Writing and Editing, 40

“Anyone and everyone taking a writing class knows that the secret of good writing is to cut it back, pare it down, winnow, chop, hack, prune, and trim, remove every superfluous word, compress, compress, compress . . .” ~ Nick Hornby

While this site is not about “a writing class”, I consistently aim to provide an insight into the various steps of proofreading, a vital process that comes after our writing is (supposedly) done. I, therefore, am in total agreement with Nick Hornby’s statement. Happy ‘cutting back, paring down, winnowing, chopping, hacking, pruning, trimming, and ‘removing’ “every superfluous word” in your drafts! Remember to “compress, compress, compress . . .” – – – your readers will be utterly appreciative, if you do.


Throughout our early schooling, we hear how poor of an impression “run-on” sentences make on behalf of our composition homework. This “warning” does not stop after our school years are long over. My focus here is not those red flag-language aspects, however. Long sentences need to be tenderized as well. Even those where the structure is grammatically sound. After all, a sentence must contain an idea. When we resort to long sentences, several ideas may end up finding a comfortable home in them. A red flag! Our readers will unavoidably lose focus. So, let us make an effort to provide them with a breather. Let us also consider eliminating comma-rich sentences while we are in the midst of some spring-cleaning. Gifting each sentence with an idea of its own could and would help the process.

48 Hours at Least

Following a teaching career of over forty years, I have recently retired from academia. I loved teaching, utterly enjoying advanced composition classes in particular. One advice of my dramatic emphasis was “proofreading”. Each of my countless students heard me say that there must be at least two days of what I called  a cooling time: Between the day they thought their writing assignment was complete and the actual submission deadline of their work. The rationale behind my emphatic stress on this “sleep on it”-period was obvious to me, and I always wanted to make sure that my students also came to terms with it: Far fewer surface errors.

When we are in the heat of the moment of writing creatively, we tend to see punctuation, spelling, capitalization and grammar through rose colored glasses. Once we allow ourselves to re-visit what we have written -after we slept on it (preferably, for one week at least), those glasses will begin to display a different shade. We then will be cool-headed enough to see our work more realistically. And: We will adjust / modify / correct the mistakes that seemed non-existent at the initial onset of our writing endeavor. One step at a time . . . toward a streamlined / polished version of that first crucial draft.