No one writes a perfect piece from the first try. First drafts are known to be messy and embarrassing. Editing is a crucial part of the writing process; it’s where your ideas take a shape that is presentable, coherent and enjoyable. In other words, it’s where great writing happens. Below are ten tips you can start implementing right away to ramp up your writing skills.
1. Take a Break from Writing
This may sound counterproductive, but it works. Go to the gym, hang out with friends or walk your dog. When you come back later with a fresh perspective, you will spot new mistakes to fix and ideas to expand on.
2. Track Down and Eliminate Unneeded Adverbs and Adjectives
You don’t need to describe in great detail everything. Too many adverbs and adjectives hamper the reading flow with repetitive interruptions that don’t add much value. Use them sparingly to provide relevant accuracy and nuance. Focus the bulk of your writing on nouns and verbs.
3. Read Your Writing Aloud
You have probably heard this advice before, and for good reason: it does work. Find a space where you feel comfortable and put your writing to the vocal test. The sections where you trip over words or exhaust your breath are those that need editing. You know you have a good flow when reading it is easy and pleasant.
4. Use Simple Words
No need to try to seem sophisticated. Simple words make for a comfortable reading, which is the experience you want your reader to have. Replace “utilize” with “use” and “cognizant” with “aware”. Your readers will be thankful for it.
5. Use the Active Voice
Active voice allows for a straightforward structure and a clear image. Passive voice reverses the train of thought and uses more words, which makes the meaning harder to understand. That said, there are cases where the passive voice is a viable choice like when the subject is unknown (the house was robbed). Learn when it’s preferable to use one over the other.
6. Check Your Pronunciation
It’s not unusual to have a habit that doesn’t align with rules of proper pronunciation. Some writers abuse ellipses or put spaces before commas. It’s not a problem when you’re typing a comment on Facebook or sending an email to a friend, but when it comes to writing you’re paid for, flawless pronunciation is a mark of professionalism that is expected from you.
7. Remove Walls of Text and Improve your Formatting
Don’t give your reader the impression that he’s about to a tackle great task. Divide your writing into digestible bites that are easy on the eyes and the mind. Use lists to organize ideas and help with memorizing. Sprinkle subheaders throughout the text to allow the reader to scan it and skim through sections when she wants. If your writing is good enough, she will read the whole text.
8. Double-Check Expressions and Idioms
You may think you’re using a certain idiom the right way, until a quick Google search proves you wrong. Are you used to writing “sneak peak”? Think again. Learn to doubt what you take for granted and verify the correct spelling for an expression. A quick search on Google will send you to forum threads where users provide the correct wording.
9. Proofread Before Publishing
You might think your piece is ready for publishing, but you would be surprised at how many small mistakes can manage to stay hidden in your writing. Don’t get impatient and check your hyperlinks. Make sure that formatting is consistent and see if the headline and subheaders can be polished some more.
10. Get in the Reader’s Mind
Is that introduction longwinded and boring? Is that paragraph off topic? Is the tone too serious and dry? What is the value that the reader derives? These are essential questions you need to ask if you want to write content that resonates with audiences.
Having someone whose opinion you trust read your work and give feedback is awesome, but that’s not always an option. Most of the time, you will have to rely entirely on yourself to produce a solid piece of writing. Developing the ability to spot errors and stylistic weaknesses is essential to becoming a great writer.
If you feel ready to put your writing skills to good use, why not drop us a line? We’re looking for writers willing to lend their voice.