Seven Hard-Working Editing Tools to Guarantee Clarity in Your Copy
Information overload is through the roof while readers' attention spans are shrinking at alarming rates. Now more than ever, it's critical to keep your writing simple, clear and relevant. Try this checklist from Jennifer Stevens to tighten up your copy.
____ 1. THE NECESSITY HATCHET
Is each of your paragraphs really necessary? Cut those that aren’t. Now read what’s left. Is each of your sentences necessary? Can you get your idea across using fewer of them?
If so, trim.
____ 2. THE VERB METER
Are your verbs vibrant? Search for the various forms of “to be” (am, is, are, was, were). When you find one, try to replace it with a more active, descriptive verb.
____ 3. THE MODIFIER MEASURE
Have you really said what you meant to say? Read each sentence and ask yourself: Are these words in the right order? Could a reader misinterpret what I’m saying? If so, reword or change the order of your words.
____ 4. THE IDEA STRAIGHTENER
Do your sentences “look back early”? You want to keep your reader moving forward through your copy. Have you arranged your sentences so old information appears first and new information last?
____ 5. THE SPECIFICITY FINDER
One of the best ways to engage your reader in your ideas is to make them concrete. You do that by using specifics. Have you slotted in, whenever possible, “93” instead of “many”?
____ 6. THE SENTENCE SAW
Are your sentences short? Have you trimmed away unnecessary words? Do they express one idea each?
____ 7. THE FLESCH-KINCAID TESTER
Test your edited copy in Microsoft Word by going into Tools > Spelling and Grammar > Options and check the box for Readability Statistics at the bottom of the page and click OK. After clicking through the program's suggestions for edits, you will see your Flesch-Kincaid (readability) score in the summary. Shoot for a grade-level score of 8 or below. If you score higher than that, get tools 1-7 out again and tinker a bit more with your copy.