Writers take their observations of the world, draw a few conclusions, and translate them into messages on paper (or computer screens). When you write something to market your products or services, you don a writer’s hat to express your message in words. But don’t stop there. You then need to put on your editor’s glasses and focus on fine-tuning those words to make sure they communicate with your intended audience. That requires you to read your piece as if you have never seen it before and think like an editor.
A skilled editor examines every phrase and asks:
- Is it NECESSARY?
- Is it CLEAR?
- Is it CONCISE?
When you review your own writing, you likely won’t answer “yes” to all these questions. So take off your writer’s hat and look through your editor’s glasses, then make changes based on these five common writing problems.
1. Use the active voice. (WHO does WHAT to WHOM.)
Passive: It was decided that everyone would take the class.
Active: The principal decided everyone would take the class.
2. Make subjects and verbs agree. (No mixing singular and plural.)
Incorrect: A group of writers were in town. (“Group” is singular while “were” is plural.)
Correct: A group of writers was in town. (“Group” is the subject here, not “writers.”)
3. Use parallel construction. (Give your writing rhythm.)
Weak: We’ve learned to read, write, and we’re making sure information is shared.
Stronger: We’ve learned to read, write, and share information.
4. Make the subject obvious. (Don’t let your participles dangle!)
Yucky: Driving down the highway, the new stadium came into view. (Who was driving down the highway? The stadium?)
Better: We could see the progress on the new stadium as we drove by it on the highway.
5. Use specific, vivid verbs and nouns. (Don’t overuse adverbs and adjectives.)
Dull: I saw some really pretty yellow daffodils.
Interesting: I reveled in a riot of daffodils.
When you wear your editor’s glasses, make sure every word counts. What are your favorite writing/editing tips that will enhance someone’s writing? Please share them here.