In editing, I find many writers struggle to stop a sentence. Words pour out and spill on the page without the writer realizing there’s a mess.
Self-editing is a healthy habit for anyone who uses words – most especially those whose communications give direction and instruction.
Always re-read out loud what you have written so you can hear the natural stops and edit accordingly. Cut out extra words that weigh down your message. A phrase such as: for me personally, could be edited: personally.
Likewise, these sentences: There’s a meeting today for all employees in the board room. Everyone should be there at 3 p.m. promptly.
Can be made into one: All employees are to report to the board room today at 3 p.m. sharp.
As you develop a habit of self-editing, you will begin hearing your tone and cadence. Overused words such as and or that will rise to the top and you can skim them off. Most of the time they are unnecessary and cumbersome.
I learned early in my writing career to re-read as a recipient instead of the sender – this really helps! Also, I learned to ask myself questions when I re-read:
- What’s my point?
- Is it clear?
- Is all pertinent information included – and clear?
- If I need action from the reader, is my request clear?
- Have I stated want I want and when I need their response?
These are just a few tips to get you started. But I highly recommend getting a good book on self-editing and also a copy of The Elements of Style by William Strunk.