“Cut off its head!”—An editing tip

When editing your first draft, consider cutting off its head, in the sense suggested by Kenneth Atchity in A Writer’s Time: A Guide to the Creative Process, from Vision through Revision. Here’s what Atchity says:

When you clean a fish, the first thing that goes is the head. Generally manuscripts should receive the same treatment.

Atchity is suggesting that you throw out the beginning of your manuscript. Why? Because writers are often just “warming up” when they start writing. This may take the form of “overly long introductions that give the reader no credit for being able to figure out perspective or content,” says Atchity.

In financial services documents, I see introductions that go on and on about theories or processes without telling readers why they should care about the topic.

If you have a white paper or other document that doesn’t flow well, ask if you should cut off its head.

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