By Georgina Walls
You’ve completed your first draft. You sit back after being scrunched over a desk for the past hour and contemplate the next step.
It’s time to make your draft beautiful. It’s time to edit.
Trust me; editing is all-powerful in this regard. I used to think my content was good until I understood what to look for. I was shocked at how much TLC it needed.
Learning how to improve my content allowed my mistakes to be less aggressive and maximised the value of my content for my clients. But learning how to edit well isn’t easy on your own. So, I’m going to help you. I became a better (and faster) content writer by using some super smart editing tools. Discover how to turn your content into a prized jewel through these brilliant editing tips and tricks.
The Engagement Challenge
Delete unnecessary introductions
We have waffle that’s delicious and waffle that’ll act as a reader repellent.
Within the first few sentences, your reader should know what the aim of your article is and what your information will do for them. This increases the chances that they will stick with it.
That should be your priority as a content writer.
It’s easy to get carried away with an anecdote, an explanation or a fancy quote in your first few paragraphs. But you’re crucifying your work by doing this. If you don’t get to the point FAST, your readers will lose sight of any benefit they hoped to gain.
So cut the crap and get to the point. Increased engagement will be your reward.
Delete anything that doesn’t support your argument
If I told you I recently bought some ace boots for dog walking in an article promising solutions to stop your dog pulling on a lead, I’m being indulgent at my audience’s expense.
Your reader is not going to care about information that isn’t relevant to their problem.
So read your content once, and then again, to see if all your sentences deserve a supporting role in your show.
Look out for weak sentences, and if your article is focused on offering information or solving a problem, ensure every word you write is providing value to your reader.
Is the most important thing at the beginning of each sentence?
I found this gem in ‘Everybody Writes’, by Ann Handley.
Information and the ability to get it FAST are the two main things a reader wants from an article. Appeal to this need by moving the focus of a sentence to the beginning.
- Follow this recipe to make the perfect cake.
- Make the perfect cake by following this recipe.
Which sentence is correct? Making the ‘perfect cake’ is the most important thing about this sentence. The second sentence does this.
It baits the reader by highlighting the benefit (that they can make a perfect cake) and then it shows them how (by following the recipe).
Be a Grammar Nazi
Your first draft should be so ugly that nobody will want to bring milkshakes to your yard. It’s about getting that information out of your head in record time. Do this, giggle at your weird and wonderful grammatical errors and put some cleaning gloves on.
It’s time to discover how much grammar you understand, and how much you don’t. Here are two BRILLIANT resources that could save your content’s life.
- Unleash a great app like Grammarly on your content.
- Check out our essential grammar guide for clarification.
Top Tip: Make a list of your mistakes. Then when you have some spare time, come back and use that list to do some solid research. This helps you rectify repeated grammatical blunders.
Type less to achieve more
This part is REALLY satisfying. Make your content clearer and easier to read by cutting unnecessary phrases from your sentences.
This writing faux pas often stems from our desire to be formal. For example, you might say ‘there will be times when…’ when you could just say ‘when’ or ‘at times’.
That’s just dandy for an essay or a novel but not for copy. You audience wants CLEAR and TO THE POINT content.
So SEARCH AND DESTROY all those difficult to read phrases and replace them with smarter words.
Dare to be brilliant with better verbs
If you approach your first draft like me, you will spew out whatever verb wins the race from brain to screen.
This is good; choosing better verbs belongs in the editing stage.
Experiment, dig deep into your verb bank and identify puny verbs. Inject them with a load of spinach and make them POP EYE STRONG.
Over time, the verb bank in your brain is going to expand. The next time you approach a first draft, they’ll be ready and waiting.
Time to put theory into practise
Let’s roll back. You’re sitting at your desk. Your first draft looks like a caterpillar and it wants to be a butterfly. You’re ready to start the transformation.
The discomfort you may feel from facing your writing mistakes is slowly ebbing away. You begin to enjoy scrutinising your content. Knowing your writing is BETTER because of your dazzling editing skills is so very satisfying.
Welcome to the club of CONTENTed writers!
Practise makes perfect.
Go grab an old article that carries evidence of your past writing mistakes. Imagine it’s your least favourite person and start dissecting it using the tips and tricks discussed:
- Delete unnecessary introductions
- Delete anything that doesn’t support your argument
- Is the most important things at the beginning of each sentence?
- Be a Grammar Nazi
- Type less to achieve more
- Use better verbs
The more you do this the easier it will get. You’ll have less to edit, saving you precious writing time because…