Editing is the most important step in the writing process.
Because editing helps you to pick up on more than just basic proofreading mistakes like spelling or grammar. When you edit you give yourself a chance to ensure that what you’re publishing is interesting, unique, and actionable.
It’s through editing that you can look at your work through new eyes. It provides you with an opportunity to ask yourself whether there are any weaknesses in the content, or any strong areas that you would benefit from being expanded upon.
Editing allows you to fine tune your content, to scrap the BS, and ensure that what you publish is top-notch, all of the time.
I’m a writer for Process Street’s blog which has over 100,000 readers a week and I’m here to share with you 4 top tips for editing content. I’ll also provide you with the ultimate editing hack: an editing checklist (well, three editing checklists to be precise).
Let’s get started …
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Table of Contents
Top tip # 1: Keep the whole post interesting
The first tip may seem like a given, of course your post is interesting, why else would you have taken the time to write it? The thing is, I’m not referring to the post as a whole, but rather to each and every sentence.
When editing, go through the post line for line and ask yourself if each line is necessary, does it add value to the post? Is it interesting?
According to Neil Patel, there are 9 elements to an interesting blog post:
- Tell a story: Supposedly, taking your reader on a journey, by telling a story creates instant brain activation. Meaning that the reader is engaged.
- Write in the first person: Just like I’m doing in this post. Write in a personable manner as if you’re speaking to the reader one to one.
- Foreshadow: Set up your reader for what’s coming in the post, this’ll help increase anticipation and keep the reader reading.
- Smooth transitions: Hold your readers hand, guide them from A to B. Make it clear when you’re transitioning from one topic to the next.
- Be clear: One mistake that writers often make when trying to make a post interesting is by sprucing it up with complex language and fancy grammar. It’s a rookie error. You’re writing a blog post, not a thesaurus. Keep things simple.
- Brevity: Keep things short and sweet. Say only what you need to say and then move on.
- Flow don’t fly: Yes, keep things short BUT also ensure that the article flows. Avoid jumping, or flying, from one point to the next. Remember to take your reader on a journey.
- Stick to short sentences: It’s easy to get lost in long sentences so often readers will skip them if they don’t make immediate sense. Keep your sentences short to avoid confusion.
- Ensure scannability: Take advantage of bullet points, lists, and headers.
As you can see from the list, making content interesting isn’t just about writing about an interesting topic. It involves writing in a way that’s concise and easy to digest as well as writing in a way that engages the reader.
I’ll give an example: I once had to edit a post about Lean Six Sigma and on seeing the title I could feel an internal yawn brewing. Fortunately for me however, my colleague that had written the post managed to bring some flare to an otherwise mind numbing topic. Thank you Leks for keeping things interesting. How did he do it? He made the post unique – I’ll cover this next.
Top tip # 2: Include a unique twist or story
The most simple way to make a post unique is to throw something personal into the mix. Include a story or add a personal twist. Leks chose the latter in his Six Sigma article and added a personal twist. The twist confronted the fact that the we publish a lot of content about the topic of Six Sigma with humour:
“Are you seriously writing another post about lean Six Sigma? Yes. Yes, I am.” – Leks Drakos, Conquer Process Improvement With These 9 Lean Six Sigma Tools
You could also add a personal story. Perhaps you’re thinking, how can I tell a personal story about business topics that I haven’t personally experienced? Though there might not be a way that you can directly refer to the topic of a blog, you will likely have a personal experience that is relevant. For example, I recently wrote an article on product-led growth, to make it personal I included the following story:
“On starting my studies I moved into a room in a shared apartment. I decided to use the few remaining pennies in my student overdraft to spruce up my single-bed cupboard of a room (Harry Potter, eat your heart out, your cupboard was a palace in comparison).
So, I looked online and found this beautiful Persianesque rug, for $3.50 … Unfortunately, when the rug actually arrived it wasn’t a rug at all. It was a bath mat and an ugly one at that! There I was expecting woolly coziness to add a bit of a class to le cupboard and instead I received a plastic mat with a sticker of a rug on it.
Perhaps I was so excited by the bargain that I missed the fine print description of the rug-like-bath-mat. Or, perhaps the bath mat’s value wasn’t made clear in the product’s description.” – Molly Stovold, Build a Product That Sells Itself With Product-Led Growth
The story aimed to demonstrate the importance of communicating and delivering on the value of a product and brought a unique twist to the article. The key thing to remember is that it doesn’t really matter what the story is about, the important thing is the uniqueness it brings to your writing. Keeping your content unique will not only create a better experience for the reader, it will also lessen the chances of your work being plagiarised and copied.
So, in summary, to ensure your article is unique you should do one of the following:
- Tell a personal story
- Combine data or advice in a unique way/ put a twist on existing content
- Share your own opinion
Top tip # 3: Ensure your content is actionable
What use is your article to the reader? When editing, go through what you’ve written and ask yourself if there is a way that you can make it even more useful. Some tricks for including actionable bitesize sections include using images or screenshots, explainer videos, and words/phrases like:
- Pro-tip: Do X to accomplish Y
- Check out … for more information/clarification
- For example: This app is brilliant for …
You get the idea.
Think about it from your own point of view, when you click on a blog post, what has driven you to do so? You’re likely searching for an answer to something, help or guidance, or a product or service with a particular use case.
Another point worth mentioning here is the importance of delivering on what you promise. If your title promises “4 Top Tips for Editing Content” the reader expects you to deliver 4 actionable tips that will optimize their editing process.
Top tip # 4: Use a checklist
Speaking of editing processes… My main hack for editing content is having a documented process that I follow each and every time I publish a post. Following the process takes me through editing step by step and saves me from human error, forgetting something, or making mistakes.
The editing process I use also takes me through the SEO, and html code needed to transfer my post from Quip (or Google Docs) to WordPress. However there is a more streamlined process than manually making these edits; with Wordable you can transfer your post over to WordPress glitch free. No code, no excess time spent editing, just a simple copy and paste. For more information on how to do this check out this video.
I use Process Street’s nifty checklists to take me through my editing process, they are completely free to use and can be integrated with other applications if need be. To learn more about Process Street and how to use the app, check out this video.
- Blog Pre-Publish Checklist
- Blog Content Approval Checklist Template
- The Ultimate Blog Post Editing Checklist
The above checklists are my personal favorites, however, there are heaps more editing checklists that help with more fine tuned aspects of blogging (like SEO, and email marketing campaigns). For a full list check out this blog: 12 Checklists for Bloggers to Implement Content Marketing Best Practices.
As I said in the introduction: editing really is the most important step in the writing process. Hopefully now, after reading this blog, you understand why.
So, in summary, my four top tips for publishing solid content are as follows: number one, ensure the whole of the post is interesting; number two, keep your post unique by telling a personal story, or creating a twist; number three, make sure your post is actionable and useful to the reader; and number four, use a checklist!