Short and Sweet: How to Revise Your Articles

“Don’t write something in 1,000 words that could have been said in 600.” – Robin Henry

Have you ever had a friend or relative who seemed to ramble on and on, so much so that you found your mind wandering toward more interesting things like, “Should I make that dentist appointment for next Tuesday or Wednesday?” Or “Is it true if you eat a polar bear’s liver, you will die of a vitamin overdose?”

Don’t be that person … in your articles that is!

So much emphasis is placed on proofreading that many Expert Authors forget a step: Revising. The result may fashion lackluster, boring, rambling, and occasionally confusing articles.

The solution? Guarantee yourself a more powerful message by keeping your articles short and sweet with these tips.

7 Tips to Revising Articles

First, let’s discuss the difference between revising and proofreading, which are often mistaken as the same step in the writing process. Proofreading occurs when you read your article for grammar, punctuation, and formatting errors (often after the revising process). Revising occurs when you reread your article to ensure your message is clear, concise, and logical. Think of it as pumping more “oomph” into your articles.

Ready? Use these tips to get started:

  • Cut Verbiage: Words like “just,” “really,” and “very” slow down the power of your message. When revising, ask yourself, “Is this word really that necessary?”
     
  • Remove Redundant Words: “I’ll meet you at 12 noon,” “this is absolutely essential to your success,” and “I have the exact same bag” are examples of redundancies.
     
  • Discard the Inessential: Consider whether the article’s focus is too wide or too narrow based on your user’s needs. Remove sections of inessential text to get to your point faster and add text (as needed) to ensure reader comprehension.
     
  • Stay Organized: Check the flow of the article. Does the pattern make sense? Are the transitions smooth? Should one point occur earlier for better readability?
     
  • Keep Promises: Did you follow through on promises made to the reader in the article’s title, introduction, or any other part of the article?
     
  • Use Active Voice: Rather than the subject receiving the action, ensure the subject acts or performs the action in the sentence. For example, “The mime was waved to by the child” (passive) vs. “The child waved to the mime” (active).
     
  • Be Precise: Simplify your verbs by using concise language. For example, replace “He argues for the importance of the idea” with “He defends the idea.”

Have You Tried the Paramedic Method?

Take your revising skills to the next level! Expert Authors can polish their writing skills using Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab. To improve readability, they recommend utilizing Richard Lanham’s Paramedic Method. Here’s how:

Sample Sentence Before Using the Paramedic Method

In this paragraph is a demonstration of the use of good style in the writing of an article.

  1. Circle the prepositions (of, in, about, for, onto, into)
  2. (In) this paragraph is a demonstration (of) the use (of) good style (in) the writing (of) an article.

  3. Draw a box around the verb “to be” forms (is, am, are, was, were, been, being).
  4. In this paragraph [is] a demonstration of the use of good style in the writing of an article.

  5. Identify the action and convert it into a simple verb.
  6. In this paragraph is a demonstration of the use of good style in the writing of an article.

  7. Convert passive text to active by moving the doer into the subject (Who’s kicking whom)
  8. In this paragraph is a demonstration of the use of good style in the writing of an article.

  9. Eliminate any unnecessary slow wind-ups
  10. In this paragraph is a demonstration of the use of good style in the writing of an article.

  11. Eliminate any redundancies
  12. In this paragraph is a demonstration of the use of good style in the writing of an article.

Revised Sentence Using the Paramedic Method

This paragraph demonstrates good style in articles.

How do you keep your articles short and sweet? Do you have additional revising tips you would like to share? Have you tried the Paramedic Method or any other revising method to revive your articles? Let us know – we’d love to hear from you!

25 Comments »


1

Great suggestions.

Comment provided October 18, 2013 at 10:02 AM

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2
Ramanujam writes:

I am following both techniques, revising and proof reading. But I have been revising and simplifying my sentences in a similar way. Now I know it is Paramedic method of Richard Lanham.
Thanks

Comment provided October 18, 2013 at 12:07 PM

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3
Adriana Zoder writes:

I do all the above except looking out for prepositions. Now I know. :)

Comment provided October 18, 2013 at 12:28 PM

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4
Emily writes:

Having a feel for ‘parts of speech’ is the best good writing tool. ‘Subject, verb, object or predicate nominative’ are like the tree you put the ‘adverb, adjective, prepositional phrases’ ornaments upon.

Continuity sometimes needs an idea to be reintroduced. You feel the ‘Y’ in the flow of ideas. If you decide to present both sides of the ‘Y,’ you need to take the reader back to the main trunk.

One way to cut a lot from an article is to examine each paragraph as to its function in the whole. If it is not vital, kill it.

On the other hand, if you are writing this particular article to students of the subject, cognoscenti, then it can go 1200 or 1500 words.
Those articles should be like the summary of a book.

Comment provided October 18, 2013 at 12:33 PM

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5
davidinnotts writes:

‘Cutting verbiage’ is probably the best way of tightening up an article – we’re all prone to it when the juices are flowing!

Yet we have to be careful to keep smoothness and continuity in the text. It’s tempting to delete prepositions, articles and other ‘linking’ words, but these are often vital to maintain the sense and flow when reading rapidly. Maybe it’s best to keep cutting until the sentences become terse and jerky, than restore what’s needed to smooth it out again.

It’s also not good to cut down the emphatic and descriptive adjectives and adverbs too much, or a lot of the life of the article will vanish. Too much purple prose is counter-productive, but most articles need to have a sense of passion, and it’s descriptive power that does this.

Balance is the name of the game!

Comment provided October 18, 2013 at 2:06 PM

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I agree! When writers spend too much time cutting, simplifying and converting passive to active voice they wind up with articles that sound like a first grade primer “See spot. See spot run. Spot runs fast.” It’s BORING and not good writing at all.

Balance is absolutely the key, as is having a good copy editor or editing program. I use MS word, which is very good but doesn’t pick up everything. Then I post my articles in WordPress, which offers a program “After the Deadline” free with their Jetpack plugin. It’s open source so even if you don’t use WP you you can download it to use with other open source platforms like Firefox and bbPress.

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6

Thanks

Comment provided October 18, 2013 at 4:37 PM

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7
Joseph Dabon writes:

I was enjoying the article until I hit the paramedic style. I can’t figure it out. Sorry.

Comment provided October 18, 2013 at 7:55 PM

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I agree. Maybe I too much of an intuitive for that kind of thing, but it makes no sense to me at all. Even the name is dumb.

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8
Gracious Store writes:

I usually do the proofreading and and revising simultaneously, I will try the paramedic method, hopefully it will help to catch some of the grammatical errors I sometimes do not “catch”

Comment provided October 18, 2013 at 11:50 PM

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9
Aamir Afzal writes:

very well explained… It sure has helped me in pointing where I always make a mistake. Now I will be more apt and by focusing these points will come up with a better piece of writing

Comment provided October 19, 2013 at 2:21 AM

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10
Sunil Chadha writes:

Yes let’s discussion about short and sweet content: Short and informative content is good. I think don’t need to write content in much more word. Content should be short and informative which could describe about your topic. It can be good to you and your website and also it can give more traffic to your website.

Comment provided October 19, 2013 at 4:41 AM

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11
davidinnotts writes:

Ooh! I’ve just realized that I DON’T use the Paramedic Method. Instead, I tend to just go for the full cut when I’m revising, and see whether I’ve left out any shade of meaning. So:

. In this paragraph is a demonstration of the use of good style in the writing of an article.

does not become:

. This paragraph demonstrates good style in articles.

Instead, I’d use:

. THIS is good article style.

Do you agree?

Comment provided October 19, 2013 at 4:59 AM

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Not necessarily, although I don’t think the revision is very good either. “This” isn’t very specific. Are you talking about this sentence, this paragraph or this phrase?? In context, however, you might be right.

What bothers me in this example is the phrase “in articles.” It’s superfluous. How about just saying “This paragraph demonstrates good style?” Or “This paragraph demonstrates good writing style.” Better yet: “This paragraph shows good writing….” If we’re aiming for “Less is More” then why not replace “demonstrate” with a simpler word?

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12
Aloha Trevor writes:

Firstly your pasted photo on this article and secondly your article are good example for a GOOD ARTICLE.
Thanks

Comment provided October 19, 2013 at 6:26 AM

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13

Small is always beautiful. Be it an article, human being, animal, toy. Thanks for the good tips.

Comment provided October 19, 2013 at 9:23 AM

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WOW!!! There are a lot of “big” people who would take major offense at that remark!!

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14

GRRRRR! If I hear one more person give advice to writers telling them to use active voice exclusively I will scream!! Active voice is NOT the only way to clearly and accurately convey your meaning. In fact, there are many, many cases where using active voice sounds forced and stilted, and passive voice rings true.

Analyzing your writing is important, and sometimes changing a passive sentence to active voice makes sense. But good writing includes a mixture of the two.

Comment provided October 20, 2013 at 1:19 PM

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Kathleen, we completely agree! There’s a time and place for passive voice, which Penny addressed in the following post: http://blog.EzineArticles.com/2012/10/passive-or-active-voice-which-should-you-use.html

Take note of the following: “Choosing between active and passive voice entirely depends on the subject you want to emphasize….. [If] you’re looking for concision and better understanding, aim for active voice. Alternately, if you need to tone down your writing, a little strategically placed passive voice won’t hurt.”

In either case, it’s important to determine the needs of your audience and the message you are working to deliver.

~Vanessa

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15
Randall Magwood writes:

I sometimes like to take my old articles and take out all of the non-essential stuff that i can replace and make my articles more content driven. But sometimes this is hard to do for me.

Comment provided October 20, 2013 at 2:53 PM

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16
Amit Srivastava writes:

I don’t think that EzineArticles is able to figure out the name of places from the article and shows it as error. I have written an article regarding places to visit in Delhi and it says there are errors in the article. Google has become adult, don’t know hen EzineArticles will grow up ?

Comment provided October 21, 2013 at 12:42 AM

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Hi Amit,

After taking a look at the article in question, it’s not the location you are using in your submission that is problematic. There are grammatical errors throughout. A member of our Support Team will be contacting you privately regarding the issue.

~Vanessa

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17
Salihu S Dikko writes:

I think, the great and good lesson SHORT AND SWEET is teaching us is: the more one writes, the more mistake one is likely to make. And that is why, it is always better to be very brief, which as well saves times and energy as well as resources.

Comment provided October 27, 2013 at 6:26 PM

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18
Bolee writes:

Yes Penny, I have tried paramedic style but the only thing is that I didn’t know its name. While doing my master in English Literature I have gone through Francis Bacon’s Essays and the hallmark of Bacon’s style was what Robin Henry is inculcating in us through his quote: preciseness and terseness. Anyhow I have learned many things from your article. The first one is the difference between proofreading and revising. Thanks Penny for sharing this valuable information. Really helpful!

Comment provided October 28, 2013 at 8:04 AM

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19
Mike Andrews writes:

The best thing is to use words that all readers can understand as opposed to a longer alternative word which some might not even have heard of.

Comment provided November 10, 2013 at 9:40 AM

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