Edits: 5 Quick Checks for Better Writing

Five Quick Checks for Better WritingI 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.Sign- Edit Yourself 5 Quick Checks

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.

5. Evaluate

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.

See related post  Trim the Gristle – (write fat-free).

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13 comments on “Edits: 5 Quick Checks for Better Writing
  1. Jake says:

    Great tips Peter, especially for a noob like me. I like the last bit, I use those expressions way to often so I will look out for them. My biggest tip and the one I follow the most is to write how you would talk to someone. Sometimes that is easier said than done.
    Jake recently posted…Apple row with Australian Start-upMy Profile

  2. Hey – this is a great little check list – upbeat and instructive.

  3. Peter, thanks for the like on my post and a big thanks for the exceptional pointers. Please leave a comment sometime.

  4. Thanks for the tips, hopefully they will help cut the time I spend editing, it feels way too much…just saying, Claudia

  5. mcwoman says:

    I try to keep these tips in the forefront of my editing, but thanks so much for repeating them. Great advice for writers at any stage of their career.

  6. Rachel says:

    Very nice! I will share this with my fellow writers 🙂 thank you also for liking my post!

  7. Really enjoyed reading this, as a journalist, having to stick to facts for years, I didn’t have the luxury of indulging in these phrases, but love reading abut how to write. And I know what you mean about the pleasure of editing your own stuff, snipping here, eliminating there!
    The best writing training I had was at school getting on for sixty years ago, when I had to write a precis every day. I had to reduce a piece of writing from the Oxford Book of English Prose from 500 words to 200 , or a corresponding ratio with shorter pieces. It meant having to learn the precise meaning of every word!

  8. Great tips. I try to follow them regularly. I find the writing of an idea the easiest part. Then the editing and all else has to happen and that’s when the struggle appears. what helped me is to have someone else edit my work. That frees me of all judgements about the work and I can let the ideas flow.

    • Hi Denise, I hear you. I actually enjoy the process of writing and then editing because I love words so much. Once I have it as polished as I can I let others look at it. They almost always see a few more things. My wife is a great editor. Thanks for your comment. I enjoyed your site too.

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What is Writing?

"A writer looks at a screen or piece of paper like a canvas. They see a country unexplored, a picture unpainted, a tale not told. They dare to venture into the barren land, explore its dark corners, and paint its pictures. Then they unveil the epic with the goal of compelling people to visit their newly discovered territory.”
Peter D. Mallett

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