You’ve heard the expression “Author, edit thyself.” But exactly how does that apply in your everyday writing practice?
In this “Edit Thyself” series, you can take to heart practical tips that will help you clarify your writing immediately. Here are the tips in Part 3:
- Rarely use “I think” and “I believe” in your writing. Every article or book has your name on it. People can assume what you write is what you think and believe. If you must include either phrase for emphasis, do so sparingly.
- Find opportunities to use the verb form of a word rather the noun form. “Do you struggle?” is better than “Do you have struggles?” Especially look for “ion” and “ment” nouns. Transpose them into verbs and make your sentences more active. “The detective deals with the examination of the evidence.” Better: “The detective examines the evidence.”
- Put your thoughts in present tense; it’s more powerful than future tense. “This book shows you how” is more direct and stronger than “This book will show you how.” When you have the choice within the context of your piece, pick present tense.
Review of Parts 1 and 2:
- 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)
Remember, no one’s wording is sacred—even yours! Self-edit with a sharp pencil (or blazing keyboard) to strengthen your message.
As you practice these points, please share your experiences here. Which ones work best for you? What tips would you like to add?