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Capturing the essence of a topic is the heart and soul of good writing and editing. If you cannot tell what the main idea is, you cannot write it either. And if you cannot write it, how would you expect your readers to get it? So it all starts with you.
Thankfully, it is not a mysterious process. Here are two techniques that you can use to weed out the irrelevant details from your core idea:
Reduce every complicated sentence or paragraph down to the following three components:
Subject ==> Verb ==> Object
Bob ==> Loves ==> Books
This is just another way of saying “identify who is doing what to whom”.
EXAMPLE: In all honesty, after all is said and done, her efforts ended up introducing a new element to our discussion of oil prices in the form of those easily downloadable presentations.
Object: Our discussion
BETTER: Her easily downloadable presentations have introduced a new element to our discussion of oil prices.
Here’s another method…
Identify the correct subject of the copy
EXAMPLE: ABC company officials were at first apprehensive about the effectiveness of their newly installed Millennium Star access control system since it relied on the legacy Dynamo motherboard that had maintenance issues in the past. XYZ corporation, on the other hand, had much better success with the CaptureAll all-digital intrusion detection system that did not rely on a legacy motherboard but a xenon-tube activated proprietary technology with TCP/IP configuration module.
PROBLEM: Is this paragraph comparing the two companies or the alarm systems they are using? Once you decide on that, it would be easy to simplify the text.
SOLUTION: The real Subject is the alarm system. The text’s core message is a comparison of the two alarm systems and not the companies.
Here is the revised text:
BETTER: The CaptureAll all-digital intrusion detection system is better than Millennium Star access control system since it uses a xenon-tube activated proprietary technology with TCP/IP configuration module instead of the legacy Dynamo motherboard that had maintenance issues in the past.
(An excerpt from my book 101 Ways to Power-Up Your Writing )