If writing is a big part of your work, editing your own content should be, too. Between grammar snafus, typos, and sentences that don’t jive, each element impacts how people perceive content quality and a brand.
With so many different content streams to juggle including social channels, website copy, and ads, B2B companies can’t afford to hit the publish button without knowing content has a second line of editing defense.
To kick content editing up a notch and make it easier for anyone to pitch in, create a checklist. A set sequence of steps for key writing must-haves within a finished piece, such as keyword count, spell-check, and grammar review, ensures accuracy and consistency within content.
It also helps to create a basic guide to clarify and outline specific style preferences, such as the Oxford comma or brand nuances for preferred capitalization, of products or services.
These two steps alone already put you way ahead when it comes to content polish. Now, here are tips for editing your own content to make it really sparkle.
Ready, Set, Edit
1. Plan editing time into writing deadlines to ensure there’s space to let it rest
There’s nothing more frustrating than being under the gun for a thorough content edit. Feeling rushed is a distraction and an easy way to miss lots of details.
To avoid the extra pressure, make sure content has at least a day in between writing and editing. This allows the mind to read what’s really there (not what the brain wants to see), and gives you a chance to notice where things can be tightened or cut easily.
2. Change the font type, size, or color
Sounds simple, but so few people actually try a font switch up. Not only does it help things stand out on the page, but a larger font helps with eye-strain, too.
3. Connect with an editing partner and have them read content out loud, or get the computer to read it back to you
Use those auditory skills to really fine-tune the nuance of a message and catch words with multiple spellings, such as there and their.
Calling in additional support from the ears also helps with content context and brand message clarity. Chances are if something sounds off to you, it will sound off to potential customers as well. Plus, when listening to content aloud, the brain is less likely to fill in the gaps or automatically correct things.
4. Simplify the language and toss the industry buzzwords
During the writing process it’s easy to rely heavily on industry terms and over-explain topics to get the point across.
When editing your own content, limit industry specific lingo, even for target audiences, and break long sentences down into clear, simple points. There is nothing more frustrating than having to read something three times to understand it, especially when you are a customer.
Instead, punch up verb choice with more active, powerful words so simple sentences still stand out with clarity.
5. Edit for spelling, grammar, tone, voice, and sentence structure separately
It sounds like a lot of work collectively, but it’s more about the single focus you hold while editing your own content.
For example, if you know you are only checking for grammar, do one sweep focused on that aspect. Then go through tone, voice, sentence structure, spelling, etc one at a time. This way all content aspects are covered thoroughly.
6. Check to see if you are using one voice throughout a piece consistently
When in writing mode, you are free-form thinking and getting out key ideas in a creative way. It’s easy to move between points of view and not notice as you go with the flow. Decide to use 1st or 3rd person at the start of writing a piece, then double check how well you did during the editing process.
7. Print a paper copy and use colored pencils to edit it
For long-form pieces, it helps to have colored pencils and give each color a specific job. Use just green for grammar, red for spelling, and blue for content structure edits, for example. This makes it easy to see what needs to be changed as you go back in to make changes.
8. Double-check facts and stats
Creating content that uses outside sources means you also need to be extra sure numbers aren’t transposed, names are spelled correctly, and sources are attributed properly. If you are basing an article or marketing piece on a specific stat or insight from an influencer, it’s essential to make sure these details are clear when editing your own content.
9. Edit things with the brand voice in mind
A brand has a tone and a voice that should be used consistently within content. When reviewing all the content you write, it’s important to read or listen to content with that voice in mind, and ensure it’s consistent through each piece down the line.
10. As a grand finale, check formatting last, after sentence structure, spellcheck, and grammar check are completed
For a piece of content to be truly done, it needs to be formatted for the specific content medium such as a white paper, blog post, e-book, and more. While it may be tempting to tinker around with formatting as you go, it’s best to save it until last because content changes shift the space and how everything looks, which can lead to extra time spent re-formatting.
Even if you don’t see yourself as a professional writer or editor, following these tips when editing your own content will sure make you seem like one. Just remember to keep things simple and do editing in phases to catch both the big and little things.
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