Whenever I listen to speeches, the figurative red pen is moving furiously in my head. The speakers often give me too much to work with. For example, they add illustrations and stories that do not fit the theme and instead, are focused on them. They likely reason that if the event was interesting to them, surely it will be exciting for their audience. Not so. Or perhaps they are simply trying to entertain, which often distracts listeners from the point.

If we are not careful, our writing can be similar. The first draft of any kind of writing should be dedicated to getting the information out of our head and onto the page. The flow, the sentences, the descriptions, are not always smooth on the first round. They might be disjointed and in all the wrong places.

And typically our first draft focuses on what is in our thoughts and how we view something. Essays are a prime example in which we might information dump and express personal feelings that mean something to us. In our business writing, such as content marketing, we have conducted a lot of research and interviews to pull the piece together, and we excitedly add the information in the article.

However, more is not always better, nor is expecting what is personal to us to be exciting to others. Which is why we edit. Writing is satisfying and it feels great to finally get our expressions out, but we edit to make it coherent and fitting for our audience. Sometimes that means we remove text, stories, and research we find fascinating because it hinders our content from moving forward.

When we write (or deliver a speech), we should first understand the point of the context. What questions are we trying to answer? We must also consider our audience so we know how to appropriately address them. What does this audience need to or should know?

Here is how to pull yourself away from your emotions to edit for your readers.


Emotions challenge our editing

As writers, we put a lot of work into our manuscripts, documents, articles and speeches. Depending on what we compose, we spend hours, days, or even years pulling everything together. When we review the draft, it can be tough to disconnect ourselves from our words. As artists, our inclination might be to view the product as “perfection.” But as professionals, we understand that our work is only as good as our edits.

We must “let go” of the work and view it as if it belonged to someone else. Our writing selves have to be put aside (or put outside!) to make room for our editor selves. What will help us to relinquish our emotions and be the shameless editor we need to be?


Analyze your theme and questions

The articles we write and our stories all have a particular theme or point. After you have completed your research and interviews and considered what you hoped to learn when you started, analyze what you understand is the main subject of your piece. Once you have that focus, you will know where the content is headed.

What questions did you have when you started collecting information? What questions do others, in particular your readers or audience, have on this subject? How can you answer those questions?

Create an outline of your piece. Include the idea for your opening and conclusion. List out the questions you would like to have your article or book answer. These questions can also be transformed into subheadings or chapters.

Having an outline, even a brief one, will help you stay on track with your content so you do not veer away from your topic.


Your illustrations and research

Here is where the art of editing is most useful. When we research, we learn a lot of interesting background and tidbits on our subject. The research helps us, as writers, gain insight into what we are focused on writing about. For us, that information is needed.

What it does not mean is that we have to “information dump” all of it into the article. If it doesn’t carry the subject of the article, it is not necessary. Even if you do not have a word count to abide by it doesn’t mean you should put everything in. All that achieves is making your piece lengthy and potentially academic. Even an academic piece need not have every bit of information crammed into it.

Illustrations and stories should be treated the same. I have written before on how best to use your illustrations. The key is to make sure (1) the illustration fits the context, (2) you keep it brief, and (3) you share only what is necessary in the illustration or story and leave out the rest. Remember: it is only interesting to your audience if (1) they can relate to it and (2) it doesn’t distract them from your topic.

Your content, whether in your writing or your speech, must be relevant to your theme and your audience. When you revamp your piece, disconnect yourself from your work by putting your emotions aside to edit authoritatively. Examine your subject, list the questions your audience seeks answers to, and leave out or delete anything that distracts from your point.

(Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels)

My 2-Day VIP Writing Focus Workshop will help you improve your writing skills. Designed for busy staff — or individuals — who desire to write better and create engagement. Need more focused personal attention? Contact me for one-on-one coaching to improve your writing skills.