25 Enhancing Suggestions for Tightening Your Copy

Writers hardly ever spit out their finest copy on the primary draft. (Should you meet a author who claims to have the key for doing so, please let the remainder of us know!)

First drafts — and second drafts and typically thirds — exist to hash your concepts out on paper. After you’ve revised your e-book, story, weblog put up or article till you possibly can revise no extra, you simply hand it off to your editor to scrub up, proper?

Nicely, that’d be ultimate. However most of us don’t have the luxurious of hiring an costly editor to evaluation our private weblog put up. And since procrastination is the author’s finest good friend, you won’t even have time to even ask a fellow author pal take a fast peek for errors.

And so, in some instances, it falls to you to be your individual editor.

The way to make edits: Observe these copyediting suggestions

You’ve received to discover ways to make edits. Is it actually attainable edit your individual work when all of the phrases you simply completed writing are so valuable? Sure! It may be performed — and for the sake of creating your writing stand out, it should be performed.

So pull up your most just lately saved draft, and get to work. To make it straightforward for you, we’ve added to the underside of this listing a downloadable and printable PDF that summarizes these copyediting suggestions right into a guidelines.

Listed here are 25 modifying tricks to apply to your work.

1. Lower lengthy sentences in two

I’m not speaking about run-on sentences. Many lengthy sentences are grammatically right. However lengthy sentences usually include a number of concepts, to allow them to simply lose the reader’s focus as a result of they don’t present a break, main readers to get caught or lose curiosity, and maybe the reader may get bored and go watch TV as an alternative.

See what I imply? Should you spot a comma-heavy sentence, attempt to give every concept its personal sentence.

2. Axe the adverbs (a.ok.a. -ly phrases)

Adverbs weaken your copy as a result of these extra phrases are usually not really descriptive. Moderately than saying the lady runs shortly, say she sprints. As a substitute of describing the cat as strolling slowly, say he creeps or tiptoes. The display screen door didn’t shut noisily, it banged shut.

Discover a extra highly effective verb to interchange the weak verb + weak -ly adverb combo.

three. Stick to 1 voice

Generally it’s mandatory to make use of each first and second individual, however that may be jarring for readers. For instance, you may begin your introduction speaking about your self, then swap midway via the piece and begin addressing the reader. Attempt to follow “I” voice or “you” voice all through one piece of writing.

And when you should swap, begin with one and end with the opposite. Don’t transfer forwards and backwards between the 2. Your readers will get misplaced.

four. Take away additional punctuation

A robust hyphen right here and a thought-provoking semicolon there might be efficient. However an article suffering from all types of punctuation — parentheses, colons, ellipses, and so on. — doesn’t stream properly.

Oftentimes, you possibly can remove these additional items of punctuation with commas or by ending a sentence and beginning a brand new one. And that makes your writing that a lot stronger.

5. Substitute detrimental with optimistic

As a substitute of claiming what one thing isn’t, say what it’s. “You don’t need to make these errors in your writing” may very well be higher acknowledged as, “You need to keep away from these errors in your writing.” It’s extra simple.

Should you discover detrimental statements in your writing that include don’t, shouldn’t, can’t or one other such phrase, discover a approach to rewrite them with out the “not.” That can most likely imply you could discover a extra highly effective verb.

6. Substitute stuffy phrases with easy ones

Some folks assume jargon makes their writing sound good, however you realize higher. Good writing doesn’t confuse readers. If they should seize a dictionary to complete a sentence, your writing has room for enchancment.

To get your level throughout, use phrases individuals are aware of. The English language has 1000’s of phrases. You’ll be able to definitely discover a shorter or extra widespread phrase in your thesaurus than a jargony one.

7. Take away redundancies

You don’t must say the very same factor with two phrases. Did you catch the redundant phrases in that sentence? Right here’s a greater model: you don’t must say the identical factor with two phrases.

Model new, advance planning, fundamental requirements… the listing of those widespread phrases is longer than this weblog put up. Try About.com’s 200 Widespread Redundancies after which begin snipping!

Generally sneaky redundancies are separated by an “and.” Should you say your sentences are simple and to-the-point, they’re neither. You don’t want each phrases. Your sentences are simple. Or, your sentences are to-the-point.

eight. Cut back prepositions

Although prepositions (of, in, to, for, and so on.) are useful little phrases, they make sentences extra prolonged as a result of they can not stand alone. Prepositions want numerous buddies. By slicing the preposition and the phrases that observe, you possibly can reduce three, 4 and even 5 phrases. Generally a prepositional phrase might be changed with only one extra direct phrase, or reduce fully.

A straightforward approach to reduce prepositions is to search for alternatives to make one thing possessive. The automotive of your neighbor is actually simply your neighbor’s automotive.

9. Lower “with the intention to”

You by no means want it. Should you’re going to the kitchen with the intention to make a sandwich… Your sentence may very well be tighter. Since you’re actually going to the kitchen to make a sandwich.

That “with the intention to” makes it take a millisecond longer to reach on the meaty a part of the sentence, which suggests your story is dragging greater than it must.

10. Don’t use “begin to”

Did you begin to stroll the canine, or did you stroll the canine? Is the automotive beginning to roll down the hill, or is it rolling down the hill?

“Begin to” is a tougher phrase to cope with than “with the intention to,” as a result of typically you do want it. However extra seemingly than not, you don’t.

Moderately than making “begin” the lively verb, use the verb that’s really extra lively — like strolling or rolling — to inform your story.

11. Nix “that”

In about 5 % of your sentences (whole guess from the grammar police), “that” makes your concept simpler to grasp. Within the different 95 %, eliminate it!

“I made a decision that journalism was an excellent profession for me” reads higher as “I made a decision journalism was an excellent profession for me.”

12. Substitute “factor” with a greater phrase

Normally after we write “factor” or “issues,” it’s as a result of we have been too lazy to think about a greater phrase. In day by day life, we could ask for “that factor over there,” however in your writing, calling something a “factor” doesn’t assist your reader.

Attempt to change all “factor” or “issues” with a extra descriptive phrase.

13. Attempt actually onerous to identify situations of “very” and “actually”

This can be a very troublesome one to recollect. I nearly by no means get it proper, till I’m going again via my copy, and the phrase jumps out at me, after which I modify the sentence to “This can be a troublesome one to recollect.” As a result of actually, how a lot is that “very” serving to you get your level throughout?

It doesn’t make the duty sound tougher. Similar factor with “actually.” It’s not a “actually” troublesome tip to recollect. It’s merely a troublesome tip to recollect. Bought it?

14. Make your verbs stronger

“Make” is typically utilized in the identical method as “begin to,” instead of what may very well be a stronger verb.

For instance, I first titled this put up, I wrote “25 methods to make your copy stronger.” After I re-read it, I noticed the verb wasn’t robust.

I’d used “make” because the verb, when it doesn’t inform the reader a lot in any respect. So I modified the title to “25 methods to strengthen your copy.” Finally I noticed “tighten” was an excellent higher verb.

15. Ditch the passive voice

Passive voice stands out to editors, however it may be troublesome to note in your individual writing. Studying how one can determine it and fixing these situations will make your writing stronger.

Right here’s an instance of passive voice: “The door was left open.”

To vary that sentence to lively voice, it might appear like this: “Somebody left the door open” or “He left the door open.” The concept is to be clear about who or what’s executing the motion.

If you wish to get good at this, Grammar lady has an intensive put up explaining passive voice.

16. Check with folks as “who” not “that”

John is the man who at all times forgets his sneakers, not the man that at all times forgets his sneakers.

It’s straightforward to make this error as a result of “that” has turn into acceptable in on a regular basis conversations. Nevertheless it’s extra noticeable when it’s written down.

17. Keep away from “at the moment”

Professional copywriting tip: “At present” is  at all times redundant.

Don’t write: “Tom Jones is at the moment a communications director.” Tom Jones is a communications director at that second. You don’t want “at the moment” to make clear. Simply eliminate it.

18. Eradicate “there’s” or “there are” at first of sentences

That is usually a symptom of lazy writing. There are many higher, extra fascinating methods to begin sentences.

See how straightforward it’s to make this error? As a substitute of beginning a sentence with “there’s,” strive turning the phrase round to incorporate a verb or begin with you.

For instance, change the sentence above with “Begin your sentences in a extra fascinating method.” In case your copy consists of a whole lot of phrases that start with “there’s” or “there are,” put a while into rewriting most of them.

19. Match up your bullet factors

Bullet factors are a preferred and efficient approach to set up advanced concepts. Simply ensure your bullets correspond to 1 one other.

Too usually, writers combine and match errors with what it is best to do or transition to shoulds midway via the put up — which solely confuses the reader.

In case your piece is known as three Profession Errors You Don’t Need to Make, right here’s a bullet level that works:

Right here’s one which doesn’t work (as a result of it’s not really a mistake — the author by chance switched to what it is best to do):

You’ll be able to flip most any concept right into a tip by including a verb. For instance: “Do not forget that sitting in your head helps you write higher.” Make your bullet factors constant and your writing will learn extra easily.

20. Use contractions

Which sounds extra personable: I’m heading to the market that’s near my home, or I’m heading to the market that’s near my home?

Contractions make your writing sound friendlier, such as you’re (not you might be) an actual individual. And that makes it simpler to attach with readers.

Contractions may make your put up simpler to learn and comprehend. So exit of your approach to embody them in your posts! Your editor will thanks.

21. Keep away from the “ing” entice

“We have been beginning to …” or “She was snowboarding towards …” Everytime you see an “ing” in your copy, assume twice about whether or not you want it — since you most likely don’t.

As a substitute, eliminate “have been” or “was,” then remove that “ing” and change it with previous tense: “We began to …” or “She skied towards …” Pruning extreme “ings” makes your writing clearer and simpler to learn.

22. Examine your commas with “that” and “which”

When used as a descriptor, the phrase “which” takes a comma. However the phrase “that” doesn’t.

For instance: “We went to the home that collapsed yesterday” or “We went to the home, which collapsed yesterday.”

Confused about when to make use of “that” vs. “which?” Grammar Lady provides an ideal rationalization.

23. Substitute “over” with “greater than” for numbers

Over 200 folks didn’t like your Fb web page — greater than 200 folks did.

In fact, everybody will know what you imply when you use “over.” In truth, the AP Styleguide, which many journalists observe because the bible of fashion, introduced a couple of years in the past that “over” is now acceptable instead of “greater than.”

But when we’re being actually nit-picky, utilizing “greater than” as an alternative remains to be one a little bit element that may assist your writing shine.

24. Hyphenate modifiers

Everytime you modify a noun with a couple of phrase, you want a hyphen. A lot of folks don’t observe this rule, so it’s an effective way to indicate you really stroll the stroll.

Which means you want a hyphen when you’re writing about full-time work. However you don’t want one when you’re working full time.

Bought it? The exception: No must hyphenate modifiers that finish in “ly.” These are OK on their very own. So your newly employed worker doesn’t want that hyphen.

25. Determine your tells

Irrespective of how good of a author you might be, if you sit down to jot down a primary draft, you generally tend to spit out sentences in a sure method or use sure phrases. The extra acquainted you turn into with modifying your individual copy, the extra shortly it is best to be capable of decide up in your tells. And, the extra ruthless you might be to remove them out of your writing.

“Begin to” plagued me whereas writing my e-book; I made the “begin to” mistake repeatedly. However as soon as I knew to search for it throughout revisions, I used to be capable of right it.

(Trace: If it is a drawback for you, strive utilizing Phrase’s or Google Doc’s search operate to search for “begin.” You’ll catch each, so you possibly can consider them individually.)

Bonus: A printable guidelines for how one can edit your work

Since we first revealed this put up again in 2013, so lots of you talked about bookmarking and sharing the put up that we whipped up a fairly guidelines to go along with it. It’s out there to obtain and print.

Pin this child up on the wall above your desk, whip out your pink pen, and get to work! Your weblog put up, function article, or novel will likely be tighter and stronger very quickly as you discover ways to make edits.

If you wish to obtain or print the copyediting guidelines, click on on it to convey up the total dimension.

That is an up to date model of a narrative that was beforehand revealed. We replace our posts as usually as attainable to make sure they’re helpful for our readers.

A few of these suggestions initially ran on Copyblogger and AlexisGrant.com.

Picture by way of Lamai Prasitsuwan/ Shutterstock 

Concerning the Creator: Alexis Grant

Alexis Grant is CEO and founding father of The Write Life. She started her profession in journalism, grew a blog-management company, then led the content material division at a fast-growth media firm, The Penny Hoarder. She’s at all times on the lookout for methods to assist writers!

alexisgrant.com | @alexisgrant

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