What’s the Most Important Thing I Learned in College?

Well, besides learning how to row on the University of San Diego crew team, I can safely say the most important skill I learned in college was how to edit my writing. I do it every. Single. Day. If you want to sharpen your editing skills, here are a few tips (no student loans required):

I was once in a communications class and my professor said, “Write the article and then go back and delete the first paragraph.” Oftentimes, we use the first paragraph to explain what we’re going to write about. In retrospect, I think she was trying to show us that it is often just a tool to jumpstart ourselves out of writer’s block and into the flow. When you get something on paper, the rest comes more easily. So, when you finish writing a piece of content, reread your intro paragraph and make sure that it adds value to the piece.

Next, take out all extraneous and filler words. Ask yourself, “How can I say the same thing, but more clearly and with fewer words?” In marketing, this is especially important and applies to blog posts, newsletter articles, social media posts, advertising copy, website content, proposals, strategies — basically anything. In general, you’re going for more impact with fewer words.

Once you’re happy with what you’ve said and how you’ve said it, it’s time to proofread. When proofreading, read each sentence from the end and work your way from left to right. Yes, it’s tedious and feels a little weird, but stay with me. Our eyes become so trained to fly from left to right that we gloss right over typos and extra words. 

All of these suggestions apply to email, as well. A well-crafted email separates the amateurs from the pros … and it is tremendously easy to spot the difference. 

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