Editing is as unique as a piece of art. Every editor will edit writing differently. For example, Lead Guide Lindsey Miller doesn’t like introductions that tell stories about a representative “you.” Think: “You go to the store and blah, blah, blah.” As content director, I don’t care for the word “however.” But aside from preferences, there are things in writing that are either correct or not.
When artistic and factual editing unite, you end up with a fabulous piece of writing. And all good writing deserves terrific editing. This post provides 13 essential editing tips to improve your process.
The Editing Process
Before we get into editing tips, we should first talk about the editing process. Unless you’re editing a book, which you edit as you go, the editing process generally consists of the same three steps.
3 steps to editing:
- Read the entire piece
- Reread the piece
The first step is where you see what the piece entails before you start making changes. You need to know what the writer wrote before you know what to edit.
The second step is the obvious one — editing. But what you may not know is that not all editing is the same. There are two types.
Two types of editing:
- Micro. Micro editing is where you edit the details of a piece of writing. It’s when you edit things like grammar, spelling, and sentence structure.
- Macro. Macro editing is where you look at the piece as a unit to judge whether it’s complete and makes sense or if you need to add details or rewrite sections.
Macro editing is another reason you read the entire piece before you start editing. You’re getting a feel for the work and the intent.
The third step is when you make sure you didn’t create errors. Yes, even editors make mistakes. You reread the entire piece to make sure you didn’t accidentally miss something, insert a mistake, or add information that negatively affected the piece’s flow.
Editors all too often skip the first or last step. They open a document, edit it, then send it on. But those steps are crucial to the overall quality of the piece. Failing to complete them is just lazy editing.
13 Essential Editing Tips
We probably could spend the entire day talking about editing and the various tips and tricks to be a better editor. This list could go on ad nauseam. Instead, we pared it down to the 13 most essential editing tips in no particular order.
1. Use Programs
Use programs to help with your editing, but never trust them. Spell check is the first function to use when you edit. Hopefully, the writer used it too, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes spell check thinks there’s a mistake where there isn’t, so read the sentence before accepting a suggested change.
Grammarly and Readable are a couple of good programs to use to check writing, but they don’t replace human editors. Grammarly consistently recommends incorrect subject/verb agreement, and Readable loves to insert unnecessary commas throughout any piece of writing. Programs are great to double-check your edits, but don’t rely on them entirely.
2. Delete Unfamiliar Words
You’re an editor, which probably also means you’re a word nerd. If there’s a word you don’t know, others likely don’t know it either. Delete any unfamiliar word unless it’s followed with an explanation. If you must include an unusual word, explain it. Otherwise, replace it with a more common term.
3. Cut Habit Words
All writers have words they use out of habit. Knowing your writers means being aware of their habit words and carving them from their writing. Strong contenders include that, however, regardless, now, currently, and important.
4. Trim the Fat
Even meeting word counts for clients doesn’t give you a license to add a bunch of fluff to your writing. See how many words you can delete before you hit publish. Pretend every word costs $1 and save your money. Concise writing is clear writing. Phrases worth cutting include “in order to” and “in the process of.” Although, transition words are still important.
5. Write in Time, Date, Place Order
Write everything in time, date, place order. For example, the meeting is at 10 a.m. Saturday on Zoom. If the place is a business, always include the address.
Don’t start sentences with days or dates. When it happened rarely is more important than what happened.
6. Avoid Cliches
There’s no place for cliches in your writing. They’re lazy. And they don’t mean the same thing to everyone. Delete cliches and explain what the writer meant to say instead.
7. Flip Clauses
Don’t start sentences with long clauses that only delay the action. If a clause requires a comma, move it to the end of the sentence.
8. Avoid Semicolons
Semicolons are for complex or compound sentences. Simple sentences make for the best, most active writing. Break complex or compound sentences into two sentences instead.
9. Edit for Active Voice
Active voice makes writing stronger. The best way to write in an active voice is to use subject-verb-object sentence construction. Think: Who did what? If you answer that question in that order, you can make any sentence active.
10. Delete Adverbs
Adverbs are words writers use when they can’t think of strong verbs. Comb sentences for adverbs like “very,” “totally,” or “extremely.” Edit them out and use a strong verb in that place.
11. Save Commas
Don’t throw around commas like they don’t matter. Instead, pretend you only have so many commas to use for the rest of your life. If you run out of commas, you’ll have a life of run-on sentences. If in doubt, edit it out.
12. Use Contractions
Contractions are less formal and help readers feel like they’re talking to you. Instead of “I will go to the play if she is there,” edit the sentence to read,” I’ll go to the play if she’s there.” It’s shorter and seems more relatable.
13. Read It Out Loud
Editors’ eyes get tired. So do their brains. The best thing to do when you’ve made a lot of revisions to a piece, or you’re just getting tired for the day is to make that last read verbal. Reading an article out loud can help you make sure it’s clear and correct.
Let Content Journey Help
There are a ton of little ways to improve writing beyond these essential editing tips. The most important thing is that the piece is the best it can be when it reaches the audience. Don’t want to be a writer or editor? We get it! Not everyone does. Whether you want someone else to write for you or edit what you’ve written, Content Journey is here to help. Book a call! We’d love the opportunity to help you along your content journey.