It’s one thing to say you are a writer. It’s another to be able to at your work with a critical eye and make edits. Whether you’re writing a blog, a newsletter, flier or brochure, what you write needs to be clear and concise if you want to hold your readers’ attention. Your first few sentences have the greatest impact, so the quicker you get to the point, the more likely it will be read in its entirety. Editing your work may feel like a daunting task to undertake, but it really isn’t. Just remember to not fall in love with your words and have the courage to look at your writing from your audience’s perspective. You can keep your audience coming back for more with these 10 simple edits:
- Rewrite long sentences. Shorter sentences with fewer ideas at a time are easier to focus on rather than long sentences with multiple ideas separate by commas. Keep your sentences to 7 to 10 words. The same goes for punctuation, words and phrases. Replace redundancies, filler words, prepositions, and adverbs with stronger verbs and adjectives.
- Use one point-of-view. Whether writing from first-person (“I”), second-person (“you”) or third-person (“he/she/it”), stick to only one view-point throughout your work.
- Active voice. Your writing will be more interesting, stronger and sound more confident when using active voice. Remember to make the subject of your sentence ‘do the action’ rather than receiving it. For example, The boy broke the window. The Passive voice is when the subject of a sentence is acted upon. For example, The window was broken by the boy. See the difference?
- Stay positive. Share ideas and tips in a direct approach/action (“do”), rather than resorting to the negative (“don’t”).
- Objects of speech matter. Refer to people as “who,” not “that.”
- Watch those words that end in -ly. Use adverbs for effect and precision in your writing. For example, don’t say “said quietly,” but rather “whispered”. Another example would be, don’t say “very big.” Say “enormous” or “huge.” So, go ahead and use adverbs sparingly – and just like every other word in your story, make sure they add something to your piece.
- Use contractions. Contractions set a conversational tone that flows; plus, they save space and shorten the time it takes to read through your work.
- “Which” and “that” as descriptors. When “which” is a descriptor, a comma precedes it. If “that” is used as a descriptor, no comma is needed: “There’s the tree, which fell down last night.” versus “There’s the tree that fell down last night.”
- Add hyphens to modifiers. “Four-hour medicine” becomes synonymous with medicine that lasts for four hours, not “Four hour medicine.”
- Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. Using spell-check as well as manually reading through your work are both necessary tools for proofreading. Read it out loud. Does what you are saying make sense? And lastly, read it backwards… this always worked in catching misspellings that spell-check missed.
Editing your work is not easy. And it takes courage to amend your work – remember, don’t fall in love with your words. Rewrites and editing will make your work stronger and be more interesting to your audience. The more often you write and edit your own work, the easier it becomes for you to spot your issues and correct them. Take the time to post or publish noteworthy text, and readers will be inspired to share your expertise with others.