People often think of revising a piece of writing as a process of cutting away and this is accurate. You will remove off-topic content, redundant information, and wordy sentences.
But revising a piece of writing is also about adding substance and I think this is where people struggle more. You want to look for ideas that are not fully realized, important information that has not been included, and opportunities for making your points more strongly. Revision is like sculpting with clay.
A different mindset
In my last blog, I gave you a six-step process for completing a first draft. By working quickly on that draft, you avoided wasting time on writer’s block. All of your ideas have been written down. Now, the real work begins.
Revising draws on a completely different mindset than writing the first draft. Rather than letting ideas flow freely, you need to be analytical and exacting. I don’t know what it’s like for you, but this dichotomy between creativity and analysis is what keeps me in love with the writing process.
1. The content
Before worrying about word choice and sentence construction, take a close look at the information. Imagine you don’t know anything about the subject. Does your first draft explain everything a person needs in order to understand the main points? You are bound to have missed one or two bits of important information. When you understand something well, you can sometimes fail to expand the ideas.
The opposite may also have happened. In your eagerness to get that rough draft finished, you may have wandered off topic. Look for information that does not support your main points and delete it.
Now, check the logic. Is the progression of thought easy to follow? Are your main points clear? Make sure your headings are meaningful. Don’t wait until the end of a section to make your main point. While this is common in the essay format, it’s not useful in business. Your main points should start each section.
Perfect grammar and spelling are of little importance if the writing is not clear. Here’s a quick checklist of things to consider when revising for clarity:
- Replace vague words with specific ones.
- Delete redundant words.
- Delete empty words like “actually”.
- Use active verbs. Avoid constructions of the “to be” verb.
- Stick to consistent terminology.
3. Spelling and grammar
The best writers in the world rely on other people to catch their spelling and grammar errors. When you’ve worked hard on a piece of writing, it can be challenging to catch all of the typos. Ask a colleague to read your draft before you send it to others for a technical review.
In this short blog, I’ve covered the main concerns you need to focus on when revising your business writing. Some people try to tackle content, clarity, readability and grammar at the same time. In my experience, this rarely works. It’s better to take on each element, one at a time.
© Debbie Bateman 2019. Image purchased from Adobe Stock.