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25 Modifying Suggestions for Tightening Your Copy and Enhancing Your Writing

Writers hardly ever spit out their greatest copy on the primary draft. (In the event you meet a author who claims to have the key for doing so, please let the remainder of us know!)

First drafts — and second drafts and typically thirds — exist to hash your concepts out on paper. After you’ve revised your e book, story, weblog publish or article till you’ll be able to revise no extra, you simply hand it off to your editor to wash up, proper?

Properly, that’d be best. However most of us don’t have the luxurious of hiring an costly editor to evaluation our private weblog publish. And since procrastination is the author’s greatest buddy, you won’t even have time to even ask a fellow author pal take a fast peek for errors.

And so, in some circumstances, it falls to you to be your individual editor.

Easy methods to make edits: Observe these copyediting ideas

You’ve acquired to discover ways to make edits. Is it actually doable edit your individual work when all of the phrases you simply completed writing are so valuable? Sure! It may be achieved — and for the sake of creating your writing stand out, it have to be achieved.

So pull up your most just lately saved draft, and get to work. To make it simple for you, we’ve added to the underside of this listing a downloadable and printable PDF that summarizes these copyediting ideas right into a guidelines.

Listed here are 25 modifying tricks to apply to your work.

1. Reduce lengthy sentences in two

I’m not speaking about run-on sentences. Many lengthy sentences are grammatically appropriate. However lengthy sentences typically comprise a number of concepts, to allow them to simply lose the reader’s focus as a result of they don’t present a break, main readers to get caught or lose curiosity, and maybe the reader may get bored and go watch TV as an alternative.

See what I imply? In the event you spot a comma-heavy sentence, attempt to give every concept its personal sentence.

2. Axe the adverbs (a.ok.a. -ly phrases)

Adverbs weaken your copy as a result of these extra phrases should not actually descriptive. Fairly than saying the lady runs rapidly, say she sprints. As an alternative of describing the cat as strolling slowly, say he creeps or tiptoes. The display screen door didn’t shut noisily, it banged shut.

Discover a extra highly effective verb to interchange the weak verb + weak -ly adverb combo.

three. Stick to 1 voice

Typically it’s crucial to make use of each first and second particular person, however that may be jarring for readers. For instance, you may begin your introduction speaking about your self, then swap midway via the piece and begin addressing the reader. Attempt to keep on with “I” voice or “you” voice all through one piece of writing.

And if you happen to should swap, begin with one and end with the opposite. Don’t transfer forwards and backwards between the 2. Your readers will get misplaced.

four. Take away additional punctuation

A strong hyphen right here and a thought-provoking semicolon there might be efficient. However an editorial plagued by all kinds of punctuation — parentheses, colons, ellipses, and many others. — doesn’t stream effectively.

Oftentimes, you’ll be able to get rid of these additional items of punctuation with commas or by ending a sentence and beginning a brand new one. And that makes your writing that a lot stronger.

5. Exchange adverse with constructive

As an alternative of claiming what one thing isn’t, say what it’s. “You don’t need to make these errors in your writing” may very well be higher said as, “You need to keep away from these errors in your writing.” It’s extra easy.

In the event you discover adverse statements in your writing that comprise don’t, shouldn’t, can’t or one other such phrase, discover a option to rewrite them with out the “not.” That may most likely imply it’s good to discover a extra highly effective verb.

6. Exchange stuffy phrases with easy ones

Some folks suppose jargon makes their writing sound sensible, however you already know higher. Good writing doesn’t confuse readers. If they should seize a dictionary to complete a sentence, your writing has room for enchancment.

To get your level throughout, use phrases persons are conversant in. The English language has hundreds of phrases. You’ll be able to definitely discover a shorter or extra widespread phrase in your thesaurus than a jargony one.

7. Take away redundancies

You don’t have to say the very same factor with two phrases. Did you catch the redundant phrases in that sentence? Right here’s a greater model: you don’t have to say the identical factor with two phrases.

Model new, advance planning, fundamental requirements… the listing of those widespread phrases is longer than this weblog publish. Take a look at About.com’s 200 Frequent Redundancies after which begin snipping!

Typically sneaky redundancies are separated by an “and.” In the event you say your sentences are easy and to-the-point, they’re neither. You don’t want each phrases. Your sentences are easy. Or, your sentences are to-the-point.

eight. Cut back prepositions

Although prepositions (of, in, to, for, and many others.) are useful little phrases, they make sentences extra prolonged as a result of they can not stand alone. Prepositions want plenty of buddies. By reducing the preposition and the phrases that observe, you’ll be able to lower three, 4 and even 5 phrases. Typically a prepositional phrase might be changed with only one extra direct phrase, or lower utterly.

A simple option to lower prepositions is to search for alternatives to make one thing possessive. The automobile of your neighbor is actually simply your neighbor’s automobile.

9. Reduce “in an effort to”

You by no means want it. In the event you’re going to the kitchen in an effort to make a sandwich… Your sentence may very well be tighter. Since you’re actually going to the kitchen to make a sandwich.

That “in an effort to” makes it take a millisecond longer to reach on the meaty a part of the sentence, which implies your story is dragging greater than it must.

10. Don’t use “begin to”

Did you begin to stroll the canine, or did you stroll the canine? Is the automobile beginning to roll down the hill, or is it rolling down the hill?

“Begin to” is a harder phrase to cope with than “in an effort to,” as a result of typically you do want it. However extra probably than not, you don’t.

Fairly than making “begin” the lively verb, use the verb that’s truly extra lively — like strolling or rolling — to inform your story.

11. Nix “that”

In about 5 % of your sentences (whole guess from the grammar police), “that” makes your concept simpler to know. Within the different 95 %, eliminate it!

“I made a decision that journalism was a very good profession for me” reads higher as “I made a decision journalism was a very good profession for me.”

12. Exchange “factor” with a greater phrase

Normally after we write “factor” or “issues,” it’s as a result of we have been too lazy to think about a greater phrase. In every single day life, we might ask for “that factor over there,” however in your writing, calling something a “factor” doesn’t assist your reader.

Attempt to change all “factor” or “issues” with a extra descriptive phrase.

13. Attempt actually exhausting to identify situations of “very” and “actually”

It is a very troublesome one to recollect. I nearly by no means get it proper, till I’m going again via my copy, and the phrase jumps out at me, after which I modify the sentence to “It is a troublesome one to recollect.” As a result of actually, how a lot is that “very” serving to you get your level throughout?

It doesn’t make the duty sound harder. Identical factor with “actually.” It’s not a “actually” troublesome tip to recollect. It’s merely a troublesome tip to recollect. Acquired it?

14. Make your verbs stronger

“Make” is typically utilized in the identical manner as “begin to,” instead of what may very well be a stronger verb.

For instance, I first titled this publish, I wrote “25 methods to make your copy stronger.” Once I re-read it, I spotted the verb wasn’t sturdy.

I’d used “make” because the verb, when it doesn’t inform the reader a lot in any respect. So I modified the title to “25 methods to strengthen your copy.” Ultimately I spotted “tighten” was an excellent higher verb.

15. Ditch the passive voice

Passive voice stands out to editors, however it may be troublesome to note in your individual writing. Studying learn how to determine it and fixing these situations will make your writing stronger.

Right here’s an instance of passive voice: “The door was left open.”

To vary that sentence to lively voice, it could appear like this: “Somebody left the door open” or “He left the door open.” The thought is to be clear about who or what’s executing the motion.

If you wish to get good at this, Grammar lady has an intensive publish explaining passive voice.

16. Check with folks as “who” not “that”

John is the man who all the time forgets his sneakers, not the man that all the time forgets his sneakers.

It’s simple to make this error as a result of “that” has develop into acceptable in on a regular basis conversations. However it’s extra noticeable when it’s written down.

17. Keep away from “at present”

Professional copywriting tip: “At present” is  all the time redundant.

Don’t write: “Tom Jones is at present a communications director.” Tom Jones is a communications director at that second. You don’t want “at present” to make clear. Simply eliminate it.

18. Remove “there’s” or “there are” at the start of sentences

That is typically a symptom of lazy writing. There are many higher, extra fascinating methods to begin sentences.

See how simple it’s to make this error? As an alternative of beginning a sentence with “there’s,” attempt turning the phrase round to incorporate a verb or begin with you.

For instance, change the sentence above with “Begin your sentences in a extra fascinating manner.” In case your copy contains lots of phrases that start with “there’s” or “there are,” put a while into rewriting most of them.

19. Match up your bullet factors

Bullet factors are a well-liked and efficient option to arrange advanced concepts. Simply ensure that your bullets correspond to 1 one other.

Too typically, writers combine and match errors with what you must do or transition to shoulds midway via the publish — which solely confuses the reader.

In case your piece is known as three Profession Errors You Don’t Need to Make, right here’s a bullet level that works:

Right here’s one which doesn’t work (as a result of it’s not truly a mistake — the author by accident switched to what you must do):

You’ll be able to flip most any concept right into a tip by including a verb. For instance: “Do not forget that sitting in your head helps you write higher.” Make your bullet factors constant and your writing will learn extra easily.

20. Use contractions

Which sounds extra personable: I’m heading to the market that’s near my home, or I’m heading to the market that’s near my home?

Contractions make your writing sound friendlier, such as you’re (not you might be) an actual particular person. And that makes it simpler to attach with readers.

Contractions may also make your publish simpler to learn and comprehend. So exit of your option to embody them in your posts! Your editor will thanks.

21. Keep away from the “ing” entice

“We have been beginning to …” or “She was snowboarding towards …” Everytime you see an “ing” in your copy, suppose twice about whether or not you want it — since you most likely don’t.

As an alternative, eliminate “have been” or “was,” then get rid of that “ing” and change it with previous tense: “We began to …” or “She skied towards …” Pruning extreme “ings” makes your writing clearer and simpler to learn.

22. Test your commas with “that” and “which”

When used as a descriptor, the phrase “which” takes a comma. However the phrase “that” doesn’t.

For instance: “We went to the home that collapsed yesterday” or “We went to the home, which collapsed yesterday.”

Confused about when to make use of “that” vs. “which?” Grammar Lady gives an incredible clarification.

23. Exchange “over” with “greater than” for numbers

Over 200 folks didn’t like your Fb web page — greater than 200 folks did.

In fact, everybody will know what you imply if you happen to use “over.” Actually, the AP Styleguide, which many journalists observe because the bible of fashion, introduced a number of years in the past that “over” is now acceptable instead of “greater than.”

But when we’re being actually nit-picky, utilizing “greater than” as an alternative remains to be one a little bit element that may assist your writing shine.

24. Hyphenate modifiers

Everytime you modify a noun with a couple of phrase, you want a hyphen. Numerous folks don’t observe this rule, so it’s an effective way to point out you truly stroll the stroll.

Which means you want a hyphen if you happen to’re writing about full-time work. However you don’t want one if you happen to’re working full time.

Acquired it? The exception: No have to hyphenate modifiers that finish in “ly.” These are OK on their very own. So your newly employed worker doesn’t want that hyphen.

25. Establish your tells

Regardless of how good of a author you might be, whenever you sit down to jot down a primary draft, you tend to spit out sentences in a sure manner or use sure phrases. The extra acquainted you develop into with modifying your individual copy, the extra rapidly you must be capable of decide up in your tells. And, the extra ruthless you might be to get rid of them out of your writing.

“Begin to” plagued me whereas writing my e book; I made the “begin to” mistake many times. However as soon as I knew to search for it throughout revisions, I used to be capable of appropriate it.

(Trace: If this can be a drawback for you, attempt utilizing Phrase’s or Google Doc’s search perform to search for “begin.” You’ll catch every one, so you’ll be able to consider them individually.)

Bonus: A printable guidelines for learn how to edit your work

Since we first printed this publish again in 2013, so lots of you talked about bookmarking and sharing the publish that we whipped up a reasonably guidelines to go along with it. It’s accessible to obtain and print.

Pin this child up on the wall above your desk, whip out your purple pen, and get to work! Your weblog publish, function article, or novel might be tighter and stronger very quickly as you discover ways to make edits.

If you wish to obtain or print the copyediting guidelines, click on on it to carry up the total measurement.

That is an up to date model of a narrative that was beforehand printed. We replace our posts as typically as doable to make sure they’re helpful for our readers.

A few of these ideas initially ran on Copyblogger and AlexisGrant.com.

Picture through Lamai Prasitsuwan/ Shutterstock 

In regards to the Creator: Alexis Grant

Alexis Grant is CEO and founding father of The Write Life. She started her profession in journalism, grew a blog-management company, then led the content material division at a fast-growth media firm, The Penny Hoarder. She’s all the time in search of methods to assist writers!

alexisgrant.com | @alexisgrant


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