5 Steps to Gutting Your First Draft

Revise and Proofread Your Articles

Searching for information should not resemble panning for gold. Readers don’t want to wade through verbose sections of text to find the golden nuggets of information and won’t when more information is readily available.

Stop wasting your efforts with the “won’t” audiences! After all, what’s the point in writing articles if your articles aren’t read? Get readers engaged in your articles by ensuring only the key information makes the cut.

Take a Step Back

Revising and proofreading are critical steps in writing and growing as an Expert Author. Revising is a hard step for many and it’s often skipped. I get it – you’re close (sometimes too close) to your articles. You’ve raised it word-for-word and now you’re being asked to gut it, tear it apart, and then serve the best parts to your audience. The whole process can be scary, exhilarating, frustrating, and intense.

Change your mind and think of it like this: Writing is very forgiving. It’s flexible and loves all of the attention you can give it, including ruthless editing. At the end of the day, you and your readers should be satisfied with your articles. Use these steps to achieve this satisfaction.

Gut Your Article with these 5 Steps

1. Gut it.

Be ruthless by cutting sentences or even entire paragraphs. Use the – 10% rule: If you’ve written 1,000 words, then do everything in your power to bring it down to 900 words. Experiment by “setting aside” or cutting an entire paragraph of content and consider whether the article would make sense without it.

2. Remold it.

Try a different format. Would a list be more effective in conveying your message and organizing your thoughts? Would bulleted headers help you compartmentalize your information? Make it easy for readers by ensuring they can clearly identify the key points of your article.

3. Trim it.

Repetition can be helpful, but it’s tedious and often obnoxious to read. Remove repetitive content and check for message-weakening conjunctions like “yet,” “so,” etc. Simplify your key points to the most direct statements by choosing active voice over passive voice.

4. Revise it.

This stage is your final revision process and should not require extensive changes. Simply make sure your article answers all of your reader’s questions regarding your topic, the article flows with ease, and isn’t missing any key elements that may have been overlooked in the previous steps. Tweak as needed.

5. Proofread it.

This step should always be saved for last and never skipped: proofread your article for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. If you really want to take your revisions up a notch (highly recommended), then try this 10-step proofreading checklist.

Do you have to use all of the above steps? Not at all! Everyone’s writing is different and it’s important to not over-edit content. Many Expert Authors will use a combination of the above steps, such as 1, 4, and 5. Discover what works for you and your style. Once again, I must stress the importance of steps 4 and 5: don’t skip these. Always revise and proofread your articles prior to submission, but understand when you’re done. If you find yourself trying to edit a sentence or paragraph only to change it back, then use this as an indicator to move on.

These steps aren’t a recommendation to sacrifice creative, descriptive language for bare bones, dull content. In fact, they are designed for you to take a more creative approach to help you convey your message to your readers with more originality and style. So why not try it today?

Do you use these steps? What’s your revising and proofreading technique? Let us know in the comments section below – we’d love to hear from you!

19 Comments »


1
CH James writes:

I really appreciate this post, since editing takes just as much skill as writing but is often overlooked. One of my favorite editing tips is from a professor who once told me to always review my work for unnecessary use of the word “that.” Example:

“One thing that you should be doing is…”

Remove “that” and the sentence loses nothing while becoming tidier and more direct. On longer pieces, I actually do a document search for “that” so I can see every spot it appears in what I’ve written. Often, it’s contextually unnecessary like in the example, so out it goes!

Comment provided June 19, 2013 at 9:40 AM

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davidinnotts writes:

This is a recent development, CH. I, personally, prefer to leave them in, as it costs little and avoids possible ambiguities – which is why I think you’re right to trawl for them and consider each one. So I also suggest looking for places where you’ve left out a ‘that’ where it’s needed for clarity.

By the way, I often use ‘which’ instead of ‘that’, which most grammarians today consider to be a no-no. But it’s a long-established practice (well over a century, by respected writers) and makes for useful variety. This is in addition to places where ‘which’ is essential. I’ve met a few pedants (usually American) who will recast a sentence to avoid using ‘which’ anywhere, for any reason. Crazy!

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CH James writes:

Examining on a case-by-case basis is something I fully agree with. “That” may not be necessary in a given instance, but without it, a sentence can become too abrupt and disrupt the flow of the reader.

With clear, easy-to-read content being the ultimate goal, there’s no point in sacrificing flow for the sake of nitpicking. If an extra “that” has no impact on readability, I prefer to “trim the fat,” but if it enhances overall readability, I leave it “full flavor!”

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2
Claude Nougat writes:

Excellent article, as always. I would just add that I find reading the article on a different support (paper vs. computer screen) or with different fonts really helps to spot the awkward passages and various errors you mention.

Then letting time pass also helps. In the case of a novel, I let a whole month go by. That’s how long it needs to rest! For an article, it’s more difficult. One can rarely let a whole month pass! But certainly one should resist submitting the article right away and always do it the next day!

Comment provided June 19, 2013 at 10:31 AM

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3
Randall Magwood writes:

I typically skimp on proof-reading my articles before submitting them. This is usually due to my extensive free marketing plan that i do everyday, but it’s something that i should focus more on. Great post.

Comment provided June 19, 2013 at 10:58 AM

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4
Kristy Rackham writes:

This is a useful article [that] (!) I have printed and posted to my office wall as a reminder to check and recheck my work.

I tend to slam words on the page without consideration to sentence structure, flow or grammatical issues. I just get the ideas out, takea tea break to let the words steep in my mind, and then go back and sculpt the work later – like a rough piece of clay takes some massaging to become a sculptured masterpiece.

Having said that, I will ALWAYS do two revisions. One for content and flow issues, and the last for punctuation, grammar and sentence structure.

I think to be taken seriously as a writer, the final pass is the most essential. Basic spelling typos and punctuation mistakes interrupt the readers’ thought process and ability to take in the message of the article. Of course, I am human… I do sometimes make mestakes ;)

Cheers
xK

Comment provided June 19, 2013 at 9:51 PM

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davidinnotts writes:

That’s just what Elementary School ‘avant garde’ teachers of the ’60s were after, Kristy. The problem turned out to be that this technique, after class co-operative brainstorming, was very time-consuming. So kids’ work rarely got beyond stage 1 and they grew up with poor literacy skills.

It’s still a good way of going about article writing, though, especially if you find it hard to think constructively and watch that grammar at the same time, as most people do!

Your last paragraph is the key one, of course – but so often regarded as a waste of time. Which is why EzineArticles editors can have a hard time of it!

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5

I just write the article first then research it online and make the required corrections and seo than I post it but after reading this article I learned a new idea for writing good and organic article. Thanks

Comment provided June 19, 2013 at 11:50 PM

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6
vinay kumar writes:

Hi, It is a good post. It is too informative. Kindly keep on sharing this type of sharing.

Comment provided June 20, 2013 at 8:30 AM

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7

I do proofread but when I over do it, I send to loose the facts in my article.
Thanks for the training.

Comment provided June 20, 2013 at 1:03 PM

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8
Ruth Yoerg writes:

When I wrote my first article on The Cell Phone Revolution That Changed the World, I applied the rules of grammar and punctuation. The article was accepted.

Comment provided June 20, 2013 at 4:34 PM

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9
Vijay Khosla writes:

Great post with worthy lessons.

Comment provided June 21, 2013 at 1:13 AM

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10
Jitendra Shukla writes:

Nice Blog Post,
All steps Mention over here is really useful for a writer, I feel some time lack of strategy while working on any projects these steps help me to write better then earlier.
Thanks for sharing..

Comment provided June 21, 2013 at 5:18 AM

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11
petalyn writes:

I freely admit that I have one heck of a time editing my own work, such that it often takes me longer to edit than to write it. It is my goal to simply dictate the piece using Dragon, then send it off to someone who knows my ‘style’ and in whose hands it will be edited properly. I have great respect for good editors. They make those who just want to Say It more readable -even to those who have just said it.

Comment provided June 23, 2013 at 3:18 PM

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davidinnotts writes:

Hi, petalyn.

When painting a wall, spend twice the time preparing the wall as painting it – then the paint sticks and looks good, and the job will last.

When writing an article, spend twice the time preparing it and polishing it up as the simple task of writing it down. Then the job will be a good one and the article will last!

Hiring out part of the job is a good idea, as long as you trust the editor to keep YOUR style, rather than convert it to theirs, which many editors do.

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12

I think one should always write articles like they would enjoy reading them which is why I like this blog post so much because it’s short, sweet, concise and packed with information.

Comment provided June 24, 2013 at 1:08 PM

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13
D.RaghavendraRao writes:

A very good article that gives transparency guidelines for writing articles.D.RaghavendraRao

Comment provided June 26, 2013 at 1:49 AM

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14
Eula writes:

This is an excellent reminder that putting words on paper is not what writing is all about!

We must keep our goal for writing and the benefits for the reader in mind.

Thanks for helping us become better at our craft.

Comment provided July 2, 2013 at 7:49 AM

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15
Vic Little writes:

Excellent blog and good tips, can only make my writing much clearer for my readers.
Thanks Penny

Comment provided July 16, 2013 at 7:59 PM

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