What’s the worst mistake one can make when writing a text?
It’s actually not as much about what we do, as what we do NOT do. The worst mistake for any writer is to skip the editing phase. There are so many important things, which editing can fix, that no one who truly cares about the quality of writing should ever neglect.
- Prioritize the most important element of your text – thesis statement or key idea
State your key idea as clearly as possible. Relocate it to the very start of your text. You may have made the introductory part too long and overloaded it with explanations, instead of getting straight to the point. For most writers, it takes too long to start, and one or two of the introductory paragraphs can be painlessly removed or paraphrased in the first editing. Do this, or at least shorten too long sentences, and transfer valuable thoughts (if they really are there) to another part of the text.
Remove anything that distracts readers from your key idea, does not reinforce or develop the reasoning. Sometimes you even have to sacrifice a good story or a joke.
- Check the strength of your text
Check the strength of each paragraph. Does it exactly contain a thought that has not been expressed before or after? Did you end up with a “Frankenstein paragraph” made up of passages, snippets, and incoherent phrases? Sentences should be logically connected, and together they should form a single semantic element.
Check the strength of every sentence. Does it introduce something new, or is it just repeating what has already been said above? If so, remove it without any mercy. Remember, less is more. Many authors take too long to get to the point, unleashing an avalanche of unnecessary words on the reader. Do not follow their example. Write concisely, sparingly.
- Refine your text with a microscope and a scalpel
Now it’s time to put the coarse editor’s tool down and grab the scalpel. Go back to the very first sentence of the text and look carefully at each phrase and word all the way down.
- Cut off unnecessary stuff. Is it possible that you have used an unnecessarily long word or phrase where it was better to stay with a simpler and shorter one?
- Remove the obvious things. It is not necessary to repeat several times: “in this article”, “in this post”, “in this situation”, “in my opinion”, “we believe that” …
- Get rid of the “Frankenstein words”, made up from several components, which look and sound ugly or incomprehensible (for example, proconsulting – “professional” + “consulting”). Don’t make complex compound words like “sellable”. Get rid of repetitions, clichés, and words that only seem smart and meaningful on the surface (perhaps, to you, they are indeed smart, but not to the reader).
- Get rid of the verbal slag. In many cases, a phrase or a turnover can be replaced with one word (for example, instead of “despite the fact that” you can write “although”; instead of “unfortunately” you can sometimes put “alas”; instead of “in our time” – “today”).
- Eliminate adverbs if they do not carry any important information.
- Add connecting tissue and grease
- Replace faded verbs with brighter ones. For example, instead of “he accidentally cut his finger” write “he accidentally slashed his finger with a knife.”
- Create transitions between paragraphs. Natural and easy-to-follow links greatly simplify the perception of any text. Ideally, one paragraph should flow smoothly into the next, creating a sense of rhythm and dynamics. Successful transitions are like tiny stitches: they turn scattered pieces into text that is read in one go.
- Build up connective tissue. Don’t rely on school (childish) ligaments, such as “however”, “nevertheless”, “so”, “thus”, etc. Pick a thought from a previous paragraph and link it to one of the succeeding paragraphs.
- Seek assistance outside
The best texts are born in collaboration. Find someone who can tell you how to improve your writing. If there is no professional editor nearby, show your creation to the one whose writing you like and respect. If there is no such person, show the text to at least someone: relatives, friends, colleagues. Their opinion is also worth listening to, although not always it can be perceived as indisputable truth.
Collaborating with others will also give you additional time to rest and take a break from your text. This will clear up your mind and enable a fresh look at the text.
Remember to use these 5 tricks and your writing will definitely improve. Good luck with your text, fellow writer!