Extreme Editing


So, you may have noticed I like to write. My friends will tell you I like to talk. It will come as no surprise to you that I’m not really a big fan of editing, and there are two basic areas I could offer by way of explanation:

  1. Just like live music, the purest form of written art is found in a single take. The essence of the story to be told, the best reflection of the original idea makes it to the page first before the other voices start competing. Or;
  2. It’s boring, the quest for perfection is never-ending. And I can’t be bothered.

I’ll let you decide which one is more accurate. The fact I’m not a fan of editing means I keep it to a minimum but does not mean I don’t edit at all. Spelling and grammar are a given, but every now and then I like to give myself a challenge This time the challenge is ‘extreme editing’.


Take a passage and challenge yourself to distil it to its purest essence. Strip out everything not vital to the core message you aim to convey, you may be surprised by how far you can take it! Check out my example below:

The Source

The heavy black and blue winter sky groaned awfully with rain clouds that at any moment were really about to fall crashing heavily down upon the street where, because it was rush hour, so many people, wearing all manner of different clothes, hats, shoes, boots, some of them carrying bags, suitcases, briefcases, scampered and strolled about the place as though oblivious to what was just about to happen over their very heads. One of these people was called Stephanie and concealed inside her voluminous coat she carried the loaded, snub-nosed gun, and she also seemed to be the only one looking upwards into the tempestuous thundery heavens.

Extreme editing down to two lines

The heavy sky groaned with rain clouds. So many people, oblivious to what was about to happen. Stephanie concealed inside her coat the loaded, snub-nosed gun.

This succinctness of form is particularly useful for today’s TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) mentality, Twitter being a notable example. It is also extremely useful in academic settings, where word counts are rigidly enforced and it is vital to make every single word count. Obviously, the reverse of this exercise is also very helpful for stretching your mental-muscles – so consider rehydrating your desiccated version in a new direction. The results may surprise you!

Find more ideas, hints, tip and tricks in our foundation section – The Craft.