Writing Means Editing

By Dennis Looijenga

About two years ago, the publishing house where I worked decided to go paperless. Sheer panic erupted in the print department. How on earth can you make magazines and write good texts without using a cmd/ctrl + P?

I used to be an avid user of that keystroke combination myself. The editorial staff used my failed attempts as scratch paper for at least a year. So I guess cutting down on my printing was not a bad idea after all. However, turn your printer on anyway, as you will definitely need it when you start writing.

5 W’s of writing

What story would you like to tell? What message would you like to send? Keep that in mind constantly. When writing, ask yourself if each paragraph adds value. Carefully review the structure of your white paper, magazine, blog, or other marketing collateral. Get straight to the point and make sure the 5 W’s – who, what, where, when and why – are on your first page. Your story should get more and more specific as you scroll down the page. In other words, you should write your story so that, if printed, you could ‘roll it up’ from bottom to top and still be able to understand the gist of the story.

Edit your writing

Done writing? Then print your story. Put it aside for a day if possible. The next day, find a different seat and start crossing stuff out! You will be able to spot lots of sentences and words that won’t be relevant for the reader. This process will make your story more powerful.

Writing means editing

Another pair of eyes

Crossing out information is not easy. Your first thoughts are on that piece of paper. You’ve probably even written some brilliant sentences. You cherish those sentences, they have to stay! Well, no they don’t. Taking a step back from your own work is very difficult. Find someone who will review your work critically, edit it and discuss it with you. Does it really say what you mean? Or could your message be expressed more clearly?

There are some very useful tools out there to make this process even more streamlined. Tools like Filestage for example make it easy to review each other's documents.

Additional editing tips:

  • Read your text out loud. Is there enough variation? Are your sentences too complex or too long? Start rewriting when you start stumbling over your words or run out of breath.
  • Read your text backwards; this makes it easier to spot mistakes or gaps.
  • Use a red pen to correct your own work. Use a green pen if someone else corrects your work.
  • Use 1.5 line spacing so you can write between the lines.

Elsschot test

Ever heard of the Elsschot test? This test was named for the Flemish writer Willem Elsschot. The goal is to take out as many words out as possible with no negative effect on the meaning. The text will be more to the point and easier to read. This test is ideal for the texts in your magazine!

Exercise: rewrite your introduction

How many words do the introductions in your magazine contain? A good introduction contains a maximum of 50-60 words. Choose or write an intro. Delete as many superfluous words and sentences as you can until you have reached the ideal word count!

Do you have any other ideas for writing awesome text? Or would you like to talk about something else? Contact us!

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Dennis Looijenga

Dennis is the Head of Customer Marketing at Foleon. His sole mission is to create happy, successful customers.

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