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Many people find rewriting to be the toughest part of writing -- here are a few time-honored tricks to help you kill off surplus verbiage.

By Ben Feuer

The New York Times has a fun article today about the importance of editing to good writing.  This is especially true for writing with a word count -- as you do when, for example, you are writing an essay for school!  Most people are able to get something down on paper, but then they have no idea what to do next -- so we have put together some important tips to help you shave excess words.

1.  Avoid redundancy, weasel words, and the passive voice.   To be fair, this is an easy trap to fall into -- after all, it can be hard to come up with exactly the right word to describe the job you did on your most recent volunteering trip to Guatemala, or the look in your boss's eyes when he told you you were getting promoted.  Unfortunately, people try to solve this problem by putting in EVERY relevant word they can think of.  Look out for obvious cases of redundancy -- using synonyms or restating an idea multiple times in slightly different ways.  But also be wary of superfluous adjectives -- your massive, amazing, innovative and revolutionary idea is probably really just a good idea with too many clothes on.  And above all, those words that people write when they are coming around to the thing they mean to say but not quite wanting to say it until they finally get to the sentence's end -- that's called the passive voice.  It stinks.

2.  Get fresh eyes.  Not your mom, not your best friend, not your coworkers, not alumni.  Those people have agendas.  You want someone who knows nothing about your subject matter and ideally, nothing about you -- because that person is as close as you're likely to get to the perspective a real admissions officer will have on your essay.

3.  Cover less ground.  Essay writing is not informational, it's persuasive -- forget trying to give a comprehensive account of your actions, or your time at a company.  Focus on one tiny sliver, one simple story, with powerful emotional roots, like the moment you convinced your boss to hire his first gay employee, or the time you finally got healthier options added to the lunch menu.


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