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Crossman’s Crash Course in Writing with Style – Step Five: Editing!

Many businesspeople struggle a little with the task of writing with impact and although good writing might seem like a mysterious skill, I believe it’s something almost anyone can develop. We are each on our own writing continuum and while some people are working to improve their grammar, others are trying to catch the knack of writing fluidly. There is no right or wrong in all this. It’s a personal project.

Which brings us to the question of writing with style. It’s quite personal as well and I’ve narrowed the effort down to five basic steps. If you’d like to read my thoughts on the topic, please check out my earlier blogs on Grammatical Accuracy, Smooth Linkages, Liveliness and Depth. There is an Overview as well which might add some value if you’re interested.

Today we’re going to look at one of my favorites, Editing. Contrary to what some people believe, great writing doesn’t usually just flow magically and instantaneously from a writer’s head, through their fingers and out onto the screen. It can be an agonizing process full of false starts and sentences that lead nowhere.

The trick in becoming a good writer lies in being able to take a messy, possibly incoherent tangle of sentences and trim it all into an orderly prism of language that is meaningful and effective.

That’s about editing.

When I switch from “Writing Mode” to “Editing Mode” I look for what’s wrong in my document and then I fix it. I’m checking for a number of different problems which might lie in the areas of:

  • Spelling
  • Grammatical accuracy
  • Sentence structure
  • Flow
  • Freshness
  • Depth
  • Length
  • The goals I had initially set for the piece
  • Audience appeal
  • Factual accuracy
  • Overall organization and, finally,
  • What’s missing in the content

It helps to be a perfectionist.

While it can take me quite a while to finish editing a document there comes a point when I have to say “enough’s enough” and let the piece go. But usually by then I am reasonably happy with it.

If you find the task overwhelming, I suggest you find a supportive friend or colleague who loves working with words and who is willing to give your work an honest edit for you. Ask them to use the “track changes” function so you can learn from what they’ve done.

Unfortunately there is no room for pandering to ego in editing. Having worked at a daily newspaper way back at the Dawn of Time I know how painful the experience of having someone else edit your work can be. But a great end result is what you’re after and if you need help, ask for it! There is no shame in wanting to improve.

Comments? Questions? Let me know! Talking about words and writing is one of my absolute favorite things to do!

If you’d like to learn more about how I can help you with editing, contact me today.


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