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Improve Your Writing with these Editing Tips

Improve Your Writing with these Editing Tips
Improve Your Writing with these Editing Tips

    Teachers, business people, and just about everyone else it seems complain often and loudly that people today (usually “kids today”) don’t know how to write. I’m convinced, though, that a big part of the problem (perhaps the biggest part of the problem) is that people don’t know how to edit. We labor under the notion that good writing flows easily from the pen or typing fingers, and that editing too much will “kill” our work.

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    The best writers know differently, of course — their memoirs and biographies and writing manuals are filled with stories of books that needed to be cut in half to be readable, sentences that took weeks or months to get just right, and lifetimes spent tinkering with a single work that never strikes them as “just right”. To paraphrase a common saying among writers, there is no good writing, only good re-writing.

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    But if writing isn’t taught well enough or often enough these days, editing is hardly taught at all. This is too bad, since editing is where the real work of writing is at. More than just proofreading, good editing improves the clarity and forcefulness of a piece. Here’s some tips and tricks to help you make your writing more effective:

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    • Read out loud: Reading a piece out loud helps you to identify clunky, awkward passages that seem to make sense to the eye, especially to the author’s eye.
    • Read in reverse: You may have heard about reading backwards, word by word, to help proofread. This works because you bypass your brain’s tendency to fill in what it expects to see, allowing you to catch spelling errors you might otherwise gloss over. This is useless, though, when it comes to content, where meaning comes from phrases and word order. Instead, read from back to front, sentence by sentence (or maybe paragraph by paragraph, or both) to make sure that each sentence and each paragraph is internally coherent — that it makes sense on its own.
    • Sleep on it: Wait at least a night, and preferably longer, before starting your editing. Ideally, you want to forget what you wrote, so that — again — your brain doesn’t see what it expects to see but only sees what’s really there. A lot of times we make logical errors that make sense at the time, because our minds are filled with ideas, examples, and arguments related to our topic; when we approach our writing with a clear mind, though, those mental connections are gone, and only what we’ve actually written counts.
    • Cut, don’t add: We are almost always too wordy. While you may need to add a word or two while editing, for the most part you should be removing words. Concise writing is more powerful and easier to read than lengthy prose.
    • Justify yourself: Every point, statement, question, joke, even every word should have a reason to be in your piece; if it doesn’t, strike it. Be harsh — if a word or phrase does not add value to your writing, get rid of it.
    • Establish cognizance of pretentious language usages and eliminate such material: That is, watch for fancy words and cut them. Inexperienced writers often ape the language of academia, or rather the language they imagine academia uses. Even if you’re in academia, don’t use academic writing as a model. While there is a time and place for jargon, for the most part jargon exists to exclude readers, not include them. For most readers, the language of journalists is a much more appropriate model — and that means aiming for at best a smart eighth-grader’s reading level.
    • Throw out and get rid of unnecessary redundancies you don’t need: This applies in both sentences and the work as a whole. In high school, you might have learned to “say it, say it again, and then say what you said”; for most readers, this is a waste of their time and an insult to their intelligence; in the end, they’ll just tune you out. Say it clearly the first time, then move on.
    • Kill unsightly adverbs: Some adverbs are fine, but usually they serve only to pad out a statement that doesn’t need padding. For example: “He ran quickly”. It is in the nature of running to be quick. If there’s something unusual about his running (perhaps he ran slowly), then mention it; if not, just say “he ran” and trust your readers to know what running means.
    • Passive sentences are to be avoided: Beware of the use of “to be” and its conjugations (is, was, were, are, am). These often indicate a passive sentence, where the subject is acted upon instead of acting. Passivity makes for weak, unconvincing writing. Passivity is often the hallmark of someone trying to weasel out of something: “Mistakes were made” assigns no blame, while “I made a mistake” tells the world you’re taking responsibility. It does not convey the action, it only suggests the effect. So avoid passive sentences.

    Good editing, like good writing (or, better, as part of good writing), is an art. It takes time and practice to develop a real talent for editing, but the end result is worth it — your writing will be more alive, more effective, and ultimately more likely to be read. And that is, after all, what’s important: that your audience reads and, just as crucially, understands your work.

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    Last Updated on November 5, 2019

    12 Powerful Habits of a Lifelong Learner

    12 Powerful Habits of a Lifelong Learner

    Formal education is something everyone has to go through to a certain degree, and the knowledge it offers isn’t always that practical in real life. Life long learning is how you improve as a person, bit by bit and day by day.

    Life long learners recognize the importance and joy of growth so they never settle for what they currently know and always seek for improvement.

    Here are 12 habits of people who value lifelong learning have in common – see how many of them you recognize in yourself.

    1. They Read on a Daily Basis

    Whatever problem or dilemma you currently face, there’s definitely at least one decent book that discusses it and presents a variety of solutions.

    Reading is a great way to open up new horizons, train your brain and revolutionize your life. I can’t even count how many times books completely transformed the way I view the world, and it’s always a change for the better. Through reading, you can connect with successful people and learn from the lessons they share.

    Life long learners love to get lost in books and do it regularly. Bill Gates knows that reading matters a lot; on his personal blog, he reviews plenty of game-changing books.

    Due to technology, you can access a bookshelf of the wealthiest entrepreneur on this planet.

    2. They Attend Various Courses

    Whether it’s online or offline, there are countless courses you can participate in without spending a dime on it. These are great opportunities to connect with clever and like-minded people and learn from them.

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    Because of the advanced technology, you can now gain knowledge from online programs, starting from coding through self-improvement to programs from top universities.

    There are literally endless ways to thrive. What life long learners have in common is squeezing as much as possible out of these opportunities.

    3. They Actively Seek Opportunities to Grow

    Instead of spending your free time laying on the couch and watching TV, you prefer doing something creative and practical. You know every wasted minute is gone forever.

    That’s why you’d rather practice your language skills with a native-speaker you’ve met, engage in local meet up or attend a class that teaches something you always wanted to learn.

    Life long learners stay up-to-date with growth opportunities in their areas and participate in them frequently.

    4. They Take Care of Their Bodies

    “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” — John F. Kennedy

    A clever mind combined with a body in a great condition is the best asset you can have. Our bodies were designed to run, walk, jump, swim, lift and much more. Leading a sedentary lifestyle harms both your physical and mental sphere.

    Life long learners know the body is your temple. In order to make it flourish for as long as possible, they train regularly, move a lot and eat healthy.

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    5. They Have Diverse Passions

    Among Steve Jobs’ wise quotes, there’s one I like especially. It’s about connecting the dots:

    “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” — Steve Jobs

    Each dot is some event or skill in your life, and it’s only when you go through these elements that you know how to combine them into something great.

    Having a variety of passions indicates that you love to progress. By practicing different skills, you give yourself an advantage over the rest of the people. During hard times, you are more likely to to act intelligently and solve your problems with less effort.

    6. They Love Making Progress

    If behind the efforts, there is passion and a deep desire to grow, your chances of success are way higher, compared to when you are forced to learn.

    Life long learners love to experience the constant growth and improvement. The breakthrough moments help them to notice the impressive change that took place because of the learning process. Any milestone serves as a driving force for further headway.

    7. They Challenge Themselves with Specific Goals

    In order to keep growing, you clearly define your goals. Smart goal setting is one of the tools to ensure constant growth.

    Since you love challenges, a difficult goal doesn’t scare you. Quite the opposite, it keeps you motivated and engaged.

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    Research showed that precise and ambitious goals increase the performance of an individual. As we already agreed, life long learners are people who care about their performance, hence they never stop improving.

    8. They Embrace Change

    A complete change can lead to incredible results. This is especially visible on the example of successful companies.

    Oftentimes, it’s that transformation which created space for their so-called overnight success. Twitter was originally created as an internal service to serve Odeo employees. Currently, it has over 300 million monthly active users and is considered the second biggest social network.

    As a life long learner, you know a change can lead to extraordinary results so you welcome it and stay open minded about making a shift.

    9. They Believe It’s Never Too Late to Start Something

    Some people tend to think after a certain age, they are no longer allowed to start something and become successful. The truth is, it’s just a lame excuse not to leave the comfort zone.

    Opposite to common misconceptions, there’s no wrong age to begin something. Henry Ford was 45 when he invented the Ford Model T car, which is considered as the first affordable automobile.

    Sure, for some domains like becoming a professional athlete, starting early is required. However, to learn and improve for its own sake, you are never too old.

    10. Their Attitude to Getting Better Is Contagious

    “We now accept the fact that learning is a life long process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.” — Peter Drucker

    There’s nothing better than to see your surroundings getting involved in what you actively participate in. Oftentimes, the best way to achieve that is to inspire them and be the example. As Gandhi would say, you need to be the change you want to see in the world.

    As a life long learner, you are extremely passionate about the constant growth and people around you can sense that positive attitude. As a result, they start acting similarly.

    11. They Leave Their Comfort Zone

    Is it really better to step out of your comfort zone? The answer is always yes.

    You always embrace discomfort as you know the path to success leads through hardship and countless obstacles. Instead of being afraid of facing them, you challenge yourself to overcome more and more difficult handicaps.

    Every time you get out of your comfort zone, regardless whether you win or fail, you learn something new. That’s the part you love the most!

    12. They Never Settle Down

    “Knowledge is exploding, so you need to commit yourself to a plan for life long learning.” — Don Tapscott

    A sense of being clever enough is something you don’t experience. Without a doubt, you appreciate what you already know, but that’s never a reason to stop. You just know once you stop learning, you lose the amazing privilege humans have, namely an ability to a never-ending intellectual development.

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    Featured photo credit: Christin Hume via unsplash.com

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