When writing, just write.
Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, unnecessary words, or any other creative distractions. When you write, just get your thoughts out of your brain and onto “paper” (in whatever form that paper may be: recording, computer document, napkin, or actual paper…)
After you’ve spilled your creative brilliance, it’s time to fine tune your thoughts through editing.
It’s at the editing stage where you take care of the technical part of writing and have the opportunity to reflect on what you actually wrote to be sure your idea is expressed in the best form possible.
For the conceptual side of editing, ask yourself:
- ==>Does what you wrote accurately reflect your idea?
- ==>Did you say what you wanted to say?
- ==>Will your reader understand it?
- ==>Are your thoughts presented in the best order so that you make your point?
On the technical side or editing, there are some simple editing steps to tighten up your copy.
I’ve created a quick list with some of these technical items; however, feel free to break any of these editing rules. After all, you don’t want to completely edit out your unique voice, style, and “flavor” of writing.
Here’s how it works:
When you have written your document into a computer program (like MS Word), the editing part is simplified. Use the “find” (e.g. Ctl+F) feature on your computer and then type in the word or phrase that may be on the “offender” list. Once your computer program finds that word or phrase in your document, read it in context of the sentence or paragraph and make adjustments as needed.
While there are many writing rules, many offenses fall under the following categories:
- Use Active language rather than Passive language (e.g. “The moderator gave an analysis of the court case” vs. “The moderator analyzed the court case”)
- Remove Redundancy (e.g. “free gift”, “smaller in size” “grinned happily” “shouted angrily”)
- Reduce phrases to a single word (e.g. “people who are experienced at cooking” to “experienced cooks”)
- Use adverbs as qualifiers in moderation (e.g. “I was somewhat surprised” to “I was surprised”)
- Avoid phrases that don’t add value (e.g. “in the event that” or “in the final analysis”)
- Avoid clichés (some need to be sent to the cliché retirement home such as “take it to the next level”)
- Replace a long word with a shorter word (don’t be pretentious)
- If you can omit a word, do it (make every word count…don’t just chase a word-count)
After you write your piece, skim off the first layer of unnecessary language from your writing by using your computer’s “Find” feature to do the following.
Search “that” – you will be amazed at how often you add “that” to a sentence when it doesn’t need to be there. For example: “It was well known that they went to the beach every summer…” can be updated to read “Everybody knew they went to the beach every summer…”
Search “I” – because some writing should be more about the reader, than the writer. This is especially true in business-focused writing. The reader is most concerned about how the content benefits them, not you. For example: “I believe that you should…” can be turned into “You should…”
Search “in” – this can highlight phrases which repeat the quality or reality of something. For example: “it’s smaller in size” can be “it’s smaller”; “is longer in duration” can be “it’s longer”.
Search “which” and “who” – this helps find phrases which can be condensed and made more “action-oriented” with the use of an adjective (see the examples below for “Nouns followed by descriptive phrases”).
Search “which is” and “who are” – for the same reasons as noted above, these two words can often be omitted from the sentence. For example: “We went to the Kentucky Derby, which is known as one of the most important horse races in the States” becomes “We went to the Kentucky Derby, known as one of the most important horse races in the states.”
Search “extremely” “somewhat” “very” “really” “totally” “actually” “definitely” “even” “just” “so” “truly” – these are on the list of overused adverbs. There will be times when you want to leave them in; other times you can remove them.
Search “ly” – for the same reason as above. Find the adverbs you’re using (words which describe a verb, adjective, or adverb) and decide if they stay or need to be cut from your writing.
Search “there are” and “there is” – you can improve a sentence by making it more active, especially when this phrase comes at the beginning of a sentence. For example: “There is something special about Mary that people are drawn to” can become “People are drawn to Mary by something special”
Other Editing things to check for in your Writing:
Nouns followed by descriptive phrases. To make this more active, consider taking out the descriptive phrase and replacing it with an adjective before the noun. For example:
- “The class which taught cooking” becomes “The cooking class”
- “The boat which was used to pull skiers around the lake” becomes “The ski boat”
- “The boat which is owned by the fisherman” becomes “The fisherman’s boat”
- “Students who are at the top of their class” becomes “Top students”
Phrases that don’t add value to the sentence:
- At the present time
- For all intents and purposes
- In the event that
Overused Clichés (just a few)
- Writing is on the wall
- Take it to the next level
- Amp it up
- Your true self
- Your authentic self
- Better late than never
- Think outside the box
- At the end of the day
- The bottom line
- It’s not rocket science
- Like taking candy from a baby
- Love makes the world go ‘round
- Selling like hotcakes
- In the nick of time
- Win-win situation
- Best practices
- Low-hanging fruit
- Web 2.0
- Push the envelope
- Going forward
- Bring your “A” game
- Drinking the Kool-Aid
- Manage expectations
- Step up to the plate
This list gives you a starting point for editing. Once you clean up the initial “junk”, take a break, come back to your writing, and then read through it again to make any other adjustments.
Have fun, keep writing, and tell me how you’re doing.
Oh, still need more? then click on this link and I’ll give you a PDF with this information with an easy four-step writing process, and a handy little checklist.
**Be sure to share this with all your writing friends…Unleash the closet writers!
Until next time…
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