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How to Edit Your Own Writing

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https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/07/smarter-living/how-to-edit-your-own-writing.html

nytimes.com

How to Edit Your Own Writing
Writing is hard, but don't overlook the difficulty - and the importance - of editing your own work before letting others see it. Here's how. The secret to good writing is good editing. It's what separates hastily written, randomly punctuated, incoherent rants from learned polemics and op-eds, and cringe-worthy fan fiction from a critically acclaimed novel.

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The first draft

The first words you write are the first draft. Writing is thinking. You'll rarely know what exactly you want to say when you start writing.

The time you put into editing, reworking and re...

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Common errors

Most writing mistakes are widespread, but good writers just get better at spotting them. Some things you'll learn to watch for are:

  • Overuse of jargon and business-speak,

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Give it some space

When you write something, you get very close to it. It is nearly impossible to distance yourself from it straight away to edit properly.

The longer you can leave a draft before editing, t...

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If in doubt, cut it

If in doubt, cut it

It is more likely you've written too much than too little.
The rule for most writers is, "If in doubt, cut it." If a word, sentence, or paragraph isn't necessary, delete it. It will clari...

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Spend the most time on the beginning

The beginning of anything you write is the most important part. If you don't catch someone's attention at the start, you won't hold it later.

You should spend a disproportionate amoun...

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Keep the structure in mind

The structure is what your writing hangs on. 

  • A topic sentence that is followed by supporting paragraphs and a conclusion work best.
  • Break up a series of parag...

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Use all the resources you can

  • A recommended how-to guide on writing good, clear English is “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

  • “Politics and the English Language” by Georg...

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Writing is intimidating. There’s this expectation of artful precision, mercurial grammatical rules, and the weird angst that comes with writing for other people. You start with a tidy nu...

Writing is Deliberate

Choosing the words to describe your work means you’re doing it on purpose. 

You’re going on the record as someone who thinks about why they do what they do, and understands how each decision affects the results. And developing this knack for critical thinking will also make you better at what you do.

Too much noise, too little attention

Too much noise, too little attention

Nobody wants to read anything you write at work. It's not personal though. We just happen to live in a world where there is so much information asking for our attention.

We can take a...

Write less often

Things that are rare and dwindling become more attractive and are perceived as more valuable. The less we write, the more valuable our writing becomes. 

Refrain from responding immediately. If another recipient should answer, give the person the right of first response. Ask yourself:

  • Do I need to send this now?
  • If not, do I need to send it at all?
  • If so, does more than one person really need it?

Fewer words

We long for clarity and for other people to say what they mean in as few words as possible.

Making wordy sentences that lose their fluency due to needless complexity in a text negatively affects the receiver of your message. In short: big is bad.

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The value of solid writing skills

  • Being a good writer helps you stand out from the crowd.
  • Repeated writing mistakes affect your reputation and credibility in the future.
  • Your writing is ...

Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut

"Why should you examine your writing style with the idea of improving it? Do so as a mark of respect for your readers, whatever you’re writing.

The “5 Ws + H” method

... for establishing what and how you will write:

  • Who: Who is my audience?
  • What: What do they need to know?
  • When: When does this apply, when did this happen, or when do they need to know it by?
  • Where: Where is this happening?
  • Why: Why do they need this information?
  • How: How should they use this information?

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