6 Practical Tips to Improve Your First Draft

revisingAs an editor, I’ve seen writing that runs the gamut from copy in a really rough state to writing that’s quite polished with few errors. No matter what you’re writing—a book, a marketing brochures, or an email blast—a rougher work requires an editor to spend more time on your project, costing you more money.

To save money when hiring an editor to review your work, consider these six ways to improve your first draft.

1. Set it aside for a day. This was a technique I learned in school and still use when writing today. After you’re done writing, set your draft aside for a day (or at least an hour or two). Then, go back and read through it again. You’ll likely catch errors or identify ways to improve sentences that you wouldn’t have if you reviewed it immediately after you wrote it.

2. Read it aloud. While your reviewing your work and before sending it to an editor, read it aloud. Speaking the words often can help identify places where you might be rambling or where the reader may get confused.

3. Cut the fluff. One of my clients requires its email blasts to be 150 words maximum. This doesn’t allow a lot of room for fluff. Although it’s challenging, this word limit makes the writing better because every word counts. As you review your first draft, consider if each word is necessary to make your point. If it isn’t, revise the sentence to omit unnecessary words.

4. Avoid passive voice. This is one of the simplest ways to improve writing, especially in marketing copy. For example, it’s much better to say “For more information, visit yourURL.com,” rather than “More information can be found online at yourURL.com.”

5. Do spell check. Most writers and editors know that computer-based spelling and grammar checks aren’t perfect, but it is worthwhile to still run a spelling and/or grammar check. It may catch items you had overlooked (such as passive voice, sentence fragments, subject/verb agreement, or misspelled words).

6. Find and replace for extra spaces. As an editor, this is a pet peeve of mine, especially when extra spaces are located at the beginning paragraphs. In most projects I work on, sentences have a single space, not a double space, between them. In Microsoft Word you can easily do a “Find” for two spaces and a “Replace” with a single space to clean up your draft. To avoid extra spaces at the beginning of paragraphs, do a quick scan down the left margin to catch places where text is shifted or not aligned properly.

Image credit: Againstar/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Dana McCullough is a freelance writer and editor who frequently writes, edits, copy-edits, and proofreads content for magazines, blogs, websites, books, and more. She is the owner of Dana’s Creative Services. Twitter: @DanasCreative


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