Your blog is where your clients—both current and prospective—learn about your company and get a glimpse of your personality. Because you’re showcasing what you’re all about, you want to be sure your blog not only contains great content but is also well written. A few months ago we talked about how to hire a freelance writer for those who were strapped for time or just not into writing. But if you have the time and you want to write the content yourself, we’ve got some self-editing tips to help you bring your writing from dull to captivating and make it sparkle with that professional polish. You’ll also find that your writing time is more efficient and productive.
Plan, Outline, Draft
The first step in creating a great post is to plan out what you want to write about. Your writing will be better if you already have an idea of what you want to say. Once you’ve got that, you’ll want to create an outline, which you’ll fill in with your main points, before you write your first draft. Like a roadmap, it’ll keep you focused on your overall goals as you create your content. But keep in mind: Your first draft is just that—a draft. It does not have to be perfect. In fact, your draft can—and should—be a conglomeration of the main ideas from your outline, just fleshed out a bit more.
And don’t worry about editing as you’re writing the first draft. You’ll spend more time back-spacing than getting words on the page. When you’ve finished writing it, let it sit and rest a spell—an hour, a day, even a week—whatever it takes to clear your mind so you can come back to it with a fresh set of eyes. When you do come back to revise your draft, you’ll be more apt to recognize any errors with content, prose, or grammar.
Review for Content
Editing your work isn’t just a matter of fixing spelling and grammar or cutting wordy prose. It’s ensuring that the content you’ve written is applicable to your readers and that you haven’t veered off course. For example, if you run a jewelry business and you’re writing about a jewelry-cleaning formula you recommend, you don’t want to go on a tangent about the metals that are the hardest to clean—unless you bring it back to the fact that your formula makes the job a snap for any metallic substance. Stick to your main idea and make sure anything you add is directly related to it.
You’ll want to do your content editing first because you don’t want to spend time fine-tuning a paragraph only to find it doesn’t belong in the post, after all. A great way to determine if the content is relevant is to read your post out loud. It’s easier to recognize if the post goes off on tangents or if you’re on track.
Clean Up Your Prose
Prose editing means ensuring that the prose—the writing itself—is clear and concise and captivating. Eschler Editing has a great article on self-editing your prose you can reference, but here are a few main points:
- Cut out adverbs and adjectives and replace them with stronger verbs. For example, instead of writing, “Our software makes photo editing really easy,” write, “Our software makes photo editing a snap.”
- Remove filler words, like very, just, really, and that.
- Watch for verb-tense issues.
- Transition your paragraphs. This involves writing a topic sentence that connects each paragraph to the paragraph before it. For example, if you close a paragraph with something like “We can help clear the air about the most cumbersome grammar issues,” your opening sentence of the next paragraph should connect to that subject, like this: “And speaking of cumbersome issues, let’s talk about those verb tense . . .”
- Use active voice. A lot of beginning writers tend to use passive voice. Active voice has more authority and is more clear and concise. Instead of writing “The blog was thoroughly proofread by a professional editor,” try “A professional editor thoroughly proofread the blog.” Let’s give that editor the credit for doing a great job at cleaning things up! The passive version places the emphasis on the direct object, not the subject. Another example: “Your article is being read by interested buyers” is more powerfully stated as “Interested buyers are reading your article.” Note that each of the active-voice sentences has two fewer words than its passive counterpart. There are times when it’s okay to use passive voice, like when you want to place more emphasis on a particular part of the sentence. If you want to emphasize that it’s your article being read by interested buyers, use passive. If you want to emphasize that there are interested buyers reading the article, then use active.
- Vary your sentence lengths. Make some long, some short, and some in between. This helps the rhythm of your writing, making it more enjoyable to read.
- Avoid repetition. Check your prose for these common problems: 1) Sentences all opening the same: “We recommend this cleaning formula. We like this formula because it’s less expensive. We do not like overpriced formulas.” 2) Words used over and over again: “The formula is tremendous. The price is tremendous.”
Become a Grammar Guru (or at least write like one)
Once you’ve got your content and prose in shape and you know you won’t be cutting any more material, it’s time to polish spelling, grammar, and punctuation. If you think you’re done after you run a spell check, think again. You’ll want to watch for inconsistencies in spelling (e-mail or email), missing words, and errors with things such as homophones (there versus their). If you don’t trust your grammar skills, consider using Grammarly, a free writing app that checks your grammar and spelling and even suggests synonyms to increase your word power and enhance your writing.
After you’ve done a final proofread, consider asking a colleague or assistant to read it through. They may find something you missed and can tell you if anything seems out of order or is confusing.
One More Check before Publishing
Last but not least, make sure your text editor formats your article correctly. You may have inserted images that cut into the text or used a font that inhibits the post’s readability. Use the preview function to make sure the formatting is as beautiful as the article you’ve just written!
What are your self-editing tips? Are there any apps you recommend for checking spelling and grammar? Let us know in the comments below.