Sunday, May 22, 2016

Spit and Polish

Most beginning writers don’t bother polishing their work. Is it because they don’t know that they should or that they’re lazy? Most likely, it’s the former. Just like you, they’re eager to write great stories or articles and send them out to be published. But a novice’s eagerness is usually met with rejection—lots of it. Instead of giving up, rev up your determination and make things happen in your favor. To do this, you’ll need to polish your work.

The word polish originally meant to make something smooth and . In writing, polish can mean to improve or perfect or refine a piece of writing by getting rid of minor errors—errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure.

Polishing writing is much like polishing your shoes when your prepare for a special occasion. You polish your shoes because you want to look our best. And because you want your writing to be its best, you should polish it so that you make it as easy as possible for others to read it.

You can use two of your senses to see how well your writing is "working"—hearing and seeing. As you read, listen to see if your writing makes sense, if you’ve left out a word, or if you want to explain a bit more.

You can also read your writing aloud to someone else, such as a family member or a friend. Ask your listener to see if your story or article makes sense. Count on that person to hear what you can’t.

Professional writers often create their own list of trouble spots, typically a list that they use to guide their polishing. You'll want to create such a list for yourself. Are your sentences so long that they’re hard to read? Or perhaps so short that one sentence doesn’t seem very well connected to another? Do certain spelling words always seem to trip you up? Do you have difficulty with endings or beginnings?

Before you can begin polishing, you’ll need to proofread your piece. But before you do that, you need to revuiew the content of your piece. Don’t try to proofread your draft while you edit the content. Divide this into two separate procedures.

Start at the beginning and read your document through slowly, focusing on what you’re trying to say. Make sure your document makes sense as a whole, and that you’ve developed each point. When you’ve spent a lot of time writing a piece, it’s easy to get caught up in the flow of your work, but the human brain doesn’t read every word of longer pieces. Instead, it skims for meaning.

Does your article or story follow the stylistic conventions of the type of content you’re writing, such as the inverted pyramid for news articles? At this stage, focus on the message you’re trying to convey. If you’re having trouble reading for content errors, make an outline of the points you intend to make before you read your content. This is especially important if your piece contains historical information which you’re trying to present in chronological order.

Next, focus on fixing grammar, spelling, and awkward phrasing. To find even minuscule errors, read each part of your text separately by taking each sentence out of context. Make sure each one is grammatically correct.

During this phase of the process, look for incorrect punctuation, especially commas and quotation marks. Also, look for mixed up homophones like “there” and “their,” or “two,” “to” and “too.” And don’t’ forget to check for overused adverbs and passive voice.

Lastly, look through your piece and see if you can upgrade any of the words, especially replacing two words with a dynamic one.