It is impossible to overstate the importance of the editing process when it comes to your written content.
Editing your content is essential.
This is because as well as the expected spelling and grammar mistakes, there is a tendency to either use too many, or too few words.
Whilst there may be good reason for this, in order for the content to do its job properly it usually needs to be succinct, easy to read and understand, and have a clear purpose.
A product description needs to be compelling and a proposal needs to get across that you’re capable of doing the work.
The longer you spend looking at a piece of writing the harder it is to see it objectively, whether it’s a few lines for an advert or a 5,000-word white paper.
If you’ve spent a lot of time researching, analysing, and compiling data, then you might be drowning in figures, acronyms or industry-specific terminology, or perhaps you’ve been trying to create the perfect 10-word advert slogan or even just an email response.
Here are our thoughts for an effective editing checklist.
- Take a break
- Change the font
- Ask someone to read it
- Does it appeal to your target audience?
- Assertive language
- Where, when, how, and why
- Spelling and grammar
Let’s look at these points in more detail.
1. Take a break
Taking a break will let you think about something else so that you’re not overwhelmed. It’s likely you’ll think of a way to improve it.
- Do something else for a while and come back to it
- Leave it a couple of days if possible, and approach it with a clear head
2. Change the font
When you’re editing your own work, it’s easy to read what you want, and not what’s there.
Changing the font forces your brain to think differently.
- Try a ‘handwriting-y’ font – an unfamiliar font also makes you slow down, so you can identify anything that strands out as wroong
- Change the font size – a bigger or smaller font will make you read it properly
- Try a different font colour – again, it’ll make you read it properly as you’re not used to it
3. Ask someone to read it
When you’re so involved and invested in a piece of content, it’s hard to remain objective.
Ask someone else to read it for you.
- Another pair of eyes will spot something you’ve missed, or any mistakes
- You’ll know whether they understand it, and the action you want them to take
4. Target audience
You’re writing for a specific target audience, whether they’re the general public, or specific, like mechanics, business owners, hairdressers, parents or tradespeople.
- Remember your target audience, their age, knowledge, and interest
- A PlayStation game review for teens should be written differently to an annual report for a large PLC
- Don’t assume, confuse or patronise
5. Effective language
Use strong, and positive language where appropriate, especially when you’re presenting facts, or want to take readers in a certain direction.
This especially applies to proposals and tenders where you need to demonstrate what you ‘can do’, ‘have done’ and ‘will do’.
- Emotions, scenarios, common problems, memories, and saving time and money are a good place to start
- Try and remove elements of doubt, like ‘could’, might’, ‘should’, ‘may’ where applicable, and use ‘will’ instead
What’s the piece of content for? What should it say? What does it say?
Is it effective and does it meet your requirements and objectives?
- Product or service descriptions?
- Testimonials and case studies?
- Marketing material?
Remember to add what you want your readers to do next.
Do you want them to:
- Feel confident changing their indicator bulb?
- Choose your proposal?
- Buy your product?
- Feel reassured that you can take care of their legal, medical or personal problem?
- Know they can trust you?
7. Where, when, how, and why
Where, when, how and why will your content be read?
- On a phone?
- Printed out whilst sat on a couch?
- Underneath a car?
- With a screaming baby
- Next to luxury items, like designer clothes, jewellry, or high-end items ?
As part of your Content Strategy, you’ll need to determine why you’re creating this content, and whether it meets its objectives.
- What’s it for?
- Who’s it for?
- What is it part of?
- How long will it be relevant?
- How will you measure if it’s successful?
No matter what people say or think, it’s hard to read on a screen.
So, it’s a good idea to format your content well to help your readers.
Our favourites are:
- Bullet points – break content up and highlight important information
- Numbered lists – this blog post uses a numbered list to explain the topic
- Subheadings – makes it easier to find important information
- Colour – using different coloured fonts can bring content to life, but you don’t rely on colour as those with visual impairments may not be able to read it
- Blockquotes – using blockquotes makes an idea or quote stand out, like in a magazine
Let’s have a look.
- This is a bullet point
- This is a numbered list
This is a subheading
This is green coloured text
This is a blockquoteMatthew James, Write Again Ltd, 2021
You can count on a significant number of people reading your content on their phone (unless it’s printed, of course), so you need to ensure it looks good and works on a phone.
Here are some things to think about.
- Shorter sentences
- More paragraphs
- Bullet points
- Sensible font sizes
- Sensible font colours
- Sensible image sizes
10. Spelling and grammar
It’s obvious, but it still needs to be said, check your spelling and grammar. There’s no excuse for getting it wrong these days.
- Simplify – nobody is impressed with big words or jargon when simple words will do; remember your content is to help, educate or inform somebody, not show off that you know big words*
- Yew end eye no sum thymes their our too ore moor ways of spelling a word, and so grammar and spell checks might not flag wrong words
- Consistency – ensure that you capitalise, use acronyms, bullet points (capital/lower case letter at the beginning, and comma/full stop/semicolon/nothing at the end), footnotes, references, links and more, consistently throughout
*Obviously if you’re talking about medical, legal or science-y things, then you might need to use big or technical words
There’s a lot to be said for editing and making your content easier to read.
Putting just as much thought into editing, presentation and calls to action will encourage your readers to do what you want them to, whether it’s buy something, learn something, or try something.