Welcome to Lee's little word tip corner of the Internet.
I'm sharing some common issues I address while editing — simple adjustments that you can make in your own writing now
to add some impact and style to your messaging.
1. Don't be passive.
What does that mean? Don't start sentences with "There are..." or "There were..."
Rewrite them so they are active.
— Example —
Passive: There were five students helping Tommy after school.
Active: Five students helped Tommy after school.
Make a statement! You'll notice a difference in your material. It will be more alive.
2. Capital offenses.
This is one of the most common things I fix while editing — people want to uppercase
many words that are not proper nouns.
— Examples —
No: Jane is a Market Research Specialist who enjoys working with Young Professionals.
Yes: Jane is a market research specialist who enjoys working with young professionals.
No: George, vice president of the company, announced he's retiring.
Yes: Vice President George Smith announced he's retiring.
3. It's vs. its.
Of all the copy that comes in front of my eyes, this is a top thing I see that needs editing. It's out there on the Web, mostly in blogs or non-news content providers. Details are important. People notice.
While we are on the topic, I often see apostrophes in the wrong place. And it's understandable given all the rules!
It's common to see an apostrophe inserted into a simple plural like 1920s or people in their 50s. (It's not 1920's or 50's).
The AP Stylebook has five pages of entries addressing apostrophes, possessives and plurals. It’s a mix of interesting scenarios on whether to use apostrophes and where to put them. That's why editors and writers to have the AP Stylebook nearby (either in physical or digital form).
5. Never use the word VERY.
"Very" is a word I always remove from copy — except when it's part of a quote. Many people write using more words than are necessary to convey their points. You can probably get by never using this word. Try finding the right word. If someone was very excited, they were ecstatic. If something was very hot, it was scorching. This forces you to use punchy and descriptive words. We have so many of them in our language, explore!
6. Less is more.
After 20 years of editing, I can't fathom a guess at the number of words I've made disappear. The art of editing copy is a beautiful process. Editors come in with a new perspective on pieces the writers have been close to. Fresh eyes notice repetition of words and thoughts. It's up to us to cut, rearrange and finesse the words into the most impactful delivery possible.
One strong theme throughout it all: Less is more.
Step into the reading glasses of your audience. You have to grab their attention and move them to want more.
Make your point. Make an impact.
More tips coming soon.