Try writing a piece of any length more than a few words, and see if it doesn’t benefit from editing. Whether it’s improving the wording of an image, or trimming excess description in a paragraph, the net effect can improve the picture while moving the narrative along.
Primarily in the context of writing short speeches, a recent article in Toastmaster magazine suggests putting editing to work by means of the P-R-U-N-E approach. The acronym can be put into action by pursuing these potential obstacles:
- Platitudes – painfully obvious observations and trite statements need to be excised; replace the superficial with some meaty, colourful entries of substance
- Redundancy – one of my favourite flawed expressions is “Repetition is a sign of ignorance, and if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times”; reiterating a point or idea to reinforce the message or expand on it adds emphasis, but circling a point reduces impact
- Unnecessary words – imagine if Winston Churchill had proclaimed, “We will not give in or give up in any form for the foreseeable future”; one suspects that his succinct, “We will never surrender”, was much more attention getting and memorable
- Needless complication – find ways to get the main message across without too much material which is extraneous or complicating, especially if the potential audience is likely to be more receptive to a simplified approach
- Excursions – don’t permit adding ornateness to a theme or point comprising superfluous tangents or digressions; recognition of the latter is probably why many people aware of having fallen into the trap state, “But, I digress…”; a tangent may be a clever bridge, but likely it would serve better and be better served if expressed in another context
While the fruit which the acronym replicates is a noun, as a verb to PRUNE in editing means cutting away clutter, permitting new life to emerge from one’s writing.