War on wordiness

Often your writing will need more than spelling and grammar checking. It will need to be edited. Editing interrogates a piece’s structure, and makes good writing exceptional.

Perhaps this is a bit of a grand portrayal of what editing does, but in many ways – for me at least – making sentences work harder is a real joy. And it doesn’t matter if it’s copy for an advertisement (important when you have limited words and time to get your message across) or a long work of fiction.

When you first put fingers to keyboard, what comes out will be rough. It won’t be beautiful. In most cases it will be long-winded, waffly and dull. But that’s ok. That’s why, when you write something, no matter how long or short, you need to let it sit. That could mean waiting 20 minutes, a couple of hours or a day. Then when you come back to it you will see there are things to change. Perhaps it’s a cliché that is too tired to convey what you really mean. Perhaps there are too many words. Perhaps it needs rewriting. Such is editing.

This plaque on a post office is an example where editing would have been handy. At first glance you can understand what it’s trying to say, but it really doesn’t make as much sense as it thinks it does.

Is editing required for this post office plaque?

Perhaps it would be better to split it into two sentences. “Beechworth’s first telegraph office erected in 1858. For many years it functioned as an independent branch of the postal service.”

Or: “Beechworth’s first telegraph office. Erected 1858, for many years it functioned as an independent branch of the postal service.”

I’d almost go as far as saying the second sentence is useless to anyone walking by unless they had some knowledge of Australia’s early postal service. It begs the question about why it was independent. Was that a good or bad thing? Fewer words (Beechworth’s first telegraph office. Erected 1858.) would also have cost less to produce.

If you’d like Dittography to take care of the slash-and-burn of redundant words and wrangle unwieldy sentences, then contact us now for a quote.

Rule of Thumb
Let your words sit. There needs to be time between writing and editing. Otherwise you’ll miss errors that could cause embarrassment.

Posted in Blog, Editing Evangelism Tagged with: , ,

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