Act early. “Winter is pruning time for shade and fruit trees, and for most summer-blooming trees and shrubs.” To be ready for any size branch, bring along a hand pruner, long-handled loppers, and a pruning saw—all well sharpened.
Know your goal. Don’t prune mindlessly. Aim to remove “all crossing or touching branches, dead or damaged limbs, suckers and water sprouts.” Suckers are branches that emerge at the base of trees; water sprouts are vertical shoots that grow out of flowering branches. To avoid creating stubs, you should make all cuts “just above the spot where the limb meets another branch.”
Follow up. Return to each tree or shrub after spring leaves appear and “remove any dead branches you missed.” Dormant pruning is better for the plant—but you can’t always see every flaw.
Source: Better Homes and Gardens