1. Read the draft out loud. Listen for clarity and appropriateness of language. Did you pause at any passages you would like to change?
2. Look closely at the
verbs in each sentence. Does the
verb say what you mean? Is there a
better verb you can use?
Ex. give you help = help
take a look
have the effect
is an illustration
3. Check for expletive openings like “there are” or “it is.” While sometimes you want to begin a sentence with an expletive opening for rhythm or emphases, often it forces you to add extra words and disguise the real subject or actor:
Ex. There are many reasons that I can name for supporting peer counseling in schools.
I can name many reasons for supporting peer counseling in schools.
I support peer counseling for many reasons.
4. Check for the passive construction. The passive voice leads to extra words and avoids assigning responsibility for the action.
Ex. The computer was used by many students.
= Many students used the
Remember, though, that sometimes you will want to use the passive, especially when you don’t know who the actor was (we were robbed) or when you want to be discreet and not name the actor (he was fired).
the context. Your diction, or word
choice, will vary depending on whom you are writing to, what the subject is, and
what form the writing takes. Sometimes
you will need to be more formal; sometimes
you will need to explain information to one reader that another reader already
The woods are very pretty, and the people are nice.
7. Check for appropriate formality. Which of the following would you expect to find in a letter? In a proposal?
Ex. Going to see the Bucos is pretty outrageous.
If more city residents attended one baseball game a
summer, the stadium would have a better
chance of remaining
8. Check for pretentiousness. Not only does this sentence lack the voice of a writer, it contains nominalizations (verbs disguised as nouns, like fabrication and composition) and the passive voice:
Ex. Fabrication of a novel and composition of a symphony are two artistic endeavors not ordinarily equated.
9. Check for references
your reader would not know without more explanation.
For example, if you are writing about buck lure, velvet, and points to a
reader who has never been deer hunting, be sure to explain your terms.
Don’t assume your reader knows everything you do.
10. Check for overgeneralizations
that your reader would never believe without more evidence.
Ex. This project will significantly influence the last decades of the twentieth century.
11. Check for clichés (“blue as the sky,” “loud as a firecracker”), euphemisms (“passed away,” “in a family way”) and rubber-stamp expressions (“all in all,” “as it were”) that don’t require the reader to think or the writer to say exactly what he or she means.
the clutter. In general, you want
to eliminate words that are unnecessary to the meaning of your essay.
Eliminating wordiness, however, is not simply a matter of shaving off
words at the end of a sentence. It
takes a careful editor to reduce what Richard Lanham in Revising Pse
calls the “lard factor,” or the
excessive word count in everyday writing. To
write as simple and concisely as you can, always look for empty verbs,
expletives, and inappropriate passives. Often
those constructions add extra words.
13. Check for redundancy (saving the
same thing more than once) and unnecessary close repetition, as in the use of
“practice” her as both a noun and a verb.
Ex. The exercises consist of jumping five-pound ropes for 10 to 15 minutes after practice, calisthenics, and weight training. Before practice we run three to five miles and then practice until six or six-thirty at night.
Listening for close repetition will help you detect problems, but to edit for meaning you must also look at every sentence in context. Remember that changing the meaning of one sentence can affect the surrounding sentences, too. Since no rules for editing are absolute, you need to judge the effectiveness and appropriateness of the words to communicate in your situation. Every word counts.
Once you have isolated problem sentences within a paragraph, edit those sentences using one or more of the following operations.
1. Eliminate extra words
more exact words.
or rearrange sentences.
to clarify what you mean.