Karo Kilfeather reports:
"What separates good writing from great is not always a better writer—it’s often a great editor...Whether you’re writing a blog post or the next great American novel, you’re likely to benefit from a keen editorial eye. If an experienced editor isn’t readily available, you can still improve the quality of your writing by thinking like an editor and applying a few simple rules...An editor can catch any grammar, spelling, and usage errors, yes, but he or she can also see your work from the vantage point of the reader. A good editor can help you clarify what you’re trying to say and point out when you stray from your intended direction—or don’t seem to have any. Editors will also hold you accountable for answering whatever the central question of your written piece is, find any redundancy or contradictions, and help strengthen your premise. Lastly, editors can also refine your work by helping ensure every word is essential to communicating your message, creating and sustaining a tone, and building a rhythm or momentum that will propel the reader forward. With astute editorial feedback, your writing can be transformed and made more powerful. But how you approach your writing from the start can also help you craft something stronger that will yield a great result without the need for in-depth editorial intervention...Great writing requires clarity of thought. If you don’t really know what you’re saying or trying to say, how can you expect readers to understand your meaning?...[Y]ou owe your audience something that is both enjoyable and frictionless as a method for delivering ideas and information. An outline will keep you focused and enable you to get a lot of writing done without having to complete it all in sequence. Some ideas and information will be easier to jot down quickly, while others will require additional research or follow[-]up. Having the framework in place will ensure you don’t lose track of everything you need to say and can keep your thoughts organized...The best way to understand how your writing sounds to the reader is to actually hear yourself reading it. This will also slow down your brain to read in a more engaged way...There’s no better way to ferret out missing words, poorly formed thoughts, or awkward phrases that you would never actually say in real life...In Everybody Writes, Ann Handley advises writers to 'embrace the ugly first draft.' Don’t expect to end up with an elegant final product in one sitting. No one does. Expect to rewrite and revise several times. Your changes and corrections will become smaller and more focused with each revision, but also more powerful. Your first draft isn’t something to get attached to and your final version should be very different. If you were a sculptor, you’d start with a slab of marble that doesn’t look like much of anything and use a chisel and hammer to get a rough shape for your work. The refinement of small details comes later, once you’ve beat[en] up your material a few times. Another reason to start with a really terrible first draft is to take some of the pressure off. If you’re not worried about getting a perfect product at your first try, writing will be a less stressful experience and you will have a better outcome. You don’t have to be writing something long or complex, or even consider yourself a writer to take writing seriously, or to benefit from sharpening your editorial vision. What matters for a piece of writing can vary with format and context, but these three editorial practices will improve your work regardless of what kind of writing it is, or who is going to read it. Teaching yourself to step outside of your head when considering your writing and getting some distance from each word will make you a more astute reader of your own work, and in turn a better editor, and a writer better positioned to deliver outstanding content to your audience."
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