“I strongly prefer to vomit write and never look back.”
I’ve heard statements like this a time or two in my career. These words have a contradictory effect on me. On one hand, they make my knees knock in fear. The thought of wading through an incongruous piece riddled with grammar and spelling errors makes my eye twitch. On the other hand, they send a shiver of excitement down my spine. This may come as a bit of a shock, but my favorite part of editing doesn’t come from correcting people’s grammar. It comes from helping people figure out how best to voice their message.
Every written piece is a puzzle, and my job is to figure out exactly how it fits together. Sometimes, this requires swapping only a piece or two. Other times, it involves scrapping the whole thing and starting over from scratch. Either way, I get a deep sense of satisfaction when I find just the right combination of pieces to produce a masterpiece.
While my bank account welcomes Word Vomit, it’s also my job to educate on proper writing techniques. So, how can you avoid spewing words all over the page and giving your boss, teacher, editor, or readers a migraine?
Dig into the dregs of your memory to recall your high school or college English classes. Chances are, you learned about the writing process: prewriting, writing, revising, and proofreading. Yep, that’s what I’m going to preach.
This is the place for Word Vomit. In this stage of the writing process, you brainstorm, gather information, and look at the connections between your ideas. Then, you decide which ideas to keep and which to discard.
You may have been taught to write an outline at this stage, but really any form of brainstorming will do. The point of prewriting is to get everything out on paper and form a loose structure that will guide you in the next stage of the process.
This stage of the writing process is somewhat self-explanatory. Here, you pull your ideas from their lists or maps or outlines and place them in sentences and paragraphs.
Don’t focus on spelling or grammar in this stage. Instead, concentrate on connecting your ideas. The time will come for proofreading your work.
In this stage, you’ll place your work under a microscope to review the argument and evidence, the organization of and connections between ideas, and the writing style. Consider your work from the readers’ standpoint. Looking at your work through a different lens makes areas that need improvement much more visible. It also allows you to catch and revise Word Vomit.
Give yourself time before moving from the writing stage to the revising stage. Doing so allows you to “get out of your head,” enabling you to view your work with greater clarity and objectivity.
This is the stage in which you go over your work with a fine-tooth comb. Review punctuation, spelling, grammar, and mechanics. Do not—I repeat, do not—rely on spell-check for this stage. While it will catch a good number of errors, some errors will slip through the cracks (e.g., homophone errors and typos that are actual words). Utilize the human eye—your own, a colleague’s, or a professional editor’s—to make sure that all your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.
Do you suffer from Word Vomit? What will help you best minimize it? Do you have any writing tips and tricks that help you keep Word Vomit at bay? Share in the comments!