Simple Editing Tips to Dramatically Improve Your Writing
So, you’ve slaved over your first draft. Poured your blood, sweat, and tears into it.
Or maybe not. But it was hard, right?
Did you feel compelled to produce brilliance on your first go?
I’m going to let you in on a little-acknowledged secret: the first draft of anything is never great. In fact, it is often awful.
That’s because the purpose of the first draft is to get your ideas down on the page. That’s all it is – your ideas. Even your second draft might be for more brain-dumping; perhaps a little tweaking and refining of those initial thoughts.
Maybe even your third draft.
Once you’re happy with all those ideas you’ve got on your page. And once you’ve organised them in a coherent and logical way. Then you can start the real magic of writing: editing.
That’s right. Editing is the secret magic of good writing
FOOL-PROOF EDITING TIPS TO INSTANTLY IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF YOUR WRITING
Read it out loud
Go on. Read your draft out loud. Don’t be shy. You may feel silly the first one or thirty times you do it but just roll with it.
Reading out loud gives you the opportunity to pick up anything that sounds clunky.
See that word you stumbled over? Find a new one.
The sentence that tripped you up? Re-write it.
Edit from a hard copy
Try to edit from a hard copy if you can.
Sure, we should all be trying to go paperless to save the environment. But there’s nothing like having a hard copy in front of you to spot mistakes.
And if you can’t print out your work, the next best thing is to make it super large on your screen. Go ahead. Make the font size 20, or zoom in 250%.
Ditch “that”, “very”, and “really”
Fire up that ‘Find’ function in Word. Read each sentence without “that”, “very”, or “really” and see if it still makes sense without it. If it does, ditch it.
Sure, you might be using those words for a particular effect. You may have chosen them deliberately.
But most of the time you’ll find you don’t need it. Either ditch it or swap it for a stronger word.
- The movie was very bad. The movie was terrible.
- I’m very happy to be here. I’m ecstatic to be here.
Bonus points for ditching: and, stuff, by, has, a lot, lots, many, of them, and maybe.
Adverbs modify verbs or adjectives (identifiable as most words ending in ‘ly’).
- Do you really need that adverb? Do you need that adverb?
- What are you currently working on? What are you working on?
If you’ve used an adverb, either remove it or aim to swap it with a better verb or adjective.
Ban passive voice
Passive voice – the bane of most corporate writing. For some reason, most people default to passive voice when they’re trying to sound
formal and professional.
Aim for action!
- The review was conducted by the committee. The committee conducted the review.
Shorten long sentences
Look for sentences with many commas. They’re your first candidates for shortening.
Remember each sentence should convey one idea. A ton of commas can be a sign the sentence has more than one idea.
Cull grammatical fillers
Time to fire up the ‘Find’ function in Word again.
This time, you’re looking for sentences starting with: It’s, It, It was, It won’t, It takes, There are, There’s, and There.
Also, look for sentences containing: to, of, who, and will be.
Read the sentences without those words (or rearrange the sentence to exclude the word). And if it still makes sense, then you can chop out those fillers.
Avoid buzzwords and jargon
Moving forward, you should get with the 411 and totes ditch the buzzwords and jargon.
And while you’re at it, avoid using any words that are overdone. ‘Passionate’ is a prime example. The word is starting to lose all meaning because every man and his dog is “passionate about blah, blah, blah” these days.
‘Warrior’ is another. Corporate warrior. Weekend warrior. Wellness warrior. Keyboard warrior. Are any of those things warriors? Nope!
EDITING: THE SECRET MAGIC OF GOOD WRITING
Armed with these editing tips, anyone can dramatically improve the quality of their writing in an instant.
But remember – everything in moderation. Sometimes it’s good to break grammatical rules to achieve a particular effect with your prose.