I’ve got a confession. I keep making the same writing blunders over and over again. As soon as I finish a first draft, I set it aside for a while—sometimes for an hour, sometimes for a day—then I start making edits. And what do I find? The usual suspects. Some of these I’m almost too embarrassed to admit:
- I write sentences that are way too long. I’m no Ernest Hemingway! Why would anyone want to wade through tediously long sentences in a product description?
- I litter my writing with strings of descriptors. I feel ridiculous, foolish, and inept when I do this. Three words when one will do—that won’t do!
- I locate descriptors after the subject. It’s not at all clearer to say, “the web site of the company,” instead of “the company’s web site.”
- I use way too many useless filler words. Two of my favorites: “That” and “just.” That is just a waste of paper.
- And there are some words I over-use. My latest is the word “unique.” Sometimes I find that little bugger showing up four times in one paragraph. You’d think I’d be able to conjure up a more unique word.
- Thankfully, there’s a cure for all this folly: Editing. Surprisingly, editing seems to be a lost art. Don’t listen to anyone who says your ideas should flow freely, without filter. Editing always—always—makes writing better.
Should you edit your own work? Yes, of course. One good reason: It allows you to get to know your own writing. I often suggest people read aloud what they’ve written. It’s rather like looking in a mirror. Awkward sentence structures and unnecessary words will pop right out at you like out-of-place hairs.
Reading aloud is also a great way to hear the tone of your writing. I’ve noticed many people write more formally than they speak, which makes them seem stuffy. A few edits can relax the tone and make it sound more like you.
What about asking someone to edit your writing? I have some tips for that, too. Most important, be sure you’re clear about what you’re looking for. Do you just want someone to check for grammar and spelling, or are you looking for them to create a cohesive piece out of the content you provide? Once the edits are complete, compare the two versions. Even if you don’t incorporate all the changes, you can learn a lot from someone else’s perspective on your writing.
Do you know someone who could benefit from a good writer and editor? I’m happy to help!
Copyright, Liz Behlke, 2018