Laptop-keyboard-and-cappuccino-from-above

When you’re writing copy, the editing process can be as important as the writing process itself.

This is your chance to look at what you’ve written with a more critical eye, so you can refine it and knock it into shape.

As a professional copywriter, I can assure you there are always changes at the editing stage — even if it’s only adding a comma.

1. Sleep on it

To achieve the most effective edit, you need to be able to look at your work objectively, with fresh eyes — as if you’re seeing it for the first time.

I find the best approach is to close it down, sleep on it and come back to it the next morning.

2. Break it down

Paragraphs

Large, unbroken walls of text are daunting and uninviting to your readers, so break them down into manageable paragraphs.

A paragraph is defined as a series of sentences that deal with a specific theme, such as a time, place, subject or person.

Whenever the theme changes, you should start a new paragraph.

Sentences

A sentence is a set of words that’s complete in itself.

You should aim to keep your sentences short and manageable. To do this, make just one or two related points in each sentence. Then type a full stop, followed by one space, and start a new sentence.

For example:
It was raining heavily and there was a cat trapped down a drain and the drain was flooding and the fire brigade had to come and rescue her.

Could become:
It was raining heavily. There was a cat trapped down a drain that was flooding. The fire brigade had to come and rescue her.

3. Add headings, if appropriate

When you’ve broken your text into paragraphs, you should look to see if you can add any relevant headings.

Headings are helpful for three reasons:

  • They tell your readers what’s coming next
  • They help your readers skim read to find the information they want
  • They can help you if you find the relevant sections if you need to edit the piece at a later date.

4. Address the fluff and filler

You should aim to keep your writing tight and focused. This means removing, rewriting or reworking the fluff and filler.

In particular, you should look for:

  • Repetitive words, points or phrases
  • Sentences that don’t make a point or say anything worthwhile
  • Sentences that are too waffly or wordy
  • Irrelevant details that don’t contribute to the bigger picture
  • Vague words and ‘information’
  • Unsupported or uncitable evidence
  • Filler words, like: actually, basically, just and that.

5. Check the flow

Content

Your writing should flow easily from one point to the next, so it makes good sense and answers the readers’s questions in a logical order.

Make sure it introduces each piece of information in a logical order and doesn’t:

  • Skip important details
  • Deviate or go off on tangents
  • Backtrack or go round in circles
  • Mix up your message.

Punctuation

Your writing should be punctuated correctly so it reads easily and makes good sense. Reading aloud will help you find sentences that are too long and any places where you need a pause.

6. Address the jargon

Your jargon is the language you use in your business. It’s the words, phrases and acronyms you’re so familiar with, you use them every day. This means it’s possible they’ll have seeped into your writing without you noticing.

The problem is that your customers and website visitors might not be so familiar with this language — and they might not understand what you’re saying.

To avoid alienating or confusing your audience, either:

  • Remove the jargon and replace it with plain English; or
  • Explain the jargon the first time you use it.

7. Check the spelling

Spelling mistakes and typos can make you seem unprofessional. Always run a spell-checker over your document and make sure it’s set for the appropriate country.

Unfortunately, spellcheckers won’t pick up on words you’ve misused and some default to American spelling, even when they’re set to British. The best way to manage this, is to ask someone else to proofread it for you. A second pair of eyes is also good for giving you a second opinion (see point 8).

8. Ask for a second opinion

Pass your finished piece to a friend or colleague you trust for a second opinion.

Ask them to check the spelling and to flag any parts that were difficult to read or hard to understand.

Take any criticism on board, then use the feedback you’re given to correct the piece and resolve any issues that were raised.

9. Make sure it delivers

You need to check your piece does what you set out to do.

Go back to the heading and make sure:

  • The question is answered
  • The how-to shows you how with enough detail
  • All <number> tips are present and listed
  • Nothing is missing.

If you’re falling short, you can either rewrite the heading to something more suitable, or fill in any gaps with more information/detail.

10. Submit the piece and proofread

Sometimes software incompatibilities can change characters or make things look different. For example, you might have an extra space somewhere or text that starts on a new line where it wasn’t meant to.

So, before you give it the final proofread, put it into the completed format, whether that’s a blog, brochure, newsletter or website.

Do you need help with editing your writing?

Editing your own words isn’t always easy and you might not have the time or inclination to do it yourself.

If you need an objective opinion and a fresh pair of eyes, I can help you.

I’m a freelance copywriter based in Leicester. Alongside my regular copy and content-writing work, I offer copy critiques and copy editing.

If you’re thinking of writing your own copy, or have a piece of copy or content you’d like me to look over for you, please get in touch.