When You’re Editing, Use Your Head Not Your Computer

Welcome to Tips and Tricks Tuesday, a weekly column on grammar for tribal secretaries and administrative assistants.

Despite all the technology that has made writing easier, it can’t take the place of a powerful vocabulary, a firm grasp of grammar and a good eye — and ear — for editing your own work. Yes, of course, any word processing program worth its hefty price includes spelling and grammar checks. But spell check isn’t going to tell you the difference between heal and heel or when to use that, which or who. It’s also of little use when it comes to spelling most tribal names and most surnames — Native American or not.

So here’s our first tip: Use your head first and last. Never send out anything that hasn’t been checked and double checked.

When you’re editing your own work, follow these tips:

  1. Walk away from it … at least for a little while. You need to take a break between your writing and your editing.
  2. Use a pencil as you read your work. Point to every word and look at it. Does it look right? Are you sure of the spelling? If not, look it up. Don’t rely on your computer’s spell check.
  3. Read your work aloud slowly. Reading your writing aloud helps you look at every word and it gives you a better idea of the tone or your work, whether all your sentences make sense and whether you’ve conveyed your thoughts accurately.
  4. Get a second set of eyes. Find someone in your office with a proven record of good writing and editing skills and ask him or her to read your work. This is not needy or unprofessional. This should be standard operating procedure for all business material that will be distributed to the public.
  5. Remember that writing and editing is a skill. Your ability will increase with knowledge and practice.
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