editing a story

Write short. It’s much harder than writing long. Although there’s infinite space online, there is not infinite attention among readers.

If you are editing a story, your goal is to shorten and enliven the article so it will attract (and keep) the attention of your readers.

Here are 10 editing tips that will help you tighten and sharpen news stories:

(1) Read each paragraph from the bottom up.

You are looking for missing words, improper punctuation, and bad syntax. By reading from the bottom, you will focus on the basics of English writing and are more likely to identify mistakes.

(2) Read the article aloud.

If you have to take a breath in a sentence, that sentence is too long. Shorten it.

(3) Make “bullets” ( ● ) your friends.

Organize your stories by creating bulleted lists. This can help you avoid awkward or wordy transitions.

(4) Know your audience.

Don’t use terminology those readers will not encounter in everyday life. Use references they will understand.

(5) Avoid certain words for the sake of clarity or conciseness.

Examples include:

  • Most synonyms for “said.”
  • “In order to.” The word “to” suffices.
  • “Start to.” In almost all cases, the verb that comes after “start to” can stand on its own.
  • “That” after an action verb. No: She said that Mondays are good days. Yes: She said Mondays are good days.
  • “Really” and “very,” as in “really fun” or “very hard.” Neither adds any precision, so why use it?
  • “Currently.” If you use a present-tense verb (such as “is”), “currently” is redundant. No: I currently have a cold. Yes: I have a cold.
  • Many “ing” words. They often complicate sentences and add unnecessary words. No: I am going to travel to Canada. Yes: I will go to Canada. No: I will be fighting for change. Yes: I will fight for change.

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by Sylvia Smith, International Journalists’ Network

Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

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