Writing Question: When do you stop editing?

Feb 21, 2012 | Better Writing

Justin McCullough asked me the following question on Twitter.

“I’m wondering how to decide when you’ve edited enough?”

That’s a great question. If you want to create effective blog posts, articles, and books, you need quality editing. But you don’t want to spend time chasing your own tail, making your piece different without making it better. Here are my rules.

Forget perfection

As one of my mentors used to say, “The price of perfection is prohibitive.” If perfection is your goal, you’ll spend hours tweaking your writing to make it just a little better and you’ll never publish anything. Forget perfection. Make your goal a piece of writing that makes sense and reads well.

Read your writing aloud

When you read your writing aloud, you’ll find things that need fixing. You’ll stumble over clumsy phrases, catch situations where you’ve used the same word too many times, and spot places where you’re just not making sense.

If it reads well and makes sense, you’re done

That’s it. If there are problems, fix them. If there aren’t, publish your piece or send it off and move on. You aren’t going for the Nobel Prize here, just helpful prose.