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Top Editing Tips From A Pro

Sigrid Macdonald, Author of Be Your Own Editor
Sigrid Macdonald

Today we have a special feature on a book that will help you become a better editor when it comes to refining your own work. Since this skill isn’t the easiest to master, editor/author Sigrid Macdonald decided to write a book on the subject. Here are the details in an interview with Sigrid…

1. The name of the book is “Be Your Own Editor”, so it’s probably best to start by asking what led you to write this book? Give us a little background and some history behind the inspiration.

I’ve been a writer for several decades.  I started out doing articles for political organizations and op-ed pieces for the newspaper.  Then I moved on to writing for magazines and finally, I wrote books.  After I finished my first book, I was hired by a local company to be a manuscript editor.  I knew nothing about editing but I was confident about my skills because I had been writing for so long — that faith in myself was misplaced!

Editing and writing require completely different skill sets.  They look and sound as though they should be the same, because in many respects, editing is just like rewriting. On the other hand, writing involves a creative process of putting your ideas on paper, but editing involves the meticulous review of everything you’ve written to make sure that it’s structurally and grammatically sound and accurate.

In the old days, pretty much everyone who wasn’t a professional writer edited his or her own material.  For example, most college and university students would never have considered hiring a proofreader or editor to go over their essays.  

Nowadays, things have changed.  Higher expectations are placed on students by professors in postsecondary education, yet many of the fundamentals of English composition and grammar are not being taught properly in the early years.  Many of us are writing on websites, in the blog community or even self-publishing books.  No one edits that work, whereas a professional writer can submit an article to a magazine, and the magazine editor will kindly and quickly remove any typos or awkward structural or grammatical problems.  Not so when we do these things ourselves. Consequently, we may miss all kinds of redundancies, inconsistencies, misused words or poorly phrased sentences.

Be Your Own Editor is the book I wish that I’d had when I made the transition from writer to professional editor.  I wrote it in order to share what I’ve learned about editing.  So often, I receive inquiries about my services from people who can’t afford to hire me. That makes me feel really bad because my background is in social work and I want everyone to have access to services. This book is meant for all those talented, dedicated writers or students who can’t afford to hire a pricey editor, and could do a perfectly good job themselves if they put in a little extra time and effort brushing up on the basics of grammar and organization.

2. How did you discover the techniques you recommend in the book and perfect them? How specifically have they contributed to your success?

Many of the techniques in the book are quite simple.  I talk about the need for consistency and clarity.  I discuss how to compose an essay, blog post, article or nonfiction book.  And I go into great detail about frequently misused words such as affect or effect, further and farther or between and among.  I discovered all these things by either making mistakes in my own writing or catching them in my clients’ works. Continue reading Top Editing Tips From A Pro