We’re all a little blind when it comes to our own writing. Before you turn in that dissertation or self-publish that novel, make sure you have someone else take a look.
Do you usually have an eagle’s eye when it comes to catching typos and grammar issues? Unfortunately, if you’re editing your own writing, you’re probably missing more errors than you think. Depending on your skill as a writer—and sometimes even in spite of your skill—you’re probably letting errors slip by that another pair of eyes could catch.
Glynda Hull, a linguist and professor at UC Berkeley, found that even advanced writers miss some errors while editing their own and others’ writing. In her research article “The Editing Process in Writing: A Performance Study of More Skilled and Less Skilled College Writers,” Hull identified more skilled and less skilled college-level writers and put them to the test. Each participant was asked to correct sentence-level errors in a self-written essay and in three essays written by others.
Hull and her team found that although the more skilled writers almost always performed better edits compared to the less skilled, both groups corrected very few errors on the self-written essays. Hull states, “Both more skilled and less skilled writers did better overall at error correction when they worked on a text that was not their own” (25).
Everyone performed better when editing the standard essays, which were written by others. The research could not identify which error was corrected the most or least often; it varied with task and condition.
Even for skilled college-level writers, errors in self-written essays squeaked past. This research serves as a warning to writers that they should be extra cautious. Before submitting a job application or a major assignment, writers should ask someone to read through their work. They don’t have to hire professional editors unless the writing is extremely important; a friend, family member, or classmate can act as a fresh pair of eyes to find the mistakes the writer most likely could not.
So, despite your writing skill level, that misspelled word or fragment might be slipping by. Make the time for a professional edit or peer review, and submit your writing with peace of mind.
To learn more about how writers could benefit from a peer review, read the full article:
Hull, Glynda. “The Editing Process in Writing: A Performance Study of More Skilled and Less Skilled College Writers.” Research in the Teaching of English 21, no. 1 (1987): 8–29. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40171099.
—Abby Haralson, Editing Research
FEATURE IMAGE BY KEIRA BURTON
Find more research
Read Anthony Onwuegbuzie’s (2017) article to learn more about the most common errors in writing: Onwuegbuzie, Anthony J. “Most Common Formal Grammatical Errors Committed by Authors.” Journal of Educational Issues 3, no. 1 (2017): 109. https://doi.org/10.5296/jei.v3i1.10839.
Take a look at Kyme Lambson’s Editing Research article about the power of peer reviews: “To Peer Review Or Not To Peer Review?”