10 Pro Tips for Editing Your Writing

The secret to good writing? Good editing.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro at proofreading or you need a little nudge in the right direction, learning to edit yourself is an important part of being a great writer.

Today we’re turning to ten accomplished authors to learn what makes editing so important.

1) Oscar Wilde on Editing an Edit

“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.”

2) E.B. White on Clarity

“The main thing I try to do is write as clearly as I can. I rewrite a good deal to make it clear.”

3) Colette on Emotional Detachment

“Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”

4) Mark Twain on Specificity

“The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

5) Peter Drucker on Editors

“Every first-rate editor I have ever heard of reads, edits and rewrites every word that goes into his publication…. Good editors are not ‘permissive’; they do not let their colleagues do ‘their thing’; they make sure that everybody does the ‘paper’s thing.’ A good, let alone a great editor is an obsessive autocrat with a whim of iron, who rewrites and rewrites, cuts and slashes, until every piece is exactly the way he thinks it should have been done.”

6) Dr. Seuss on Brevity

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

7) Gerald Brommer on Visualising the Story

“In the editing process, I delete what I do not want to use, move what remains around if necessary and add elements that I feel will make my visual statement as clear and understandable as possible.”

8) Peggy Noonan on Being Straightfoward

“Remember the waterfront shack with the sign FRESH FISH SOLD HERE. Of course it’s fresh, we’re on the ocean. Of course it’s for sale, we’re not giving it away. Of course it’s here, otherwise the sign would be someplace else. The final sign: FISH.”

9) Robert Louis Stevenson on the Beauty in Simplicity

“There is but one art, to omit.”

10) Marianne Moore on Keeping It Real

“A writer is unfair to himself when he is unable to be hard on himself.”

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