Good writing is created in steps, and the most important one often is neglected because hurried writers want to make the first draft the final draft.
The writing process involves organizing ideas, drafting, revising, and editing, and it is in the revising phase that you do the difficult work, the craftsmanship. Don’t try to make the message or article unfold perfectly the first time. Jot down your ideas, compose a draft and then devote most of your time to the trimming, rearranging, and rewriting that give it a polished, professional look. You probably won’t need to apply this rigorous process to a one- or two-sentence email, though you don want to be sure that your words convey what you intend to say.
Many writers lose considerable time getting started and then waste more time trying think of a clever headline, a creative lead, or flashy adjectives. Suddenly, the deadline looms. With little time for tweaking, they skim the draft, pray that the spelling software saves them from embarrassment, and hit send. The manager, unimpressed with substandard work, fires it back with numerous notes in the margins.
What you do in the revising phase
- Move information around. Eliminate details that do not pertain to your main idea.
- Touch up the information you are keeping by doing such things as substituting stronger verbs, being more precise, and varying the sentence structure.
- Tighten the writing by removing needless words, making sentences more emphatic.
- Determine what you still need to find out from further research.
There is an endpoint, because you cannot continue to rewrite forever. There will come a time when, even if an editor isn’t screaming, you simply need to quit. But it is better to invest additional time in the pursuit of excellence than to do the opposite and consider your first version your best effort.