go along isn’t quite the same as editing it, though it helps. I can’t do justice to the fonts used, but as a formerly available STC* T-shirt stated, first you Write, then Revise, Revise, Revise, Revise, Revise, Revise, Revise, Revise, Revise, Revise, Revise, Revise, Revise, Revise, Revise, Revise, Revise, Revise, Publish!
Somewhere along the way, though, an editor gets to participate in that project. If that editor is you, here are ten things to keep in mind, if you haven’t done them already (look for obvious flaws):
- Does it meet company policy requirements? Does it hold together? Are the statements in the document accurate? Does it infringe on any other company’s or author’s copyright? Are trademarks properly recognized on the copyright page?
- Is the document’s definition or purpose stated or implied in the first paragraph? Do the sections that follow fulfill that promise?
- How much time do you have? Don’t try to edit for everything all at once. It’ll take several passes and several levels of editing, and you may not be able to check for everything.
- Print out the document. You can’t successfully edit on screen.
- Grab a brightly colored pen but avoid red ink. Red will just raise your own hackles by the time you get to the end of the document. When you pick up the printout again, you are now the reader, not the writer. Does it make sense? Does it provide what the audience is looking for? Who is the audience, anyway?
- Set the work aside for as long as possible, at least while you go to lunch, or suffer through a tedious meeting, or go home for the night. You’ll look at the work with different eyes when you pick it up again.
- Run your software’s spellchecker, then save the document again after fixing or ignoring its sometimes banal suggestions. But run it!
- Update the document information (File | Info in MS Word, then look at the right side of the screen), in case someone asks for the electronic file later on. If your company permits a Word document to be shared with the Sales Department (or more usually, the PDF version), do you really want the new customer to know you’re amending another client’s proposal?
- Are the alignment and formatting correct all the way through? Some work can’t be formatted with justified margins, but if your user manual or news article needs to be that way, you may have to rewrite a sentence to avoid the irritation of long empty spaces between words.
- Check for consistent headers and footers with updated information in them.
- Are the fonts limited to one or two styles?
- Did you say “two” when you meant “too”? Did you say “the the“?
- Is the copyright date current?
- When in doubt, look it up! Either in an industry style guide, reference manual, Harbrace, or, as a last resort, the Chicago Manual of Style. Chicago is not geared toward everyday communication, that is, the way people actually talk.
So, yes, you really can edit your own work but it will be harder than you think.