Take a structured approach to editing - Step 6 – Revise

7 Steps to Better Writing - Charles Maxwell 2020

Take a structured approach to editing
Step 6 – Revise

Do you remember being puzzled by a set of confusing instructions? Or, can you recall being bewildered by the fine print of an overly complex legal contract?

If you do, you are not alone. Everyone struggles with complex and poorly written documents.

Contrast those confused thoughts with the clarity you felt when captivated by an article that captured your attention and provided a clear, compelling message.

What made the difference? Why are some documents easy to read, while others are impenetrable?

The answer is sound logic and well-crafted sentences. They are what provide high readability. This is the focus of this chapter—to provide techniques to add clarity and life to your writing. No matter how effective an initial draft is, there are opportunities to be more cogent, concise, and expressive.

Take a structured approach to editing

Editing—the processing of checking, correcting, and rewriting—is a necessary part of all but the simplest writing tasks. This is how we ensure that we communicate effectively. Also, it is how we come to understand our message.

Ernest Hemingway said he threw away 91 pages for every page he published. Leo Tolstoy rewrote Anna Karenina 17 times. So do not despair if you have to revise and revise again to get something acceptable. (photo credit)

Revising is the most time consuming and the most technically challenging aspect of writing. This is the point where you will do the “heaviest lifting.” Factors that contribute to the challenge include:

· Ineffective prewriting (steps 1-4)

· Overly laborious drafts (step 5)

· Needing to rethink ideas

· Not understanding effective sentence design

· Having forgotten the elements of grammar

· Impatience—the desire to be done with it

· A lack of editing experience

There are very few circumstances when writing does not need correcting. Even simple emails, text messages, or handwritten notes bear rereading by the author to ensure that words are not left out.

Editing should start with correcting the most serious problems first and then move on to fixing smaller glitches. Here is an ordered strategy, with questions to ask yourself:

1. Serving readers

1. Did I address my readers’ needs?

2. Is the tone correct?

2. Quality of ideas

1. Is my thesis clear?

2. Is the logic sound?

3. Did I include everything necessary?

4. Can I delete unneeded fluff?

5. Are things in the best order?

3. Language

1. Do the words flow naturally?

2. Is the grammar correct?

3. What can I do to achieve better clarity?

4. What can I do to economize on words?