Go With The Flow

How to Edit for Structure, Flow and Readability

You’ve chopped through writer’s block; you now have your first draft ready. Great. It’s time to bring out the ruthless editor.

Don’t assume what you’ve written is final just because it appears on the screen. Take a critical look at issues such as excessive wordiness, passive verb style, repetitive sentence structures, dense paragraphs and improper grammar/spelling.

Take this opportunity to reorganize ideas, sentences and paragraphs to improve flow and readability.

Here are some parameters of powerful writing to check against your original draft.

Sense of Audience: Anticipates reader’s needs

Right Tone: Is even-tempered and professional

Informative Content: Has substance – actually says something

Movement: Flows logically and has a sense of order

Helpful Format: Looks good on the page, easy to read, scan and retrieve information (white space, sub-heads)

Detail: Uses concrete, precise, clear words

Voice: Sounds like one human being talking to another, credible not stuffy

Originality: Says something new or something old in a new way

Rhythm: Sounds effortless, natural. Sentences are mixed in length and style; paragraphs are not overly long or dense.

Good Mechanics: Observes conventions of spelling, punctuation and grammar. Concise, not wordy; repetitious phrases avoided.

When editing your documents, check for unity, coherence and emphasis.

Unity: Singleness of thought and effect.

Coherence: Linked, related ideas, arranged logically with strong topic “strings” and definite “signal” transition words and phrases.

Emphasis: A strong impression achieved through active verbs, variation in sentence structure and clarity of thought/expression.

Also, you must proofread carefully! Even if you set aside your final draft for a few minutes, come back to the document and read it line by line. Far too many mistakes occur because the writer simply glances over common typos or frequently misspelled words. This undermines the professionalism of your writing.

Computer spell checkers do their part, but they can’t tell if the word or phrase makes sense in the context of the sentence. In the end, it’s up to you!


I have a spelling checker,

It cam with my PC,

It clearly marks for my revue,

Mistakes I cannot sea,

I’ve run this poem threw it,

I’m sure your pleased to no,

Its letter perfect in its weigh –

My spell check tolled me sew.

– Anonymous











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