In their new book, college professors and brothers Steven and Victor Cahn take those who write up their work through a step-by-step editing process.
For example, they dissect the introduction to an essay about teaching mathematics. Although we won’t reproduce the full passage and the process here, a few simple tricks stand out:
- Delete “it is important to recognize” and “the fact that.” Of course it’s important if you’re writing about it, and you never should have to state that a fact is a fact.
- You can cut virtually every adverb and adjective, including “virtually.”
- “A set of,” “a group of,” “a series of”—in general, any of these can be deleted.
- Think hard about whether you need the modifier “distinctive.” And “unique” means the only one.
- “Any and all” can be reduced to “all.”
In the book, such careful parsing reduces two long sentences to a short one.
— Adapted from Polishing Your Prose: How to Turn First Drafts Into Finished Work, Steven Cahn and Victor Cahn, Columbia University Press.