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Edit that writing!

Edit that writing!

Having fully submerged myself in my major, I am taking almost all professional skills courses to prepare myself for a career in public relations. I’m loving it, but I am also becoming steadily more intimidated as graduation nears. My intensive strategic writing course in particular is giving me some serious anxiety.

“What is required to be successful in this field?” The anxious, but eager seniors hoping for a job directly after graduation ask every time we have  a guest speaker in this class.

“Strong writing skills.” The awesome public relations professional with a stellar resume and an even more stellar paycheck replies.

Writing, and being good at it, seems to be the ticket to a good life in this field. Before this class, that response would have thrilled me. I love writing and I had always excelled in all writing assignments throughout my younger years, through high school and into college. But now I am surrounded by droves of people who love writing, with professors who are published and professional guest speakers who have flourished thanks to their superb writing skills. It’s intimidating.

If I’ve learned anything this semester it’s that I won’t become a better writing until I learn to edit, edit and edit my writing. I have a horrible habit of confidently finishing a paper with little more than a skim through and turning it in. If there’s one huge take away for my future writing, it’s that editing is key. Seriously.

The editing isn’t just for grammar mistakes either (though I make plenty of those), but the content of the writing. Here’s what my professor and guest lecturers have instilled in my brain this semester when it comes to editing the content of your writing:

1) Don’t use two words when one will do. Keep it simple.

2) Write in the active voice. The fund didn’t lose money, we lost money.

3) Avoid jargon, hype and clichés. You weren’t frightened to death; you were scared.

4) Write clearly and concisely. Leave the gargantuan, perplexing words at home.

5) Write for your audience. Who will be reading this? Write accordingly.

My professor and today’s guest lecturer also made a strong argument that beyond just the editing, writing often can make a big difference. Practice makes perfect for everything else. Why wouldn’t writing be the same?

“If you write to impress it will always be bad, but if you write to express it will be always be good.”

– Thornton Wilder


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