Always copyedit what you have written. In other words, check it through. After all, you want to avoid misunderstandings and errors. But what do you need to look for when you copyedit your work? The following advice shows you.
Use the spell checker that comes with your computer software. Before you employ it the first time, though, confirm that the language of the spell checker is appropriate. For example, do you want US English, UK English, Canadian English, or Australian English? Further, don’t expect your spell checker to always identify any errors based on pronunciation. Take the following sentence: “We found the bare in the woods.” A spell checker may pass this when in fact you meant to say: “We found the bear in the woods.” In other words, you also need to act as your own spell checker, possibly with the aid of a dictionary.
By all means, use your computer’s grammar checker. But as with spelling, be wary. A grammar checker can spot obvious errors but is not infallible. You should read each of your sentences from the viewpoint of clarity. Ask yourself: Is the meaning of this sentence obvious? If you regularly struggle with grammar, invest in a guide. Bookstores usually have a selection.
Any form of writing, whether an email, business report, or story, must be clear. You don’t want readers to misunderstand anything you have written. Such misunderstandings can lead to confusion, frustration, and wasted time. So when you copyedit your work, don’t think of yourself as the author; instead, approach the piece as a reader. Clarity is everything. This begs the question of how to achieve such clarity. The answer is twofold.
• First, think about what you intend to write. You may be able to marshal such thoughts in your head. Or you may prefer to note down ideas about your content. Either way, pause and think before you begin writing.
• Second, keep your sentences and paragraphs to a reasonable length. In this regard, the reasonable length of a sentence is the number of words you must write to make a single point. For a paragraph, a reasonable length is the number of sentences you require to complete the theme of that paragraph. When you copyedit your work, ensure that your sentences and paragraphs meet the criteria given here.
Copyediting also involves checking whether you have used the right word in the correct place. Confirm that you have chosen the word that is appropriate. Don’t use an alternative that initially may sound good but is, on reflection, unsuitable. Because the English language has such a vast range of words, you can easily fall into the trap of using ones that confuse readers or set the wrong tone. The simplest word is often the best.
The quality of your written work reflects on you. Use the above guidance to help copyedit what you have produced. You can then write any type of material with greater confidence.
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