Want to Write Well? Cut Mercilessly

Back in my distant past I had to learn to live with editing. I was in my twenties. It made me mad. Why change my stuff? But it also made my stuff better.

“Berry, you write like a God-damned literature major.” (Norberto Schwarzman)

So said the overnight editor at UPI back in 1972.  He did me a great favor. “Write for the reader,” he would say, way more often than I would have liked. 

By the late 70s I was writing for a Business Week editor (Hugh Menzies) who consistently cut the shreds out of my writing, and, dammit, every time he did he made it better. I sent my stories to him for about four years. And I learned that cutting was good.

I’ve been writing professionally for 30-some years now, and I’ve never written anything that wasn’t better after cutting. So I’ve come to love cutting.

If you want to read some really good advice about this, read Editing for Tighter Copy: How to Write with a Knife on Copyblogger yesterday. And if you want to write better, print it and paste it on your wall.

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