How to edit your text
The best way to get your point across is to make your message as short and simple as possible. Especially if you’re trying to sell yourself and your brand.
Here’s an example of an introduction on an online store (I asked the author’s permission to use the text here):
Hello and thanks for stopping by!
I'm a lifelong miniature painting enthusiast and over the years I've been fortunate enough to win many awards, including 13 golden demons and a slayer sword.
I've opened my store in order to share the knowledge and techniques that I've built up from many years of practice and making mistakes! I've put a great deal of effort into producing my painting guides and I truly hope that they will help you on your own miniature painting journey.
I'm always happy to take on board any feedback from my customers or provide further explanation in the event that something isn't quite clear.
This is a well-written example, but can be improved further with just a few small changes. Here’s what I would do:
I'm a lifelong miniature painting enthusiast and, over the years, I've been fortunate enough to win many awards - including 13 Golden Demons and a Slayer Sword.
I've opened my store to share the knowledge and techniques I've built up from many years of practice and making mistakes! I've put a great deal of effort into producing my painting guides - and I hope they will help you on your own miniature-painting journey.
I'm always happy to hear any feedback from my customers, or provide further explanation if something isn't quite clear.
Here’s what I did and why:
Remove filler words and phrases: If anything is surplus to requirements in this type of text: delete it. (Obviously it’s different for, say, fiction writing or feature articles… but that’s an article for another day.)
The original opening line, although a nice touch, doesn’t really say anything - so was the first item to go in this edit. It’s best to go straight in and tell the reader who you are and what you’re doing, otherwise they may lose interest and you’ve wasted your time.
In many circumstances, phrases such as ‘in order to’ or ‘in the event’ can be contracted or replaced with fewer words. So here, ‘in order to’ has been contracted to ‘to’. And ‘in the event that’ to ‘if’ - the change works in this situation, but not always, so go through it in your head to see what works.
‘That’ is one word which, unfortunately, falls into this category all too often. Read through a sentence and, if it works without it: let it go.
Add commas: Don’t be afraid of them! Use a comma if there’s a natural break in the text, but don’t force one in if it doesn’t fit with the flow.
The new opening line now has ‘over the years’ between commas, and presenting such sub-clauses between commas can help readers better understand a sentence without having to re-read it, or think about it once they get to the end.
The previous sentence is also a good example of how commas can help break up sentences to make them easier to decipher - without them, it would be quite a chunk of text without a break to take it all in.
Capitalise: Proceed with caution on this one. If something is a known item - in this case, a Golden Demon or Slayer Sword - give it the importance it deserves. Winning a regular demon or sword just isn’t that impressive…
It’s also worth checking what the brand source does with capitalisation on its property (in this case, it’s Games Workshop). Larger corporations will have their own style guide, so follow their lead.
(On a side note: publishing houses usually have their own style guide they go by, which might contradict how the company that owns the name might use it. You can do whatever you prefer, but remember to be consistent. So with this example, the author’s future posts should have ‘Golden Demons’ and not ‘golden demons’.)
Think of punctuation: Exclamation marks are usually the first items I delete in a text, especially if it’s a corporate communication. But there are exceptions: I’ve even used one already in this article.
Using the exclamation mark in this example adds a bit of personality that’s expected in a opening statement, like this one. It makes it look like the author has put the work in and is aware of previous issues to which potential customers can also relate. It makes a point.
One place where exclamation marks are used are videos posted online. Think of those you’ve seen recently, and how many of them had an exclamation mark in the title - quite a lot, right? It means the exclamation mark loses the impact it might make, so use sparingly.
I do like a dash (of the - variety) to link phrases in a single sentence. A lot of people don’t but, as with commas, it’s something you can use if it fits with the flow. This text now has two that add extra information without having to start a new sentence. Or an unwelcome comma.
What do you think?
I’d be interested to hear what you think about this edit. Have I made it better or worse? Or just different? Let me know how you’d do it differently.
I’ll also do more writing guides, so do suggest any areas you’d like me to cover.