I hear groans – virtual ones that are booing me for even talking about a thing such as editing. Who wants to edit when writing is so hard. I agree. But editing is important.
The funny thing about effective communication is that editing makes or breaks your writing. It’s a harsh fact. You have not truly written until you have edited.
It all begins with editing. And ends with more editing. Editing is everywhere in between.
I wish there was another way but unfortunately, there isn’t.
The author of Get Shorty and other hugely successful books, Elmore Leonard once said, “I just leave out the parts that readers skip.”
No one could have said it better.
Become the reader and see what you would skip. Then chop away mercilessly. And in the process, polish up your editing skills.
You can edit perfectly well. You better believe it
Everyone is unique. Most of us find writing a specialist job. So we turn to in-house writers for our memos, announcements and difficult emails. Bad idea.
Do not undermine your own ability. Writing and editing is like any other process which can be managed and improved – provided you can take the time.
You can use your own editing skills to create documents you never thought possible.
Become your own writing resource. For that, begin to believe in yourself.
Develop your writing and editing skills for better communication at work. Practice like you would practice any other professional skill.
You only get better as you exercise your writing muscle.
Take help only when you believe you have made the utmost effort on your own.
A second and third perspective is great for feedback but do not lose out on this communication skill that you will need at every step of your career. Do not give up on editing.
You may not be a great writer. But if you are a great editor, you don’t need anything else.
Manage your own expectations
Do not expect your first draft to be anything super. It’s supposed to be crappy.
One of my favorite quotes by Joseph Hiller is, “Every writer I know has trouble writing.”
Every writer and editor has gone through this before you. Writing is not easy. Editing is much harder. But you can do it as long as you are committed to developing your editing skills.
It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to make mistakes and it’s perfectly okay to not be able to write well.
What you need to be able to do is rewrite, revise and edit. If you can do that, it doesn’t matter if your first draft was any good at all.
Write with the expectation to create a good write up at the end. Take notice here. Your draft should be good at the end. For editors, the end comes after multiple reads and re-reads. Nothing before that deserves the send or publish button.
At the same time, do not be afraid of failing your own expectations. Everything you write cannot turn into a masterpiece but your editing must be aimed to improve your draft relentlessly. Edit for that simple reason.
Write freely when you write the first draft. Let the words flow. Anything can be edited to look and read great. Yes – editing is that powerful.
Do not try to impress. Edit for coherence.
Are you writing to impress a colleague, a boss, a publisher?
If you are nodding at me, change that mind set right here. Writing is all about communication. It’s not meant to impress.
It is about expression. If you write to impress with fancy words and amazing idioms that no one uses in this age and time, you are aiming for the wrong target.
Write and edit for coherence and simple communication. Make sure every word is perfect. If there is a simpler word, use that. If there is no need for a sentence, remove it.
If there is a need to create links between paragraphs, rewrite. If you think your writing is losing its flow, continue to rewrite.
Cut. Crop. Slash. Unleash the ruthless editor in you
C.J. Cherryh once said, “It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.”
That is exactly how you improve the crappy first draft. You revise until you can literally flow with the words.
Clean up the language, smoothen out your paragraphs so that there is nothing redundant left to read.
It’s a grueling job. You can be sure of it. Editors have their teeth clenched for most part of the process. But keep going. It will begin to improve before you know it.
Cut the fuss out of your words. Flowery language never works. Pretentious, fussy words are the sign of an insecure writer. When you can say it simpler, there is no need to fluff it up. It doesn’t matter if everyone around you is sending out horrible emails. This skill is yours to develop and improve.
If you can find a super editor to work with, there is no better way to learn. Keyword here is ruthless. Edit like nothing else matters.
Rewrite. Revise. Organize information
Look for sentences that sound and read wrong or just weird. Rewrite and revise.
Don’t lose the meat in your writing. Keep the meat. Chop the fuss.
Long sentences are warning bells. Shorter is sweeter.
Organize your information to create a structure. It should read well and be informative for the reader.
Check for grammar and spellings of course.
Write in active voice. Writing actively is simpler, concise and easier to understand.
Check for relevance in the subject line. Take an extra two minutes.
Proofread for perfection.
Avoid two-hundred year old words and statements like kindly review enclosed, whereby, henceforth etc. Revise until the language and flow is perfect.
There is no room for slacking in editing. You must not stop until you are 100% satisfied. Even so, check for errors before your send it out.
For better business writing skills, see 5 tips for better business writing.
While it is important to refine and polish up your own editing skills, sometimes it helps to take some professional help from trainers to improve on your writing abilities.
To give you some food for thought, check out this infographic, that takes a look at different types of editing and may help you sharpen up the editor in you.
Have a great day and enjoy writing!
Source: Original infographic from WinePress of Words.
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