How I Speed Up Writing & Editing

By Dennis D. McDonald

Click or tap image to download a .pdf of this article.Kelly Griffin’s 11 Tips For Editing Your Own Writing is a great list. As she says, “… editing your own writing is downright painful.”

Ain’t that the truth!

I’ve long been a reader and writer of sorts myself. The older I get the more I learn how much I don’t know, especially about this thing we call “writing.” I publish this blog which I try to update at least once per week, plus I write a lot in connection with my management consulting jobs. I do try to write plainly and clearly. Plus I usually edit my own work. This is definitely  “painful” as the professor says but I also enjoy shortening and tightening up my sentences after I first lay them down.

One thing I have done more in recent years is to go back to writing things out on paper in longhand first. I’m a terrible typist. One of the things I noticed about using the computer is how easy it is to combine initial typing with editing and wordsmithing. According to the professor’s list that’s a “no-no.” It’s one of the main reasons writing for me seemed itself to be such a long and arduous task.

Now I write things out usually with one of my fountain pens on the high-quality Miquelrius notebooks I own. Thinking and writing and physical senses involved helps me put my thoughts together more sequentially, I think. Then, I read the text out loud to my iPhone’s “Dragon” software app one paragraph at a time. If I’m careful, the speech-to-text conversion is amazingly accurate; it’s certainly more accurate than were I to attempt typing right from the start!

When that’s done I email the text to myself and use my computer to do the final edit. I find this process almost cuts my blog article production time in half.

The  main reason this process seems to work for me is that it forces me to think more about what I’m writing before I get into serious editing mode. I also enjoy the physical act of writing on paper. I know this is a dying art given the move away from teaching cursive in schools but I have no intention of stopping now.

Does this technique work with a longer more business- and technology- focused writing I do for clients? Sometime yes, sometimes no.

  • If I’m working collaboratively with several people in remote locations, no. 
  • If I’m working in a temporary office shared with other consultants, no. 
  • For pieces incorporating tables and graphics, also no. 

But for shorter pieces where time is of the essence and clear thinking is important, definitely yes.

Here are some questions:

  1. How do you write?
  2. Have you changed how you write recently?
  3. How do you use technology to help you write?
  4. What special techniques do you use to help you edit what you write?

Copyright © 2013 by Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D. Dennis is a management consultant based in Alexandria, Virginia. His experience includes consulting company ownership and management, open data, database publishing and data transformation, managing the integration of large systems, corporate technology strategy, social media adoption, statistical research, and IT cost analysis. Clients have included the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Library of Medicine. He has worked throughout the U.S. and in Europe, Egypt, and China. His web site is located at and his email address is On Twitter he is @ddmcd.

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