11 Jan 2023

Editing is an undervalued creative craft

By Paul Coupar-Hennessy

As a creative director, this may sound odd. But I spend as much time taking things away from creative ideas as I do adding to them.

Editing is a very misunderstood and undervalued creative craft. It’s not just grammatical nitpicking.

At its best, it’s more like good gardening – clearing away undergrowth to allow the message to live and breathe.

Here are a few tips for editing yourself and others:

  • Read the draft aloud. Or at least move your lips. Sounds odd, but trust me.
  • Verbosity and vagueness are the enemy more often than insufficient detail. It’s good to leave people wanting more.
  • Cut flab. Cut words, sentences, and paragraphs. If you need reassurance, ask how often you’ve read something and thought ‘That was just a bit too short’, and how often you’ve thought the opposite.
  • It’s easy to lose focus on the essentials. Keep what, who and why in mind – form, audience and purpose.
  • Try to ask ‘Can I cut 25% from this?’ when editing your own work.