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5 vital benefits of editing

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5 vital benefits of editing
By Tony Spencer-Smith

Many people find editing tedious. They have poured their thoughts into the first draft – why should they then spend time on pedantic tinkering?

In fact, editing is fundamental to good writing. No-one is capable of writing flawlessly; trying to be perfect the first time around is a recipe for inhibiting your own creativity in the fruitless pursuit of instant perfection.

Here are five things good editing can help you to do.

5 vital benefits of editing

Get your thinking straight

Good writing means presenting your material in a logical order and sticking to your theme. The editing process can show you where your thinking is flawed and where you have included material that is irrelevant or left out something important. It gives you a chance to move chunks of copy around until it all fits together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Hit the right tone

How you say something is just as important as what you say. That means making word and style choices that suit the purpose of what you are writing and the audience for whom it is intended. For instance, humour can work very well in a speech, but is hardly suitable for a serious report. You also need to decide things such as how formal or informal the tone needs to be and whether jargon will be understood or resented. Editing will help you get those choices right.

Eradicate the dead wood

Words can behave a bit like weeds, that is, multiply excessively. We’re talking here about redundant phrases, tautology, circumlocution – lots of terms for the same thing: using more words than necessary to say something. Few in number (few), estimated at about (estimated at) and on a regular basis (regularly) are some examples of this careless verbosity.

Eliminate embarrassing errors

Nothing is more disruptive to the reader than bad grammar, incorrect punctuation or wrong words. In a worst-case scenario, the only message that will get through is that you have an untidy mind. Editing is the chance to eliminate these road blockages to meaning.

Lubricate your sentences

Good sentences need to be more than grammatically correct. They need to be designed to slip effortlessly into the mind of your reader. This means chopping overlong sentences and making sure the word order is clear and unambiguous.

Yes, editing might seem like a chore, but it can be the difference between sparkling communication success and a face full of pie.

Tony Spencer-Smith is an award-winning novelist, a former Editor-in-Chief of Reader’s Digest Magazine and an experienced corporate writer and writing trainer. His book The Essentials of Great Writing was published in Sydney in 2009. He gives a one-day Course in Editing and Proofreading at the University of Sydney Centre for Continuing Education.

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