3 min read

Doing a paragraph-level edit of your manuscript (as a revision tool)

An abstract image with scribbles, representing the editing process.

Welcome to the microscopic world of paragraph-level editing. This isn't just about checking for typos or tweaking sentences – it's about diving into the heart of your prose and making sure it sings. So grab your editing goggles, because we're about to get up close and personal with your manuscript.

The importance of paragraph-level editing

Paragraph-level editing might seem like a small-scale task, but it can have a big impact on your writing. It's where you fine-tune your prose, clarify your ideas, and ensure your story flows seamlessly. It's also where you can inject style and voice into your writing.

When to do paragraph-level editing

Timing is vital when it comes to paragraph-level editing. Do it too early, and you might waste time perfecting paragraphs that end up being cut or drastically changed. Do it too late, and you might miss the opportunity to enhance your story. The sweet spot? After you've got your major revisions out of the way, but before your final line edit.

How to do a paragraph-level edit

Examine each paragraph in isolation

Look at each paragraph individually. Does it have a clear point? Does it advance the story or reveal something about a character? If not, it might need revising.

Look at the flow

Now, look at how your paragraphs connect. Does each one flow smoothly into the next? Is there a logical progression? If not, you might need to rearrange, rewrite, or add transitions.

Check for variety

Variety is the spice of life, and it's also the spice of good writing. Do your paragraphs vary in length and structure? If they're all similar, your writing might feel monotonous.

Tweak for tone and style

Paragraph-level editing is also where you can inject your voice into your writing. Do your paragraphs reflect the tone and style of your story? If not, now's the time to tweak them.

Tips for effective paragraph-level editing

Paragraph-level editing might seem like a Herculean task, but it can be more manageable – and even enjoyable – with the right approach. Here are some tips to help you navigate the process and come out the other side with polished, powerful prose.

One paragraph at a time

Trying to tackle an entire manuscript of paragraph-level edits can be overwhelming. Instead, take it one paragraph at a time. This will help you maintain focus and give each paragraph the attention it deserves.

Use readability scores

Readability scores – like the Flesch-Kincaid or Gunning Fog Index – can be a helpful tool during paragraph-level editing. These scores can give you an idea of how easy (or difficult) your writing is to read, which can be especially useful if you're writing for a specific audience or reading level.

Don't be afraid of big changes

While paragraph-level editing often involves fine-tuning, don't hesitate to make big changes if necessary. This could mean rewriting a paragraph entirely, or even deleting it if it's not serving your story.

Keep the narrative arc in mind

Each paragraph should contribute to your story in some way, whether it's advancing the plot, revealing character, or setting the scene. If a paragraph isn't doing one of these things, it might need to be revised.

Vary your paragraph structure

Variety is the spice of writing. Try to vary your paragraph structure to keep readers engaged. This could mean mixing sentence length, alternating between action and dialogue, or experimenting with different narrative techniques.

Read your work aloud

Reading your work aloud can help you spot issues that you might miss when reading silently. This could be awkward phrasing, run-on sentences, or places where the flow is disrupted. If it doesn't sound good to your ear, it probably won't read well on the page.

Take regular breaks

Editing requires a high level of concentration, which can be mentally exhausting. Make sure to take regular breaks to rest your mind and maintain your focus. A fresh mind is far more effective at spotting issues and coming up with creative solutions.

Wrapping up your paragraph-level edit

A paragraph-level edit is your chance to really polish your prose. It might seem like a lot of work, but it's worth it. After all, excellent writing isn't just about telling a compelling story – it's about telling it well. So take a deep breath, dive in, and let your paragraphs shine.