You can barely meet a writer who can create a perfect text from the first time. Usually it takes at least one draft, and I’m talking about cool writers here; many of us go through many drafts before the ideal version comes out.
In the ideal world, after you are done revising your work and you like what you see, you give it to an editor to have a fresh look from someone else. But we don’t always get the chance to do that for different reasons. Some of us don’t get the budget for it, some of us have so little time for editing, they don’t always do that themselves.
Surely, it is not the easiest job to edit your own work, as you wrote it and you like every word of it. But you need to become as objective as you can and do the work. Here some tips that can make it a bit easier for you.
Don’t use many long sentences.
I’m not saying to get rid of all long sentences. Many of them are correct and to the point. However, some long sentences contain several thoughts and can easily be divided into two or more shorter ones. Shorter sentences are much easier and more pleasant for people to read. Therefore, if you see a sentence with many commas, you may consider doing something about it.
Use as few adverbs as you can.
The overuse of adverbs (the –ly words, e.g. strongly, noisily) is also not a very good idea. They are not truly descriptive and can be replaced by other words. For example, instead of saying the athlete runs quickly, you can say he sprints. Rather than saying the days go by slowly, say the days fly. Look for words that can replace adverbs, it will make your work look better for sure.
Use only one voice.
There are situations when you have to use the first and second person. However, it can turn out rather confusing for your readers, so you should better try to stick to one voice. If you must use both of them, try to start with “I” voice, for example, and finish with “you” voice not to make it too confusing.
Be careful with punctuation
Using punctuation marks besides periods and commas is a great thing to do. However, make sure you use them in the right way and do not overuse. If you have all sorts of punctuation marks within a paragraph, it may look not so appealing. Hyphens, colons, semicolons, ellipses, etc. are great, but not in combination. If there are too many marks, try to replace them with commas or just start a new sentence when you can.
Try to use positive instead of negative
Rather than saying that something doesn’t, say that something does. For example instead of “It is not big enough for it” say “It is quite small for it”. Instead of “He doesn’t want to see Emily” say “He avoids seeing Emily”. Try to do that with every don’t, can’t, aren’t, isn’t, mustn’t, etc.
Try not to use many stuffy words
Don’t use many fancy words in desire to sound clever. Your text should be clear for readers. If they don’t understand many words, they’ll just stop reading. English language has lots of words. Surely, you can find a synonym for every one of them.
Keep away from redundancies.
People use redundancies a lot in spoken language. However, you can drop them in your writing as you have time to notice them. There are so many unnecessary redundancies such as (absolutely) necessary, (added) bonus, combine (together), (empty) hole, (exact) same and many others. You don’t need to use the same words twice, so try to eliminate them.
Don’t overuse prepositions.
You cannot write without these little fellas at all, but try to use as few of them as possible, as they make sentences longer. Instead of “a room full of people”, say “a crowded room”. Instead of “tips for writing”, say “writing tips”. It looks much better.
Get rid of “in order to”.
You can always replace it with “to”. If you go out in order to make some new friends… Your sentence looks longer than it can be. Because you actually go out to make some friends.
Avoid “start to” when you can.
It is similar to “in order to” – you can live without it. You can drop it in such sentences as “I started to walk the dog”, “He started to wash dishes”, etc. Unlike with “in order to”, you sometimes need it and cannot replace it, so it depends on the context.
Use “that” less.
In most cases, a sentence is understandable without it. “I thought that I got in huge trouble” reads better as “I thought I got in huge trouble”.
Find another word instead of “thing”.
Don’t get lazy and look for some better words than “things”. In life, we can easily say “that thing over there”. But when you write, you should look for something more descriptive.
Be careful with “very” and “really”.
These words are often useless in a sentence, don’t make it very difficult when it is just difficult.
Avoid using “make” often.
It is the same tip as with “start to”. Instead of saying “It is a good way to make it stronger”, say “It is a good way to strengthen it”.
Use passive voice as seldom as you can.
Using passive voice is not that big of a deal, you can do that and it is not wrong. However, to make your text cleaner, you can replace it with active voice and feel better about your work.
Don’t use “that” instead of “who”.
When you refer to people, always use “who”. The girl who has a nice smile, not the girl that has a nice smile. It is possible to use “that” in life, but “who” is more appropriate for writing.
Get rid of “currently”.
This word is usually unnecessary. Avoid writing: “Maggie is currently a teacher”. Currently is redundant here, as people would understand that Maggie is a teacher at that moment without it.
Start sentences with more creativity than writing “there is” or “there are”.
If your text has a lot of these constructions, consider revising some of them and change them into something different.
Contractions make your text friendlier and more personal. Agree that the sentence “I’m trying to say something that is important to me” is more real and easier to read than “I am trying to say something that is important to me”.
Be careful with commas before “that” and “which”.
When you describe something using the words “which” and “that”, you use commas only before “which”. For example, “I’m wearing the dress, which I bought last week” or “I’m wearing the dress that I bought last week”. It is easy to forget, but try not to.
Alyce is an inspired blogger, private tutor and educational consultant who is passionate about everything related to writing. Now she has found herself as a private consultant/educator, providing seminars and workshops to teachers of English. The focus of her presentations is how to motivate students to enjoy writing and to help them in becoming creative and proficient writers both for their pleasure and coursework assignments. She loves to share her experience in these fields. Stay tuned to get more actionable tips about writing!