As a content writer or copywriter, you need to keep developing your craft to stay relevant. So you’re constantly reading blogs and books, attending webinars, and taking courses to hone your copywriting and content writing skills.
And that’s good. You should definitely do that.
But most times, you don’t realize that you’ve neglected to learn a necessary skill that’ll help you transform your content/copy from good to great — editing.
Yes, editing. It’s a skill you need to learn. Just because you’re great at writing doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be great at editing your work. So if you self-edit your content/copy, you need to pay more attention to improving your editing skills.
I’ve come up with 10 tips you absolutely need to know as a content writer or copywriter that’ll help you improve and speed up your editing process.
1. Don’t rush
You might have heard this before, but the reason we all say it is because it’s a crucial step.
Yes, I know you have a deadline to meet. But that doesn’t mean you should rush the editing process — especially if you’re self-editing. Plan to finish writing early so you have enough time to edit.
And take at least a day or two to edit your content/copy. It could take a longer or shorter time depending on how many words you’ve written. I say this because it’s super important for you to clear your head before you start editing.
Doing this increases your chances of catching most errors and tightening your content/copy until it effectively communicates your idea to your target audience.
But if someone’s editing for you, you could reduce your editing time.
2. Read through the piece once before pulling out your ax
You know that mental ax you start sharpening as soon as you want to edit?
Yeah, that ax.
Hold off on sharpening it till you’re done reading through once.
And as you read through, critique your work and leave comments, questions, and suggestions for improvement. I’m guessing you’ll be using either Google Docs or Word. Either way, use a word processing software that allows you to leave comments.
Doing this allows you to have a clearer view of the main focus of your content/copy. You’re also able to catch structure flaws and ideas that don’t support your content marketing goals since you’re looking at the big picture. And most times, as you read through, new ideas pop up.
Write everything down as comments and in your second round of editing, you can (finally) grab your ax and start chipping away.
The danger of not reading as a whole first is that you cut out parts that don’t seem to make sense initially, but after reading further, you realize they serve an important role in tying your ideas together.
So you end up wasting more time removing and re-adding parts of your writing.
3. Edit in steps
It’s important that your content/copy goes through several rounds of editing. Each round of editing should focus on checking and correcting a couple of major key points at a time.
For example, your first round of editing could check for big picture issues and structure while your second round of editing could check your grammar, tone, and spelling. You can focus on whatever points are most important for the type of content/copy you’re writing.
Editing in steps speeds up your editing process and gives you a better chance of catching errors. If you edit everything at once, chances are, you’ll probably miss a couple of things because you weren’t looking out for them. If you want to learn how to edit in steps, read my 4-step editing strategy.
4. Write plainly
If you want an effective content/copy, you need to write in simple English. Your audience should understand you without having to grab a dictionary.
So avoid using big words that can confuse your audience in a bid to impress them. Here’s a spoiler: it won’t.
Like this article from the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading says,
“If you write in simple, direct language, readers are more likely to respect and value what you have to say.”
So instead of saying “As your editor, I will edit the tiniest of details to spawn flawlessness,” I can simply say, “As your editor, I’ll help you produce flawless content.”
Sounds better, doesn’t it?
When it comes to writing content/copy, simple is better.
5. When in doubt, look it up
Thank God for Google. If you’re not sure of a word you want to use, look it up. It’s that easy. Don’t waste time playing the guessing game.
6. Use the Find and Replace function to find and replace words that make your writing weaker
With time, you’re able to identify these words and phrases easily. And to speed up your editing process, you can use this function to find and replace them with more effective words.
Let’s say you realize you tend to use ‘in order to’ when writing. It’s a phrase you should avoid using because it makes your sentences longer and your writing weaker, so you need to look out for it when you’re editing.
Most times, you’ll find you unknowingly snuck it in somewhere. By using this function, you can easily identify where you used it and replace it with ‘to.’
To use this function, press Ctrl + H on your keyboard if you’re using Windows and Command + H if you’re using a Mac. You can find this function in Word and Google Docs.
7. Always think about the reader
Many people think editing is only about checking for punctuation, spelling, and grammatical errors, but it’s way more than that.
When you put your editor hat on, you must always think about the reader. In fact, at every stage of your content creation process, focus on the reader.
Always ask yourself, “Would this make sense to them? How would they perceive this? Would this turn them off or not?”
I know you’re trying to write for SEO and to satisfy your clients’ demands, but the truth is your audience are the most important people. Write to them. Not for search engines, or anyone else.
If you’re constantly asking yourself these questions, you’ll edit your writing till it’s tailor-made for your audience.
8. Use editing tools to speed up the editing process
They can also suggest better words to use, check for passive voice, and perform many other functions. Every smart writer needs to be using at least one of these tools.
Although these tools are great, they should not replace human editing. They are limited in how they can help you as a copywriter or content writer because they’re not designed to make sure your content suits your audience. You still need to read through word for word to check this.
9. Always proofread after copyediting
Proofreading and copyediting are NOT the same.
I cannot overemphasize this! (Yes, I have to use exclamation marks because it’s THAT important). While copyediting is where you do the bulk of your editing, there are still several errors that could occur after rewriting and restructuring several sentences and paragraphs. That’s why proofreading is necessary.
Proofreading is the last run-through of your content/copy to check for any errors missed or created while copyediting.
Often, I see that many writers don’t know the difference between a proofread and a copyedit. What they call a proofread is usually a copyedit and because of this mix-up, they stop at the copyediting stage and don’t do any proofreading. Don’t be like those writers.
10. Leave your pride at the door and ask for help
You need to know your limits and ask for help. Granted, you might be a great writer, but you might not be the best editor — especially if you’re self-editing.
I know you want to do everything yourself, but there are times when you need a second pair of eyes to glance through your work.
And if you’re working on a tight deadline and don’t have enough time to take a break before going back to edit, chances are you’re going to miss many vital errors doing a rush edit.
Your best bet would be to get a colleague or professional editor to look over your work.
Bonus tip. Because, why not?
11. Always ask yourself, “Is this helping me meet my (or my client’s) content marketing goals?”
Let’s say you’re a content marketing writer for B2B SaaS brands and one of your clients asks you to write content to attract and educate their target audience.
Your goal isn’t to sell the brand’s services to them, it’s to provide valuable content for their target audience to generate brand awareness, build trust with the audience, and establish their brand presence online.
So if you’ve written a fantastic line that you’re sure would sell them on the brand’s services, you need to reconsider putting it there because it’s not helping you meet your goals. While making sales is important, you might put off your potential buyers when they sense you’re trying to sell to them.
Likewise, if you’re a copywriter, your goal is to write copy that sells (or at least makes the reader take the next step). This is not the time to focus your writing on irrelevant information that will not help them respond to your call-to-action.
Long story short, when editing, your mind should be laser-focused on making sure every sentence is helping you achieve your desired content marketing goals, and if it’s not, no matter how great it is, let it go.
Is your editing game weak?
So there you have it. Have you already been doing a lot of these or are you just realizing your editing game has been weak? Either way, you need to make sure you take improving your editing skills seriously.
Yes, I know for client work you might have senior editors looking through your work before it gets published, but it doesn’t mean you should slack off on editing.
You want to be known for consistently producing high-quality content/copy even if it will pass through several editors. Besides, making their job a little easier will put you on their good side.