Great writing comes from rewriting: 10 tips

How often have you hit Send or Publish, only to realize you’ve missed an embarrassing typo, left yourself open to misunderstanding or gone on for way too long?

The masters understand the importance of reviewing and revising. In fact, Ernest Hemingway is said to have rewritten A Farewell to Arms 39 times.

Although rewriting may seem to add time spent writing a blog, email or other communication, it actually saves time by eliminating the hours you may to have to spend clarifying, apologizing or regretting lost opportunities.

What’s more, rewriting makes the difference between good and great, snooze and use or delete and click.

To make revising easier, here are the 10 questions you need to answer.

1. Will your readers, and the search bots, understand the most important point you are trying to make, even those who will read only the first couple of lines?

2. Will someone be insulted? What sounds good in your head can often be received badly, so review your content from a hypothetical sensitive reader’s point of view.

3. Will your writing makes sense to people not as close to the issue as you? Again, try to respond to your writing from a reader’s point of view.

4. Does your writing use bolding, subheads, charts or other devices that help readers understand and remember?

5. Have you made grammatical errors? Don’t worry about irrelevant rules, such as dangling prepositions, if they sound right. Do avoid the errors that make you look stupid or more difficult to understand. If you’re not sure, ask someone knowledgeable or check with grammar sites such as http://www.askoxford.com or http://www.grammar.quickanddirtytips.com.

6. Have you chosen words that your readers will understand or have you clouded your meaning with professional or corporate terms? Translating your specialized words into plain language requires thinking. The well-worn acronym KISS should mean Keep it Simple, Smarty, not Stupid.

7. Do you have typos? Remember spell check can’t tell the difference between from and form. Read your content out loud or in print. Better still, ask a literate friend to proof it.

8. Have you mixed up sound-alike words? This is a big risk if you proof only by reading out loud. Check the dictionary if you are not absolutely certain. Be especially wary of confusing possessives and contractions, e.g. its (possessive) and it’s (contract of it is), the number one mistake people make.

9. Did you check all your facts, name spellings and other information? Often people don’t check as they write because it disrupts their flow. That’s fine, as long as you fill in the blanks or verify when you rewrite.

10. Can you cut the length? You can probably shorten your writing by at least a third, resulting in a focused message that is actually read right through. Start by eliminating redundant thoughts and words, then take aim at adjectives, adverbs and other frills that don’t have to be there.

Although you may not reach the literary heights of Hemingway, I guarantee that rewriting will improve your writing and results.

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One Response

  1. […] outlined what to do when you’re revising and gone into way more detail in my book. I’m not linking to the book because, though the […]

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