"14 Invaluable Editing Tips" (post) offers practical suggestions for making your writing -- especially online writing (as for online course content, posted notes and material, etc.) -- clearer, more accessible, and more effective.
1. "Put yourself in your audience’s shoes."
- "Tailor your content to your audience’s needs ... preferences ... interests ... problems, [abilities, and knowledge]."
2. "Read your writing out loud."
- This "draws attention to clunky phrasing, misused words, typos and convoluted sentence structures."
3. "Kill your darlings."
- Cut 10 "to 15 percent of what you’ve written ... [for] leaner, cleaner and more effective" writing.
- "Look for repetitive sentences, weak transitions, unnecessary anecdotes and clichés."
4. "Quell your writer ego."
- "Prioritize your readers, and stronger writing will result."
5. "Make paragraphs smaller and sentences shorter."
- "Most sentences should fall inside the 20- to 25-word range."
- "[L]imit yourself to one idea per paragraph, and break ideas into concise, comprehensible chunks."
6. "Vary sentence length and structure."
- "Cap most sentences at 25 words, but don’t be afraid to mix it up."
- "Throw in a pithy, emphatic statement here and there ... [or] a 30-word sentence" to "create a pleasing rhythm and hold readers’ attention."
7. "Avoid adverbs.
- "[C]reate emphasis without relying on empty adverbs such as ... 'very,' 'totally' and 'really' ... 'extremely' or 'positively.'"
8. "Develop a jargon allergy."
- "Match your language to your audience’s experience level, and err on the side of clarity."
- "[A]sk yourself: 'Is this language as specific as possible? Is there a simpler word that would communicate the same idea?' If so, use it."
9. "Passive voice is not needed. Avoid passive voice."
- Identify instances when the verb acts upon the subject. For example, in the statement, 'This article was written by me,' the subject ('this article') receives the verb 'to write.'"
- "[R]ecast it to active voice by swapping 'this article' with the noun performing the action."
- Your new, active-voice sentence then reads, 'I wrote this article' ... more direct and concise."
10. "Nix non-essential words."
- "Words and phrases such as 'that,' 'in order to' (instead of 'to') and 'may possibly' (instead of 'may') clog your sentences without adding meaning."
- "Aggressively excise nonessential words—though not at the expense of clarity."
11. Take your time.
- "Don’t just fly through your copy and call it a day."
- "Take your time, and methodically streamline and clarify your prose."
12. "Use a copy editor."
- "Don’t be afraid to call a professional." [Editors Canada is an excellent place to hire and editor.]
- "If you can’t afford a human editor, consider a tool such as Grammarly. Its grammar robots scan for errors as you type."
13. "Throw out weak verbs and adjectives."
- "Weak verbs include linking verbs or verbs that describe a state of being. In the sentence, 'Marketers seem to want to know if this is true,' the phrase 'seem to' conveys uncertainty. 'Marketers want to know if this is true' preserves the meaning. 'Marketers want proof' is even more direct."
- "Weak adjectives can sneak in as redundancies, such as 'exact same' and 'current trend.' If a noun tells the same story without the adjective, leave out the extra word."
14. Embrace your writing tics.
- "Obeying the rules of grammar and style makes your writing stronger, but don’t let rigid structures smother your voice."
- "Perhaps you like to kick off your content with an anecdote or a provocative claim. Embrace your creative tics, and fine-tune your inimitable voice."
- "[M]ake every word count ... Serve ... prime content, even if it means brutal editing before you hit 'Publish.'"