Tag Archive for: editing tips

Please edit like a traitor

As a writer, your first loyalty should not be to yourself. Instead, you should betray yourself, as Donald Murray suggests in Writing to Deadline: The Journalist at Work.Writing to Deadline by Donald Murray

Here’s what Murray says:

Effective writers turn traitor to their own copy, reading what they have written through the eyes of an enemy reader who has no loyalty to the writer, little interest in the subject, no concern with form or style but with an aggressive skepticism and an eagerness to turn the page. Writers must detach themselves from intent, not reading what is supposed to be on the page, but what is on the page.

I like Murray’s assertion that you should assume that readers are eager to “turn the page,” although in today’s world that equates to web-surfing away from your page. Your job is to provide reader-friendly content that is compelling, clear, and concise.

The best solution to edit your content as if you were a member of your target audience. Betray yourself and go over to the other side. I’ll be interested to hear about your results.

Disclosure: If you click on the Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I only link to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.
Note: I edited this on April 22, 2014, after noticing a typo.

Stars aren’t only for Morningstar: How to cut your draft

Sometimes you have to limit yourself to a specific number of words when you write. This is often true when you write for someone else’s print or online publication. If your draft runs too long, and you have trouble cutting, consider starring your content as Roy Peter  Clark suggests in Help! for Writers in his chapter on “Making it Better.”

Rate each section of your content, considering its importance and interest to your readers. “Strongest sections earn a grade of three stars; the next get two; and the weakest get one star,” says Clark.

Start your cutting with the one-star sections. Depending on how many words you need to lose, you may achieve your goal by eliminating a word here and a sentence there from your one-star sections.

On the other hand, if your piece is way too long, you may need to delete all of your one-star material and start hacking at your two-star material.

Does this approach seem helpful to you? I haven’t used it because I usually cut based on what my gut tells me to do. Still, I can see how it might help writers without this instinct.

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