Revising: 10 Dos and Don'ts

  1. DON’T use ( ) [ ] and   If you need parentheses or brackets to explain something, rewrite the sentence so that your story is clear without them.  If you need an ellipsis in a quote to show that you have left out some words, then rethink the quote.  Maybe you can paraphrase part of it and just quote the most important part. 
  1. DON’T use rhetorical questions:  Tell your reader what you have learned.  Don’t ask the reader questions.  Sometimes simply rephrasing solves the problem.
NOT:  What happens when these offenses are no longer humorous quirks?
INSTEAD:  When these offenses stop being funny, the housing office may let a student change roommates. 

  1. DON’T read minds.  Tell readers only what you know.
NOT:  She feels that arguments can be solved…
INSTEAD:  She said arguments can be solved.

  1. DON’T put your question or your interview in the story. 
NOT:  When asked about roommate swaps, she said they are rare.
INSTEAD:  She said roommate swaps are rare.   

  1. DON’T put your opinions or judgments in the story.  Stick to facts.
NOT:  In the end it was better for her to move.
INSTEAD:  In the end, she moved.

  1. DON’T write factoids.  These look like facts but have no real basis.

NOT:  Many students are frustrated with their roommates.  MANY?  Do you have statistics?  No…?
INSTEAD:  Roommates can be a source of frustration.  You DO have quotes to support that statement.

  1. DO write about people doing things, rather than about abstractions.
NOT:  Beginning the process of requesting a change of roommates requires submitting the reason for the request to the housing office.
INSTEAD:  To change roommates, students must submit the reason for the request to the housing office.

  1. DO re-read your work and cut out unneeded words.  Be ruthless.
NOT:  Students have many reasons as to why they wish to change roommates.
INSTEAD: Students change roommates for many reasons.

  1. DO say said.  It’s easy.  It’s fun. It’s cheap. Use it again and again…  Nobody will mind.  Nobody will notice because said just disappears on the page.  Try it at home!
NOT:  stated or commented or went on to say…
NOT:  explained, pointed out, noted, suggested, claimed, admitted or confessedunless you really mean it.

  1. DON’T write generalities, introductions or conclusions.  Write the facts and quotes that you gather in your reporting.  Put the new, interesting information high in the story and then back it up with quotes.  When you run out of facts, stop writing.


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