Advertising
Advertising

Edit This Post on Editing

Edit This Post on Editing

Edit This Post on Editing

    Readers of Tim Ferriss’s 2007 book The Four-Hour Workweek might be familiar with a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery that appears on page 65 of the book: “Perfection is not when there is no more to add, but no more to take away.”  This is especially evident in writing.  Free-writing is the process of assembling raw material, but careful editing is like sculpture or construction.  It is the process of taking unorganized material and fashioning it into something useful.  As people get more productive and as their time gets more valuable, it will become progressively more important to pack as much information into as little space as possible.  Here are a couple of editing steps that can help you write tighter, more lucid prose.

    Advertising

    1.  Write a Reverse Outline. I learned this a few summers ago when I participated in an Academic Ladder Summer Writing Club.  Basically, you take your finished rough draft and then write an outline based on the draft.  This helps you identify repetition and redundancy, which then gives you what you need in order to move to step 2.

    2.  Eliminate redundant passages that repeat things you have said earlier in the draft unnecessarily.  Redundancy can be the sand in the gears of your rough draft.  Prose that was swift, fluid, and interesting gets dull fast when you’re making ineffective use of redundancy.  That isn’t to say that repetition isn’t useful, but a lot of times you might end up repeating yourself either because you can’t think of anything more interesting to say or because your thoughts are fundamentally disorganized.  So what do you eliminate, and how?

    Advertising

    3.  Eliminate unnecessary pages and paragraphs.  It’s appropriate to begin the editing process with a chainsaw.  Editing that crappy first draft–and you should always give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft, no matter how bad it is, as long as you get it on paper–is not the time to be delicate.  There are probably large swaths of your draft that can be eliminated without reducing the quality of your final product.  I’ve gotten comments like this at conferences and from journal referees.  In one case, a conference commentator liked a paper I had written but suggested that I eliminate the first nineteen pages.  I received a revise-and-resubmit request on a journal article once suggesting that I eliminate the first fifteen pages.  And so on.  The idea that a piece of writing is good just because it is long might be appropriate for a sixth grade language arts class, but it is wholly inappropriate for serious writing.  Past a certain wordcount, the returns to additional words are sharply diminishing.

    4.  Eliminate unnecessary sentences.  Now it’s time to start being more careful.  You’ve eliminated redundant paragraphs, and now it is time to look within the essential exposition to see where you can clarify.  There is still likely to be some junk here that can be eliminated without compromising your message.  Your readers’ time is very scarce.  Don’t waste it.

    Advertising

    5.  Eliminate words, then syllables.  Simple expression elucidates powerful thinking, and it has been said–though I forget by whom–that you should never use a ten-cent word when a five-cent word will do.  In the process you will clarify your analysis, clarify your own thinking, and do an important service for your readers.

    You’ve probably noticed, perhaps with irony, that this article is imperfect.  The last couple of times I have taught writing-intensive sections of economics 101, I have given students a bonus assignment in which I give them my own interpretation of the first writing assignment–the last couple of times it has involved Thomas Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions, if you’re curious–and asked them to grade my paper according to the rubric by which I grade their work in exchange for a few bonus points.  I think they have fun with it, it’s a nice way to let them peek behind the curtain, so to speak, and suffice it to say it is always fun and informative to read my students’ comments on my own work.  So here’s an exercise for everyone reading: what would happen this article look like if you applied the editing suggestions I gave you above to what I’ve written here?  If you take a shot at it, I would be interested in seeing the results either via email or in the comments.  Happy editing!

    Advertising

    More by this author

    21st Century Opportunities Learning from A Master: Review of “Bear Bryant, CEO” On “The Substance of Style” Productivity Hints from Booker T. Washington Get Rich(er)

    Trending in Communication

    1 50 Ways To Show Her You Love Her 2 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do 3 Why Am I Not Happy? 5 Steps to Figure Out the Reason 4 9 Things to Remember When You Had a Bad Day 5 How to Use a 5 Minute Journal to Invest in Your Happiness

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on August 12, 2019

    13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

    13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

    Mentally strong people have healthy habits. They manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that set them up for success in life.

    Take a look at these 13 things that mentally strong people don’t do so that you too can become mentally stronger.

    1. They Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves

    Mentally strong people don’t sit around feeling sorry about their circumstances or how others have treated them. Instead, they take responsibility for their role in life and understand that life isn’t always easy or fair.

    2. They Don’t Give Away Their Power

    They don’t allow others to control them, and they don’t give someone else power over them. They don’t say things like, “My boss makes me feel bad,” because they understand that they are in control over their own emotions and they have a choice in how they respond.

    Advertising

    3. They Don’t Shy Away from Change

    Mentally strong people don’t try to avoid change. Instead, they welcome positive change and are willing to be flexible. They understand that change is inevitable and believe in their abilities to adapt.

    4. They Don’t Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control

    You won’t hear a mentally strong person complaining over lost luggage or traffic jams. Instead, they focus on what they can control in their lives. They recognize that sometimes, the only thing they can control is their attitude.

    5. They Don’t Worry About Pleasing Everyone

    Mentally strong people recognize that they don’t need to please everyone all the time. They’re not afraid to say no or speak up when necessary. They strive to be kind and fair, but can handle other people being upset if they didn’t make them happy.

    6. They Don’t Fear Taking Calculated Risks

    They don’t take reckless or foolish risks, but don’t mind taking calculated risks. Mentally strong people spend time weighing the risks and benefits before making a big decision, and they’re fully informed of the potential downsides before they take action.

    Advertising

    7. They Don’t Dwell on the Past

    Mentally strong people don’t waste time dwelling on the past and wishing things could be different. They acknowledge their past and can say what they’ve learned from it.

    However, they don’t constantly relive bad experiences or fantasize about the glory days. Instead, they live for the present and plan for the future.

    8. They Don’t Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over

    Mentally strong people accept responsibility for their behavior and learn from their past mistakes. As a result, they don’t keep repeating those mistakes over and over. Instead, they move on and make better decisions in the future.

    9. They Don’t Resent Other People’s Success

    Mentally strong people can appreciate and celebrate other people’s success in life. They don’t grow jealous or feel cheated when others surpass them. Instead, they recognize that success comes with hard work, and they are willing to work hard for their own chance at success.

    Advertising

    10. They Don’t Give Up After the First Failure

    Mentally strong people don’t view failure as a reason to give up. Instead, they use failure as an opportunity to grow and improve. They are willing to keep trying until they get it right.

    11. They Don’t Fear Alone Time

    Mentally strong people can tolerate being alone and they don’t fear silence. They aren’t afraid to be alone with their thoughts and they can use downtime to be productive.

    They enjoy their own company and aren’t dependent on others for companionship and entertainment all the time but instead can be happy alone.

    12. They Don’t Feel the World Owes Them Anything

    Mentally strong people don’t feel entitled to things in life. They weren’t born with a mentality that others would take care of them or that the world must give them something. Instead, they look for opportunities based on their own merits.

    Advertising

    13. They Don’t Expect Immediate Results

    Whether they are working on improving their health or getting a new business off the ground, mentally strong people don’t expect immediate results. Instead, they apply their skills and time to the best of their ability and understand that real change takes time.

    More About Mental Strength

    Featured photo credit: Candice Picard via unsplash.com

    Read Next