Now you have finished writing your piece and you’re happy with it.
So that’s it, hit publish, you’re done!
Please don’t – not yet at least.
You spent hours working on this article, the last thing you want to do is send it out into the world without editing it properly.
Think of the last time you were reading an article and suddenly noticed a multitude of errors throughout it.
Didn’t it change your view of the publication/writer? Accidents do happen, so a single typo won’t make much of a difference. But multiple typos, strewn throughout the body of your piece makes it look sloppy and like you didn’t care to spend the extra time to make sure the piece came out well. This will result in your brand losing credibility, which is the opposite effect you want from your content marketing.
And if your bosses read through your piece and are consistently finding error after error, it isn’t going to be pretty for you. So do everyone a favor and make sure to edit your piece thoroughly using these techniques.
A Couple of Tools
I use two free tools on a regular basis to edit my work. The first is Ginger, which is a more intuitive spell check. It goes through your piece and catches errors that Microsoft Word’s spellcheck might miss. Ginger can actually tell that the word you used is wrong even if it is technically a word.
The other tool is the Hemmingway editor, which analyzes many characteristics of your work, based off the style of classic writer Earnest Hemmingway. I use this tool to analyze my work for overuse of adverbs and readability. But it checks the grade level of your work and picks out when you use passive voice. This tool helps you start to break down your work and understand it better, which is a key to better writing.
I’m a really big fan of these tools, but they’re no substitute for human eyes.
A Second Set of Eyes
Which is why I have an editor and you should too. This person should be someone who is both brutally honest and has a good grasp on the rules of the English language.
This person will go through your piece and tell you the most obvious things that are wrong with it. They don’t have the rosy glasses on of being the post’s creator, so they will catch the errors you miss.
It’s not impossible to create the perfect post without an additional editor, but it is far more difficult.
After your editor gets done with your article, make the changes they recommend then proceed to edit it again using the following method.
Read it Out Loud
My last internship before getting hired here was at a public radio station. For my final project I had to write and record a news story about a topic of my choosing. When I turned in my first few drafts, my supervisor read them over and told me, “Read this out loud and fix it.”
As soon as I did so, the rougher parts of the article became readily apparent. When you go to edit, if it sounds awkward or wrong when you read it to yourself, then it sounds that way to your readers.
Additionally, while you read out loud, it is often helpful to point to each word with your cursor or a pen, to prevent your brain from glossing over awkward wording. Your brain knows how it wants the sentence to read, so it will often mislead you into thinking something is worded correctly, even when it is not.
One last tip for this section: when you are reading through, say out the actual words that make up your contractions. This makes sure that you never mix up “it’s” with “its” or “their” with “they’re.” These errors are common, but easily remedied using this method.
Now Do It Backwards
Now that you’ve done it forwards, I want you to scroll to the end of the article and read it backwards.
What I mean by this is: read each sentence independently, starting on the last sentence and work your way backwards. This eliminates the risk of your brain fixing an error because of the context of the sentences surrounding it.
Like the previous step, read each sentence out loud and follow along with your mouse.
One More Time
You may think it’s fine to publish after going through all of these steps, but in my experience, as you edit you can actually mess things up if you aren’t thorough. This could mean changing the tense of a sentence, but only changing it in half the sentence. Or adding a word but forgetting to delete the word you were replacing. These are the things that make content look messy and make up my most common errors.
Which is why I rinse and repeat, reading the article out loud at least one more time before I hit publish.
This may seem like overkill, but editing and revising is what takes a decent post and turns it stellar. Your writing will be smoother and error-free; something that can’t be said of many first drafts. I spend at least as much time, more even, editing than I do writing. And that’s how it should be. You worked hard to put together a good post, you might as well take the time to make sure it’s as good as it can be before sending it off into cyberspace.
Share with us! Do you use these tips already? Did we miss something?
[…] Ginger is no substitute for a human editor, as I talk about in this piece. I actually bring up both this tool and the following tool in that post, along with some strategies […]