by Barbara McNichol
What can editors tell writers about improving their writing before they even begin the editing process? Here’s a summary:
Mistake #1. Being so self-absorbed as a writer that you’re unaware of the reader’s experience. The fix? Know your core message and write to that message, leaving out the experience of writing.
Mistake #2. Addressing readers as readers rather than a single key person whose interest you want to capture with your message. The fix? Keep a single interested person in your target audience top of mind as you write.
Mistake #3. Skimming the surface, not going deep enough. The fix? When describing an experience, explain what you felt, what the other person felt as best you can, and what exact words were spoken. Go deeper with the details.
Mistake #4. Having no rhyme or reason to the order of the paragraphs. The fix? Make a conscious decision about the order based on logic and facilitating your readers’ comprehension.
Mistake #5. Overusing weak verbs and throwing in extraneous phrases and wobbly words. The fix? Rewrite using active verbs; question use of every adjective and adverb; throw out wobbly words: really, very, much, some that. “I Really Think That We Should Not Use Some Words Very Much.”
Mistake #6. Using multiword noun phrases when one active verb will do. The fix? Whenever possible, get an active verb to do the “work.”
Mistake #7. Writing sentences that ramble (on and on and on and on). The fix? Limit sentences to 15-21 words max but vary sentence length.
Bonus mistake: Mixing metaphors and flat-out choosing the wrong word. The fix? Use a word choice guide like Word Trippers to help you select the perfect word when it really matters.