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Three Thoughts about Editing Your Writing

Sir, Yes Sir!

When I was in eighth grade, I had a drill sergeant for an English teacher. She took a rag-tag group of grammatically-ignorant thirteen-year-olds and whipped us into a lean, mean, sentence-graphing machine. Or at least I think that was her intention. In reality, I don’t know how effective she was. Because I still end up making mistakes, mistakes that I don’t think that the army would approve of. Like hanging prepositions. And fragments. And starting sentences with “and.”

My eighth grade English teacher actually did make a big impact on my life and writing. I don’t remember her name, but I do know the difference between “was” and “were” and how to conjugate verbs. But as stringent as she was, I still end up making mistakes, often. And so, revising and editing my writing is a task up which I must never give.

Editing What You Write

  1. Editing is a necessary evil. I hate to change the oil in my car. Actually, I never change the oil in my car. I hate the process of taking it to a mechanic, shelling out the cash to have them do it, and then losing the hour that I have to spend waiting for it. But, if you disregard the oil long enough, you kind of end up with a ticking time-bomb of a car. Writing without editing is kind of the same way. It’s not fun, but it must be done if you want to communicate with clarity.

  2. Failing to edit hinders your message. Have you ever walked into a furniture store and seen an amazing dining room table? Maybe it has wood that was recovered from a barn built in the 1700s. Maybe the finish makes you worship the God who created the wood and its grain. Now imagine that table with a giant gash in it. Or an obscene message etched into a corner. That response you feel, that distraction you give into, that is what poor editing does. It causes the reader to focus on an aspect of the medium, rather than the message. Don’t let the reader get distracted.

  3. Editing forces you to remember your fallibility. I wish I was perfect. Sometimes I think I am, until I’m quickly reminded how flawed I am. But I’d rather remind myself, then have someone else have to point it out to me. Try to be your own critic, so others don’t have to be.

Editing is like prep-work in the kitchen. It’s not glamorous, and it’s usually not too much fun. But good prep helps make the meal palatable. Let’s communicate deliciously, not distractingly.