Editing: Super Tips

Dear Writer,

here are some golden tips for shaping your writing, whether you’re polishing a short story or a fifty book series:

1. Remove dialogue tags such as “said” – most of these are redundant or to put it another way, dialogue should speak for itself.

2. Delete weasle words such as:

  • very
  • little
  • pretty
  • really
  • almost
  • seem
  • even
  • that
  • up/down
  • in/out
  • tried to…
  • reached…

3. Use positive terms, not negatives e.g. instead of “he didn’t come” write “he was absent”.

4. Use concrete nouns. Stay away from the abstract.

5. Remove as many words ending in -ly.

6. Remove as many -ing words as you can.

7. Construct “active” sentences – not passive. If you notice yourself writing something like, “he was thrown by the horse”, switch the sentence round to, “the horse threw him”.

8. Reduce the number of adjectives.

9. Avoid prepositional phrases.

10. Show don’t tell, that is, paint a picture, show me what you see, hear, feel and I’ll become you. If you don’t you’ll just bore me.

Print this small list off and I guarantee you this, by following these guidelines you’ll add zing to your writing.


4 thoughts on “Editing: Super Tips

  • Clarity and structure are central to writing a good scientific paper.

    Clarity: precise words, clear logic. Structure: form and function.

    Scientific papers have their own style and are written for a very specific readership. Know your readership.

    In some respects a scientific paper is all about dotting the Is and crossing the Ts and omitting references etc. is bad style.

    The real test I think for a scientific writer is how to make a dense piece of research accessible and understandable to the largest number of people.


  • Thanks for your tips.
    The hardest part of writing any scientific paper is the opening gambit, as many other papers have been written on the subject; unless of course the paper conveys an original idea or piece of research.

  • Interestingly, I was discussing the writing of papers with an academic yesterday.

    We concluded that academia in many respects stifles true creative and original writing due to its conservative and “peer review” oriented approach…

    In terms of opening gambit, I think you’re right – it takes a great deal of courage to step out into the void and show your research to the rest of the world.

    And as you’ve pointed out, there can be so much research who does yours stand out from the rest:

    Who dares wins.


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