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Writing is rewriting. If you want to improve your content, here's an editor's checklist you can use to polish your work.

This is a "living document", which I revise, reorganize, and refine as I continue to learn. It was last modified on August 3, 2016.

1. Trim the Fat

Nine times out of ten, and most especially with Web and business writing, as much as twenty percent of the text can be removed without affecting the efficacy of what's written. Trimming the fat makes it better.

For an example, see: Trim Fat From Your Web Content.

Whenever you can shorten a sentence, do. And one always can. The best sentence? The shortest.

- Gustave Flaubert

Things to look for:

  •  Redundancy, superfluity, and excess
  •  Saying the same thing that's already been said
  •  Extra words that may be deleted without changing the meaning
  •  Verbosity
  •  The mention of things not worth mentioning
  •  Repetition
  •  Tangents, digressions, and irrelevancies
  •  Authorial intrusion (be invisible)
  •  Excess modifiers
  •  Idle, nonworking words
  •  Long words where shorter ones will do

2. Rearrange

Strive for:

  •  Unity of subject and scope
  •  Unified tone
  •  Unified stye
  •  A consistent point of view and unified character
  •  Episodes that are unified
  •  Consistent verb tenses
  •  Paragraphs and sentences that are to the point and unified
  •  Content is organized according to the logic of time, space, and a degree of specificity
  •  Pronouns are not ambiguous
  •  Coherent word order and phrasing
  •  Parallel structure
  •  Effective transitions
  •  Coherent beginnings are established
  •  Consistent through the middle
  •  Effective and coherent ending
  •  Parts are put into the right proportions
  •  Important things anywhere, but in the middle
  •  Psychology of emphasis is understood
  •  Repetition of words, sounds, phrases, and ideas is effective
  •  The length of sentences, paragraphs, and chapters is varied
  •  Spaces, pauses, and special typography for emphasis
  •  Things that kill emphasis are avoided

2. Reword

  •  Develop and recognize your own special style
  •  Select the best word, best phrasing, and most effective diction
  •  Improve your diction with shorter, more active words
  •  Scrutinize your verbs and keep them active
  •  Limit modifiers
  •  Appeal to the senses
  •  Use concrete details
  •  Be sensitive to rhythm and sound
  •  Use the sounds of words and words that imitate sounds
  •  Use figurative language
  •  Watch out for misuse of figurative language
  •  Avoid distractors and detractors
  •  Watch for common mispellings and incorrect usages

Reference Resources

Getting the Words Right: 39 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Theodore A Rees Cheney