I find there’s a moment when you know you’ve written something epic. It happens right after you finish writing anything. Don’t worry it will pass. All things need editing. Unless you’re working under a tight deadline though, you don’t have to attack, hack, and kill your words right away. In fact, you probably shouldn’t. Glory in them. Go to dinner. Enjoy a movie. I’ll wait.
Put a little time between you and the writing. Once you have done this, here are five things to consider.
1. Go small
Start with parts of speech. Are the nouns descriptive? You can use Porsche instead of vehicle. Vary the nouns. If you do use the word vehicle, you can also use car, automobile, or auto to avoid redundancy. Replace weak verbs with robust ones. Search for forms of “to be” (is, was, were, are, will be). These often indicate passive voice. See if you can make the sentence active voice. Review your adverbs and adjectives. A few may be justified, but try to write the sentence stronger without leaning on them.
2. Go Bigger
Look at sentence structure. There should be a cadence that keeps you reading. Pair longer sentences with shorter ones to give the reader a chance to breathe. Longer sentences should be around 20 words, and paragraphs 3 to 6 sentences.
3. Check your Signals
Points, paragraphs and punctuation are the signs and traffic signals to keep your reader moving down the page. They should light a path, not confuse. Let other people read your words. Try to determine if your thoughts were captured on the page. If you need to explain certain parts this may indicate a lack of clarity.
4. Tone and Voice
Tone is the type of writing. Some examples are upbeat, somber, or reflective. The tone should be consistent. One of the most important things is your voice. Do the word choices sound like you? Would other people who know your writing style recognize this as yours? Regardless of the tone you still want your voice to come through.
If your piece is over 250 words you can probably eliminate about 25-50 words and by doing so, improve the quality. This forces you to consider phrases such as:
Having said this (Saying something clearly means one point leads to the next)
By the way (This includes its cousin… which by the way)
The trio (just, really, and very) I really just wanted to be very clear. (Yikes!)
I want to also make the point… (Detour, New sentence)
That goes without saying… (So, why write it?)
I wouldn’t say you have to eliminate all of these things, but consider every one. If they don’t add to the meaning of the words, or to your voice in the piece, they detract.
Now go write something epic.