Cutting content is the most important part of writing. Most new writers struggle to create the objectivity needed to chop tangents and cull extra ideas. However, you can distance yourself during the editing process. Below are three methods I endorse as a VA writer.
The Theming Method
Your text should revolve around a main point. This can be a theme in creative works, a thesis in academic works, or a focus in non-fiction writing. When you’re editing, write this as a single sentence on a post it note.
Then, go through your document and highlight any areas where you state anything that relates back to this theme. You can search for the key terms that you used in your sentence with your word processor’s find function. Also, you need to read through to find paragraphs that simply allude to the idea. This includes illustrations, examples, and references.
Once you are done highlighting, look through your document and read the spaces between the highlights. If they don’t support the main idea, remove them.
You’ll find this tightens up your thoughts. It narrows the text to a central idea.
The Reverse Outline Method
Start with several sheets of paper beside you. As you read through your content, outline it. Don’t follow your original outline. Create a new outline based on what you’re reading.
Then, compare these sheets of paper to your original outline. Find any areas where you went on a tangent and remove them.
Also, this is a chance to consider how well your original points fit into your overall story.
The Index Card Method
Grab a pack of index cards. On the unlined side, write the main point of your section. This could be a chapter in a book or a subhead in an article. Just be consistent in how you are breaking it up and keep it proportionate to the overall length of your work. Make it a headline at the top with room underneath.
Then, on the opposite, lined side of the card, outline everything that falls under this section. Repeat this as you move from section to section.
Once you’re done, flip the cards to the unlined side and try to recreate the outline on the opposite side without looking at your document or the other side of the cards.
Then, compare the results. You may find that there are extra ideas floating in your document. Eliminate these and tighten up your message.
Writing Style Tips
While there isn’t one way to edit a document, each of these methods can help you evaluate your writing. It distances you from the sentences and give you insight into the shape of your story. Then, you’ll find the objectivity to cut the unnecessary ideas.
If you enjoyed this post, you’ll appreciate my other articles about writing and communication. As a VA writer, I post articles about communication, psychology, and other creative topics. Follow me on Facebook or Instagram to be the first to know when new content drops.