Writing Question: When do you stop editing?

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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.

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Justin McCullough   |   21 Feb 2012   |   Reply

Thank you for addressing this! Sometimes the best answers really are simple! I like simple – I tend to make things complex when they don’t need to be.

By the way, I can’t agree more about your earlier recommendation on Made To Stick – great book.

All the best,

Wally   |   21 Feb 2012   |   Reply

Thanks for asking the question. I think some of the best blog posts are answers to readers’ questions. If you have that question, I bet a lot of other people do, as well.