The demands on today’s businesses have changed drastically. As a small business owner, especially, you no longer assume a single role within the company. Instead, you have to wear many hats, and that means adapting your skills to meet the constantly shifting needs of your business.
As content becomes an increasingly important part of your marketing strategy, one of those hats may likely include “writer” or “editor” of your blog—maybe even both. But what happens when the hat doesn’t quite fit? If, like many business owners, your experience in the editorial world is limited or nonexistent, the responsibility of editing your blog content can seem like an intimidating and uncomfortable task.
The good news is, you don’t have to be a professional editor to spot and address problem areas in your content or to create polished, professional blog posts. Using these four editing tips for non-editors, you, too, can take your written content from good to great.
First, let’s break down the two main types of editing you’ll be doing (whether you know it or not): copyediting and line editing.
- Copyediting happens mostly on a sentence level and focuses on technical issues, such as punctuation, spelling, grammar, and consistency. Essentially, copy editing is about finding mistakes and correcting them.
- Line editing focuses more on the content itself. It looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the entire piece, as well as the primary arguments, organization, evidence, focus, and voice. In line editing, you may find yourself fixing things that aren’t technically wrong but that detract from the meaning or impact of your blog.
Copyediting is important for the obvious reason that technical mistakes are embarrassing and unprofessional. Line editing, on the other hand, is what really takes a piece to the next level and creates a stronger connection with the audience. Both copyediting and line editing should be part of your editing process.
1. Take a Creative Approach.
When you sit down to edit a piece of writing, try to approach it from a different perspective or in a different format. This is an especially helpful tip if you are not only the editor but also the writer of the blog post. Too often, when we read through a post in its original form, we scan right over errors without even realizing it. But, by taking a creative approach, you can shift your perspective and look at a piece with new eyes.
Start by printing out your blog post or simply opening it in a different reader, like a tablet. Change the font size or style. These adjustments, though they may seem simple, can bring to light errors that you might have otherwise overlooked. It’s surprising how much clearer run-on sentences, lengthy paragraphs, or misspelled words can appear when seen in a new way.
If you’re stilling having trouble picking up on misspelled words, try starting at the end of your blog post and reading the entire piece, sentence by sentence, in reverse. By changing the way you look at the words on a page, you can shift the focus away from the content itself and focus more on the minute details.
Remember, if you’ve been staring at a blog post for the last couple hours, and you don’t feel like you’re making any progress, put it aside for awhile and return to it later with fresh eyes.
2. Pay Attention to Word Choice.
The words you use in a blog post determine its effectiveness and impact on your audience. Choose words that are vibrant and meaningful, but easy to understand. Consider these key factors when editing a blog post for word choice:
Passive voice: There is nothing inherently wrong with using passive voice in your content. In fact, there are often instances when it makes the most sense to use it. But, if you can find a way to reword a sentence using active voice, without detracting from the flow or meaning, do it. Active voice almost always makes content more engaging and interesting to read.
Expletive Words and Phrases: No, we’re not referring to the four-letter words you use when you stub your toe. (Although, it’s probably best to avoid those in your business blog as well.) Here, the term expletive refers to words or phrases that are redundant, empty, or meaningless. Even the best writers are guilty of stacking their writing with expletives. They can appear in the form of repetitive phrases like “future plans” or “final outcomes,” or as empty words like “basically” or “undoubtedly.” The point is that expletives don’t actually add value or meaning to your content, so it’s better to replace them with words that do.
Jargon: Using jargon is another example of poor word choice. You may think jargon makes you sound more knowledgeable or in touch with your industry, but more often than not it, it just makes you sound like a blowhard. Though we’re all guilty of using it, the truth is that jargon is lazy, boring, and often confusing. If you really want to create compelling blog content, replace jargon with words that are simple and universal.
3. Clarity Above All Else.
If the main idea of a blog post isn’t clear from the start, then nothing else really matters. Clarity is one of the most important aspects of both blog writing and editing.
When you’re working on editing a post, focus on the ideas first and make sure a general audience can understand them. What is the takeaway of the blog post? Is it plainly laid out or does the reader have to dig for it? Are the main ideas explained using clear, concise, and logical support?
To achieve greater clarity, you may need to restructure the blog post or perform some additional research. Other times, you may need to cut out pieces that distract from the main goals of the blog.
Understanding clarity doesn’t require you to be a professional editor; it only requires you to be an objective reader. If the main points of a blog post aren’t clear to you, you can bet they won’t be clear to your readers either.
4. Focus on Your Goals.
At the end of the day, what really matters is that your blog is helping to move you closer to your content marketing goals. For some, that means improving your search engine rankings for certain keywords. For others, it might mean providing a valuable resource to your customers. And for others still, a business blog might be the key to increasing brand awareness. Whatever your business blogging goals are, be sure that your blog posts are working towards them. Because if they’re not, what the heck is the point?
As a non-editor, you may occasionally feel lost or frustrated by your editing efforts. That’s okay! Even professional editors feel that way from time to time. But by following these four easy tips, you can get a little closer to polishing your posts like a pro.