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[Day 5: Write Well Challenge]: Do Surgery

[Day 5: Write Well Challenge]: Do Surgery

This is the fifth part of the free course, Write Well Challenge. If you’ve not joined, do so here for FREE so you don’t miss any of it.

[Day 5: Write Well Challenge]: Do Surgery

Do surgery | Write Well Challenge

Photo Credit: echo0101 via Compfight cc

Editing your work is a painful part of writing, but only the test of fire makes fine steel.

After you’ve brainstormed, researched and written a brilliant piece on a topic over several hours or days, you can’t wait to say you’ve finished the piece. So it can be tempting to simply skip this step.

The focus of this piece isn’t the best approach to good editing. I’ve talked about that before. The focus is cutting out ‘cancerous’ elements that dilute the appeal of your write-ups.

Most writers always overwrite. Chances are high you do so, too. But cutting out or substantially changing your hard-won words may not be something you find pleasing.

Yet, revising your works for brevity and cutting out disused parts is a rewarding exercise.

Why the trouble of surgery is worth it

A well written piece is a chunk of raw gold. A well written piece concisely sculpted is a refined gold. Who does not like the look and feel of polished gold?

Already, the process of extracting gold is arduous as it is hazardous. The raw gold is valuable but can be improved. The pain of melting, casting and shaping it into desired shapes is unappealing. But it’s rewarding. It’s worth the trouble.

That’s how surgery is to writing: painful yet healing.

Embracing the process of surgery

Once I’ve understood this reality, I started putting my write-ups to surgery. I would overwrite and then trim each of my blog posts and essay contest entries to make it concise and punchy.

I always cut out about 10% of the words without losing meaning. I cut out 13% from the draft of my trailblazing book, Vertical Writing. Each time I do that, the piece makes for improved reading.

What you should cut out

#1: Superfluous adjectives and adverbs: Some are “reverse backward,” “fellow colleagues,” “stand up,” “sit down,” “enter inside,” “white teeth,” etc.

#2: Acronyms lengthened many times: It suffices if you lengthen acronyms like Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) and African Union (AU) just once. Subsequently, you should stick with the acronyms: ANA and AU.

#3: Duplicated points: Unless, you want emphasis and think it justifiable, you should avoid repetitive sentences. Ask yourself if you could combine two sentences without causing confusion.

For instance, “Brevity is essential in writing. In fact, economy of words makes your sentences stronger. If you’re concise, your message gains weight” is unnecessarily repetitive. You can cut out the second sentence without losing meaning.

#4: Introduction providing unnecessary background information: Many writers use many introductory sentences just to warm up. If you can avoid them without losing meaning, do so.

#5: Parts that don’t advance your main points: Most times, “I made a solemn vow not to overwrite again” is better as “I vowed not to overwrite again”.

Aim for brevity always. My final counsel to you is hard but essential:

If any part in your writing adds no meaning or effect, cut it without mercy or remorse. [Click here to tweet that]

Your challenges today

It’s time to put today’s tips to test. Here we go:

  • Grab a piece you recently wrote and try cutting the words by 10% without losing vital meaning. Look out to see whether the piece improves or not.
  • Look any newspaper or online article you can find and make efforts to reduce the length by 5%. Keep the meaning intact of course. Most times, this will be possible even if the author did his own surgery when he wrote it.
  • Share your thoughts on your progress in this Challenge on your blog, on Facebook or elsewhere.

What effect does trimming have on your writing? Please share your thoughts below.

If you need practical, step-by-step help with your writing, get my new book, Vertical Writingwhich inspired this free course.

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Your Right to WriteIf your dream is to be a writer and influence the world, the theoretical and practical insights the author provides have the power to convert your dream to reality.

-- Dr. Mahfouz A. Adedimeji | Fulbright scholar | Senior Lecturer, Unilorin | newspaper columnist

About Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin

Writer. Difference Maker. Entrepreneur. Author, Your Right To Write & Vertical Writing. Winner, 11 Writing Prizes.


  1. Ayeyemi Taofeek Aswagaawy says:

    Waow! Infact, it has been an interesting, informative and educative tutorial. Its a pride to have learnt the law of FAKISM, the relevance to PERSONALIZE, the echo of Ɣ☺ΰЯ voice when you ACTIVATE, the duty to CONSTRUCT and the pleasant relief whenafter you do SURGERY.
    I could have called myself a learned bcos of this tutorial but there are still million skills to acquire. I swear, your free tutorial impacted my writing knowledge. I extend my gratitude to you. Just keep the flag flying, the sky is your limit. Your success is certain.

    Martin Luther King had this to say; “Life’s most urgent question is: what are you doing for others?”. But George Patton expressly answered when he said; “Celebrate the success of others. Bring people up – not down! John Maxwell added that; ” To teach is to touch a life forever”. You’ve observed the above analysis. You are thus a leader.

    You are my second but first human writing coach I my books are the first.
    If your book “vertical writing” has inspired this tutorial, then this tutorial has inspired me to get the book – sooner or later. Will strive that out.

    A̶̲̥̅♏ learning……………………………………….. Thanks.

  2. Waliyullah says:

    To say “thank you” for your invaluable ideas is an understatement. Your tutorial thought me one hard-to-beleive lesson – “writting can be learnt”. Before now, i used to believe that writting is a talent that is only gifted to few people. But now, i think anybody can leanrt it. Thanks for changing my perception. Jazakallahu khair!

    • Thanks Waliyullah!

      Good to know you now have a changed view on how writers come by. It is he who has never succeeded, who is sure no one can. Whoever says writing can’t be learnt is either living under the rock or is a learner.

  3. IMRANA BUBA says:

    I’m out of words! I don’t know what to say! the best I can say is may Allah bless you abundantly.

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