Recently, we shared tips on how to self-edit a blog, and with the help of Eschler Editing’s article on prose editing, we highlighted a few main points to help you make sure your articles have that professional polish. Today we’re going in-depth—so grab your red pens and get ready to clean up your prose!
Under the editing umbrella, prose editing comes after content editing. So what is it, exactly? For starters, prose is the language you use when speaking or writing. In a literary sense, it’s the term used to differentiate between poetry and regular writing. Prose more closely resembles everyday speech. You want your blog posts to feel conversational rather than flowery or stiff, so when you’re composing your posts, write as if you’re talking out loud—although perhaps not as casually. Your prose will already be aimed at your audience if you write as if you’re conversing with a customer.
Prose editing is sometimes known as line editing, meaning you read and edit your post line by line, making necessary changes to the prose to ensure style and voice match throughout the post and are right for your audience (that’s what’s called audience awareness). Line editing also looks at your argument and ideas, making sure they are well organized and cohesive. Additionally, it’s the first edit that looks at grammar-related issues like word economy, sentence structure, grammar, spelling, and mechanics. Since the latter three are also part of copyediting and proofreading, we’ll touch on them a bit later. First, let’s look at what word economy and sentence structure are and how to edit them to smooth out your writing.
“Word economy” means to use as few words as possible to get your point across. Here are some tips for cutting the fluff:
- Adverbs and adjectives are generally not your friends. Adverbs and adjectives are placed in front of verbs and nouns to create emphasis, but most of the time they can be cut and replaced with stronger verbs.
- Cut the fat. More often than not, words like that can be cut. And the adverbs we use to add emphasis, like really, very, and just, are filler words, taking up space and making for cumbersome reading.
“Sentence structure” refers to the way you build your sentences.
- Varying your sentence length and structure adds rhythm and smooths the flow of words. If you have a lot of complex sentences, break them up into smaller, simpler sentences. A complex sentence has one independent clause and at least one dependent clause. A simple sentence consists of one independent clause.
- One complex sentence: Our recipe book is filled with easy-to-make, nutritious, and delicious meals that will help you on your weight-loss journey, changing mealtime from a chore to a fun experience for you and your family.
- Two simple sentences: Our recipe book is filled with easy-to-make, nutritious, and delicious meals that will help you on your weight-loss journey. It can help you change mealtime from a chore to a fun experience for you and your family.
- If simple sentences are your problem (and are making your writing sound choppy), you can combine related simple sentences into one complex sentence.
- Two simple sentences: We have multiple recipes for crock-pot chicken. These recipes are inspired by Mexican and Italian flavors.
- One complex sentence: We have multiple recipes for crock-pot chicken inspired by the flavors of Mexico and Italy.
Also, check out the bulleted list in our self-editing post. It talks about active versus passive voice, effective paragraph transitions, and avoiding repetition—all issues prose editing deals with. Once your content is set and your prose is beautiful, it’s time for the copyedit.
Copyediting and Proofreading
This is the step most tend to think of as editing, and while it definitely is part of editing, we’ve shown there’s a lot more to editing than just looking at grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Copyediting and proofreading come when your content is concrete and your prose is perfected. You’ve edited your blog to make it good—now you need to polish it. In addition to being your last perusal for wordy prose and organizational issues, copyediting and proofreading are when you’ll find and fix those pesky grammar issues.
But, you protest, “I’m not a grammar guru!” You don’t love studying punctuation and mechanics, and spelling is not your forte? Don’t fret, and don’t rely solely on spellcheck. Here are a few tips to make your proofreading process a bit smoother:
- Check for inconsistencies in spelling with words like e-mail and email.
- Watch for homophones—words that sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things, like here and hear.
- Read your post aloud and/or backward. It’ll make catching mistakes like missing words and typos a lot easier.
- Where you’ve written the content and are familiar with it, you’ll need to forget the story and focus only on the words. Again, reading aloud or backward can help you concentrate on the technical aspects—on words and on punctuation issues rather than on the content or story.
- You can always ask a trusted colleague or peer to read over your blog before you hit “publish.” They might not be grammar gurus, but they don’t know the content like you do and may catch things you’ve missed.
- You can use Eschler Editing’s list of nifty grammar tips as a guide for your copyediting and proofreading procedures. It includes the top-ten grammar gaffes authors make and tells you how to fix them.
- If all else fails (or you just don’t enjoy grammar), get Grammarly (or another proofreading tool)—a free app that helps you check grammar and spelling. They have a premium service with additional tools for a monthly fee.
That’s it! Have we helped you become a better writer and editor? What other tips would you give fellow blog writers? Let us know in the comments below.