If you are having trouble writing a complex or important idea, sentence or paragraph, a good tip is to say out loud what you are really trying to say, then write those words down.
For instance, what I really want to say is… “This problem is complex with many causes and many solutions”. This gives you a starting point which you can then modify by replacing words, rephrasing, rearranging and expanding. Sometimes you may replace simple words with more formal words, or you may expand a word into a phrase or a whole new sentence.
But you may be surprised – often what you first write down when you say “what I really want to say is”, is good enough to stay, particularly if you have been thinking about the words and ideas for a while.
The “What I really want to say…” technique can be used for a range of written material from sympathy notes to speeches to summary or conclusion paragraphs.
What I really want to say is… Writing can be difficult, but write down something simple to start with. It also gives your editor something to work with.
To edit your own work, you need to know what to look out for. Edit for overall structure and content first, then copy-edit or sub-edit to check spelling, punctuation and grammar.
Be aware of these mistakes
- Be aware of your own common typos. Is there a word you always mis-spell or a keystroke combination you always mis-type?
- Be aware of inconsistencies in style and format in documents written over a long period of time, such as a thesis. Use a style sheet to maintain consistency.
- Be aware of work written when you are tired, stressed or rushed, and carefully check work written in these conditions.
- Be aware of changes made at the last minute. These are more likely to have mistakes as you may not have looked at this work as often as other parts of the document.
- Print your work and edit a hard copy, instead of on-screen.
- Read your work from beginning to end several times, checking different aspects each time – spelling and punctuation, then references, then formatting such as heading styles, then non-text elements such as tables and figures.
- Check it if you’re not sure. It’s easy to use your favourite search engine to check spellings, meanings or details such as dates.