The word “plethora” has popped up in more than one article I’ve read in the last two days. At least one story made my eyes cross because it took me around and around in circles. I’m reading the results of overwriting.
I feel like there is more of it today than ever before. Maybe it’s because we all want to separate themselves from everyone else in a crowded world where we’re all trying to get everyone to give our work a few minutes. But having flair and a voice is a lot different than overwriting. One takes years to develop. The other takes years to shake if no one makes you stop.
I think we all go through some sort of overwriting phase in our careers, usually when we’re younger. I look back at some of the things I wrote more than a decade ago and cringe at some of the inside baseball. Young writers also tend to think using basic words like “said” or “people” is boring and need to use another (more exciting) word to replace it. You really don’t.
Just remember one thing: KISS. Keep. It. Simple. Stupid.
If you keep it simple, you’re going to have an easier time reaching your readers. Their eyes aren’t going to cross trying to figure out what you mean. More importantly, they will understand the issue and the truth behind it. Isn’t that the goal of what we all do?
But there’s something else important here to remember: Good editing will help tame the writing beast.
I have developed a voice and a flair in my writing, something I worked hard to do. But it also came from working with good editors who beat certain flaws out of me. They worked with me and told me what I needed to do differently. They didn’t just rewrite the story and not tell me anything (this has happened to me and I hated it every time it did for a variety of reasons). It allowed me to grow into the writer I have become.
And actually becoming an editor and a mentor to other journalists (the latter scaring the hell out of me) also helped me elevate my writing even further. Through editing and seeing the flaws in other people’s writing, I was able to correct it in my own.
Alas, it seems good editors are a dying breed in today’s world. Many copy editing desks are biting the dust. Other seasoned editors are retiring and leaving journalism. It feels like far too many editors today are not as dedicated to quality as they used to be, which can be a result of rising demands of everyone in newsrooms.
It’s why I am willing to help just about anyone with their writing. I’ve edited for friends, even outside the business, and I give advice. I had someone there to help me through my career (and still have people I lean on to this day), so I want to make sure others have the same.