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Even the Best Writing Needs Precise Editing

By  Karen McDermott, Jeff Winton Associates Consultant

Undoubtedly, the biggest secret to great writing is great editing. But being your own best editor is perhaps the most challenging step in the writing process. Where to begin? Here are five tips on how to edit your own writing.

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  1. Make the cut. When it comes to writing, brevity rules. That means you need to be ruthless in eliminating the extra fat from your copy. So, for example, take out the chunks of unnecessary and often redundant content, including adjectives and adverbs, that slow the flow for your reader.

  2. Break it into bite-sized pieces. Avoid overwhelming readers with huge blocks of text when they first glimpse at your writing. Keep sentences and paragraphs short. And when possible and appropriate, incorporate numbers and bullets. Adding subheads is another effective way to break up the copy in a long piece.

  3. Read it out loud. This is one of the best ways to help ensure your writing style is smooth and conversational in tone. At this step, consider your audience and be sure you haven’t used jargon or other language that is likely to go over their heads.

  4. Don’t forget the basics. Keep in mind that it is much easier to detect typos and grammatical errors when proofreading someone else’s copy compared to your own. Beyond making spellcheck your best friend, be on the lookout for repetitive words and phrases, as well as style and punctuation inconsistencies in your work. Often, it’s the simple mistakes that slip under the radar.

  5. Walk away from it. Depending on your deadlines, take at least a short break between writing and editing a piece – or better yet put it down until the next day. You’ll find that this will improve your ability to spot problems with the flow of the text, extraneous content and any errors.

Whether you’re writing a blog, website content, report or even an email, editing to perfect your prose is an essential step. And when done right, your well-honed content will not only present your message clearly and concisely. The extra effort will also help to keep your readers’ rapt attention to the very end.

Karen Govel McDermott is a marketing communications professional who brings more than 30 years of experience to her work at Jeff Winton Associates. Karen has worked as a freelance writer and editor for a variety of entities, including healthcare advertising agencies, animal health companies, nonprofit organizations and publishing companies.

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