15 Copy Editing Tips That Can Transform Your Content into Persuasive and Shareable Works of Art

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What’s special about the compelling content you retweet, Like, bookmark, and email to your friends?

Those articles serve the audience, not the content creator.

Creative work that instantly captivates and holds an audience’s attention influences their lives.

Transcribing the thoughts in your head won’t always serve a purpose. You must construct helpful and manageable instructions for your audience — the reader will do something differently in her daily routine after learning about the information you share on a specific topic.

That’s easier said than done.

You obviously want to establish your website as an authoritative publication in your niche, but in order to cross that threshold you need to critically examine your cornerstone content.

Strengthening your ability to create content that spreads includes improving your editing skills. Editors transform basic text into powerful stories (in all media) that persuade people to take action.

Once you’ve written a draft, you’re still not ready to hit “publish” just yet. Here are 15 copy editing tips that help turn your articles, landing pages, webinars, and podcasts into shareable works of art.

Copy Editing Stage 1: Pre-revision rituals

  1. Walk away. Realistically evaluate your post’s urgency. Unless you must meet a strict deadline, take a break for at least a day after you’ve completed your post. New ways to modify your writing will become evident after you’ve created some distance from your initial creation.
  2. Release attachment. Forget that you wrote the content and consciously assume an Editor Mindset that’s free from your Writer Ego. As an editor, you have no problem evaluating and deleting to produce a more coherent and complete post. Proactive editing shouldn’t be devastating.
  3. Create a new document. Prepare to save everything you remove because writing consistent posts for your blog is a fluid process. Content that’s excessive or irrelevant for a certain post shouldn’t go to waste. Use those ideas as a springboard for your next article.
  4. Indulge a bad habit. Perform one fast, superficial reading to gratify the impulse to skim your text. Each subsequent reading should be a meticulous review of the text.
  5. Self-evaluate. As you lightly read your post, write side notes without changing the draft. If you didn’t communicate your intentions accurately, use these notes as an opportunity to record leftover ideas you thought you included but actually didn’t. You’ll use the notes in Stage 2.

Copy Editing Stage 2: Comprehensive cutting and pasting

  1. Summarize your goal. Write your straightforward aim in about 25 words, and then edit your summary until you have a succinct headline that includes the “Four U’s” of copywriting: ultra-specific, unique, useful, and urgent. Writers often assume that readers will quickly understand their main point even though they haven’t explicitly stated it.
  2. Avoid overwhelm. Weak sections may appear in final versions of blog posts if you don’t edit enough because reviewing the entire post in one sitting overwhelms you. For example, I edited this post in five different sessions. Begin with your favorite part to generate editing momentum.
  3. Pamper your audience. Ask yourself, “How does this information help my reader?” after each sentence. Each paragraph should satisfy an element of CMKR — provide Comfort, be Memorable, share Knowledge, or list Resources.
  4. Consider alternatives. Incorporate notes you made during Pre-Revision as you reorganize or combine sentences, shorten or lengthen paragraphs, or change the order of the text. If you often repeat a word, keep it in the most appropriate place, and replace it with synonyms in other instances.
  5. Eliminate questions. Use the “Fifth U” that pertains to editing the body of your copy: unmistakable. You never want your reader to guess or have the thought, “I don’t really follow. Is he trying to say ___?” If a reader strains to comprehend your message, she won’t have any motivation to share your writing with others.

Copy Editing Stage 3: Razor-sharp proofreading

  1. Don’t rush. Your content needs to be solid before you proofread. You’ll notice errors more easily when you’re not still rewriting and rearranging portions of your blog post. If you begin proofreading but find yourself copy editing too much, continue with Stage 2 until you’re ready for Stage 3.
  2. Be curious. Read slowly, as if each word is foreign to you. It’s time to scrutinize each word to make sure it’s the perfect fit for that sentence. A slow proofreading practice also helps you catch real-word typos, such as “my” instead of “may,” “through” instead of “thorough,” “most” instead of “post,” or “to” instead of “too.”
  3. Get mechanical. Proper writing mechanics ensure that your blog post is effortlessly comprehensible. A few grammar, spelling, or punctuation mistakes won’t necessarily ruin your reputation, but they may ruin great ideas by making them confusing.
  4. Value consistency. Create a style guide for your blog post that lists all proper names, terms, and phrases. Professional, polished writing doesn’t have inconsistencies such as varied capitalization or punctuation when referring to the same word. For example, if “Walmart” is the correct spelling, you should never also write “Wal-Mart,” “WalMart,” or “Wal-mart” within the same post.
  5. Categorize your progress. Stop proofreading a section of your text once you know it’s flawless and focus on weaker areas. Highlight the text in green if it’s completely proofread, yellow if it’s partially finished, and red if it still needs a good amount of your attention. When all the text is green, read your post one more time out loud. You should be able to read it without making any changes.

Adaptation is essential to effective communication

Editing improves your writing because language that impacts readers doesn’t always materialize immediately. Your concepts become more persuasive when you manipulate and craft your original words.

During in-person communication, you can rephrase your verbal speech if you observe a puzzled or clueless look on someone’s face. With writing, you don’t get the luxury of such feedback until after you’ve published. At that point, you don’t get another chance to explain yourself; a reader will simply stop reading.

How do your copy editing techniques differ from your writing practices?

Share your favorite revision tips in the comments below!

About the Author: Stefanie Flaxman is the creator of Revision Fairy. Get more from @RevisionFairy on Twitter and Google+.

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