As a writer, you have one main job – telling someone something. Whether that’s facts or a story, if your reader can’t understand what you’re saying, they aren’t going to stick around.
Write How You Talk
An editing practice a lot of skilled writers use is reading their work out loud and asking themselves if it sounds natural. Consider the following example:
John Smith, who resides in Quebec, has an utmost adoration of tennis.
Read this out loud. Is that how you would tell your friends that a guy likes tennis? If not, ask yourself what you’re trying to say and strip it down.
John Smith, who lives in Quebec, loves playing tennis.
If John living in Quebec is essential to the sentence (which for this example it is), keep the information but change your words to be more casual. Loves is a strong enough word that you don’t need to exaggerate it anymore. However, if it is crucial how much he adores tennis, show an example instead of stating it as a fact. Explain how he gets up at 5 a.m. so he can play before work. Examples are more powerful than statements.
If you want to jazz up your words, ask yourself if your intended audience will understand them, and if there is a reason to use them other than wanting to sound smart. Skilled writers put thought into every word they choose. Writing however you feel comfortable and editing your article down to plain English is a good strategy if you’re used to using large words.
Why You Don’t Sound Smart
Writing clearly and concisely isn’t easy. Filling a page with unnecessary facts, words, and phrases is easy. Good writing isn’t judged on quantity, it’s judged by the quality of information and how easy it is to understand. If you’re using unnecessary words and phrases to trick your reader into thinking you’re smarter than you are, they can probably see through you. Even if they can’t, odds are they’re going to find an article that’s easier to understand.
Know Your Audience
Before you start writing, you must ask yourself who your intended audience is. If you’re a doctor writing for other doctors, using advanced terms and medical jargon is welcome since you can assume your audience will understand.
However, if you’re a doctor writing for the public, remove all medical jargon and replace it with more straightforward terms. If you can’t use a simpler term, then explain what your jargon means. No one will think you’re any less credible than you are because they can understand what you’re saying.
Editing Tips to Improve Your Writing
- Read your work out loud to see if it sounds natural. Re-write everything that sounds awkward.
- If you need to use a complicated term, then explain it like you’re trying to make your grandmother understand it.
- Ask yourself if there’s a reason for using jargon. Will your audience understand it? If not, remove it.
- Take out repetitive words ex. and also, his own original idea, clean and tidy.
- Take out all adverbs. Compare: “the man ran very quickly” vs. “the man sprinted.” If it’s essential that the man ran very quickly, consider changing the verb.
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This piece was contributed by Cassidy Rempel who is a second-year Communications and Rhetoric student, and an aspiring journalist. Her love for writing began in elementary school where she would neglect her math homework to write short stories and poems. As she got older, Cassidy started enjoying academic and article writing. She hopes her writing will one day be able to help and inspire others.