Don’t Hit *Publish* Before You Read My Six Writing Suggestions

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The act of writing itself was a kind of therapy.
— Octavia Butler
 

Smoke and Mirrors

"Antoinette, I was moved by your most recent piece! I love your writing, how do you do it?"

It's always an awkward dance of acceptance when someone compliments my writing. I don’t think of myself as a writer and I sometimes feel like I'm falsely portraying a writing professional. I'll be honest- I have a little help.

I have some very specific ways to check my work so that the ruse stays in place. Every blog post or email you read from me has a lot of editing and proofreading!

This allows me to improve my piece through spelling and grammar corrections but also brings clarity to my concept. I always start with some sort of template and that usually goes off the rails within an hour. I dump my concept into Trello and the ideas become clear as I expand my thoughts in my first draft. 

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I don't have my own editor and I don't pay for fancy editing software. I’m convinced my bestie at Angst and Alliteration is silently counting spelling mistakes she never tells me about.

Want to know how do I get from a first draft to published post? Here are six strategies I use to proof my writing before it gets to you.  

Read It Out Loud

I always do this first. We hear our language spoken all day long, and reading and writing are extensions of that. When I read exactly what is typed in front of me, I'm able to hear where I've missed a word or jumbled a phrase. Every time I finish a new draft, I read it all over again. You can also get in the habit of reading sections at a time so you can focus on your most recent changes or make break a long project into smaller pieces.

Read it Backwards

Start with the last sentence of your project and read it. The move to the sentence before that. And so on. As with reading out loud, it lets you hear your content. It’s tedious and time-consuming, but if you have put in a lot of work, you want to make sure your message is exactly what you intended. I’ve read this advice in multiple places, but I have never tried it. Some people swear by it. If you are good at tedious tasks, this would be perfect for you. If you're not, well, try it anyway, you never know.  

Grammarly 

This a web-based editing software that checks your spelling and grammar in real time. I use the free version which checks spelling and catches minor word choices (like your vs. you’re). Grammarly's premium version ($29.95 monthly) checks for more complex editing mistakes and will even suggest replacements for overused words.

The company has a Chrome extension allows you to check almost any internet page you type into (including social media pages), a phone app that adds it to your mobile keyboard, a desktop app you can use as a word processor, and of course, the website version at grammarly.com. Fun note: if you create an account and use it as often as I do across all your platforms, it will give you weekly stats about your writing habits. 

Hemingway App

Like Grammarly, Hemingwayapp.com is an online editor that helps to clarify your writing. The Hemingway webpage allows you to type or copy/paste your content to be check. There is a write/edit toggle at the top of the page, and in “edit” mode, Hemingway makes suggestions on sentence length, alternative phrases, passive voice, and adverbs. It also shows your word count and readability.

I've noticed that I shy away from Hemingway App because it's not the way I talk, but it did a good job at showing me how I write (I LOVE modifying words). Plus, it's great for SEO because many of the things it checks are the same steps to improving your site rankings.

Allow Your Words to Breathe   

I don't mean to air out your writing like laundry. I never publish a post the day I started working on it. It's too fresh and exciting, which means I’m more likely to miss mistakes. A first draft is never good enough to publish and is just the first step. My writing changes many times between my first and final drafts and sometimes written months apart. If you’re writing longer pieces (more than 20,000 words), you might want to let your writing breathe for much longer.

Let Someone Else Read It

When I first started blogging, this was my go-to content fix. Now that I'm writing faster than I could get it approved from a third-party, I never let someone read my content before I post it. That being said, it's a great way to proof your content because someone else will always find those weird sentences or missing words. I would highly recommend this if you're writing really long content that has to be judged in some way. 

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My writing and editing processes have changed over the last few years. Some of the steps above I use all the time, and sometimes I use them for specific types of writing. As you come into your own, find the process that works best for you. Everyone has a different way of finding their voice and I hope this helps you find yours.

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Now it's your turn! How do you proof your work? Do you use any of my tricks already?

Let me know in the comments below. 

About The Author

Black & Bookish is the brainchild of Antoinette Scully, educator and lover of all things bookish. She is on a quest to guide the authors of tomorrow into the bookstores of today. When she's not hanging out online, she's living it up as the mother of two rambunctious girls and wife of a local filmmaker.