25 Editing Tips for Tightening Your Copy: Now a Printable Checklist

25 Editing Tips for Tightening Your Copy: Now a Printable Checklist

Our post on editing your own copy struck a chord — we’re glad we’re not the only ones who fall into some of these common writing traps! Editing your own copy is challenging, but can be done.

So many of you mentioned bookmarking and sharing the post that we whipped up a prettier version for you. (Click to tweet this checklist!)

Pin this baby up on the wall above your desk, whip out your red pen, and get to work! Your blog post, feature article, or novel will be tighter and stronger in no time.

(If you want to print the checklist, click on it to bring up the full size.)

Image: 25 Editing Tips for Tightening Your Copy Checklist

Filed Under: Craft


  • Hugh Smith says:

    Great idea guys, thank you. A copy of this is now on my desk.

  • Robin says:

    I’m going to print and tack this to the wall beside my desk.

    All but eliminating “had” helps. Check your hads.

  • LOVE this! Great resource, TWL Team. Thanks. 🙂

  • Thank YOU! Very helpful.

    May all your gardens grow,

  • Oooh I’m guilty of so many of these. Printed and in use!

  • Jackson says:

    Thanks for such a great resource!
    Will have to put this up near my desk and make sure every blog post I put out goes through this where applicable!

    Thanks again!

  • I couldn’t help notice you added a ‘Notes’ section at the end of the list.

    So why not put in a few caveats – to prevent writers and editors going OTT and following the 25 check points absolutely to the letter?

    For example, remind readers that a few prolixities here and there can actually be a good thing.

    Just like white space between paragraphs, a few padding words can help split components of a sentence up and make them easier to read.

    Put it another way: If you pare back your copy to the absolute minimum it can end up reading like a ride on the waltzers. You get thrown from one idea to the next with no chance to ever catch your breath.

    Also, if you’re writing for blue ribbon publications then it’s maybe best to stick to the correct grammatical rules for ‘over’ and ‘more than’. I’d rather not have sticklers lecturing me about countable nouns and non-countable nouns – even when ‘over’ is perfectly clear as it is.

  • Joanne says:

    Great quick tip list. Wanted to clarify on #23, though. “More than” is generally used when things are countable, such as “More than 100 people attended the program.” “Over” is generally used with spatial descriptions, for instance, “Most of the men in his family stand over six feet tall.”

    Thanks for compiling this useful tipsheet.

  • Thanks for the quick tip sheet! It’s a great reminder to edit. So many times, I get caught up in the zone and forget. Can you believe it?

  • Jack Lyness says:

    Some of these are redundant, and more than one are just plain wrong. But if a lazy writer or editor followed the bulk of these, he or she would be better off, so bravo. As they get better, they can cross some of these out, too.

    (I’d add a suggestion of my own: To avoid typos – especially missing or doubled characters – clean your keyboard more frequently. Canned air once a week will help.)

  • Debra says:

    Love this list. Guilty, guilty, guilty. Especially since I began blogging. Syntax, hmm; became something of the past. I wish to brush up on my previous AP journalistic style. Thank you for the post.

  • Many thanks for this useful list. I’m now going through the first first draft of my WIP and replacing bland words such as ‘walked’, so will also keep in mind the tips from the list, but I do like the occasional long sentence.

  • Alexis Grant says:

    Two quick reminders based on feedback we’ve gotten about this checklist:

    1. These aren’t rules! We call them TIPS because there are always exceptions. This is a GUIDE to remind you to look at these things when you’re self-editing.

    2. This checklist is based off our editing tips post: http://thewritelife.com/edit-your-copy/. That post explains the tips in much more detail. So if you’re not sure what we mean by a certain bullet, check out that post for more detail!

    Alexis, Managing Editor of TWL

  • John Freidley says:

    Great website, but did you now that at least 20% of the population cannot see the color green? This is like having a building without wheelchair access. Please design for accessibility. And keep up the great work– I want to be able to read it more easily, that’s why I am throwing a tantrum here. 🙂

  • I need to make room on my wall for this. Thanks!