You don’t produce terrific writing the first time you sit down to write, but many people try to, and they waste valuable time in the process.

People sit for hours sometimes in front of a blank screen, trying to give birth to flawless prose. You cannot write the message in your head before putting it on the screen, because the brain doesn’t work that way. The information in your head is a vague, jumbled mess. You need to see words on the screen for your ideas to unfold, and when they do, what you are writing is a draft, not a finished version. (Ideally, list your topics on the screen or on paper and arrange them in order before you start an important message.)

When sentences first spill onto the screen, they resemble conversation because speech is spontaneous. You don’t organize the ideas before you speak, so the excess verbiage, mangled syntax, and rambling require a makeover. Read through it again, tighten it, rearrange pieces, and substitute stronger words.

We can all benefit by simply being more attentive to the routine messages we bang out every hour. Granted, you might not have the time or the inclination to rewrite  a quick one- or two-sentence note, but there are lessons in those short messages. When you see sentences that clearly could have been shorter or clearer, copy them into a Word document file that you label “wordiness examples, and go back periodically and study them.

For example, don’t say I don’t know if you plan to attend the conf. If you do, perhaps I will see you there, if all you need to say is, If  you plan to attend the conference, perhaps I will see you there. You save six words.

Why write, When the information is routine and dry, it is boring, if you can be more efficient: Routine, dry information is boring. That’s five words you don’t need to write and the reader doesn’t need to read.

Don’t say, I sent Judy Jones a note and asked her she had someone who was available … when you can say the same thing in six fewer words: I asked Judy Jones if she had someone available

Collect such examples from your writing, study them, and you will sharpen your editing eye, which always helps in the revising phase of writing.