Whether you’re writing a blog post, article or web copy; it’s unlikely you’ll hit perfection with your first draft. Even professional copywriters (especially professional copywriters), edit their work several times before they’re completely happy with it.
For me, editing is the most enjoyable part of the writing process. You’ve got through the pain of the blank page and now have something to work with. And with careful editing you can turn even the roughest of first drafts into something amazing.
Here is the six-step process I go through when editing:
1. Let it rest
I prefer to write and edit on different days. Taking a break from your work allows you to come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes, making it easier to spot the areas that need improving.
Leaving your piece for a day or so gives your subconscious the chance to mull over what you’ve written. You may find a new intro or a better approach strikes when you’re least expecting it.
2. Print and read
When you’re ready to start editing, begin by reading the whole piece without worrying too much about the finer details. You’ll come onto those later. The first read through should just give you a feel for the overall flow and help you spot the areas where things aren’t quite right.
At this stage, I like to print out my work and make notes in the margin. Brief reminders such as “too long,” or “expand this” remind me of the changes needed in my next draft.
Look out for duplication at this stage too. If you’ve said the same thing in two different ways, you can probably remove a paragraph and make the whole piece tighter.
3. Edit line-by-line
Once you’ve made the changes you highlighted in step two, it’s time to go through the copy in more detail. Take the time to scrutinise each sentence. In particular look for long sentences that can be shortened, long words that can be replaced with shorter alternatives and clumsy phrases that need rewriting.
4. Read it out loud
Next try reading your piece out loud. This will highlight the areas that don’t flow easily or wordy phrases that can be shortened.
5. Repeat the process
You may need to repeat steps 1 to 4 several times before you are happy that you’ve got a final draft. Each time you edit, your piece will be improved.
But be careful to know when it’s time to stop – if you edit past the point of perfection, you risk throwing away your best ideas.
Only when you’re completely happy that your piece is ready to publish should you proofread. Proofread too early and you’ll end up making changes to the content and have to start the proofreading process again.
I’ll be adding lots more advice, checklists and copywriting guides to the blog over the coming months.
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See you next time!