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25 Editing Tips for Tightening Your Copy

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❶To me, that only makes sense. August 12, at 2:

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Your first point in particular gives me much trouble. Some times I detect the use of extraneous words but most of the time they escape and creep into my writing. I disagree with you on 3 however. I feel that sometimes one word substitutions subdue the effect that I am trying to convey.

Always go with what you feel is the best choice for your audience, regardless of what I or anybody else says. Ultimately, we can list guidelines, but you know your writing and your audience best. Dana Jan 09, John Jan 09, Very helpful and clear examples. The more I write, the easier it is to look at my posts for editing and clarity. Glad to hear that. Before long you will spot certain grammar construction as if you are Neo fighting The Matrix. Tracy Dapp Jan 09, Leigh Shulman Jan 09, I run an online writing group and will be adding this to our editing resources.

Cory Peppler Jan 09, I second the comments about the brilliance of the intro, and the nitty-grittiness of the entire post is refreshing and highly useful. And, yes, I just made up a word while commenting on a post about the English language. Thanks, Shane, for such dedication in creating such a detailed and, no doubt, exhausting post to write and edit.

Overbo Jan 09, I am a creative writer as well, have been studying creative writing for years, and I have never seen a better explanation of these rules anywhere else. Thank you so much. Creating this article added quite a few gray hairs to my head, so replies like your feel great.

Hashim Warren Jan 09, I mentioned above that at some point, you will see edits like Neo sees zeros and ones in The Matrix. Dowell Jan 09, Great primer on concise writing of any kind!

As I mentioned above, I have a ton of respect for academic folks specializing in language. Tom Southern Jan 09, Most posts on grammar, style, etc. Editing your writing should take into account both. Otherwise it loses some of its bite. I love your writing, man! You will be the best judge of what is best for your own writing and audience. Tom Southern Jan 10, Yelena Reese Jan 09, This is definitely going into my favorites.

Thanks for sharing your expertise. Without a doubt, an editing pass will improve a blog post. Try it right now.

Read each word slowly as if you are a sluggish robot. This will help you not read past each word as you try to spot errors. As you will see, it. See how that works! Andy Brandt Jan 09, You have come perilously close to breaking a rule for guest bloggers, Shane: Always good to throw in an error to make them look good. David Gillaspie Jan 09, You made me laugh though.

Alicia Rades Jan 09, I hope you will strengthen your writing by using less of them. Cathy Miller Jan 23, Donna Jan 09, Great blog — thanks! As I was reading, something struck me.

The emphasis should be on the love of the writing itself and not the constraint of word count. Tom Bentley Jan 09, I think you need to have a slam poetry session with Grammar Girl and record it for posterity. Read the first book. Need to get the second. Lori Ferguson Jan 09, Thx for taking the time to share, Shane! You are most welcome. Krista Low Jan 09, Thank you for the useful edits! Cutting out unnecessary words can be daunting.

I just printed out your post for a quick reference. Once these editing tips are under your belt, you can get back to enjoying the good things in life. Nick Jan 09, Rayne Jan 09, Shane, If you were a baseball pitcher your post was a fastball right down the middle, the pitch everyone swings at but few hit.

As long as the writers reading this post are the fans watching the game and not the people trying to hit the ball, because we want them to hit it out of the park! Esther Jan 09, Thank you Shane for clarifying how important editing is. I did not realize that a post was not done until it was edited until I came into the Boost Blog Traffic course.

Ray Jan 09, Flense the flabby words, expunge adverbs and adjectives, tighten your prose and fight for your own brand of punctuation — standard stuff, and sound advice, as far as it goes. There is a formula of sorts to writing, but that formula should always be framed in terms of principles, and not concretes. This method of teaching ignores the method by which the human mind works — which is to say, in principles — and chooses instead to overload the brain with endless commands that come without explication of fundamentals.

The people who memorize and compile these laundry lists, however, do not, for the most part, write durable literature. Man, that was an excellent comment you left. I try to limit what I do to techniques that state what needs stated in as few words as possible to keep the modern busy reader from bolting.

Definitely not overly proscriptive. Vicky Global Jan 09, I am guilty of this. I would guess that most of the time, time is the reason for not finding the appropriate word. Mitch Mitchell Jan 09, Other times… I need to be better. Mitch and his commas! Dr Rie Natalenko Jan 09, I always thought my editing was okay, but you have some tricks here that will make it shine even brighter.

I now know who to visit when I need some screenwriting tips. Siita Jan 09, Thanks Shane perfect timing. Shannon Hutcheson Jan 09, This is such a fantastic resource! I am looking forward to sharing this with authors I copy edit. Susanna Perkins Jan 09, My niche is already too competitive, and if you keep teaching people to write more simply, clearly and powerfully, you take away what little edge I have.

Whose idea was this, anyway? Mark Hermann Jan 09, Okay, you just made me bust out laughing. Checking to see if tightduckediting url is available. Christine Jan 09, Oh, so guilty of so many points here! Must go back and edit older posts but while trying to keep my voice intact. Writing is so hard, remind me why we do it, please.

Rob Jan 09, I embarrass myself every day when editing my work. Nothing to be embarrassed about. Our drafts should be a creative flow free from the constraints of our editor brains. Eva Jan 09, This is just great! Arijit Jan 10, This is probably one of the best articles I have read on writing compelling content!

I will be keeping this as a guide for everything that I write from now.. Thanks a lot Shane! Time for me to share this post! Beat Schindler Jan 10, Great post for writers seeking to be better writers — I should know: Pruning and trimming are not an end to growth, but redirecting the way of growth. I like your pruning analogy. The only thing I love more than editing is gardening. West wishes back to you.

Thank you for sharing your expertise in such a clear and effective way. Les Jan 10, Really enjoyed how you chased the little rabbits out the fields!

Enlightening, in lightning quick style…. Tresidder Jan 10, My writing has never been the same. Thanks for the great resource! You are the king of concise prose. He sees bigger-picture flaws that I miss. Charlie Seymour Jr Jan 10, It takes all the action out of a sentence.

Almost like passive voice. Nawaz Jan 10, Catherine Jan 10, A checklist is especially helpful when writing and editing late at night on deadline. Thanks for the useful post! Pat Mathias Jan 10, I took an editing course in college and believe I was the only one with a big smile on my face because I love editing! However, I really like how you simplified it all and gave great examples. Thank you for another great reference tool. Hello fellow lover of the edit! A crossword puzzle is a great analogy of what editing feels like.

Liss Thomas Jan 10, My bestest buddy giving awesome advice. I got no excuses! Glad to see you again after so long. Let me know if you find anything in your writing that you improved. Editing old, error-filled posts would send me to twilight zone, for sure. Proofreading, editing hundreds is no joke, eh. May not feel like it, but you will. Amy Jan 10, Thank you, Shane and Jon! The way you set it up made me want to read all the way to the end. Brenda Spandrio Jan 10, I loved the graphic opening of this post; great way to illustrate the point!

However, I will be more conscious of fillers after reading this. I wrote an article for Copyblogger about proofreading and I did something similar in the opening link is in the article above. I knew I wanted to do something similar to drive the point home in this post.

Go glad you appreciated that. Dean Jan 11, Hermit Jan 11, Ana Jan 11, So far every piece I read brought outstanding value. Thank you for your work! Stan Eigi Jan 12, Shane Arthur Jan 12, Katharine Jan 13, The strikethrough introduction completely grabbed my attention. It worked like a film trailer and precisely communicated what would follow. What a relief to find clarity online, first thing this morning! Shane Arthur Jan 13, Exactly the type of comment I love to read.

Glad you enjoyed it. Maciej Fita Jan 13, Formatting is so important! I try to use rich media in every blog post I put together to keep the reader engaged throughout their reading experience. I may only do one of these. Just had a crazy thought to try it. First come, first served. Rob Jan 13, Thanks for the offer. Shane Arthur Jan 14, Then a young woman walks up to the man, takes his sign and writes another message.

Soon, just about everyone who passes by is giving [gives] the man pocketfuls of change. The girl returns later and the man asks her what she did to his sign. That, in a nutshell, is the secret to writing powerful words. As I proofread this short blog, I made a small change I think helped improve the text.

What can you do to make a better connection [nominalization — connect more or better connect] with your readers? Rob Jan 14, Thanks so much for making these corrections! Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience. It could be a company memo, a PowerPoint presentation, an email, or a report—but no matter the medium, these quick editing skills will always come in handy.

Some other bonuses of good self-editing skills: People are less likely to misunderstand you, and bosses and peers will pay more attention to the meat of your message. So here we go. If you typed it, print it out. More on that below. But if you do have a few minutes to spare, putting a literal distance between you and your work creates an emotional distance as well. So take a stroll, go to the bathroom, chat with a co-worker.

Then you can be more ruthless with your edits. Is it really possible edit your own work when all the words you just finished writing are so precious? It can be done — and for the sake of making your writing stand out, it must be done. Grab your red pen, pull up your most recently saved draft, and get to work with these 25 tips to tighten your own copy.

Many long sentences are grammatically correct. See what I mean? If you spot a comma-heavy sentence, try to give each idea its own sentence. Adverbs weaken your copy because these excess words are not truly descriptive. Rather than saying the girl runs quickly, say she sprints. Instead of describing the cat as walking slowly, say he creeps or tiptoes. For example, you might start your introduction talking about yourself, then switch halfway through the piece and start addressing the reader.

And if you must switch, start with one and finish with the other. Your readers will get lost. A powerful hyphen here and a thought-provoking semicolon there can be effective. But a piece of writing littered with all sorts of punctuation — parentheses, colons, ellipses, etc. Oftentimes, you can eliminate these extra pieces of punctuation with commas or by ending a sentence and starting a new one — and that makes your writing that much stronger.

Some people think jargon makes their writing sound smart, but you know better. Good writing does not confuse readers. If they need to grab a dictionary to finish a sentence, your writing has room for improvement. To get your point across, use words people are familiar with. The English language has thousands of words. You can certainly find a shorter or more common word in your thesaurus than a jargony one.

Did you catch the redundant words in that sentence? Brand new, advance planning, basic necessities… the list of these common phrases is longer than this blog post. Your sentences are straightforward. Or, your sentences are to-the-point.

Though prepositions of, in, to, for, etc. Prepositions need lots of friends. By cutting the preposition and the words that follow, you can cut three, four or even five words.

Sometimes a prepositional phrase can be replaced with just one more direct word, or cut completely. An easy way to cut prepositions is to look for opportunities to make something possessive. You never need it. Did you start to walk the dog, or did you walk the dog? Is the car starting to roll down the hill, or is it rolling down the hill? In the other 95 percent, get rid of it! This is a very difficult one to remember.

Explaining grammar is her specialty. John is the guy who always forgets his shoes, not the guy that always forgets his shoes.

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Is editing the same thing as proofreading? Not exactly. Although many people use the terms interchangeably, editing and proofreading are two different stages of the revision process. Both demand close and careful reading, but they focus on different aspects of . When editing a large document, check it in smaller chunks to get fast responses. Novelists and journalists might want to critique dialog separately or not at all. You can change how dialog is .

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