Some great tips for editing your own writing. You may not follow this whole process for everything you write, but when the piece is important then you'll find it worthwhile to spend the time to do it right. My favorite tips:
Read it Out Loud
The best writing sounds smooth--almost like you're speaking, without getting colloquial. So actually listening to your written syntax is one of the best ways you can catch areas with jangling phrasing. Read your work out loud and change anything that doesn't make sense or that you stumble over. And don't be afraid to use contractions-that's how us non-robots talk, isn't it? (Imagine that last sentence without contractions. Now you see what I mean.)
Prose should flow when you read it. If you stumble over the words or phrasing when you read it out loud, then your readers will stumble in their brains.
The final step is to edit your work down. Yes, chop some of those words, sentences, and paragraphs. Like crazy. But this will help make sure that the true meat of your piece is what shines.
If you need a little help with this, here are some tips:
Keep paragraphs short: Three to four sentences is more than enough to get to the point quickly and succinctly.
Reduce each sentence to its essential parts: A well-defined subject, strong verb, and object.
Avoid the overuse of subordinate clauses: Quick little grammar refresher: A subordinate clause (also known as a dependent clause) has a subject and verb but can't stand alone as a sentence. ...
Nix adverbs and adjectives as often as possible: On your printout, mark through every adjective and adverb you see, and then add back the ones that you think are absolutely necessary. When in doubt, find a verb that says it better.
Infuse opinionated language with authority: During my freshman year of college, I got a B on a kick-ass paper. Upset, I asked my professor to explain his (obviously flawed) grading system. He said I was downgraded because I repeatedly used phrases like "seems to be" and "it appears." When you make a point, he said, throw yourself behind it. Don't give the impression that you're not sure you fully support your own argument.
I'll add another: never use the passive voice! Ever ever, like ever.