Quick Tip:
Kill Your Darlings

William Faulkner once said, "Kill your darlings."

With his type of stories, he might have meant kill off your favorite characters. But he didn't.

He meant something far more important for any writer or graphic designer.

When you revise your work, you'll come across things you've written or designed that strike you as especially beautiful or strong. It may be a lyrical phrase. Or a word that perfectly captures what you want to say. Or a bit of cleverness most people won't quite get.

These expressions of beauty, eloquence, and sophisticated cleverness … these are your "darlings." They interfere with your prospect's reading. They get in the way of your sale. Kill them.

Strike them from your copy.

It won't be easy. But ideas that you're strongly attached to are often weak.

Here's a strategy many accomplished writers use that can also easily be adapted to graphic design …

When you come to one of your darlings, figure out a way to express what you want to communicate more simply. Then cut out the offending section and paste it at the bottom of your file.

Continue editing. After several revisions, go back and examine each of your "darlings" critically. Did you really need it? Does it add power to your writing/design? You'll probably answer "no."

If you're still reluctant to lose your darlings, paste them into a separate file "to be used later." After several months, you'll discover that you've never used any of them. More important, you'll discover that your writing/graphic design is stronger without them.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: November 29, 2004

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