HINTS FOR POLISHING FINISHED COPY

The real secret of good writing is revision. You can be sure that writing that seems light and spontaneous, and keeps you reading to the end, has been sweated over. Leave it overnight if you can, and come back with fresh eyes the next day and revise it again.

Your writing should be clear, simple and concise. Although the best writing appears to flow like speech, writing is not like speaking which often waffles. In journalism especially, you must boil down every sentence to its essence.

Check whether you have said the same thing twice in different ways. Combine them or cut one of them if you have. Could you have used fewer words or said it in a less complicated way? Avoid unnecessary words and phrases like ‘very’, ‘quite’, ‘almost’, ‘nearly’, ‘it is the case that…’, ‘what I think is…’, ‘another thing is…’, ‘the fact is…’.

Vary sentence beginnings and lengths. Verbs quicken the pace while adjectives and adverbs slow it, but use the active voice rather than the passive. Cut the verb ‘to be’ whenever possible (‘is’, ‘are’, ‘was’, ‘were’).

Always check your spelling, punctuation and grammar. Put a note in your copy to confirm any unusual spelling – but check it twice first. Make sure you have spelled brand names the same way each time. If you leave it for a busy, inexpert sub-editor to check, you will lose credibility. Of course, you will also have checked all your information and your figures.

Professional writers present clean, accurate copy
to their editors and respect deadlines and length requirements. Many publications prefer electronic copy which saves the cost of a typist to input it, but if you are presenting hard copy (on paper by mail or fax) it should look inviting – wide margins, double-spaced and printed on one side of A4 paper. Include your name and contact details in case something needs to be queried.

Each page should be numbered. Put the word ‘end’ at the end of the article.

Any photos should be captioned, both in the file name and in the copy, or if using prints on the back of the picture. If you want your prints returned, put your address on the back of each and request their return.