Editing step two: Why writing style matters

In my previous blog post, we took the first step toward better editing—which creates more successful writing. This first step established the purpose of your writing. This gives you a goal to work toward, which can help guide your editing process.

Now you’re ready for step two: Know your writing style.

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This step is crucial for your editing process. And you can take it before or after you have a first draft.

Choosing your writing style may be as simple as deciding the tone for your writing—whether it’s formal or casual, academic or conversational. This will influence your word choice, sentence structure, how you refer to individuals, and page formatting.

Sometimes that choice is totally up to you. Other times, you may need to follow someone else’s writing style or guide. And that may involve a few more rules than “casual” or “academic.”

Knowing what writing style to use can remove some frustration and guesswork in your writing and editing. Not sure whether you can use an Oxford comma? Many style guides will tell you, giving your editing process a specific template or pattern to follow.

If you are writing anything that could be considered “journalism,” always use Associated Press (AP) style. This style covers many types of spelling, abbreviation, and punctuation. Most newspapers, magazines, and public relations pieces require AP style. For example, if you are writing a press release for your company, AP style applies.

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If you are writing for someone else, ask what style they prefer. Many businesses follow AP style. Some technical or medical companies use more formal styles. Other organizations, such as the New York Times, have their own style guide.

Confused about the differences between writing styles? The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University is a great resource, with thorough instructions for all the most common writing styles.

These styles and rules can seem silly or unnecessary. However, they create a consistency that makes both editing and reading easier. It can also help prevent distractions for the reader and give your writing greater credibility.

Check back soon for step three, when we will take the topic of credibility a little further. Don’t miss it—your reputation might be on the line!

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