Editing Principle 01: You Don't Have to Be All Fancy About It

Here’s a typical writer-editor exchange, early in the process:

editor: What are you getting at here? [Points to long, winding paragraph that doesn’t seem to say what the author wants it to say.]

writer: Well, I'm trying to say {X}. [Offers a crisp summary of his argument.]

editor: O.K. Write that down then.

You don't need to strain to communicate something in more complicated language than you’re used to using, or that it needs to sound more “writerly” somehow. If you can’t think of a better way to say what you want to say, try just saying what you’d say to a friend. Start there.