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Try this revision tip: Look for sticky words and sentences

I’m always looking for ways to step back from my own writing so that I can see it more objectively through the eyes of a reader.

One way I do this is by editing for various elements, including what I like to call “sticky words.” I call them sticky because — for better or worse — they stick in my mind when I read them.

Without trying to be too analytical, I take a colored pen or pencil and circle any words or sentences that strike me or stop the flow. I might not know why they hit me a certain way, but I’m trying to follow my instincts.

The sticky words and sentences might indicate:

  1. Overwritten text or purply prose. In this case, I fix these sentences by rewriting or deleting them.
  2. Wrong word choice. If I read through a draft and keep stopping at a particular word, there’s a reason. Usually it’s because it’s not exactly the right word.
  3. Awkward sentence construction. Reading aloud especially helps spot these sticky wickets. If the sentences aren’t flowing, you’ll hear it.

Once I’ve gone through the pages, I turn to my analytical mode and ask myself why the words or sentences stick out. Once I know the why, I’m on my way to a fix.

Something about setting out to find sticky words prevents the natural inclination to gloss over words and sentences we’ve read so many times before.

For more revision tips, check out Revise by retyping your manuscript and How to take your finished manuscript to the next level.

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