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Are your blog posts, mailouts, sales pages and ebooks as successful as they should be?
If you always end up dashing them off in a hurry (or if you fret over every comma but never make any structural changes) then you’re falling down at the editing stage of writing.
No writer, however good, produces a perfect first draft – but every writer, however inexperienced, can hugely improve their work through editing.
Here are five crucial tips that you need to follow:
#1: Allow Plenty of Time for Editing
Maybe you’re always hitting “publish” right on deadline, or every Tuesday is a mad scramble to get your newsletter out.
If you never have time to edit properly, then write fewer pieces of content. Most readers are overwhelmed with blog posts and emails, and they’d rather have one great post each week instead of five mediocre ones.
#2: Write Then Edit
Do you find yourself editing the start of every sentence before you get as far as the period?
If you edit while writing, you’re going to make slow progress. You might never finish a piece because you get bogged down part way, or because you keep changing your mind. It’s much more efficient to get the whole thing written first and then turn your hand to editing.
#3: Let Your Work Rest Before You Edit
Perhaps you already edit your work, by changing around a few words around as soon as you finish each piece.
Instead, let each piece of content rest – for a few hours, or a few days – before you start editing. That way, you’ll see it with fresh eyes. Yes, sometimes you’ll need to edit immediately – but that should be a rare exception, not a habit.
#4: Fix Big-Picture Problems First
When you begin to edit, do you start fixing typos and fiddling with punctuation?
The first stage of editing is to get the focus, structure and flow of your post right. That might mean cutting, adding or rearranging paragraphs (or whole chapters, in an ebook) or altering the tone or style. There’s no point perfecting every sentence in a chapter that you later cut completely.
#5: Edit for Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar Last
If you’ve ever had a reader point out an embarrassing spelling mistake – one that’s been on your site for weeks or months – then you’ll know why getting the details right is so important.
Once you’re happy with the overall shape of your post, you can fix typos, spelling and grammar mistakes, and punctuation errors. That means reading through carefully, paying attention to anything that your spell-checker flags up – but also watching out for commonly confused words, like “its” and “it’s”.
Editing might not seem very exciting or creative … but it’s a crucial part of the writing process. By developing strong editing skills, you can make sure that your message comes across loud and clear. If you’ve got any questions, or any tips of your own to share, just pop a comment below.
Bio: Ali Luke is a writer and writing coach based in the UK, and blogs for writers at her site Aliventures. For more guidance on how editing fits into the writing process, check out her post The Four Essential Stages of Writing.
By the way, we’re hiring! See our open positions for more.
Post image from Flickr by Nic’s events