Less Is More and Fresh Eyes Are a Must

by Robin Ferrier on August 31, 2011

Editing in BedEarlier this week I was tasked with editing a colleague’s document. Not surprising since I’m the organization’s communications manager.

But I have to admit, this particular piece was driving me crazy as I read.

The problem? The author has a major problem getting to his point. He’s long-winded and repetitive. (And redundant… that’s a little editing humor for you.)

On the bright side, he inspired me to write this blog post highlighting two of my top tips for effective writing and editing.

1. Less Is More.

It’s true. Most people can afford to write less, and in most cases, the result of editing and cutting your work will be a piece with more impact.

Stephen King (who, by the way, is the author of “On Writing,” one of the best books about writing that I’ve ever read) employs a guide of cutting 10% of whatever he writes. It’s a number that he’s found works for him. Some people may need to work toward a higher percentage.

The point is the same, regardless of what number you put before the percent sign: less is more.

King also provides the following advice to help with that editing/cutting process: “When you revisit your text it’s time to kill your darlings and remove all the superfluous words and sentences. Removing will declutter your text and often get your message through with more clarity and a bigger emotional punch.”

2. In editing your work, you will probably read what you meant to say instead of what you really said/wrote.

That’s why I strongly recommend you have someone else read anything important that you write before you act on it.

I even do this with important and/or potentially controversial email messages. And that “someone else” doesn’t have to be a professional editor or writer. (In fact, in my case, it rarely is.)

It just has to be someone who is reading your piece for the first time so he/she can tell you what is unclear, confusing, or convoluted. The person also may be helpful in showing you where you’ve been unnecessarily repetitive, which takes us back to point #1 about “less is more.”

I have more tips on writing, but in the interest of following my own advice, I’m leaving today’s post with just my top two tips. Maybe I’ll revisit this topic at a later date.

In the meantime, for those who want to read more advice on writing, I’ll recommend:

Image: wrestlingentropy via Flickr, Creative Commons

Robin Ferrier is Communications Manager for the Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus. She is also the immediate past president of the Capital Communicators Group, chair of the PR Committee for the Gaithersburg Book Festival, and chair of the Marketing & PR Committee for Leadership Montgomery. She writes a blog on PR, marketing, and social media for the Gaithersburg Patch and a mommy blog for the Rockville Patch. Robin has an undergraduate degree in English Literature from the University of Virginia, where she graduated with honors, and a master’s degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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