You might have heard some old high school teacher tell you choosing the right words is exactly what you need to do to write clearly and concisely. That was true then and it’s even more true today. When you take a step back and read something where every word has been selected with care, you’ll see the difference in the impact the piece has right away.
Of course some of you will say choosing the right word is subjective and the word that works for one person or writer doesn’t necessarily work for another. While that’s true enough, you also need to consider the process behind making the decision.
Impact Is About Editing Too
It’s important to remember self editing helps to tighten up your writing and sharpen up ideas and sentences. Of course there are words you don’t always need to use and can be taken out like most of the ‘ly’ adjectives and ‘that’ more often than not, but you also need to look at the bigger picture.
At certain times, you’ll want to take a look at sentences and maybe whole paragraphs trying to decide if there isn’t a better way to say something. Usually if you stop and think about it for a minute or two or walk away and come back to it, you’ll be able to find some or word or phrase that makes the whole concept or idea tighter.
Take a step back when you’re not sure what to do and walk away for even five to 10 minutes. When you come back you’ll more than likely find different ways to phrase things and different words you can use.
Words Have The Real Power
Very often self editing means you choose the right word to replace a series of other words or even a whole phrase. A thesaurus either online or in print is useful but you want to stay away from jargon and technical words. It’s always better to tighten things up and to write as much as possible in everyday language.
Sometimes the problem is you take out several words and replace them with one sounding technical and that’s why you’ve always got to be on guard. It’s not always about replacing more with less in taking out words; you need to be aware of the fact you are aiming to get your meaning across as quickly and briefly as possible in plain everyday language.
There’s an old saying about using the five cent word rather than the five dollar one for most kinds of writing and that works best for most of the people I work for and I think it makes me a better writer as well.
The real craft here is saying what you really mean in as few words as possible and not substituting jargon and technical talk just to cut the word count down.