Editing Your Own Work – The Traffic Light Revision Technique

This process, which is called The Traffic Light Revision technique, is a more hands-on editing process that you can do at any time when creating your blog posts.

Photo by Harshal Desai on Unsplash

Today’s post comes from an article I read about the best methods to edit your own work. As editing is kind of a big thing in the world of writing, I thought it would be interesting to see how different editors use their own processes to edit their work.

As mentioned in my previous post, every editor is different, and therefore, every editor will have a different process. This is actually a good thing because it means we can learn from others, and our editing process can improve.

While tools like Grammarly do a similar thing when using the document editor, this process, which is called The Traffic Light Revision technique, is a more hands-on editing process that you can do at any time when creating your blog posts.

Stephanie Flaxman from Copyblogger uses this technique when she writes, and it just might be the thing you’re looking for if you want to rely less on software apps and browser extensions. There is nothing wrong with good old-fashioned manual editing.

Here’s the technique in the step-by-step format:

1. Make a copy of the document

Include “TLRT1” in the file name when you save this copy.

Now you have the original document and a version you will mark-up first before you edit.

2. As you examine each sentence, highlight it with green, yellow, or red

Use green if you think the sentence is the best it can be. Choose yellow if you think minor modifications will make the sentence stronger. Select red if you think it should be completely revised or removed.

Don’t change the text yet.

3. Make another copy of the document

Include “TLRT2” in the file name when you save this copy. The “TLRT2” version will be the file you edit.

Before you edit the document and change the colours, you want to save the original marked-up “TLRT1” version for future reference.

You can learn from the “TLRT1” document with the green, yellow, and red text. It will help you recognise your strengths and weaknesses.

4. Edit the yellow and red areas

You may also need to edit the green text to accommodate the changes you make in the red and yellow portions, but don’t waste time repeatedly reviewing the green text you already regard as solid content.

As you revise the weaker sections, change yellow and red portions to green.

5. Proofread each sentence from the beginning

Once all of your text is green, you should be able to read it from the start without making any edits.

If you still need to change parts of the text, consider highlighting those sections in yellow or red. Take a break and correct those areas at a later time, until everything is green.

When you have trouble identifying whether a sentence should be green, yellow, or red, ask yourself:

“Do these words clearly communicate my true intent and give my audience a cohesive presentation?”

If your sentence is vague or assumes your reader knows something she may not actually know, you will likely benefit from a revision.

Let me know if you’ve used any or all of the editing steps above. And if you like my content, please follow this blog. Thanks!

What is the Most Important Tool in the Editing Process?

Why would anyone read your writing if you’re not respecting the process of creating it?


My Post

I wrote about the process of editing the other day. I wanted to clarify the topic even further today. I wasn’t trying to say that Grammarly isn’t an important part of the process but that it’s an option. You have to have a process.

Don’t disregard the power of Grammarly as a tool. But don’t become reliant on one tool alone. You’re writing needs to be clear, and free of errors and spelling mistakes. What you write has to be readable for anyone and everyone. After all, we want the world to read what we write and for people to understand it, right?

Most people think of editing as a laborious process. And it sometimes can be. But if you want your writing to stand out in a crowd, you need to make sure it’s as good as anything else out there and then some. Why would anyone read your writing if you’re not respecting the process of creating it? You want your writing to be the best version of itself it can be.

The most important tool in the editing process isn’t Grammarly or even Hemingway. It’s you. The process begins with your passion to write and to make it better. I am not saying this because it sounds good. I am saying these things because they can work for anyone willing to put in the effort.

I have only started using more than three different methods to edit what I write. Like anything, it takes practice. This article on Medium discusses self-editing and is informative. Apply the things you’ve learned. Have you become a better writer as a result?

Please let me know about your process in the comments!

Check out my other articles here.


When Not To Use Grammarly in the Editing Process

I have edited a few pages during my time as an editor for a gaming magazine in New Zealand. I didn’t rely on online tools to make editing adjustments and corrections.


Editing Process
Image Credit


I have edited a few pages during my time as an editor for a gaming magazine in New Zealand. I didn’t rely on online tools to make editing adjustments and corrections. A soft and hard copy may be different content, but they still need editing and proofreading. I did things the old fashioned way and edited hard copy documents with a red ballpoint pen. Does that mean that online tools aren’t good for editing? Not at all! The best way to edit anything is to use a combination of both.

Every editor will have a method that works best for them. It is also dependent on what you are editing and where you are in the editing process. Previously, I wrote about the differences between line editing and copyediting. This can apply to anything that you do. What is important is the process, the steps in that process, and the desired outcome. Are you editing a manuscript, soft copy for an online website, articles for a journal, pages for a magazine? You can’t paint each project or job you do with the same brush, but some techniques and tools overlap. One editor might say they never use online tools; another might say that they do as part of their process. Neither of these methods is incorrect. You need to find what’s right for you and develop your process.


By Georgie Cobbs Unsplash
Photo by Georgie Cobbs on Unsplash


If you like to work with the hard copy, that’s great! Some swear by this method. Some editors will say that you cannot substitute using hard copy during the process. You should consider this as a step for sure, but you should not rely on one thing to complete the editing process. I try to use a combination of hard copy, soft copy, and different tools to achieve this.

Part of my process involves some of these tools and methods:

Grammarly, Hemingway, Lexico

You can use style manuals depending on your content. If you have an inhouse style manual, you should always refer to that first

Reading your content aloud is an excellent way to find errors, particularly grammatical. It is also an excellent method of finding the tone in your writing.

Get someone else to proofread your work. An excellent step before you publish anything

You should always expect to make mistakes. We are only human, after all, and you will miss something at some point. If you are okay with knowing this, you can begin the editing process with confidence.

*** Please note that the above steps are by no means an exhaustive list and there are many editing processes and steps used by editors worldwide that were omitted for the purpose of brevity***



What is the Difference Between a Line Edit and a Copyedit?


From Unspash - Hannah Grace
Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash


Editing and proofreading seem to go hand-in-hand. But there are various levels to editing which sets it apart from proofreading fundamentally. Most people have a general idea of what “editing” means, but what about line editing? How different is this process from copyediting? Well, they are actually very different processes.

The easiest way to remember what they are is to think of copyediting as closer to proofreading. Some people consider copyediting to be a more in-depth version of proofreading because it involves similar techniques and skills. So if copyediting is closer to proofreading, then what is line editing and how does it differ?

According to the website for the New York Book Editors, a line edit is:

A line edit addresses the creative content, writing style, and language use at the sentence and paragraph level. But the purpose of a line edit is not to comb your manuscript for errors – rather, a line edit focuses on the way you use language to communicate your story to the reader. Is your language clear, fluid, and pleasurable to read? Does it convey a sense of atmosphere, emotion, and tone? Do the words you’ve chosen convey a precise meaning, or are you using broad generalizations and clichés?

This is very different from what an editor might do or even what a copyeditor might do. A copyeditor will look at the mistakes and errors on a technical level. They will also fact check your writing and ensure it is correct. They may even question specific parts of the book to ensure consistency. A copyeditor is also usually the last person to touch the manuscript. In contrast, the line edit takes place much earlier on in the process of creating a body of work that is ready for publishing.

What type of editor do you think you might be? Do you enjoy correcting grammatical errors and spelling mistakes? Or would you prefer to be involved in the process of language and how it is used to communicate with a reader? These are some of the questions you might ask yourself if you were looking at a career in the editing field.

Why Is Proofreading So Hard?

It makes a lot of sense that your brain can be trained to see or “unsee” certain things

Via Writing Academy Blog
Via the Writing Academy Blog

I recently found this excellent article about why proofreading can be a difficult skill to master. Here’s an example of a proofreading challenge quite a few people failed, including me!

Take a look at this image below. Can you spot the mistake? Most people can’t, and that’s because of the way our brain plays little tricks on us. There are plenty of other challenges like this that I’ll be blogging about to challenge our proofreading skills!

Via Vappingo

Wired also wrote an excellent article about why you shouldn’t proofread your own writing. It makes a lot of sense that your brain can be trained to see or “unsee” certain things when you are reading and writing. And that’s why it’s better to get someone else (hopefully a trained proofreader), to proofread your work. Would you want to send your final grade project to your teacher full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors? Luckily, there are a lot of resources online where you can learn about proofreading or upskill to become a better proofreader and/or editor.


Did you spot the error in the top image on this page? This is why proofreading is an important skill that requires time, patience and dedication to learn. All aboard the proofreading train!