Art of Editing

“What to leave in, what to leave out”

Well those drifter’s days are past me now
I’ve got so much more to think about
Deadlines and commitments
What to leave in, what to leave out.”   

Against the Wind, by Bob Seger

When Bob Seger wrote those lyrics back in the late seventies, I doubt that he was thinking about writing, editing or publishing. But lines two to four of that verse could easily be the theme song for an editing seminar. (The references to deadlines and commitments are just a bonus, particularly from a writer or editor’s point of view.)

Editing is all about knowing what to leave in, and what to leave out. That is true of any kind of editing, even the kind of self-editing a good writer does as part of his regular process. Some are natural masters of the art, like the great Elmore Leonard, who famously said that he left out the parts that people didn’t read. Most of us mere mortals need an actual editor, however.*

This principle definitely applies to a press release—if the first draft is 650 words, it will be worlds better if cut to 400. And not just because a person is more likely to read a short piece than a long one. A piece that only contains necessary information will better represent your company. That is true because those 400 carefully chosen words are focused on the message, rather than distracting from it with a lot of unnecessary “static.”

This is where the art and the skill of editing come in. A really good editor can save a piece of content, because they know what to leave in, what to leave out.

(* This short piece went through two edits before being finalized.)




Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.