Sometimes you need to murder your darlings

You’ve worked hard to articulate a point, to fine-tune a turn of phrase and now, of course, you’re emotionally attached to it. It’s painful to delete it, but what if it doesn’t serve your writing? What if it distracts from your key points?

This is a challenge that all writers face, and one that was first expressed over a hundred years ago by Arthur Quiller-Couch. In his book ‘On the Art of Writing’, first published in 1916, he wrote:

“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetuate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – wholeheartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”

Letting go of good content is hard – particularly if you have invested time and effort in it and you’re proud of the results. Sometimes though, it’s necessary to sharpen the writing, ensuring it’s always on point.

The role of the editor

A good editor can always improve your writing. As they haven’t been a part of the arduous drafting process, they bring an objectivity to your work.

They will read the text for meaning and assess whether it communicates its message effectively. If not, they will suggest new wording to get the piece back on track. Similarly, they will help you ‘murder your darlings’: if there’s copy that should not be there – perhaps it clouds the key messages or disrupts the flow – they will swiftly excise it.

While the red pen (or tracked changes) may look brutal, the writing will be better off for it. And it’s worth remembering that your ‘darlings’ are not necessarily lost forever; you may be able to keep them on file and re-use them another time.

Overall, an editor will help you refine your text to make it more exact. Writing is a precise craft and concepts can be difficult to explain. The editor will build on the work you have already done; they will look at what you’re trying to say and make changes to communicate it more clearly. The task of deciphering meaning should never be left to the reader!

A good editor will also clean up all grammar and spelling mistakes and wrong word choices, and proofread the final piece. They will help your writing look as polished and professional as possible, and this in turn, will help your brand to shine.

For help with copywriting, proofreading or editing any of your business documents, contact Proof Communications on 02 8036 5532 or 0411 123 216 or head to the contact page.

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