by Barbara McNichol
Whenever you write something—a report, article, proposal, manuscript, or sensitive email—you naturally don a writer’s hat. But don’t stop there. You’re not finished! It’s time to scrutinize and then fine-tune what you’ve crafted.
Start with this question: Does every word contribute to conveying your intended message?
To answer that question, you need to reread your piece (at least three times) as if you’ve never seen it before. It’s akin to “thinking like an editor” by examining every phrase/sentence and asking:
Is it NECESSARY?
Is it CLEAR?
Is it CONCISE?
If you can’t confidently answer YES to these questions, pay attention to the following fixes and use them wherever it’s appropriate.
NECESSARY: Be picky and picky again. Delete whichever elements don’t support the piece’s meaning.
CLEAR: Ensure subjects and verbs agree; no mixing singular and plural. For example,
- 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.”)
CONCISE: Whack wordiness by getting rid of extraneous phrases and words that add no value—e.g., really, some, great, very, that. Change these wobbly words to something specific and/or descriptive that gives readers more information. For example,
- Let’s add some examples to the report.
- Let’s add 12 examples to the report.
By looking through your editor’s lens, you can fine-tune your writing to ensure every word counts toward getting your message across.