“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” – Margaret Atwood
Here’s the thing about writing that everyone needs to know: you aren’t going to get everything right on the first draft.
No matter whom you are – a novelist, a poet, or a copywriter – it’s next to impossible to spit out the best version of your work in the very first attempt.
Sure, some people might have the luxury to hire a professional editor to do their dirty work (believe me, editing gets dirty), most of us have to do it ourselves.
What’s the best way to go about it?
By following some tried-and-tested editing and writing tips that makes your writing shine like a freshly oiled bald head. Okay, maybe I could have come up with a better analogy, but whatever!
I’ve written blogs, articles, and copy for 100+ clients as a freelancer in the last 3 years and managed to land enough repeat gigs to start my very own content marketing agency.
So, I believe that I’ve got some credibility to say what works and what doesn’t.
Ready? Then listen up.
Top 10 Editing Hacks to Make Your Writing Shine
1. Keep it nice and crisp
There is no greater enemy to the average blogger’s attention span than long winded sentences. Life on the Internet moves fast and if you aren’t keeping up, you’re missing out. Keep an eye out for sentences that are littered with commas.
If there are a few too many ideas in a sentence, try to break them down into smaller ones. Yea, I get it, some sentences deserve their 25 to 30 words of fame, just make sure the sentences are relatively fewer in number.
Long sentences not only test the reader’s attention span, but may leave them gasping for air as well. I was just kidding about the gasping part.
2. Use shorter paragraphs
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart said “the music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” And in case of holding the reader’s attention, it’s not the text but the white space between. This is pretty self-explanatory. Just check the image below.
Yep! It’s the intro to this blog formatted in two different ways. Which one do you find it easier to read, A or B? Your answer is probably A. But do you know why B doesn’t work?
That’s because most of us inherently prefer reading paragraphs that are easier to scan and quick to consume. You can read the whole psychology behind shorter paragraphs here smartblogger.com/how-to-write-a-paragraph.
3. Replace the jargons for something more…common
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – “how do I make people believe I’m an industry expert without using industry specific words?” Believe me; you don’t have to. Your main goal of writing is to help the readers; not sound smart or fancy.
If someone needs to reach for the dictionary while reading a sentence, it’s likely that they aren’t going to finish it. What’s the point of writing if you cannot get people to read? So, cut out all jargon and use more common and simpler words instead.
4. Flip those passive sentences
You know what’s the easiest way to differentiate between a writer and someone who’s just winging it? The lazy one will always write more sentences in passive to fill up the word count (and maybe even to sound smart or formal).
There’s nothing wrong with passive voices, just that you can do a lot better writing in active. Active voices are not only concise, but speak to the audience in a direct manner. Consider these two sentences for example:
Joe will come and pick you up from the airport
You’ll be picked up at the airport by Joe after he arrives
Which one sounds more personal? Obviously the first one! The passive version sounds more unnecessary than formal.
5. Eliminate pesky, added punctuations
One mistake I see writers make all the time is that they overuse punctuation. What’s even worse is that some writers even defend their mistakes rather than correcting them. No, you just can’t add a comma imagining this is where you would stop to breathe in real life.
In the end, the writing is as much about your audience as it is about you. So cut it out! Colons, parentheses, ellipses, commas, etc. – whatever you use, make sure they are positioned to be effective and don’t break the flow of your writing.
6. THAT is unnecessary
Seriously, you don’t need to include “that” in your sentence as much as you think you do. Yeah, I get that “that” (see what I did there?) might give your ideas some clarity, but most of the time you can do just fine without it.
“I knew I was going to love this movie the moment I watched its trailer” sounds better than “I knew that I was going to love this movie the moment I watched its trailer.” The difference doesn’t might not seem enormous, but the devil is in the details.
7. Cut down on the prepositions
Ah, prepositions! Those helpful little devils sometimes really do add up to make the sentences lengthy. So, try to reduce prepositions (in, of, to, for, at, by, etc.) as much as possible. But wait; there’s a problem!
Prepositions connect words. So, cutting one preposition might mean you have to cut up to 2-3 words that follow. The good news is prepositional phrases are replaceable. You can write “the motorcycle of your brother” as just “your brother’s motorcycle.”
8. NoThing’s perfect
“You remember that thing I was telling you about?”
“Ah… I keep forgetting, that thing! Can’t you recall?”
“No, what are you talking about?”
Exactly! Nobody refers to what they’re talking about as a “thing.” Or they’re just too lazy or dumb to come up with a better word. Don’t be lazy or dumb when you’re writing. Take some time and find out an appropriate word.
Remember: You can do very little when the book has been published.
9. ‘There’ is something wrong
If you use Grammarly, you might have noticed that the software often flags ‘There’ or ‘There is’ as unnecessary words. That’s because you can start your sentences in many more interesting ways. Try starting a phrase with you or a verb and you’ll notice the change instantly!
The phrase “plenty of fishes in the sea” sounds infinitely better than “there are plenty of fishes in the sea.” Moreover, why would you include words that add no value to your writing?
10. Use contractions
What are you, a robot? No? Then why do you write like one? Use contractions to make your writing more crisp and sound friendlier. Which of the sentences sound more personable: I am going to get the dinner plate that is inside the cabinet, or I’m going to get the dinner plate that’s inside the cabinet?
One of your objectives as a writer is to connect with the readers. Using the appropriate contractions will make it a tad bit easier.
Alright then, now that you’ve read my top 10 editing tips for better writing, go ahead and put them to use. After you’re done making changes, I promise that your writing will sound a lot better. Even the editor will thank you for it, if you’ve got one that is!
Sudarshan is the founder and marketing head of Writer Shark, who is as passionate about making more money for his clients as he is about gaming, felines, and the Himalayas. On a regular day, you’ll either find him freaking out over meeting deadlines, snuggling with his cat, or planning the next trip to the mountians. There is no in-between.