Welcome to Part 4 of my series on practical tips to help you when revising your writing before sending it to a pro. I’ve also included a recap of Parts 1, 2, and 3. My hope is that you’ve been applying these tips all along, but reminders can always help!
- Take the author’s “I” out of the writing as much as possible. Instead, use a “you” orientation that takes in the readers’ viewpoint. You may push back on this tip; after all, a personal story is written from the author’s perspective. Yet, you can still be conscientious about overusing the word “I” and work around it. If you let the entire narrative pivot on “I,” you risk readers concluding “what does this have to do with me?”
- Write with economy of style. It takes more time and effort to write concisely, but the payoff is an easily understood narrative. Email me for a list of extraneous phrases and wobbly words so you know what to eliminate from your own writing. Use Extra Words in the subject line.
- Be precise about the meaning for every word you select. For example, don’t use “accept” when you mean “except”—a common mistake. I call these easily confused words “Word Trippers” and will send you a PDF of 390+ similar pairings featured in the 2nd edition of Word Trippers. Request it by putting Word Trippers PDF in the subject line.
Review of Parts 1, 2, and 3:
- Don’t mix “we” and “you” in the same paragraph or you risk confusing readers.
- Eliminate the words “you must” and “you should” as often as possible.
- Get rid of wobbly (not meaningful) words: very, some, much, really.
- In text, use “and so on” instead of “etc.” (It’s okay to use “etc.” in a list).
- Consider using contractions such as “can’t” and “don’t” instead of “cannot” and “do not.” It speeds up the reading.
- Write for the ear. Read what you’ve written out loud to make sure it sounds right and contains no unintentionally repeated words.
- “Ask myself” and “think to myself” are redundant; consider using only the verb “ask” or “think.”
- Vary your sentence length; use no more than 21 words in a sentence as a rule.
- In text, spell out the name of a state or province; don’t use abbreviations. E.g., CO should be Colorado; SK should be Saskatchewan. (Exception: DC for District of Columbia)
- Rarely use the words “I think” and “I believe” in your writing. You wrote it; thus readers already know that’s what you think or believe.
- Find ways to use the verb form of a word rather than the noun form–e.g., “Do you struggle?” is better than “Do you have struggles?”
- Put your thoughts in present tense rather than future tense. “This book shows you how” comes across stronger than “this book will show you how.”
What tips would you add for editing your own writing? Share them here.