Updated April 2023

We’re big fans of revision. As good as we are at what we do, no first take couldn’t be made better without a few tweaks.

One approach we take at The Word Factory is to focus on The Big 4:

1. Main Idea: The most important thing the reader needs to know
2. Key Details: The evidence, examples and explanations that support the main idea
3. Beginning: A solid lede that engages the reader and makes them want to keep going
4. Ending: A big finish that leaves the reader with a clear think or do message

Then we focus on this kind of stuff:

1. Reduce word count. Most of us overwrite by at least 10 to 20 percent. Cut it out!
2. Find better verbs. Channel our high school English teacher and focus on those strong verbs that conjure images in the reader’s mind.
3. Use fewer verbs per sentence. Less really is more.
4. Remove unnecessary introductory phrases. See #3.
5. Delete introductory and parenthetical phrases. This is one of the best ways to improve clarity.
6. Avoid deeply nested constructions. See #5.
7. Resist the temptation to qualify. Instead of strengthening your case, it actually tends to weaken it.

In our high-volume shop, the production schedule doesn’t allow much time (which is why we have these clear criteria for revising in the first place). We get one, maybe two passes on most pieces. But even if we had all the time in the world, we wouldn’t revise all the live long day. Nossir. Why? At some point, too many revisions make your piece worse.

We've got a couple of workshops on revising if you'd like to improve your team's ability to revise their own or each others' work. Contact me for more information.

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