It’s the rule: Don’t edit your own work. This doesn’t get you out of the responsibility of being both the first and last eyes on your piece though. Catch the fly balls, so your editor can worry about the trickier plays. Double-check these nine things before you click submit.
1. Double spaces
Back in the days of typesetting and typewriters, two spaces after a period was standard. This changed in the 1950s to a single space (most likely because it was cheaper to print if it took up less space), but old habits die hard. If you still space twice by habit (or by accident), double-check your overeager space bar by using Ctrl + F. An editor already has Spidey-sense. Don’t make them use it for this.
2. Your vs you’re
As writers and editors, we OWN this one (and we annoyingly correct people who misuse it). But when your in the writing zone — see what I did there? — it’s easy to make mistakes and let your brain fill in automatically. You might gloss right over and not even notice. Ctrl + F “your” then read all occurrences as “You are” to determine if you’ve used it properly.
Word economy means tight writing. Eliminate fillers taking up space in your work. Commit to what you’re saying or don’t say it.
Common fillers include:
- Fickle words and phrases like “just,” “almost,” “maybe,” “sort of,” “a bit”
- Adverbs like “actually,” “particularly,” “especially”
- That and in order to. You can usually delete “that” and always “in order.”
- Repetitive phrases like “safe haven” or “this time around” (a haven is by definition safe and you can ditch “around” without losing any meaning).
If you say there are going to be seven things on your list — like 7 Items to Take to the Beach — make sure there are actually seven items, not six or eight. And make sure when you adjust the number, it matches your introduction.
5. Direct Quotes
The first thing you learn the first day of Journalism 101 is spell everyone’s name right and make sure you don’t misquote. Whether you’re working as a hard-hitting investigative journalist or a fluff reporter reminiscing about Britney Spears’ meltdown in 2007, make sure your quotes are accurate just the same.
Use primary sources. Sites like Wikipedia or Statistic Brain (secondary sources) make it so easy to just grab information willy-nilly, but the internet is a big, tangential place and sourcing requires us to narrow in on the data we need. Find information directly.
Whether you are a little dyslectic or are just guilty of working too fast — you’re not the first one to mix up 45% and 54%. Double-check stats against their sources to be sure you’ve cited the correct number and to be sure you’ve not misconstrued the data to say something different.
Google Docs, Word or ClearVoice… doesn’t matter what you’re using. Copying and pasting, or just breathing funny, can make the formatting wonky. Be sure your headers are consistent (H3). put spaces between your em dashes, check the font is the same throughout, indent or block out your paragraphs. Make it look professional and clean.
If the guidelines say to include three sources and an internal link… Include three sources and internal link. Write to the personas. Don’t skip over directions, especially when they’re so easy to double-check.