And then finally, editing should aim to simplify where possible. When you read something, your brain is in an active state. It takes energy to read. That’s why you rarely read a book from beginning to end, unless it’s very short. There’s only so much reading your brain can handle in one stint. So to make it easier for the reader, the more you can streamline your writing, the easier you make the process of reading for them.
It’s draining to read long sentences, with fancy words. Shorter sentences are easier to process. Simpler words are easier to process.
Whether you edit your own writing or you are critiquing a piece of writing from an agency to approve it, you should aim to get into the habit of correcting, connecting and simplifying. Simplifying in particular is where the editor often adds the most value.
When you edit, you should ask if there’s a simpler word you can use. Can you cut words out and still have the same meaning? The shorter and punchier you can write to land a key message, the better for your reader. That’s not to say you should always aim for short words and sentences. Your brand identity might suit a more verbose and academic style.
But as a general rule of thumb in business writing, shorter is better. And editing is the key skill, that gets you to short and impactful writing.
No-one will thank you when you use long words and over-elaborate sentences to show off your knowledge.
In particular, you should aim to write in the active voice rather than the passive voice where possible. Your sentence structure should be subject-verb where possible. This is much easier to read. Look for variations of “is”, “are” and “were” in the writing and see if you can flip the order round to make it more active.
You should also be very careful with adverbs. Adverbs are usually unnecessary in business writing. Unless they change the meaning of the verb, you should try to avoid them. Look for words that end in “ly” and question if they add real value to the sentence. If the sentence still means the same without it, kill the adverb. No-one will miss it.
This editing skill to go back and rearrange take words out can be a challenge. Especially, it you write and then edit your own work. You get attached to words, because they’re your words, your creation. It’s always a good idea to get someone else to read your writing and help with the editing. You want to get a different viewpoint and perspective. Professional editors can be invaluable sources of feedback to raise your writing game.
In our view, this ability of editing to make writing shorter, tighter and more specific is what separates average writing from great writing.