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6 Ways You Should Revise Your Writing, Every Time

6 Ways You Should Revise Your Writing, Every Time

When someone tells you a piece you’ve written doesn’t “flow well,” it can be maddeningly unspecific. But there’s good news: it’s surprisingly easy to fix. We’ve all heard the same advice before: read your work aloud, sleep on it, always proofread, etc. That’s all good guidance, but as an editor, I prefer a more analytical approach to writing—so I’ve assembled a few concrete tips to tighten your prose, improve your overall flow, and produce clear, easy-to-read copy. After you’ve written a first draft, follow these steps:

1. Reduce “to be” verbs.

If a piece of copy feels wordy, weighed down, or difficult to read, it’s often because you’ve gotten carried away with “to be” verbs. These include be, am, is, are, was, were, being, and been. “To be” verbs overload copy because they require secondary verbs. Often you can eliminate “to be” verbs by getting straight to your action verb. For example, instead of saying “I’m not able to do that,” you could say, “I can’t do that.” By following this principle, you’ll streamline your prose.

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2. Limit prepositions.

Just like reducing “to be” verbs, axing prepositions tightens your writing. Try to limit yourself to one or two prepositional phrases per sentence. Using more than that can make sentences long and difficult to follow. If you overuse prepositions, brainstorm other ways to write sentences and break up ideas. Some prepositions are unavoidable—and you shouldn’t try to eliminate them completely—but use them sparingly.

3. Vary sentence structures.

Even the best writers tend to lean on favorite words, phrases, and sentence structures. For readers, however, this type of  repetition leads to disinterest. To combat reader boredom, vary the way you start your sentences. In the process, you can usually write better transitions and improve sentence-level cadence. Think of sentence length as another technical instrument in your writing toolkit—a way to mindfully emphasize certain points and de-emphasize others.

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4. Avoid noun strings.

A noun string is exactly what it sounds like: too many nouns in a row. Noun strings can be difficult to avoid, especially in business or technical writing. And sometimes it’s impossible to dodge both noun strings and prepositions, so you’re forced to choose whichever sounds best. The important thing is to be aware of them and how they affect your writing. Unpack your noun strings, write them in different ways, and read sentences out loud to find the smoothest path.

5. Cut unnecessary words.

Check your work for redundancy, excessive modifiers, and empty words. If you repeat similar ideas in more than one sentence, try to condense. Be wary of words like modifiers—adjectives or adverbs that describe nouns. Focus on clarity, and ask yourself if each modifier enhances your meaning. Likewise, cut phrases such as in my opinion, kind of, actually, truly, basically, and definitely. By cutting unnecessary words, you’ll emphasize your main points, instead of burying the lead.

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6. Examine the cohesion.

Editing for cohesion means seeing how each sentence and paragraph contributes to the overall whole. Each line should build off the previous one, and paragraphs should begin with topic sentences, gently leading the reader along a journey to the conclusion. On both the sentence and paragraph level, use transitional phrases and reference old information before introducing anything new, so the reader can easily follow along.

Good writing doesn’t have to be guesswork or natural-born talent. It simply takes time. Your revision process should, in part, become a scavenger hunt, complete with the knowledge of what you should look to eliminate and reword. Whether you’re a professional writer or someone who dreads putting words together, if you follow these six simple steps, your writing will improve tremendously.

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Featured photo credit: Nic McPhee via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 18, 2019

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

Some people will have a rain cloud hanging over them, no matter what the weather is outside. Their negative attitude is toxic to your own moods, and you probably feel like there is little you can do about it.

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If you want to effectively deal with negative people and be a champion of positivity, then your best route is to take definite action through some of the steps below.

1. Limit the time you spend with them.

First, let’s get this out of the way. You can be more positive than a cartoon sponge, but even your enthusiasm has a chance of being afflicted by the constant negativity of a friend.

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In fact, negativity has been proven to damage your health physically, making you vulnerable to high levels of stress and even cardiac disease. There’s no reason to get hurt because of someone else’s bad mood.

Though this may be a little tricky depending on your situation, working to spend slightly less time around negative people will keep your own spirits from slipping as well.

2. Speak up for yourself.

Don’t just absorb the comments that you are being bombarded with, especially if they are about you. It’s wise to be quick to listen and slow to speak, but being too quiet can give the person the impression that you are accepting what’s being said.

3. Don’t pretend that their behavior is “OK.”

This is an easy trap to fall into. Point out to the person that their constant negativity isn’t a good thing. We don’t want to do this because it’s far easier to let someone sit in their woes, and we’d rather just stay out of it.

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But if you want the best for this person, avoid giving the false impression that their negativity is normal.

4. Don’t make their problems your problems.

Though I consider empathy a gift, it can be a dangerous thing. When we hear the complaints of a friend or family member, we typically start to take on their burdens with them.

This is a bad habit to get into, especially if this is a person who is almost exclusively negative. These types of people are prone to embellishing and altering a story in order to gain sympathy.

Why else would they be sharing this with you?

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5. Change the subject.

When you suspect that a conversation is starting to take a turn for the negative, be a champion of positivity by changing the subject. Of course, you have to do this without ignoring what the other person said.

Acknowledge their comment, but move the conversation forward before the euphoric pleasure gained from complaining takes hold of either of you.

6. Talk about solutions, not problems.

Sometimes, changing the subject isn’t an option if you want to deal with negative people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be positive.

I know that when someone begins dumping complaints on me, I have a hard time knowing exactly what to say. The key is to measure your responses as solution-based.

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You can do this by asking questions like, “Well, how could this be resolved?” or, “How do you think they feel about it?”

Use discernment to find an appropriate response that will help your friend manage their perspectives.

7. Leave them behind.

Sadly, there are times when we have to move on without these friends, especially if you have exhausted your best efforts toward building a positive relationship.

If this person is a family member, you can still have a functioning relationship with them, of course, but you may still have to limit the influence they have over your wellbeing.

That being said, what are some steps you’ve taken to deal with negative people? Let us know in the comments.

You may also want to read: How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions.

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