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 7 Rules for Revision 

Revising our writing allows us to go deeper,

think in ways we otherwise could not, and make our writing stronger and more readable.

RULE #1:

Eliminate restatements (unless there’s good cause)

RULE #2:

Stop at the top of the mountain

  • No plateauing, no slow “leaks” of energy

  • True of sentences, paragraphs, sections


RULE #3:

Keep looking for better language

  • Circle obvious or familiar words or phrases and find fresher, more vivid replacements

  • Beware descriptors of emotion or diagnoses  (“Show, don’t tell”)

  • The struggle for better language can open new discovery

RULE #4:

It’s always too long.

  • Cut too much and see what you miss. 

  • Trick: use a highlighter, and make a version that has only what you've highlighted. See what, if anything, you miss. (You can always put it back in.)

RULE #5:

Make two kinds of cuts...

  • Pare away at language within a sentence

  • Cut (or compress) entire sentences, paragraphs, or sections

Another way of thinking about this...

Can a section become a paragraph?

Can a paragraph become a sentence?

Can a sentence become a phrase?

Can a phrase become a word?

RULE #6:

Read what you've written out loud and see if the voice is true to you.

RULE #7:

You’ve cut and compressed; what else do you want to say NOW?

  • Having revised your work, look at it with fresh eyes and ask where else the piece could go.

  • Switch from Editing mode back to Generative mode; start writing and go as far as you can.

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