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1. Understand who and why

2. Understand the text

3. Choose what to say

4. Slash everything else

5. Edit sentences

6. Put into logical order

7. Demolish walls of words

8. Use links in the right way

9. Rest it then test it


4. Slash everything else

The secret of great editing is cutting. Most people have little time to read; keep it short.

Slash by half, slash by half again

Generally there are too many words. Cut to half of what you started with. Then cut by half again.

Use short paragraphs and short sentences

Short paragraphs have one idea or topic per paragraph.

Short sentences are between 10 and 20 words. If it works at 9 words, go for it. If you need 25 words to pull your argument together and create a connected thought, then don't let the 20 word suggestion put you off.

Try deleting the first bit

The introduction that we write to get started on writing is often not the best one for the reader.

Try deleting:

  • the whole introduction, or
  • the first paragraph, or
  • the first sentence.


Tip: use scissors

Try printing out the text and cutting it up with scissors. Throw away the bits you know you don't need. Put aside bits you're not sure about. Then work on the rest.

The change from screen to paper gives you a fresh view and makes it easier to focus on the best bit.

Where from?

Cutting by half and half again:

Krug, S. (2014) "Don't Make Me Think Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web and Mobile Usability"

"Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what's left. Krug's Third Law of Usability".

Deleting the first paragraph:

from John Sankey CMG, PhD:

"During my many years as a diplomat, I had to edit many documents. Nearly always, deleting the first paragraph helped a lot".

Where to find out more

Ginny Redish's book

"Cut! Cut! Cut! And cut again!
chapter 7: Focusing on conversations and key messages