Top Tips for Copy Editing Your Own Work

By Sam Cioffi
November 16, 2023

Let’s say you’re tasked with writing a thought leadership piece. You gather all your information, sit down and type out what you believe to be an article that clearly and accurately communicates your or your client’s goal. You reread it and everything sounds perfect. So, now what? Is it ready to submit?

Before you proceed, consider one thing: copy editing. While you may have someone on your internal team who usually takes care of editing duties, it’s still vital to practice and master these skills yourself, no matter how long or short the piece may be, to ensure you’re publishing the best version of your content possible.

While editing your own work may seem daunting or repetitive, here are a few tips and tricks that can make the process flow a little easier.

1. Look at your work with a fresh pair of eyes

The bottom line is your editing doesn’t need to be done right away. As long as you’re meeting deadlines, take a few hours, or even days, to let your work sit. Returning to it at a later point will provide you with a different perspective, and you’ll realize some sentences might make more, or less, sense than others.

2. Determine your editing goals

How do you want your piece to sound? What is the overall tone you’re trying to achieve? Once you determine these answers, you’ll have a clearer idea of what content you may need to cut or add.

3. Divide your piece into sections

By cutting your work into sections, it can make editing a little less overwhelming. Consider starting with a section that you feel most confident about to create momentum when editing. This might also be a portion of the piece that you feel needs the least amount of work.

4. Focus on clear and concise language

No matter what you determine your overall goal to be for the piece, you should always focus on using as few words as possible to convey your message. Avoid long sentences and utilize meaningful punctuation to create a flow. Even cutting out unnecessary words such as “that” and “in order to” and using contractions will help you achieve this goal.

5. Use one voice

This tip ties in with determining your editing objectives. The goal of your piece will help you decide whether to use first, second or third person. For thought leadership pieces, first person will most likely be the way to go. For anything internal, second person might make the most sense, and third person can be used for profile pieces.

You can also use these tips as a starting point and learn to develop your own formula for copy editing. As long as you’re following proper grammar rules and working toward an editing goal, the approach you take can become your own.