Writing, whether it’s for blogs, social media posts, web copy, marketing messages, presentations, etc., has become part of a small business owner’s responsibilities these days. As a journalist of many years, I don’t think that’s quite fair—but it’s reality.
Bad or sloppy writing, filled with typos, reflects badly on your business. That’s why it’s imperative you edit your work, before posting it.
Tips for Editing Blog Posts
1. Don’t hit send before you edit. Many of you will want to get through the writing and editing process quickly, but that will just result in typos and other errors. “Editing,” Patch says, “is like grooming—you can do it badly.” As the legendary Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is [crap]”—so make sure you take the time to carefully edit your work.
2. What to look for. Patch says there are three questions you need to ask yourself as you start to edit.
- Are there jumps in logic or breaks in flow? Don’t expect the readers to fill in the blanks. If your copy isn’t flowing well, they’ll just stop reading.
- Is this the way my reader understands and speaks about this topic? You are not writing for you or your friends. You want to write in the language your reader speaks, whether that’s formal or more casual and chatty. Use words and phrases that are common in your industry, but don’t use too much jargon. Your writing should sound authentic, showcasing your expertise, but remember, this is not about you.
- Do I need to eat something? While this sounds trivial, I agree with Patch. If you’re hungry, thirsty, tired or otherwise distracted, you will inevitably struggle with your words.
3. The Inverted Pyramid. Patch recommends you tackle editing in four parts, and she adds, don’t try to edit all levels at the same time. Her pyramid:
- Structure. When you’re editing the structure of your work, you’re looking for gaps in logic. Does the overall piece make sense? Are you asking your readers to take step 3 before you’ve explained step 2 to them? Look at the finished copy, Patch says, and ask yourself what points you made? Are they the ones you set out to make? Is anything missing? When you edit for structure, you’re looking at the big picture, and you’ll be able to recognize where the flow is off, or whether you’ve omitted anything relevant. Don’t overstuff your blog—you don’t have to tell them everything all at once.
- Paragraphs. Now, go back to your work and make sure your paragraphs have smooth transitions, with simple transition sentences. Patch says it’s important to “format for easier readability,” using subheads and bold type to break up big paragraphs.
- Sentences. Sometimes, Patch says, sentences aren’t doing enough work. Are your sentences clear? Other times, sentences may be doing too much work. Do you have sentences that over-explain or simply don’t need to be there? Are there run-on sentences (you can recognize these by the appearance of too many commas)? Be aware of how many times you use the words “if” or “while” in a sentence. Use a variety of sentence lengths. Patch cites research showing varying the length of sentences increases reader comprehension and keeps people reading. She recommends using Hemingwayapp.com which shows you how readable your words are.
- Words. Avoid “danger words.” These are the words readers don’t understand the same way you do. Don’t use jargon or buzzwords. And stay away from generalities—be as specific as possible in your choice of words.
4. General editing tips. Patch recommends you:
- Edit your own work.
- Edit later in the day. Research shows we humans are more creative in the morning (so do you writing then) and more analytical in the afternoon.
- Give your brain a break. Get up, stretch, walk around.
- Change the font and the text size of the work you’re editing. She says this makes it easier to spot typos, and recommends you blow up the type to at least 16.
- Print it out and look at it. This too, makes it easier to spot problems.
- Read the piece out loud. This is one of my favorite writing/editing tips—it helps you spot “danger words” and typos.
Typing Photo via Shutterstock