7 Editing Tips That’ll Make You a Better Writer (with Examples!)

7 Editing Tips That’ll Make You a Better Writer (with Examples!)

There are some bloggers who seem to have a natural gift when it comes to writing. Some bloggers seem to be naturally gifted writers.

They manage to get their ideas across clearly and economically, which means that readers can easily follow what they write. Readers devour their clear, economical prose.

Not only is there a lot of respect for what they have to say, but also the way that they say it. People respect what they say — and love how they say it.

Whenever they publish a new post on their blog, it always gets dozens of comments and hundreds of shares. Every new blog post attracts dozens of comments and hundreds of shares.

It would be great to be as successful as they are, but you don’t know what you need to do to make your writing better. You’d love to emulate their success, but you don’t know how.

The good news is that there are some editing tips that can easily learn which will improve everything you write from now on. Fortunately for you, a few simple editing tips can transform your writing forever.

Download a free PDF cheat sheet with seven questions that make it easy to edit your writing like a pro. Click here.

The Unfair Advantage Popular Writers Try to Hide

You know your writing heroes? Would you be shocked to learn that their writing is no better than yours?

Sure, the end product is better, but the first draft is just as clumsy, flabby, and downright difficult to read as any of your own writing efforts.

What popular bloggers know that many people don’t know (or don’t want to believe) is that a post isn’t finished simply because they’ve said everything they want to say. In many ways that’s just the beginning.

Think of your draft as a rough diamond. Value is hidden inside it and you need an expert gem cutter to reveal its beauty and clarity.

Which is why many top bloggers hire a professional editor to transform their rough diamonds into gleaming jewels. That’s right — someone else is helping them.

Somewhat unfair, right?

No wonder their writing seems so much better than yours. And even those bloggers who don’t use an editor have simply learned how to edit their own posts like a pro.

Fortunately, editing isn’t rocket science. If you have someone to show you how.

So let’s break down the rules that’ll help you transform your unremarkable draft into a perfectly polished post.

7 Editing Tips That Will Totally Transform Your Next Post

Tip #1. Don’t Pad Your Prose with Empty Filler Words

(Or: Avoid Using Grammar Expletives)

Grammar expletives are literary constructions that begin with the words it, here, or there followed by a form of the verb to be.

(Expletive comes from the Latin explere, meaning to fill. Think smelly literary landfill).

Common constructions include it is, it was, it won’t, it takes, here is, there is, there will be.

The problem? When it, here, and there refer to nouns later in the sentence or — worse — to something unnamed, they weaken your writing by shifting emphasis away from the true drivers of your sentences. And they usually require other support words such as who, that, and when, which further dilute your writing.

Let’s look at an example:

There are some bloggers who seem to have…

The there are expletive places the sentence’s focus on some nebulous thing called there instead of the true focus of the sentence — some bloggers. And the writer must then use another unnecessary word — who — that’s three unnecessary words in one unfocused sentence.

Train yourself to spot instances of there, here, and it followed by a to be verb (such as is, are, was, and were) and adjust your sentences to lead with the meat and potatoes of those sentences instead.

(Tip: Use your word processor’s find functionality and search for there, here, and it and determine if you’ve used an expletive).

Other before-and-after examples:

  • It’s fun to edit — Editing is fun
  • It takes time to writeWriting takes time
  • There are many people who write — Many people write
  • There’s nothing better than blogging — Nothing’s better than blogging
  • Here are some things to consider: — Some things to consider are:

Caveat: If you previously described an object using there, here, and it, you’re not guilty of an expletive infraction. For example:

  • I love editing. It’s fun. (This is not an expletive construction since I previously described what it refers to.)

Tip #2. Don’t Weaken the Action with Wimpy Words

(Or: Avoid Weak Verbs; Use Visceral and Action Verbs Instead)

Not only does to be conspire with it, there, and here to create nasty grammar expletives, but it’s also responsible for its own class of sentence impairing constructions.

Certain uses of to be in its various forms weaken the words that follow. The solution is to replace these lightweights with more powerful alternatives.

Let’s see some before-and-after examples:

  • She is blogging — She blogs
  • People are in love with him — People love him
  • He is aware that people love him — He knows people love him

Other verbs besides to be verbs can lack strength as well. Use visceral verbs or verbs that express some action. Let’s edit:

  • Give outOffer
  • Find outDiscover
  • Make it clearer — Clarify
  • I can’t make it to the party — I can’t attend the party
  • He went to Mexico — He traveled to Mexico
  • Think of a blogging strategy — Devise a blogging strategy

Tip #3. Don’t Cripple Your Descriptions with Feeble Phrases

(Or: Avoid Weak Adjectives)

Weak adjectives sap the strength from your writing just as nefariously as weak verbs. Use the best adjectives possible when describing nouns and pronouns. And be mindful that certain words, like really and very, usually precede weak adjectives. Take a look:

  • Really badTerrible
  • Really goodGreat
  • Very bigHuge
  • Very beautifulGorgeous

Even if you don’t have a telltale really or very preceding an adjective, you can often give your writing more impact by using stronger alternatives:

  • DirtyFilthy
  • TiredExhausted
  • ScaredTerrified
  • HappyThrilled

Even worse than using weak adjectives is using weak adjectives to tell your readers what something isn’t as opposed to telling them what something is:

  • It’s not that good — It’s terrible
  • He’s not a bore — He’s hilarious
  • He’s not very smart — He’s ignorant
Weak adjectives sap the strength from your writing.

Tip #4. Trim Flabby Words and Phrases

(Or: Avoid Verbose Colloquialisms)

Today’s readers have limited time and patience for flabby writing. Their cursors hover over the back button, so say what you mean as concisely as possible before your readers vanish:

  • But the fact of the matter isBut (Avoid flabby colloquial expressions when possible)
  • Editing is absolutely essential — Editing is essential (Absolutely is redundant)
  • You’re going to have to edit your work — You’ll have to edit your work or You must edit your work (Going to and going to have to are flabby expressions)
  • Due to the fact that editing takes time, some people avoid it — Because editing takes time, some people avoid it
  • Every single person should love editing — Every person should love editing (Single is redundant; and shouldn’t married people love editing too? 😉 )

Tip #5. Don’t Pussyfoot Around Your Verbs and Adjectives

(Or: Avoid Nominalization)

Nominalization occurs when a writer uses a weak noun equivalent when a stronger verb or adjective replacement is available. Like expletives, nominals usually introduce other unnecessary words when used.

Count the number of words in the before-and-after examples below, and you will witness how badly nominals weaken your writing:

  • Give your post a proofreadProofread your post (verb form)
  • Alcohol is the cause of hangovers — Alcohol causes hangovers (verb form)
  • The plane’s approach was met with the scramble of emergency crews — The plane approached and emergency crews scrambled. (verb form)
  • He shows signs of carelessness — He is careless (adjective form)
  • She has a high level of intensity — She is intense (adjective form)

Tip #6. Throw Out the Rulebook on Punctuation

(Or: Use the Occasional Comma for Clarity)

The rules around punctuation can be complicated, even for the humble comma.

But do you truly need to know the difference between a serial comma, an Oxford comma, and a Harvard comma to write a great blog post? Of course not. (And it’s a trick question — they’re all the same.)

So my philosophy on commas is simple:

Use commas sparingly if you prefer, but if excluding a comma MAKES YOUR READER STOP READING, add another bleepin’ comma — regardless of what any comma police may say.

Let’s look at an example:

You can ignore editing and people reading your post may not notice but your ideas will get lost.

By not including a comma between editing and and, I read this sentence and asked myself, “I can ignore editing and people reading my post? Really?” Of course, readers work out the intended meaning a moment later, but by that time, they’ve already stalled.

So, regardless of what comma rule I may break by adding a comma to this sentence, as long as my readers don’t get confused and stop reading, I don’t care — and neither should you.

Let’s look at another example that needs a comma for clarity:

One day, when you find success you can pull out your golden pen and write me a thank-you letter.

By not including a comma between success and you, I read this sentence and asked myself, “Is success something you can pull out of a golden pen?”

Regardless of your stance on commas, you ultimately want your readers to keep reading. You want them to continue down your slippery slope of powerful content and transitional phrases all the way to your call to action — without getting jarred from their trance to contemplate commas with their inner editors or a Google search.

Editing tips for commas

Tip #7. Be As Manipulative As Possible

(Or: Use Noun Modifiers Whenever You Can)

You won’t use this technique often, but at least be mindful of it.

When we use two nouns together with the first noun modifying the second, we are using noun modifiers. I like them because they hack the flab from our writing by shortening our sentences. Let’s review some examples:

  • Tips on editing — Editing tips
  • Great advice on how to boost traffic — Great traffic-boosting advice (Traffic-boosting is a compound noun here)
  • Information regarding registration — Registration information

These sentences have prepositions between the noun sets. Whenever you spot this construction, try to implement this noun-modifying technique.

Download a free PDF cheat sheet with seven questions that make it easy to edit your writing like a pro. Click here.

What’s Your Excuse Now?

These editing tips are not magical, mystical, or complicated. In fact, you could consider them downright boring, plain, and inconsequential.

But applying smart editing rules is what separates your heroes from the masses, catapults them to success, and makes readers say, “I don’t know what it is about their writing, but it’s absolutely fantastic.”

Look at it this way: You’ve expended a ton of effort on SEO, content marketing, networking, and social media promotion, all in the hopes that more people will notice your blog. So when they arrive, shouldn’t your next post blow their socks off too?

And how about your last post and the one before that? (Yes, you can apply these rules to your old posts too!)

Or are you one of those writers who think they write well enough already? Well, you might be surprised by just how many of these crimes against clarity you’re committing.

Open one of your posts right now and see how many of these editing tips you can apply.

Read each word of your post. Is the word an expletive? Is it a weak verb? A weak adjective? Does it represent nominalization or flab or break any of the other rules mentioned in this post?

Run each word of your post through this a checklist of editing tips. You will find something to improve. And your writing will be 100% more powerful as a result.

Because the search for perfection never ends.

And your writing is never too good.

Sure, proofreading and editing take time.

And yes, you’re already busy enough.

But your writing heroes edit, and they land the guest posts, book deals, and exposure you only wish you could.

So, take a break from #amwriting and start #amediting right now.

Your success will thank you.

And so will I.

About the Author: Shane Arthur is a former copyeditor for Jon Morrow’s kick-butt Guest Blogging Certification Program (affiliate link) that teaches writers just like you how to get their work featured on the world’s biggest blogs and online magazines.


  1. Kevin Carlton
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 09:05:09


    I love posts that go into specifics – rather than those that make general points, which you can’t really get a handle on.

    So this really hits the mark for me.

    One thing though – each of the seven points would’ve been great serialised into seven mini posts over seven days (+ an intro post).

    For me, it was the perfect material to break down into bite-size chunks – with something new to look forward to every day.

    Mind you, that’s seven whole new attention-grabbing headlines to write.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 09:18:33

      Keven: Writing one editing post is stressful enough! It must be error free after all, right? 🙂 Kidding aside, that’s a good idea, and I’ll consider doing so.

      • Kevin Carlton
        Jan 09, 2014 @ 10:00:53

        Too right, Shane, it is stressful.

        Done a few of those types of post myself.

        But, as we both know, you have to put the legwork in to get any sort of impact.

        Looking at the post above, I can see you’ve done loads of that already.

      • Ricky Rocco
        Aug 03, 2014 @ 19:09:07

        I hate to rain on your parade; BUT, you broke your own rules. !!! ???
        (e.g. see the next-to-the-last line in #6)

        AND, gerunds are NOT nouns.
        PLUS, you didn’t get the comma thing correct, either.

        Sorry. (“Every party needs a ‘pooper’ that’s why you invited me.”)

    • Chris Elliz
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 14:45:33

      Hi Shane!
      Great article! I am planning to use it as a checklist for my editing. Do you know of an actual more comprehensive checklist for editing that we can use? For some reason I find that using a checklist each time, helps me remember the points and ultimately I don’t have to look at the list any more. I appreciate any advice you have on that.

    • John Gardner
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 15:14:14

      Fantasmic! (Disney word.) My son recently completed his PhD in English and he talks like that too. He had me read William Zinsser’s book, “On Writing Well”. Even the chapter titles; Simplicity, Clutter, Words, Usage — all short. Just the opposite of what my high school students do when writing essays. Thanks for the reminders and suggestions.

      • Shane Arthur
        Jan 09, 2014 @ 15:53:27

        @John: I have that book. As an extra assignment to all the readers here wanting to test their editing skills, buy this book (a book on cutting the clutter and writing well, after all) and try to see if you can spot any instances where Zinsser could have cut his own flab. Yes, I’ve already done it (I’m so bad)!

  2. Mark Brinker
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 10:39:54

    So I’m reading your post, Shane, and I’m thinking, “Man, this is good. This is *really* good.” Even though I know it’s a guest post, it seems like it’s something Jon wrote.

    Then I read your byline and I see that you’re one of Jon’s editors. 🙂

    Great work, Shane. I’m bookmarking this post!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 10:46:27

      @Mark: Thank you. Yeah, Jon’s a fantastic writer. He’s a master of the smooth transition down the slippery slope of content. I study everything his writes.

  3. Shawn Hartwell
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 10:54:09

    Woah! What a beautiful list of information. Too much. A good thing is how much I’ve learned from this. Time to share it on some G+ communties, it’s that good!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 11, 2014 @ 18:41:27

      @Shawn: So glad you found it useful.

  4. Elke Feuer
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:00:05

    Wow! Well said. I love the examples! Thanks for sharing, Shane.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:03:07

      @Elke: A few examples are worth a few thousand words of description aren’t they! Glad you found them useful.

  5. Gail F
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:02:20

    Always great stuff!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:09:46

      @Gail: Thank you.

  6. Mario Zeleny
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:06:10

    I know this…

    I forget this…

    I need this…

    Thanks to your post that I am now printing for reference with every new post I write, one day I won’t forget this!

    And yeah, you got that “Jon” style!

    Thanks for a great post!

    Mario Z

  7. Lisa
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:06:19

    I’m a professional writer, and I learned something. I mean, I knew the general principles (and I know the rules about the Oxford comma, too!), but you explain the how and the why in ways I hadn’t thought about. Like noun modifiers — I DO that, but I never thought about it that way. This is great. I want to geek out on this post. It makes me wish I were still teaching writing, because these are all such great ways of explaining why the edits are better and how to apply them to different situations.

  8. Cathy Miller
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:06:54

    This is why you remain my favorite editor, Shane. 😉 One of these days when I write that next great novel, I’ll be sure to seek your services. Hopefully, we won’t be in wheelchairs by then. 😀

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:12:42

      @Lisa: I truly appreciate you saying that. And by all means, geek out! 😉 I know I geek out with editing — to the point it drives my writer-brain crazy.

      • Shane Arthur
        Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:14:15

        @Cathy: (Sorry, I put my reply to Lisa on your comment). You know I blush easily! But thanks. You’re a fantastic writer of crime drama, so get busy finishing that novel.

  9. Kelley
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:08:13

    Fantastic cellular-level breakdown, Jon, thank you!

    • Kelley
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:24:15

      My apologies for misstating this article’s authorship, Shane 🙂

      • Shane Arthur
        Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:37:53

        @Kelley: No soup for you! 😉 Just kidding. No worries at all. Tis an honor to be mistaken for Jon Morrow anyhow.

  10. Leanne Regalla
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:09:29

    Excellent, Shane! As time goes on I think I’ve been getting the hang of it and eliminating some of these bad habits – learning as I go. But I know there are gaps I need to close. It’s so helpful to know the top things you look for.

    I’ll be referring to this often. Thanks so much!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:15:57

      @Leanne: Thank you. We’ll always have gaps in our writing. And just think how boring life would be if we already mastered them all and had nothing to strive for. 😉

  11. Randy Kepple
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:12:45

    Great article and I’m definitely bookmarking it! Reading about doing this is easier than doing it! One of the reasons Stephen King is my favorite writer is because he is the master of the edit. His stories flow. Great tips for creating dynamic content. Implementing the art of the edit will ensure your article is read! Thanks!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:17:56

      @Randy: I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I had help from Glen, Jon’s other GuestBlogging editor (and from a few of my trusted associates).

  12. Angela Tague
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:15:39

    Great tips, Shane! Flashbacks of my high school English class now cloud my mind–in a good way! Am I the only one who enjoyed diagramming sentences and slaying passive voice? HA! ~Angela

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:24:06

      @Angela: Thanks. I remember getting transferred to an elementary school for one year and the teacher being awful — so much so that when I returned to my regular school a year later, I had forgotten how to read. I was in 2nd grade at the time and I had to use one of those reading machines to help me, and I had to sit at the “slow table” and read the Dick & Jane books until I caught up. I remember telling myself how bad that sucked and that I’d do whatever necessary to master language (no wonder I read The Little, Brown Handbook 10 times before reaching college).

  13. Sheri E.
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:16:28

    This came at a perfect time. I am launching a new website with a blog. I’m going to bookmark this to refer back to as I enter this new world. Thanks!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:25:43

      @Sheri: Good luck with the blog. You’re welcome.

  14. Beth Hood
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:19:34

    My husband Jim and I read through your post together, admitting what we were each guilty of (we write & edit posts as a team). Thank you for the fabulous lesson, which I just added to my bookmarks!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:28:54

      @Beth: You’d be surprised at how many professional writers AND publishing houses are guilty of proofing and editing errors. Last year I looked through a buddy’s book that was published by a major publishing house and I found 75 proofing errors (and they used three proofreaders on the project). How in bleep does that happen!

  15. Molly
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:20:18

    Thanks for the post. As William Strunk Jr. said, “Omit needless words! Omit needless words! Omit needless words!” I often find wimpy constructions and needless words in my first drafts. It’s sometimes frustrating, because I know it’d save me so much time if I could simply banish them from my lexicon in the first place. (I’d save hours by avoiding them.) But losing the flab in the second draft is pretty thrilling.

    P.S. I’ll never stop using “pretty.”

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:30:41

      @Molly: Haha! You’re Pro-Pretty! I understand. For me, that word is like oatmeal, just never agreed with me. 🙂

  16. Daryl
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:21:45

    Great stuff Shane!

    Indeed, even the greatest of writers have to go through multiple edits and drafts in order to come up with a product that clearly and concisely gets the message across to their readers.

    As they say – write drunk and edit sober!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:32:56

      @Darly: I like to say, “Write drunk, hire a sober editor.” 🙂 This post when through a ton of iterations. Usually after I write a post, I spot errors that I have to frantically email the blog owner about. Luckily, that hasn’t happened … yet.

    • Peter Baxter
      Jan 27, 2015 @ 09:58:57

      As I recall, “they” was Ernest Hemmingway…

  17. Paul Harvie
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:30:06

    Thank you Shane for this insightful post. Editing tips are underutilized on line. I have clearly under edited many of my posts. Thank you again, I will be editing my posts much further from now on.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:35:01

      @Paul: Thanks man. Just curious, what did you think of the opening where we used strike-through text. I’d like to know what readers were thinking when they saw this. I wanted people to jump right into the world of edited text to get a feel for what receiving a document with Track Changes from an editor is like.

  18. Lina
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:43:23

    Shane, I just read this and I want to happy-dance. (But I’m in a public space, with limited acceptance for that)

    Will be dancing later tonight, blissfully happy about being able to edit my posts (I’ve struggled with it before. Bookmarking this page right now) Thank You!

  19. David Horn
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:45:29

    Brilliant. That’s the best introductory section I’ve seen in a long time – possibly ever. Talk about illustrating your point – that was great. Neatly done. The strike through text was really powerful … I had a notion as to what the post was going to be about from the good headline, but the strikethrough drove it home. I loved it!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:47:30

      @David: So glad to hear that about the strike-through section. I was worried about that.

      • David Horn
        Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:58:25

        y’know, what it did was clearly demonstrate problems with my own writing. I’m sure that applies to 90% of people when they first come to this blog. Relating to your readership that quickly – without hitting them over the head with ‘YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG’ was smartly done.

  20. Shane Arthur
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:46:23

    @Lina: As an editor, I am unqualified to stop you from happy dancing. But as an observer, I’d love to see that! 🙂 You’re welcome.

  21. Ersan Seer
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:47:22

    This is a gem of a post. Simple, real-world examples. I wish they taught creative writing like this in college.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:49:44

      @Ersan: Thank you kindly. Not sure about what the colleges teach, but (wink, wink) my affiliate link on the bottom may be of some use to you. 🙂

  22. Avastabik
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:55:18

    Can ‘This is simply an awesome post.’ be written as ‘Terrific post!’ simply?

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:58:45

      @Avastabik: Sure. My favorite quote is, “Language follows rules; it doesn’t follow orders.”

  23. AwesomelyOZ
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 11:56:32

    This is truly great information – I’m guilty of a ‘few’ of those however, sometimes it’s nice to “fluff” things. Great advice though, will use these guidelines for subsequent posts! 🙂 Have a great one Shane! -Iva

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:00:43

      @AwesomelyOZ: I agree. Some blogs don’t mind using expletives, or fluff. Know the audience — that’s the ultimate style guide.

  24. Jawad Khan
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:05:41

    I can’t remember the last time I read every word of a blog post.

    I, like most other blog readers, usually skim through posts.

    But you’ve contributed a wonderful piece, Shane.

    I wish to see more posts of this quality and value on major blogs.

    But there are a few points where I disagree with you.

    In general, I think a lot of the times we need to use certain words or phrases just to create emphasis in our writing.

    It’s not about grammar or structures.

    It’s more about getting your point across exactly the way you would do if you were talking to someone in person.

    But overall, a brilliant post with lots of value.


    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:47:11

      @Jawad: I agree with that you said. As I replied earlier to someone else, “Language follows rules; it doesn’t follow orders.”

  25. Mitchell Allen
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:05:41

    Shane, as always, you educate and entertain. I’ve just clipped this post to my Evernote. Thanks!



    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:48:19

      @Mitch: I’m not saying, “You’re welcome,” until you publish more books! 😉

  26. Amandah
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:07:11

    Great post Shane! It’s in my Evernote.

    I’ve been guilty of beginning a sentence with “there,” and then think to myself, “You know the sentence sucks. Rewrite it.” 🙂

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:49:20

      @Amandah: Hello again, CCC superstar. Glad to see you again. Thanks.

  27. Akshat Jiwan Sharma
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:07:15

    Very good advice Shane. After reading this post, I have a strong urge to edit all my previous posts. Your first point in particular gives me much trouble. Some times I detect the use of extraneous words but most of the time they escape and creep into my writing.

    I disagree with you on #3 however. I feel that sometimes one word substitutions subdue the effect that I am trying to convey. In some situations they can help but I don’t think that you should always replace phrases. I can’t think of any example at the moment though.

    Great post. Thank you for writing this.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:51:30

      @Akshat: Always go with what you feel is the best choice for your audience, regardless of what I or anybody else says. Ultimately, we can list guidelines, but you know your writing and your audience best.

  28. Dana
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:08:17

    This post is so good I can’t share it enough! Thanks for putting it so well. 🙂

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:52:26

      @Dana: Thank you kindly. Truly.

  29. John
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:10:01

    Excellent write-up Shane! Very helpful and clear examples. The more I write, the easier it is to look at my posts for editing and clarity. I’ll have this one bookmarked!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:54:27

      @John: Glad to hear that. Before long you will spot certain grammar construction as if you are Neo fighting The Matrix.

  30. Tracy Dapp
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:14:27

    Great article! I can’t wait to implement it in my writing!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:55:25

      @Tracy: Exactly what I wanted to see! Got get ’em!

  31. Leigh Shulman
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:29:30

    Excellent. Thank you! I run an online writing group and will be adding this to our editing resources.

    Even though I know the things on this list, I’m still guilty of bloating my writing with extras. It’s always good to have a reminder.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:56:25

      @Leigh: “It’s always tood to have a reminder,” … and another set of editing eyes! 🙂 Glad you liked it.

      • Shane Arthur
        Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:57:23

        @Shane: You just misspelled “good” as “tood”. Be more careful. Sincerely, Editor Brain.

  32. Cory Peppler
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:33:32

    As a recovering English teacher, I’m thrilled that a new hope has arisen for our language that is so often shredded online by bloggers more interested in quantity than quality. I second the comments about the brilliance of the intro, and the nitty-grittiness of the entire post is refreshing and highly useful. (And, yes, I just made up a word while commenting on a post about the English language.)

    Thanks, Shane, for such dedication in creating such a detailed and, no doubt, exhausting post to write and edit. Lots of “share” love coming your way on this one!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:59:54

      @Cory: I’ve learned a ton from reading obscure academic websites specializing in writing and editing. Those sites don’t rank well with the search engines, but they’re golden. And if anybody would be able to spot something I did wrong, my money would be on a recovering English teacher, so I’m honored.

  33. Danyelle C. Overbo
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:34:52

    I am a creative writer as well, have been studying creative writing for years, and I have never seen a better explanation of these rules anywhere else. Great post! I’m bookmarking this for reference in all my writing. Active vs. Passive sentences are one of the tricky things I’ve always struggled with, but now I have the answers (and examples) to help me. Thank you so much.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 13:01:53

      @Danyelle: Thank you so much. Creating this article added quite a few gray hairs to my head, so replies like your feel great.

  34. Hashim Warren
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:47:19

    The more you make these edits, the more they’ll become second nature.

    I bookmarked this post and just shared it on Google+. Thanks!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 13:03:06

      @Hashim: I mentioned above that at some point, you will see edits like Neo sees zeros and ones in The Matrix. When that happens, it’s one hell-of-a-good feeling.

  35. Connie B. Dowell
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 12:47:54

    Great primer on concise writing of any kind! I work in a university writing center, and I’ll be referring students to this post.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 13:04:37

      @Connie: As I mentioned above, I have a ton of respect for academic folks specializing in language. Most of them could clean my clock in editing/proofing skills, so I try to learn as much as possible from them.

  36. Tom Southern
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 13:11:47

    Great post Shane. I’ll never forget your praise of my copywriting.

    Most posts on grammar, style, etc. make me go cross-eyed or start seeing words falling off the page. But this is a post I’ll be reading over and over.

    I believe in writing tightly but I also think “flow” is important. As is character. Editing your writing should take into account both. Otherwise it loses some of its bite.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 13:17:49

      @Tom: I love your writing, man! I agree with your “flow” comment. You will be the best judge of what is best for your own writing and audience. Write on!

      • Tom Southern
        Jan 10, 2014 @ 05:51:31

        🙂 Cheers!

  37. Yelena Reese
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 13:21:02


    Your post popped in my email box as I was about to hit “publish”! Your headline, of course, stopped me in my tracks and I’m so glad it did! 15 short minutes of editing using your tips were transformational. This is definitely going into my favorites. Thanks for sharing your expertise. 🙂

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 13:25:09

      @Yelena: That’s the kind of comment I love to read! Without a doubt, an editing pass will improve a blog post. We see this with EVERY post that goes through Jon’s program.

  38. Shane Arthur
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 13:39:10

    BONUS TIPWhen proofreading or editing your post, read each word as if you are a robot. Don’t laugh! Try it right now. Read each word slowly as if you are a sluggish robot. This will help you not read past each word as you try to spot errors. If role play isn’t your cup of tea, click the Show/Hide Paragraph Marks button in MS Word. As you will see, it.puts.a.dot.between.each.word.which.will.show.you.down.
    See how that works!

    Before long, you won’t even need to hit that button.

    • Amandah
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 13:44:51

      Thanks for the bonus tip! I just had a vision of R2-D2 and C-3PO”pop” into my head.

  39. Andy Brandt
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 13:40:00

    You have come perilously close to breaking a rule for guest bloggers, Shane: Don’t write a post so good and so popular that it makes your blogging host jealous. Always good to throw in an error to make them look good.

    Really, though, it’s a great post I’ll be referring to in the future. Thanks. And I’ll come back to read Jon’s posts, too.


    • David Gillaspie
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 15:35:00

      Fits right in with “Don’t beat your boss on the golf course.”

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 11, 2014 @ 18:45:23

      @Andy: I can’t find my original comment to you. It disappeared. You made me laugh though. Thanks.

  40. Alicia Rades
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 13:45:07

    Awesome post! I’ll have to watch out for starting sentences with “There are/is.”

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 13:49:25

      @Alicia: Those expletives are such a sore spot of mine that I went and wrote a short book (which for the life of me, I don’t know why I’m still sitting on) dealing with those gremlins. I hope you will strengthen your writing by using less of them.

      • Cathy Miller
        Jan 23, 2014 @ 15:50:31

        I don’t know why either. 😉

  41. Shane Arthur
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 13:46:43

    @Andy: Haha! You came perilously close to making me lol+projectile spittle.

    Thanks for the kind words.

  42. Donna
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 14:17:20

    Great blog – thanks! As I was reading, something struck me. I wonder if writing all those “500 word” essay assignments through the childhood years of schooling, trains one to come up with all the “filler words”.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 14:25:13

      @Donna: I”m not a fan of making students write a specific amount of words, but I did love my creative writing class in middle school that let us write for 15 minutes at the beginning of the class. We didn’t have a word-count goal; we just had to think of something creative to write. Usually, I’d think of something so creative, I couldn’t even finish the idea in time. The emphasis should be on the love of the writing itself and not the constraint of word count.

  43. Tom Bentley
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 14:24:04

    Shane, to steal one of Mark Twain’s terms, this one’s a corker. I’ve read many engaging grammar books (“Eats, Shoots and Leaves” and “Woe Is I” come to mind), and you deliver the same refreshingly clear information without being didactic. I think you need to have a slam poetry session with Grammar Girl and record it for posterity.

  44. Shane Arthur
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 14:32:01

    @Tom: Thanks, man! Read the first book. Loved it. Need to get the second. I’m humbled that you compare this to such great books.

  45. Lori Ferguson
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 14:40:09

    Excellent, actionable tips! I’m printing this puppy out and posting it next to my monitor. Thx for taking the time to share, Shane!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 14:43:52

      @Lori: You are most welcome. Was my pleasure. After all, “Because the message matters.” 🙂

  46. Krista Low
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 14:46:47

    Thank you for the useful edits! Cutting out unnecessary words can be daunting. I just printed out your post for a quick reference. Thank you!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 15:04:07

      @Krista: You’re welcome. Once these editing tips are under your belt, you can get back to enjoying the good things in life. 🙂

  47. Nick
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 15:08:22

    Great tips. I’m constantly trying to improve my writing. I’m going to put this post on my WordPress Weekly I put out this Friday.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 15:10:52

      @Nick: Thanks for putting this on the Weekly. Much appreciated indeed.

  48. Rayne
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 15:25:15

    Great article Shane! I’ll be using it as a double check guide before pressing “post” from now on 🙂 Thank you

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 15:46:18

      @Rayne: Thank YOU. Glad you enjoyed it enough to say that.

  49. David Gillaspie
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 15:34:11

    Shane, If you were a baseball pitcher your post was a fastball right down the middle, the pitch everyone swings at but few hit.

    Great post on sentence fixing and keeping the reader engaged.

  50. Shane Arthur
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 15:49:40

    @David: Love the analogy. As long as the writers reading this post are the fans watching the game and not the people trying to hit the ball, because we want them to hit it out of the park! 😉

  51. Esther
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 16:00:38

    Thank you Shane for clarifying how important editing is. I did not realize that a post was not done until it was edited until I came into the Boost Blog Traffic course. : )

  52. Shane Arthur
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 16:06:54

    @Esther: Thank you. Those red track changes can truly drive that point home, huh? 🙂

  53. Shane Arthur
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 16:11:32

    Bonus Tip #2 Don’t forget the proofreader mindset either – http://www.copyblogger.com/proofreading-tips/

  54. Ray
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 16:25:42

    Flense the flabby words, expunge adverbs and adjectives, tighten your prose and fight for your own brand of punctuation — standard stuff, and sound advice, as far as it goes. Which is why it’s propounded by every good grammarian.

    And yet as an editor I’ve found these interminable lists often intimate the tyro into inaction — and, if that’s not enough, we further confuse the tyro by finding countless examples of good literature that breaks every rule mentioned here and elsewhere.

    George Orwell wrote the best and most timeless essay on the subject that I’ve ever come across, but even he has the good sense to note that in his very essay readers will no doubt find him guilty of many literary crimes he’s railing against.

    My point?

    My point is, don’t ignore these and all other sensible writing rules, but do realize that these rules will not, in the end, make or break your literature necessarily.

    The biggest rule of all?

    Beware the overly proscriptive:

    There is a formula (of sorts) to writing, but that formula should always be framed in terms of principles, and not concretes.

    Here, if I may, are some actual examples of do’s-and-do-not’s that I’ve recently read, all of which were taken from real-life editors and writers:

    “Do no begin your story with weather.”

    “Do not use ellipses.”

    “Do not use the word commence.

    “Do not use the word basically.

    “Do not use the word very.

    “Never end a chapter with your character falling asleep.”

    “Never begin your chapter with your character waking up.”

    “Do not use adverbs in your dialogue tags.”

    “Cut virtually all your adverbs.”

    “Never use of if it can be cut.”

    “Never use that if it can be cut.”

    “Never say in order to but only to.

    “Never use would except to project the future.”

    “Do not use italics for emphasis.”

    “In your dialogue tags, never say ‘said John’ but always keep it ‘John said’.”

    “Never introduce dialogue with ‘John said’ but always put the tag after the dialogue.”

    And so on, ad infinitum.

    This method of teaching ignores the method by which the human mind works — which is to say, in principles — and chooses instead to overload the brain with endless commands that come without explication of fundamentals. And yet it is only by grasping the fundamentals behind any given thing that people can grasp the full nature of what they’re doing.

    If you grasp the nature of what you’re doing, you’ll never run out of material.

    If, on the other hand, you never discover the principles behind the specific rules you’re commanded to obey, you’ll never feel secure in your craft or sullen art, and I indeed know successful writers who live in fear that they’ll never be able to duplicate their first and even second success. The fear comes because they’ve not learned the nature of writing, though they have polished their writing in large part by memorizing a great many do’s and do not’s.

    I assure you that every single rule you’ll ever read has been successfully broken by writers whose books and essays and stories endure and will continue to endure. The people who memorize and compile these laundry lists, however, do not, for the most part, write durable literature.

    Timeless literature captures some aspect of the human condition — “the human heart,” as Faulkner called it — and the technical do’s and don’ts are and always will be secondary.

    One man’s opinion.

  55. Shane Arthur
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 16:37:59

    @Ray: Man, that was an excellent comment you left. My favorite quote regarding language is, “Language follows rules; it doesn’t follow orders.” All of the edits I do for Jon’s GuestBlogging program specifically state that the “suggestions” I make are just that — the author always has the final say. I try to limit what I do to techniques that state what needs stated in as few words as possible to keep the modern busy reader from bolting. Definitely not overly proscriptive.

  56. Vicky Global
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 17:12:47

    “Don’t Cripple Your Descriptions with Feeble Phrases.”

    I am guilty of this. Most of the times, I don’t find the appropriate words to express what I want to convey.

  57. Shane Arthur
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 17:20:18

    @Vicky: I would guess that most of the time, time is the reason for not finding the appropriate word. If you have longer to work on a post, you’ll have more time to find that perfect word you’re looking for.

  58. Vivica Menegaz CTWFN
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 17:34:52

    Thank you Jon, this article will help my writing a lot!!!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 21:54:11

      @Vivica: You’re welcome.

  59. Caroline Frenette Intuitive Leadership Coach
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 17:36:48

    Excellent post!

  60. Mitch Mitchell
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 17:56:45

    Shane, I’m impressed by this post and glad the other Mitch shared it on G+. I use more words than needed often, and if I’m storytelling that’s not a bad thing. Other times… I need to be better.

    Of course you just validated me vs. Mitch about commas and let he still liked the post. 🙂

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 21:22:43

      @Mitch: Mitch and his commas! 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for “just sharing”.

  61. Dr Rie Natalenko
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 18:07:14

    I always thought my editing was okay, but you have some tricks here that will make it shine even brighter. Thank you, Shane!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 21:28:52

      @Dr. Rie: Considering your background, I’m honored that you would say that. Saw your website. I now know who to visit when I need some screenwriting tips. 🙂

  62. Siita
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 18:35:12

    It’s great when a brilliantly informative post comes along right when you need it !
    Thanks Shane perfect timing.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 21:29:36

      @Siita: I’m all smiles now. Thank you.

    • Dr Rie Natalenko
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 22:16:08

      Shane, you’re welcome to tips whenever you need them! 🙂

  63. Shannon Hutcheson
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 18:43:45

    This is such a fantastic resource! I’ve got it bookmarked 3 ways til Friday and then some. I am looking forward to sharing this with authors I copy edit.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 21:33:13

      @Shannon: You are so kind. Thank you.

      Loved your Fibro poem. Hang in there.

  64. Susanna Perkins
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 19:16:58

    Please, please, please, don’t publish any more posts like this one! My niche is already too competitive, and if you keep teaching people to write more simply, clearly and powerfully, you take away what little edge I have. Whose idea was this, anyway?

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 21:34:30

      @Susanna: Okay, you made me laugh. I’ll have a chat with Jon about this. 🙂

  65. Mark Hermann
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 20:20:06


    Tight as a duck’s ass post! Clearly stated. Hugely informative. Nothing wasted.

    You rock!

  66. Shane Arthur
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 21:37:05

    @Mark: Okay, you just made me bust out laughing. Checking to see if tightduckediting url is available.

    P.S. No, YOU rock … literally.

  67. Christine
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 22:45:38

    Oh, so guilty of so many points here! Must go back and edit older posts (but while trying to keep my voice intact. Writing is so hard, remind me why we do it, please).

    Thank you so much for adding the examples, I even took notes when reading 🙂 Keep up the good work!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 10, 2014 @ 10:44:00

      @Christine: I”m glad you enjoyed it. I’d say, we write, because me must. 🙂

  68. Rob
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 22:51:55

    There was a lot of very good information in this blog post.
    This was a great post.

    I embarrass myself every day when editing my work. “Why did you jabber on like that?” I ask myself as I whittle a 20 word sentence down to 10.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 10, 2014 @ 10:45:32

      @Rob: Nothing to be embarrassed about. Our drafts should be a creative flow free from the constraints of our editor brains. Write on!

  69. Eva
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 23:19:07

    This is just great! Guilty of most, if not all of the mistakes you’ve listed. Now I need to edit everything I’ve every written, or simply start writing better. Thanks!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 10, 2014 @ 10:46:08

      @Eva: I’d start with the new stuff. 🙂

  70. Arijit
    Jan 10, 2014 @ 01:23:47

    This is probably one of the best articles I have read on writing compelling content! I will be keeping this as a guide for everything that I write from now.. from proposals to blogs!
    Thanks a lot Shane!
    Enough said! Time for me to share this post!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 10, 2014 @ 10:47:03

      @Arijit: So glad to hear you say that. Thanks.

  71. Beat Schindler
    Jan 10, 2014 @ 02:40:04

    Great post for writers seeking to be better writers – I should know :-] Editing is more important than writing just as playing music is more important than writing it down. Editing, I call it trimming (mostly), is also a page out of Nature’s teachings: Pruning and trimming are not an end to growth, but redirecting the way of growth.

    PS. “In order to” is one filler that always rubs me the wrong way – in writing and in speaking. [No offense to anyone who might have used the term here :-]

    With best wishes for 2014,

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 10, 2014 @ 10:48:08

      @Beat: Thank you. I like your pruning analogy. The only thing I love more than editing is gardening. West wishes back to you.

  72. jeremy swinfen green
    Jan 10, 2014 @ 03:26:04

    Awesome. Essential reading. Thank you for sharing your expertise in such a clear and effective way.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 10, 2014 @ 10:48:53

      @Jeremy: My pleasure.

  73. Les
    Jan 10, 2014 @ 10:05:48

    Really enjoyed how you chased the little rabbits out the fields! Enlightening, in lightning quick style…

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:12:36

      @Les: I’m hunting wabbits! 😉

  74. Todd R. Tresidder
    Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:08:05

    I’ll never forget the first time Shane edited one of my articles during Jon’s first guest blogging class. Ouch. My writing has never been the same. Thanks for the great resource! You are the king of concise prose.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:15:17

      @Todd: Haha! That’s how I feel when Glen, Jon’s structural editor, gets hold of my writing. He sees bigger-picture flaws that I miss. But, once the ego sting passes, you know you’re better off for that extra set of trained eyes. Write on!

  75. Charlie Seymour Jr
    Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:08:05

    I’ve waited for this article! (Just rewrote that sentence, following rules here!)

    Adding the form of the verb “to be” is one of my pet peeves. It takes all the action out of a sentence. Almost like passive voice.

    Thanks for sharing. And great to have Jon Morrow alert me about it.

    Charlie Seymour Jr

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:16:18

      @Charlie: Sharing is in my blood. My pleasure.

  76. Nawaz
    Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:44:34

    Great Post. Love it

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 10, 2014 @ 14:15:35

      @Nawaz: I love the love. Thanks.

  77. Catherine
    Jan 10, 2014 @ 14:07:08

    A checklist is especially helpful when writing and editing late at night on deadline. Thanks for the useful post!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 10, 2014 @ 14:17:24

      @Catherine: And especially on those “moved up” deadlines.

  78. Pat Mathias
    Jan 10, 2014 @ 16:18:49

    Hi Shane. I took an editing course in college and believe I was the only one with a big smile on my face because I love editing! It’s like working crossword puzzles, in my book. Anyway, the course took us through the Gregg Reference Manual, so I’m familiar with most of your tips. However, I really like how you simplified it all and gave great examples. Thank you for another great reference tool.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 11, 2014 @ 18:59:58

      @Pat: Hello fellow lover of the edit! A crossword puzzle is a great analogy of what editing feels like.

  79. Liss Thomas
    Jan 10, 2014 @ 17:54:58

    Shane! My bestest buddy giving awesome advice. I’m usually a no fluff writer but I think I better look again! I got no excuses!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 11, 2014 @ 18:58:17

      @Liss: Miss your writing. Glad to see you again after so long. Let me know if you find anything in your writing that you improved.

  80. jeulyanna
    Jan 10, 2014 @ 19:11:27

    I’m guilty of this crime. Editing old, error-filled posts would send me to twilight zone, for sure. I’ve tried proofreading, editing my posts but only a dozen come to fruition. Proofreading, editing hundreds is no joke, eh. Geez, I’ve gotten about as much encouragement from this post. Woohoo!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 11, 2014 @ 18:57:25

      @Jeulyanna: Keep at it. You’ll get better the more you do. May not feel like it, but you will.

  81. Amy
    Jan 10, 2014 @ 19:21:34

    Thank you, Shane and Jon! Fantastic post and something I don’t pay enough attention to. The way you set it up made me want to read all the way to the end. Nice work!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 11, 2014 @ 18:56:05

      @Amy: Exactly what I like to hear. Thanks.

  82. Brenda Spandrio
    Jan 10, 2014 @ 20:45:31

    I loved the graphic opening of this post; great way to illustrate the point! In my own writing, I’ve found that trying to keep my posts to a certain word count (250-400) helps me to be more concise and lose some of the expletives. However, I will be more conscious of fillers after reading this. I’ll be bookmarking this post to refresh my memory!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 11, 2014 @ 18:52:35

      @Brenda: I wrote an article for Copyblogger about proofreading and I did something similar in the opening (link is in the article above). I knew I wanted to do something similar to drive the point home in this post. Go glad you appreciated that.

  83. Dean
    Jan 11, 2014 @ 13:37:50

    Thank you for this. Great tips, succinctly presented.

    I consider myself a pretty decent writer, but I’m probably guilty of more of these offenses than I realize. I’ll keep this handy from now on, this is a great resource.

    Thanks again.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 11, 2014 @ 18:49:44

      @Dean: Thanks. You can put these tips right next to those yummy brews of yours. 🙂

  84. Hermit
    Jan 11, 2014 @ 15:52:04

    This is the best explanation of passive and active voice I have seen, and it doesn’t even refer to itself as such. Saved and referenced. Thank you.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 11, 2014 @ 18:47:19

      @Hermit: Thank you kindly.

  85. Ana
    Jan 11, 2014 @ 16:55:56

    I’m fairly new to blogging + being acquainted with your blog. So far every piece I read brought outstanding value. Thank you for your work!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 11, 2014 @ 18:46:41

      @Ana: So glad you are benefiting from what we write. Write on!

  86. Stan Eigi
    Jan 12, 2014 @ 03:25:10

    So far this is the most useful article on blogging I’ve read. I can’t believe how many of those mistakes I’ve made… Thank you so much for posting this!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 12, 2014 @ 07:42:49

      @Stan: So glad you liked the post. Write on!

  87. Katharine
    Jan 13, 2014 @ 08:21:33

    Thanks, Shane!
    I’ll forward this to my next guest blogger. She’ll appreciate it.
    The strikethrough introduction completely grabbed my attention. It worked like a film trailer and precisely communicated what would follow. I woke up and said “yes, yes!” before I’d read the meat. What a relief to find clarity online, first thing this morning!
    Thanks, again.

  88. Shane Arthur
    Jan 13, 2014 @ 09:27:42

    @Katharine: Exactly the type of comment I love to read. You’re welcome. Glad you enjoyed it.

  89. Maciej Fita
    Jan 13, 2014 @ 12:37:48

    Formatting is so important! I try to use rich media in every blog post I put together to keep the reader engaged throughout their reading experience.

  90. Shane Arthur
    Jan 13, 2014 @ 20:18:43

    Let’s do something fun for those who subscribed to the comments. Put in another comment with the url of a short post you’d like me to look at. I’ll see if I can tighten the post(or a portion of it if it’s too long) and post my suggestions in the comments. I may only do one of these. Just had a crazy thought to try it.

  91. Shane Arthur
    Jan 13, 2014 @ 20:22:02

    On second thought, tweet me the url at @shanearthur so this post doesn’t get hammered with comments in moderation. First come, first served.

  92. Rob
    Jan 13, 2014 @ 23:05:56

    I usually don’t subscribe to blog comments, but subscribed to this one to remind me to come back and share it. Thanks for the offer. Here’s my short blog: http://www.writing-resources.org/the-power-of-words-in-10-words-or-less/

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 14, 2014 @ 05:49:31

      @Rob: Okay, I gave it a quick pass.

      I found it so moving, it’s actually hard for me to write [I’m struggling to write] about it, but I will, because it says everything you need to know about the power of words in just a few words.
      “I’m blind. Please help,” the sign says [reads] and while the man gets a few small donations, most people pass him by [ignore him] or indifferently toss him a coin or two. Then a young woman walks up to the man, takes his sign and writes another message. Soon, just about everyone who passes by is giving [gives] the man pocketfuls of change.
      The girl returns later and the man asks her what she did to his sign. “I wrote the same,” she says, “but in different words.”
      Finally, we’re let in on the secret. “It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it,” the rewritten sign says [reads].
      Of course, it’s a video played by actors, so there’s no proof [we can’t prove]the new message would have had its desired effect in the real world. Nevertheless, I was moved by the words because they enabled me to enter the man’s dark world. That, in a nutshell, is the secret to writing powerful words.
      In the first instance, the man was stating the fact [stated] that he was “blind” and needed help, but his words failed to move passersby because blindness was an abstract concept to them. When they read, “It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it,” they were able to [could] empathize with him because the word “see” was part of their reality[,]((without this comma, this reads as if the word “see” is also a part of him inability to see)) and his inability to see the beautiful day they were enjoying was something they could relate to.
      As I proofread this short blog, I made a small change I think helped improve the text. Where it says, “pocketfuls of change” now, it said “large amounts of change” before[I changed large amount of change to pocketfuls]. “Large amounts of change”[don’t need the quotes here] is such a bland phrase, but you can see and feel pocketfuls of change.
      What can you do to make a better connection [nominalization – connect more or better connect] with your readers?

      (All of my strike-through text didn’t copy over so I hope manually putting in the html tags works when I hit submit.)

      • Rob
        Jan 14, 2014 @ 07:05:41

        Thanks so much for making these corrections! Some seemed like little things, but your changes made the text read more smoothly. I use a few phrases habitually and don’t even notice them. Examples:

        were able to (could)
        stating the fact that (stated)
        there’s no proof (we can’t prove)

        Now that you’ve pointed them out, they sound cringe-worthy.
        Thanks again.

      • Shane Arthur
        Jan 14, 2014 @ 09:18:16

        @Rob: My pleasure.

  93. Penelope
    Jan 14, 2014 @ 00:59:33

    Shane’s Seven Simple Slashing Tips for Edifying and Electrifying your Boring and Blasé Blog. Thanks! 😉

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 14, 2014 @ 05:52:43

      @Penelope: Love the alliteration you used there! Can’t stop reading it. 🙂

      • Penelope
        Jan 14, 2014 @ 13:32:31

        Thanks, Shane! I love to slip into Dr. Seuss mode at times. Kind breaks up the monotony. 😉

  94. Jaanika
    Jan 14, 2014 @ 14:30:22

    Really a piece of gold here! Thanks so much for this eye opening post 🙂

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 14, 2014 @ 14:36:58

      @Jaanika: Wow! I would have settled or silver or bronze. 🙂 Thanks for reading (all the way from Estonia, huh?)

  95. John Guanci
    Jan 14, 2014 @ 15:19:24

    Thanks Shane! The hardest part for me is getting the thoughts out of my head and onto the computer. I think the reason is that I tend to overanalyze and pay too much attention to how the words flow (before I even hit the keys!) Get your ideas down first, worry about structure later. Editing should be the fun part. (well, maybe)

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 14, 2014 @ 15:54:28

      @John: Exactly! Tell your inner editor to take a hike until it’s his time to perform! Seriously, train your writer brain to ignore all instructions while writing. Or give yourself a rule that you can’t hit the delete or backspace keys until you’ve finished the rough draft. Thanks for reading.

  96. LittleOwlCrunchyMomma
    Jan 14, 2014 @ 16:27:13

    This is great. Thanks!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 15, 2014 @ 19:06:02

      @LittleOwl: You are welcome. Love your handle. 🙂

  97. Greg
    Jan 14, 2014 @ 16:30:35

    Wonderful tips and suggestions. Your edits made everything more concise and I’m a huge proponent of not wasting people’s time, since time, in my opinion, is your most precious asset. Something that you can’t really put a price on because you can never buy it back, so be very careful how you spend yours 🙂

    Looking forward to more excellent articles and tips in the future.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 15, 2014 @ 19:06:38

      @Greg: Thanks man. I’m already thinking of the next one.

  98. Karyn with a Y
    Jan 14, 2014 @ 19:04:28

    Great article thank you. Exceptional tips I will be sure to use 🙂

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 15, 2014 @ 19:07:41

      @Karyn with a Y: U’re welcome with a U. 😉

  99. Carole @ Rustic Artistry
    Jan 15, 2014 @ 22:52:03

    Excellent article. The entire opening section reminded me of similar tips and suggestions that Henneke Duistermatt makes on her wonderful blog, http://www.enchantingmarketing.com/. Readers who found this post helpful should definitely check it out.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 06:24:15

      @Carole: Thank you. Yes, I’m quite familiar with Henneke (she knows me too). She’s a solid writer.

  100. shiwangi shrivastava
    Jan 15, 2014 @ 23:37:27

    Hi Shane, Your 7 points great article is like 7wonders for me. Keep coming with nice write up often as usual so that we can be educated through every masterstrokes of yours. Thanks a ton.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 06:28:33

      @Shiwangi: Thank you kindly. I’m thinking of my next post right now. Perhaps a list post of the 400 flabby words and phrases I have on file. Not sure yet.

  101. Kathy H Porter
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:22:11

    Hi Shane – loved the fact that you visually edited the first 18 lines of this post. Seeing the editing process is such a help for writers who are in the learning stages of how to tighten their prose/edit.

    When I taught writing, I came up with a few tips for my students. The first was having them ask this question as they edited someone else’s writing: “Can you make one strong word do the work of two or three weak words?” All of the examples you use in #1, #2 and #3 are perfect examples of how this question works.

    Reading aloud when you’re sure what you’ve written is in final form is a great way to catch any mistakes and hear the rhythm of your content.

    And, for those pesky spelling errors? I’d encourage my students to read their essays backwards, starting with the last word, moving the eye from left to right. Your eyes “read” individual words out of sequence, forcing any spelling errors to stand out.

    If I may, one last comment: writing poetry, even bad poetry, is a great exercise for cleaning up prose; it heightens your awareness for the power of individual words on a page.

    Thanks for allowing me this trip down memory lane. I’ve had fun reading all of the comments and appreciate having this post to refer back to.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:26:44

      @Kathy: Thank you so much.
      I agree with your advice, especially about writing poetry. I love that form.

      P.S. Love your homepage copy. Solid.

  102. Kathy H Porter
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 14:10:43

    Nice that you like my homepage copy, Shane. Hopefully, you didn’t notice that links to all of the pages on my site are temporarily missing. lol Writing I can do. A techie I will never be.

  103. Ash
    Jan 17, 2014 @ 20:02:52

    Shane this FANTASTIC. The secret to your brilliant word-smithing on my guest blogging submissions has now been revealed. Thank you!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 18, 2014 @ 05:44:57

      @Ash: My pleasure. Write on!

  104. Robert van Tongeren
    Jan 18, 2014 @ 16:27:47

    Shane, so good to see you on this blog. Your edits in the guestblogging forum have had such a huge impact on my writing. So I love this post.

    Also, your tip about using the find functionality made me laugh.

    I recently created a note in Evernote with a couple of words I could copy and paste into the find functionality to quickly spot points of improvement in my text.

    I started with “it, here, there, really, very” and then went through your edits of my old guest posts to see what else I could add. While going through this article, I added a few new ones 🙂

    here / there
    be / begin / began
    want — wish, desire
    learn — discover
    find– discover

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 21, 2014 @ 06:18:07

      @Robert: I have infected you with the editing virus. I shall pray for your sanity! 🙂

  105. Ryan Biddulph
    Jan 19, 2014 @ 15:46:57

    Excellent Shane! Cut down word use. Develop a clean blog. Trim the fat.


    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 21, 2014 @ 06:16:45

      @Ryan: Glad you like it. Write on!

  106. Shalonda Gordon
    Jan 19, 2014 @ 19:53:42

    Shane.. The post you have created here is life-changing for me. As editing is something I neither understood or could accomplish without some assistance. I’m bookmarking this post. Honestly I deserve to read it a few more times in order to obtain complete understanding.. thanks so much.. keep smiling

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 21, 2014 @ 06:14:42

      @Shalonda: Comments like yours will indeed keep me smiling. 🙂 See? So glad you appreciated it. Write on!

  107. Emmeline
    Jan 20, 2014 @ 01:02:38

    This is great. I have pared it down into a checklist that people who have studied English grammar will understand:

    Have you used…
    1. The existential “there”? Do you need it?
    2. The present continuous, or a phrasal verb? Could you replace it with a plain verb?
    3. An adverb like “really” or “very”? Is the adjective you’re using poor? Can you find another one?
    4. A negative description, eg. “not that good”? Can you put it positively?
    5. Weak verbs with nouns? Can you use those nouns as verbs? Eg. Alcohol is the cause of hangovers – Alcohol causes hangovers.
    Can you…
    6. Delete any unnecessary phrases, such as “the fact of the matter is” or “absolutely”?
    7. Use a noun modifier instead of a noun + preposition + noun?

    Are you…
    8. Using commas to effectively clarify meaning?

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 21, 2014 @ 06:11:50

      @Emmeline: I like the checklist. Thanks for taking the time to share it here.

  108. Mohita Nagpal
    Jan 28, 2014 @ 10:05:13

    Nice post Shane! I am guilty of many of the writing sins you pointed out. I tend to overdo the there, here and it business. But I don’t agree with your punctuation point. Here’s one reason why http://goo.gl/GzGiXu
    Not to mention that you yourself generously use the commas (both Serial and Oxford)

    P.S. You might want to edit this sentence.
    “You’ve expended a ton of effort on SEO, content marketing, networking, and social media promotion, all in the hopes that more people will notice your blog. So when they arrive, shouldn’t your next post blow their socks off too?”

  109. Shane Arthur
    Jan 28, 2014 @ 10:32:04

    @Mohita: I agree with you. If omitting a comma get’s poor Grandpa eaten, by all means don’t omit the comma, but our example doesn’t get anybody eaten. 🙂

    Yes, we could have edited that sentence to read, “You’ve expended a ton of effort on SEO, content marketing, networking, and social media promotion, all [in the hopes that[so] more people will notice your blog.”

  110. Stephen Anderson
    Jan 28, 2014 @ 13:59:22

    I’ve spent my career speaking and writing, and I still need to take time with every thing I write to edit it down, remove the fluff and make it tight. When I started I didn’t like doing that very much, but now I view it as an indispensable part of the publishing process. Thank you for a great post, Shane.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 28, 2014 @ 14:05:41

      @Stephen: You’re welcome, and thank you for commenting. I’d say, “Editing is where the good become great and the best get even better.” 🙂

  111. Mark
    Jan 28, 2014 @ 19:41:10

    Wow! Great stuff!

    I am now a fan!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 30, 2014 @ 11:41:01

      @Mark: Thank you kindly. I can never have too many bad-ass fans.

  112. MartinRobert
    Mar 10, 2014 @ 04:32:46

    A perfect blog to learn all about English.

    • shanearthur
      Apr 03, 2014 @ 11:30:36

      Thank you kindly.

  113. Lee Germeroth
    Mar 14, 2014 @ 10:48:08

    Great article! Amazing tips! I will use them in future posts!

    • shanearthur
      Apr 03, 2014 @ 11:31:09

      My pleasure. Glad I could help.

  114. Manuscriptedit
    Apr 01, 2014 @ 07:29:36

    Great Post!! Thanks for this valuable information and all the guidelines you provided. I really appreciate it.

    • shanearthur
      Apr 03, 2014 @ 11:33:54

      You are most welcome. I’m sure I could learn a thing or three from the editors I saw on your site. 🙂

  115. Stine Halmind
    Apr 25, 2014 @ 07:02:38

    Thanks for some really specific, useful tips! I guess your writing style also depends on your audience, theme, language (!) etc., but I loved this both creative and serious way of showing how to keep it simple.

  116. Kim
    May 28, 2014 @ 14:59:58

    There is no doubt that this is a valuable post. I mean, “Awesome post!” 🙂

  117. Mary Ann Carreon
    May 30, 2014 @ 23:42:33

    Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out.

  118. charliebeau Diary of a Muzungu
    Jun 13, 2014 @ 14:40:24

    Among the 100s of ‘how to blog’ articles I’ve read, this is the first post that’s actually about editing. This is a sight for sore eyes – I’m a total perfectionist and am constantly editing, refining, trying to remove those useless filler words, to the point where I only publish a fraction of what I actually start to write! But you’re telling me that’s okay… thank you!

  119. Helen Dewdney
    Jun 20, 2014 @ 05:40:04

    Great post! As a huge waffler this is going to help no end. I’ll still waffle though it’s my style and writing style is good right??!

  120. DiamondDenisa
    Aug 01, 2014 @ 04:47:51

    Great blog , Nice piece of information.

  121. Jay Croft
    Aug 13, 2014 @ 07:40:54

    I like your content (it’s right up my alley) and I love the presentation — how you’ve broken the advice down into useful chunks and how you used different fonts, type faces and colors to make the scroll attractive and easy to use. I’ll try copying that!

  122. JP Ryder
    Aug 17, 2014 @ 22:18:22

    That was an insanely valuable blog post! My writing is already better, by reading it!

  123. gareth
    Sep 09, 2014 @ 22:35:40

    This was brilliant. Thank you. I just went over one of my emails and massively improved it by following your advice. I like to write but I was making quite a few of the mistakes you outlined above. I’m going to keep coming back to this page daily in order to learn how to make my blog a great read. I’m sure my readers will also appreciate that. Many thanks.

  124. Sanjay Sajeev
    Sep 15, 2014 @ 23:03:28

    Hi Shane. I agree to all your points. I wrote many contents using grammar expletives. But now, i learned to write a content without these boring grammar expletives. Keep writing this type articles.

  125. Loshon
    Sep 24, 2014 @ 23:50:41

    Hi Shane,

    I want to improve my writing skills. Can you recommend any good books? I tend to be wordy rather than direct & concise. Thank you in advance for your feedback.

    • Shane Arthur
      Sep 25, 2014 @ 11:24:03

      This post should help you: //smartblogger.com/essential-writing-books/

      Another book on my personal list is The Little, Brown Handbook.

  126. christina
    Nov 01, 2014 @ 11:43:08

    this blog sucks and so does your writing. you should hire me.

    • Shane Arthur
      Nov 01, 2014 @ 12:13:21

      Okay, I’ll bite.
      1. You just wrote two sentences without capitalizing the first words of each. Is that part of your non-suck method?
      2. Have you been hacked? I ask this because clearly you can’t possibly think this is a good way to get hired. The whois data of your comment should help us determine this.

  127. Laurenmaaria
    Dec 03, 2014 @ 05:18:14

    Brilliant article.

  128. Margaux Daughtry
    Dec 12, 2014 @ 22:17:11

    Am I the only one who read this and cried? Wait…I read this and cried….I have work to do!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 05, 2015 @ 08:58:20

      @Margaux, I’m not sure of who else cried, but you made me laugh. 🙂 Write on!

  129. RK
    Dec 22, 2014 @ 01:38:17

    Shane, serious question. Other than your own opinion, is there some verifiable data supporting the contention that the suggested edits will make one’s “writing more powerful”?

    IMO, blanket editing rules are quite dangerous to writers, especially inexperienced ones. Judging by the comments on this page, I wonder how many of them will now write “No time was there” instead of “There was no time”.

    • Shane Arthur
      Dec 22, 2014 @ 09:05:13

      @RK: Language follows rules; it doesn’t follow orders. So, although we may list these tips as rules, you can view them as suggestions.

  130. Sandi Clifford
    Dec 30, 2014 @ 02:04:12

    Hi Shane. Again, you’ve provided great advice. (I already edited that sentence having committed two infractions). I guess that 1500 word post I wrote last night will become 700 quite easily now. Also, I suggest you check the G+1 button? I couldn’t scroll to the “post” button, your site kept jumping around. Probably why you have so few +1s. Kudos to your site AGAIN.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 05, 2015 @ 09:00:38

      @Sandi, A year from today, who knows how excellent your writing will be! 😉

  131. Hema Unnoop
    Jan 05, 2015 @ 08:10:18

    I feel like I’ve struck gold reading your post. Will save and get a print.
    No time to waste. Going back to my old posts:) thank you loads.
    You’re a genius! Happy New Year

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 05, 2015 @ 08:56:55

      @Hema, so glad you liked the post. Have a great year. Write on!

  132. Des Gray
    Jan 06, 2015 @ 22:25:49

    Hey Shane, thanks – one hell of a post. I read every word, including comments. Essential copy checklist – even better on the second read. Loving it!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 17, 2015 @ 09:19:53

      @Des, my pleasure.

  133. Charlotte
    Jan 17, 2015 @ 08:28:12

    Hey Shane, I just can’t thank you enough for this post. This is way beyond the usual “stop making it too wordy.” This is really, really good advice. Thanks for sharing.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jan 17, 2015 @ 09:20:25

      @Charlotte, Comments like yours put a smile on my face.

  134. jayant R. Gupta
    Jan 29, 2015 @ 01:54:01

    You’ve made my day.

    • Shane Arthur
      Feb 24, 2015 @ 15:50:24

      Ditto! 🙂

  135. Alyce J
    Jan 31, 2015 @ 15:50:39

    I love this post. Thanks so much for sharing specific the examples.

    • Shane Arthur
      Feb 24, 2015 @ 15:50:41

      My pleasure

  136. Domain
    Feb 19, 2015 @ 13:02:31

    tanx again amazing and wonderful

  137. Vishnu
    Feb 19, 2015 @ 15:16:51

    hey Shane,

    thank you for unveiling the secret behind the editing process of popular bloggers. Loved the way you elaborated with examples.

    Rather going to take action, taking action straight away, if you know what I mean 😀

    • Shane Arthur
      Feb 24, 2015 @ 15:51:11

      Write on, Vishnu!

  138. Tim Fehraydinov
    Feb 20, 2015 @ 05:36:42

    Amazing article! English is not my native language, so these tips are especially useful to me as a blogger. Bookmarked immediately.

    • Shane Arthur
      Feb 24, 2015 @ 15:51:36

      My pleasure, Tim.

  139. Muhammad Touqeer
    Feb 24, 2015 @ 14:39:55

    Great tips, Shane! First of all Thanks for the article, I think I’ve also been getting the hang of it and eliminating some of these bad habits.

  140. Shane Arthur
    Feb 24, 2015 @ 15:51:52

    Write on, Muhammad!

  141. Shazma Khan
    Feb 26, 2015 @ 13:13:16

    Lovely post and great comments….seriously I generally avoid reading such articles but this one is too fantastic that I read whole article and even read all the comments…….. too catchy….. 🙂

    • Shane Arthur
      Feb 26, 2015 @ 13:22:16

      @Shazma, thanks for those kind words. My pleasure to write it.

  142. Erik
    Mar 16, 2015 @ 04:46:39

    Amazing post, Arthur.
    There are so many rules to be considered as a writer, that it’s really hard to respect them all.
    But learning to produce amazing content for your readers, while optimizing for search engines at the same time, is a necessary process to master.
    I like your suggestions on how to improve the effectiveness of your writing, by simply editing some words (leaving the same meaning).
    Thanks for sharing your insights! 🙂