Behind every great writer, is a good editor. The best writers I know welcome the opportunity to have someone help make their words sing. It’s a chance to have someone completely objective – but with your best interests at heart – partner with you to improve your work.
Sometimes editing is a matter of giving a piece a light edit to tighten the prose.
Other times, it can amount to fixing structural issues and shoring up the foundation of your work. That includes editing for length and removing inconsistencies.
An editor can lighten the tone, refocus on the audience, or ensure your work is optimised for SEO. Editors also answer a cry for help when you know something is wrong, but you can’t see a way to fix it.
In many cases, the editor may not change a thing but give you a list of notes for areas that need improvement.
Far too many content creators are faced with publishing without the benefit of anyone passing a critical eye over their writing. If you’re working alone, don’t have the internal talent in your office, or your budget doesn’t stretch to hiring a freelance editor, this guide is for you.
Tip: Don’t start editing until you’ve completed a first draft. Make writing and editing two separate activities. You don’t want to interrupt a writing flow by being self-critical during the creative process.
Once you have a first draft, it’s time to get clinical about the job at hand. Editing is a destructive activity that helps your writing flourish. Be objective and think about the piece from the perspective of someone in your target audience. Keep in mind people are more likely to read than skim so getting emotionally attached to anything on the page is about as useful as a back pocket on a t-shirt.
The fastest way to better copy is to remove any word, phrase, sentence, or paragraph that’s not contributing to the piece. This can be painful if you’ve laboured over your work, but more words never make a better product.
Once you’ve examined the bigger chunks of your writing, it’s time to get down to more detailed editing. Start at the beginning and review your copy for buzzwords, cliches, jargon and ‘business speak’. State your ideas in the simplest terms possible. The goal of written content is to communicate your ideas and that happens best in uncluttered language.
Make sure your ending circles back to the beginning. Have you met your reader’s expectations?
Before you publish, get someone to proofread your work. If you don’t have the luxury of a proofreader, wait at least a day before you publish. Taking a rest will help you see areas for improvement you might have missed before.
What are your editing hacks? Reply to this email and share them with Dan and me.
1 February 2022
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