Good Editing

I found this to be a very useful set of points to use when editing. I hope you find it to be beneficial too.

  1. Shorten long sentences. Long sentences will tax your reader. Keep to an average of 15-20 words and make sure no sentence is longer than 30 words.
  2. Cut (most) adjectives. Empty, over-used adjectives leave readers cold or make them ask “as opposed to what?” So cut them. And if you really must use one, make it interesting.
  3. Switch from passive to active verbs. If a sentence feels distant, old-fashioned or evasive the culprit is often a passive verb. Switch to active verbs and you’ll sound more honest and direct. (It’s the difference between ‘a mistake was made’ and ‘we made a mistake’.)
  4. Swap nouns to verbs. People need verbs to process language. They also create more of a sense of something happening, which will make your writing more engaging. So find the nouns (endings like ‘…tion’, ‘ment’, ‘ship’ and ‘…ence’) and switch them to verbs.
  5. Use contractions. Words like ‘I’ll’, ‘you’ll’, ‘we’ve’, ‘I’d’, ‘they’ve’ and ‘it’s’ will make your writing sound more natural.
  6. Put what your reader needs to know or do first. Think – if my reader only had time to read the first couple of sentences of what I’ve written, would they go away knowing the most important thing?
  7. Try some subheadings. They’ll help your reader navigate and help you structure your writing better.
  8. Swap formal, expected words for normal or unexpected ones. Unexpectedly interesting words or phrases will make your writing more memorable. Instead of ‘adverse weather conditions’ try ‘tons of snow’. Instead of ‘there are minor issues which need addressing’ try ‘we’re still ironing out a few wrinkles.’
  9. Vary your pace. Make sure your sentence lengths are varied. Long sentences one after the other are exhausting. All short sentences sounds too staccato and disjointed. So add variety by blending short, medium and long sentences to add personality and pace. It works.
  10. Ask a question. Asking your reader a question draws them in. When was the last time you used one in your writing? Fancy giving it a try?

Reproduced by permission of Jon Hawkins (Head of Brand Language – BT)