Despite what non-writers think, writers very rarely produce great copy on the first try. (Yes, we’ve all heard of novelists who scribble out bestsellers on a yellow legal pad with an old stubby pencil. I wonder how long it takes for the editor to whip their prose into shape.)
Here’s a secret: You’ll get the best results if you don’t edit as you write. Dump out a first draft and then focus on editing and polishing your copy. Even a pro will go through several drafts before considering the written piece finished.
How do you get from first draft to final? By rewriting, rewriting, rewriting. Here’s what many professional writers will do:
- Revisit your goal for writing the document in the first place. Have you met that goal?
- Organize sentences within paragraphs and paragraphs within the document so your points are clear and your ideas flow well.
- Delete sentences and paragraphs that aren’t pulling their weight. This is hard to do if you have fallen in love with what you’ve written!
- Cut out words that are just taking up space (“in view of the fact that” or “at this point in time”).
- Get rid of 25-cent words. Why write “utilize” when “use” will do quite nicely?
- Use the active voice instead of the passive (“I wrote it” not “It was written by me”).
- Proof-read thoroughly before calling it a day.