Sweep Edit for Adverbs

I use Joanna Wiebe’s technique of editing in sweeps, which means that I edit written work in multiple 2-pass sweeps that each address one problem. In each first pass, I highlight the text that I should fix in this sweep, and then I do a second pass to fix them. This is in contrast to fixing different problems in a single read-through of the work.

For example, right after I finish a first draft of a blog post, I do a sweep edit to make the piece about one specific message to one kind of audience. I highlight anything that isn’t part of that message, and then I go through those parts and either remove them or make sure they are short enough to not distract the reader. While I am doing this, I am not fixing grammar or tone because I will do that later—each sweep is focussed.

After reading Writing Down the Bones, I finally have a better way to make my writing use fewer adverbs and adjectives. I have always tried to find and remove adverbs, but now I also find better nouns and verbs for the sentence I just edited. This lets me gorge on as many adverbs and adjectives as I want in the first draft, because I can trust myself to fix them later.

The extra adjectives and adverbs actually help me. They are a wordy description of the better noun and verb for that sentence. I can use Goldberg’s noun and verb game or a thesaurus to find them.

I’ll be elaborating on this in tomorrow’s episode of the Write While True podcast.