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  • 6 SELF-Editing Tips That Make Your Writing Zing

    Anne Downes


    6 SEF-Editing Tips for Powerful Writing

    Anne Downes is an Irish professionally trained copy-editor and proofreader with more than 10 years’ experience working for a wide range of clients on fiction and non-fiction texts. She has proven experience in delivering high quality material to tight deadlines. She pays particular attention to detail. She is comfortable working in both British English and US English. She offers 15% discount on her rates to all Writers Boon authors.

    First draft: clumsy, flabby, and somewhat difficult to read. Time to get to work.

    These six powerful editing actions will help you transform wordy, unclear passages into engaging and compelling pieces of copy.

    1. AVOID VERBIAGE (excessive use of words)

    Part of the editing process is defined as “condensing” written material.

    Never use ten words when only one will do.

    For example:

    • Replace In spite of the fact that with “Although”.
    • Replace In the majority of instances with “Mostly”.
    • Replace At the present time with “Now”.

    2. WHICH vs. THAT

    “Which” and “that” are not interchangeable.

    Use “which” to introduce a nonessential clause (i.e. a clause that is not essential to the sentence and if left out would not change the meaning of the sentence).

    Tip: In general, set off the clause by commas.

    For example:

    • The final manuscript, which was well edited, was submitted to the printer on time.

    Use “that” to introduce an essential clause (i.e. a clause that cannot be taken out of the sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence). Do not use a comma to separate it from the sentence.

    For example:

    • The version of the manuscript that was submitted to the printer was well edited.


    As Sir Ernest Gowers once said, 'Be short, be simple, be human.’

    Avoid using jargon or foreign (Latin) phrases that may not be easily understood by a larger audience.

    Words and phrases such as “a priori,“  “hoi polloi“ or “verboten,“ may be unfamiliar to and therefore, alienate most readers when reading a piece.

    However, other foreign words/phrases like “status quo” or “faux pas” are commonly used and understood in English, and can be used.


    The shorter the sentence, the more powerful and easier it is for the reader to understand.

    Split long sentences up.

    It’s also important to ensure that there is only one main idea per sentence.

    For example:

    • Sentence 1 – To make the very best use of a limited number of natural resources, including land for agriculture, the mixed farming system called VAC is a popular activity in Can Tho City, Vietnam, which is one of the big cities in the lower area of the Mekong River. (49 words)
    • Sentence 2 – To make efficient use of limited natural resources, including agricultural land, the mixed farming system known as VAC is popular in Can Tho City, Vietnam, the largest city on the Mekong Delta. (32 words)

    Search out and delete all unnecessary words. If it’s possible to cut out a word, cut it out.

    For example:

    • He is currently a communication manager.  He is a communication manager.

    Get rid of “currently.” It is redundant.


    DO NOT hyphenate adverb–adjective compound words if the adverb ends in ly.

    For example:

    • closely followed program
    • highly competent performer


    • well-laid plan

    6. AVOID METAPHORES, SIMILES or other figures of speech (except in blog writing)

    Just like jargon, audience-specific metaphors, similes and figures of speech can be alienating for larger, more general audiences and may make the meaning of the piece unclear.

    For example:

    • Sentence 1 – The contract that was drawn up is as sound as the ground we stand on.
    • Sentence 2 – We are confident in the contract that was drawn up.


    Tip of the Day:
    If you're a writer in need of an experienced editor, but you would like to minimize your editing costs, please take a look at Writers Boon discounted marketplace. You will find amazing editors who worked with authors from the Big 5 Publishing houses willing to offer 15% to 30% discount on their regular fees.