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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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6 Ways You Should Revise Your Writing, Every Time

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

What do I want to do with my life? It’s a question all of us think about at one point or another.

For some, the answer comes easily. For others, it takes a lifetime to figure out.

It’s easy to just go through the motions and continue to do what’s comfortable and familiar. But for those of you who seek fulfillment, who want to do more, these questions will help you paint a clearer picture of what you want to do with your life.

1. What are the things I’m most passionate about?

The first step to living a more fulfilling life is to think about the things that you’re passionate about.

What do you love? What fulfills you? What “work” do you do that doesn’t feel like work? Maybe you enjoy writing, maybe you love working with animals or maybe you have a knack for photography.

The point is, figure out what you love doing, then do more of it.

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2. What are my greatest accomplishments in life so far?

Think about your past experiences and the things in your life you’re most proud of.

How did those accomplishments make you feel? Pretty darn good, right? So why not try and emulate those experiences and feelings?

If you ran a marathon once and loved the feeling you had afterwards, start training for another one. If your child grew up to be a star athlete or musician because of your teachings, then be a coach or mentor for other kids.

Continue to do the things that have been most fulfilling for you.

3. If my life had absolutely no limits, what would I choose to have and what would I choose to do?

Here’s a cool exercise: Think about what you would do if you had no limits.

If you had all the money and time in the world, where would you go? What would you do? Who would you spend time with?

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These answers can help you figure out what you want to do with your life. It doesn’t mean you need millions of dollars to be happy though.

What it does mean is answering these questions will help you set goals to reach certain milestones and create a path toward happiness and fulfillment. Which leads to our next question …

4. What are my goals in life?

Goals are a necessary component to set you up for a happy future. So answer these questions:

Once you figure out the answers to each of these, you’ll have a much better idea of what you should do with your life.

5. Whom do I admire most in the world?

Following the path of successful people can set you up for success.

Think about the people you respect and admire most. What are their best qualities? Why do you respect them? What can you learn from them?

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You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.[1] So don’t waste your time with people who hold you back from achieving your dreams.

Spend more time with happy, successful, optimistic people and you’ll become one of them.

6. What do I not like to do?

An important part of figuring out what you want to do with your life is honestly assessing what you don’t want to do.

What are the things you despise? What bugs you the most about your current job?

Maybe you hate meetings even though you sit through 6 hours of them every day. If that’s the case, find a job where you can work more independently.

The point is, if you want something to change in your life, you need to take action. Which leads to our final question …

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7. How hard am I willing to work to get what I want?

Great accomplishments never come easy. If you want to do great things with your life, you’re going to have to make a great effort. That will probably mean putting in more hours the average person, getting outside your comfort zone and learning as much as you can to achieve as much as you can.

But here’s the cool part: it’s often the journey that is the most fulfilling part. It’s during these seemingly small, insignificant moments that you’ll often find that “aha” moments that helps you answer the question,

“What do I want to do with my life?”

So take the first step toward improving your life. You won’t regret it.

Featured photo credit: Andrew Ly via unsplash.com

Reference

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