Write First, Edit Later
You took too many English classes. Someone has told you that it’s more important to say it right than to say it at all.
Well, it is important to write correctly. It makes your communication clearer, and your reputation brighter. But it’s usually better to say what you mean poorly than to say nothing.
Why? Because once you write it, you can edit it. Or you can ask someone else to.
Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is garbage.” Well, garbage wasn’t the word he actually used, but you get the idea. If Hemingway, one of the most influential prose writers in the English language, thought that his first drafts were garbage, you should feel just fine if that’s what your first draft looks like. Garbage is honorable. It’s hard to improve on perfection, but it’s really easy to improve on garbage. Reading it again will give you all sorts of ideas for improvement.
But, you say, Ernest Hemingway had an editor who was paid to rework his stuff. What if you don’t have anyone to revise your writing, and you’re depressed by the thought of having to do it yourself?
- Let your writing sit for a while. It may make more sense if you sleep on it. Or, it may make less sense after you have slept on it. At least you’ll know which.
- Find someone to read it for you, to make suggestions, or even to edit it for you. You don’t need someone who is a great writer themselves. Sometimes it’s better to find someone with nothing more than a good head on their shoulders and the ability to read English words.
- Ask questions. Any sensible person can tell you if he or she understood what you wrote. And if your reader didn’t understand, ask what her or she thought you said. That will give you ideas for improvement, I assure you, depending how far off the mark they were.
- Run an ad in Craigslist, offering to pay someone a small sum to edit your writing. The ad is free, it’s easy to run, and the work can be done cheaply. You may find that you get what you pay for, but you can decide how much it’s worth to you.
- Find a writing critique group. Writers groups are mostly for creative writers: poets, playwrights and novelists. But for business writing, you could ask someone in your local civic club or chamber of commerce for advice.
The point is to free yourself from the worry that you’re writing in stone. You’re not. Anything you say can and should be considered changeable.
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