Monthly Archives: January 2022

Less is more – what it means in editing

Many things can be edited to form a coherent whole – words, articles, chapters, clothes, collections or a list. In this case, edit is usually used to mean carefully selected or curated from a larger set, or “cut down”.

When I edit material, whatever it is, I usually reduce the word count without even trying. I achieve this using several different techniques:

  • use the simplest form of a word or phrase
  • delete repetition
  • delete unnecessary linking words or phrases
  • delete distracting detail.

Thinking of the reader means making it shorter. The reader can then focus on the key words and message and not be distracted by too much verbosity. Some forms of writing, such as job applications or forms, may set word or page limits for this reason.

Sometimes I do suggest where new information might be useful. It might be a fact such as a name, date, time or location, or sometimes an explanation. But I rarely add words to an existing sentence to make it longer. I edit the longer “Fifty people were recruited and surveyed in the study to provide useful information” into the simpler “The study surveyed 50 people”, rather than the other way round.

Editors do carefully review every word to make sure it is earning its place and communicating with readers. Editors also review non-text elements such as tables, figures and images to make sure they are also worthwhile.

If you are struggling with writing, think of less is more. Write less, and make every word count.

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