The Joe Sugarman Editing Principles

by Dan Walsh

The following is excerpted from Advertising Secrets of the Written Word, by Joseph Sugarman. It specifically deals with editing ad copy, but can easily apply to articles, essays, fiction, and non-fiction.

 

Example Ad Copy Draft 1:

Losing weight is not easy. Ask anyone. And, if you’ve tried it, you know that part of a good weight reduction program is your bathroom scale. A bathroom scale is like a report card. It’s a feedback mechanism that tells you how well you’ve done. In fact, one of the few pleasures of losing weight is stepping on your bathroom scale and seeing the positive results.

Example Ad Copy Draft 2:

Losing weight is not easy. Ask anyone. One of the few pleasures of losing weight is stepping on your bathroom scale and seeing positive results. Your bathroom scale is like a report card— a feedback mechanism that tells you how well you’ve done.

Losing weight is not easy. Ask anyone. One of the few pleasures of losing weight is stepping on your bathroom scale and seeing positive results. Your bathroom scale is like a report card— a feedback mechanism that tells you how well you’ve done.

 

1. Look for any ‘that’ words.

For example, in my first draft I used the words, “And, if you’ve tried it, you know that. . . .” The words up to and including ‘that’ can very often be eliminated. In this example, I could eliminate eight words.

2. Edit for rhythm.

Make sure that you vary the length of sentences so they don’t sound monotonous. I discuss rhythm later in this book, in Chapter 18.

3. Consider combining sentences.

Note that in the edited version, I combined the two sentences that read, “A bathroom scale is like a report card. It’s a feedback mechanism that tells you how well you’ve done.” I condensed it into “Your bathroom scale is like a report card—a feedback mechanism that tells you how well you’ve done.” I saved only one word by doing this, but it made sense to combine the sentences and eliminating even one word is a good move.

4. Eliminate unnecessary words.

Look at the word ‘the’ in the phrase “and seeing the positive results.” The word ‘the’ can easily be eliminated without changing the meaning so that the final sentence will read, “and seeing positive results.”

5. Rearrange thoughts so they flow better.

Note that in the first draft, the flow of the copy pointed out that the scale was a report card and the second thought was that part of the pleasure of a weight loss program was stepping on a scale and seeing the positive results. By reversing these two thoughts, I made the ad more emotional by focusing on the pleasure of using a scale when losing weight and then I explained why. This sounds a lot better and more logical from a flow standpoint than the first draft.