300 Days of Better Writing

October 8, 2013

Edit from your readers’ perspective.

Filed under: WritingExcellence — preciseedit @ 12:41 pm
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When you publish a book, it’s the world’s book. The world edits it.

(Philip Roth)

Roth addresses two important concepts here.

  1. Readers will evaluate and criticize what you write. They will judge the clarity, the style, the ideas you present, and the correctness of the spelling, grammar, punctuation, and word usage. Ask yourself, “How will readers judge this?”
  2. Readers will interpret what you write. They will take your words and make their own meanings. You want their meaning to be equal to the meaning you intend. Thus, when you write, ask yourself, “How might the reader interpret these words?”

After you have written the first draft, put the document away for some time. Generally, the more emotionally and cognitively you are involved with the content, the longer you should put it away. Then, when you do re-read it, try to criticize it from the readers’ perspective and ask yourself the two questions above.


This is the strategy for day 101 in 300 Days of Better Writing, available at Hostile Editing in PDF, Kindle, and paperback formats.

For a sample of 300 Days of Better Writing and other books by Precise Edit, download the free ebook.

September 17, 2013

Know your secondary audience.


The immediate recipient of your document is your primary audience. Your secondary audience receives the document from the primary audience. In many cases, the document is not transferred to the secondary audience—only the information is passed on.

For example, if you write a financial analysis of a new program, your primary audience may be your supervisor or contracting agent. If that person takes specific information from the report and uses it to create his or her own report, or if that person passes on the document to another person, then the document or information moves from the primary to the secondary audience.

For example, if you write a fiction book, the person who buys the book is the primary audience. However, if that person passes the book on to another person, or if the book is read with a child or another person, then the child or other person is the secondary audience.

Why is this important? Nearly every document or manuscript will have a secondary audience. The needs of that person may be different than the needs of the primary audience. To ensure the effectiveness of your writing (or the widest distribution of the content), identify the secondary audience and consider that person’s needs. You will want to address both the primary and secondary audiences’ needs.


This is the strategy for day 114 in 300 Days of Better Writing, available at Hostile Editing in PDF, Kindle, and paperback formats.

For a sample of 300 Days of Better Writing and other books by Precise Edit, download the free ebook.

June 3, 2013

Use the simplest correct words.


Using big words makes you seem smart. They make your reader think, “Wow, this writer really knows a lot!” Right? Probably not.

Using words that are outside of your readers’ common vocabulary may have three effects, all negative. First, they reduce the readers understanding of what you are trying to communicate. Second, they distract the reader from what you are trying to communicate and force the reader to concentrate on word meaning. Third, they can give the impression that you are trying to impress the reader, which will make you seem pretentious. If your goals are clear communication and improving your credibility, use the simplest correct words.

One note about the “correct” word: While you are choosing simple words that mean what you want to say, you also need to consider how readers will respond to them. As such, you need to think about the tone you wish to create.


This is the strategy for day 33 in 300 Days of Better Writing, available at Hostile Editing in PDF, Kindle, and paperback formats.

For a sample of 300 Days of Better Writing and other books by Precise Edit, download the free ebook.

May 20, 2013

Shift the source of questionable information to maintain credibility.


What do you do if you are not confident about your ideas? You may still want to write it, but you don’t want to be accused of misleading your reader if the idea is proven wrong. The most common reason for hedging, after all, is fear that you will lose credibility and, frankly, look dumb.

Here’s what you do: Shift the source of the idea to a third party, i.e., give credit for the idea to someone else. Here’s an example.

Hedging: “I think tomorrow will be a warm day.”
[Risky approach; weak writing]

Confident: “Tomorrow will be a warm day.”
[Also risky; strong writing]

Shifted: “The weatherman said that tomorrow will be a warm day.”
[Not risky; shifted source; strong writing]

If the idea is proven wrong, you are not to blame, and you won’t lose credibility with your reader. And you won’t look dumb.


This is the strategy for day 16 in 300 Days of Better Writing, available at Hostile Editing in PDF, Kindle, and paperback formats.

For a sample of 300 Days of Better Writing and other books by Precise Edit, download the free ebook.

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