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Career Advice: Learn to Edit

Heads up, friends: All the good jobs involve writing and editing.

You need to communicate well — in an essay, a blog post, or a tweet.

(And this isn’t just marketing jobs. I just deleted 300 of 360 applications for an office manager job because they had weak grammar. There’s not a lot you can do in most offices these days if you can’t send a great email.)

Here’s great advice from Jason Fried about a class he’d like to teach:

It would be a writing course. Every assignment would be delivered in five versions: A three page version, a one page version, a three paragraph version, a one paragraph version, and a one sentence version.

I don’t care about the topic. I care about the editing. I care about the constant refinement and compression. I care about taking three pages and turning it into one page. Then from one page into three paragraphs. Then from three paragraphs into one paragraph. And finally, from one paragraph into one perfectly distilled sentence.

Along the way you’d trade detail for brevity. Hopefully adding clarity at each point. This is important because I believe editing is an essential skill that is often overlooked and under appreciated. The future belongs to the best editors.

Each step requires asking “What’s really important?” That’s the most important question you can ask yourself about anything. The class would really be about answering that very question at each step of the way. Whittling it all down until all that’s left is the point.

(Thanks, Paul McEnany.)

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  1. Darren December 5, 2010 at 6:27 pm #

    A good idea, though Fried ought to heed his own advice. There’s a fair bit of redundancy in those four paragraphs.

  2. Rick Short December 6, 2010 at 9:36 am #

    The course described above is something I experienced while in the MBA program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). Imagine our emotions when the professor first walked down the aisles collecting our multi-page assignments, then immediately reversed his path and handed them all right back, instructing us to condense it to a one-pager. Darned if he didn’t do the same thing again the following session. We were steamed – and didn’t get it. By the time he was done with us we “got it”.

    A big tip of the hat to Merrill Whitburn ( for a lesson well-taught.

    THANK YOU for this very meaningful post.

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