Be your own editor: Smarten up your copy in 5 steps

smarten up copy

Behind every great writer, there is a great editor — someone who ruthlessly hacks away at the text until it is fit for print.

Unfortunately in the the communications game, we don’t always have the luxury of a second pair of eyes to cast over our content.

Never fear. Here are five ways you can smarten up your copy and be your own editor.

1. Use active verbs

Sentences are weakened by passive verbs — see? Wouldn’t it have been clearer if I had said “Passive verbs weaken sentences”?

Sentences written in the active form are usually much snappier and make your copy easier to read.

Remember, if you are issuing a press release, you have to grab the journalist’s attention immediately, so you don’t want them to get bogged down in clunky sentences. Speaking of which…

2. Shorten those sentences

A rule of thumb is to create a new paragraph for each new idea and for quotations.

Broken-up text is much easier to read than text that is presented in long, uninterrupted blocks with excessive use of commas.

If you find a paragraph is running on for more than three sentences, see where you can create a break and turn it into two paragraphs.

3. Pull the plug on extra punctuation

Writing that is littered with punctuation doesn’t flow well and can distract the reader.

The best way to clear out any excessive punctuation is by ending a sentence or starting a new one.

4. Bye-bye big words

One of the golden rules from Strunk and White: Omit unnecessary words. Three words that good communicators should live by.

Jargon and big words don’t make you sound smarter. They make it sound as if you don’t know what you are talking about and you are deliberately trying to confuse the reader.

See how the media chastises politicians for polluting their debates with jargon.

If you want to make your point clearer, use familiar words and find shorter words in a thesaurus.

5. Show redundancies the door

Don’t say the same thing with two words: “[Brand] new”, “[very] unique”, “could [possibly]”, “plan [ahead]”.

Cut them out or separate them with an “and”. Keep your sentences smart.

This article first appeared on MediaHQ.com.

MediaHQ.com is Ireland’s largest and most dynamic media intelligence company. Since we started in 2009, we have helped Ireland’s best known brands connect over 100,000 stories with the media.

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