Maybe it’s because, in the rush to create piles of content, we bloggers don’t have a lot of time to revise. Maybe it’s because the temptation to press “publish” as soon as we’ve finished writing (and check an item off our to-do list) is so strong. Maybe it’s because we don’t have an editor’s critical eye on our content, the way we would if we were writing for a publisher or a print magazine. And maybe it’s because, in this new world of digital publishing, we have the power to go back and delete errors at any time.
However, none of the aforementioned are good reasons for going directly from first draft to live post. Editing is a crucial step in completing any written piece―even one as short as a blog post.
As a writer, no matter what your platform, your credibility depends on two things: the quality of your information, and the quality of your presentation.
If you’re a blogger, information is your specialty; you’ve totally got that down. But what about the other half of the equation―your presentation? Are you taking the time to spell check, re-read, and copyedit every piece you write? Do you have a style sheet (or another way to be sure that all of your formatting is consistent)? Are you using the most powerful, targeted language possible, in every single post?
Collectively, we, the people, as mass consumers of information, have become so inured to bad grammar, typos, and formatting errors in online writing that we barely notice them anymore―or at least we’ve learned, reluctantly, to overlook them. Some mistakes are so ubiquitous that the average reader doesn’t even know that they’re mistakes! (One of my favorites: the word “myriad.” Myriad is synonymous with “many” or “an indefinitely great number of.” You cannot have “a myriad of choices,” any more than you can have “a many of choices.” Thank you very much. Rant: concluded.)
Something happens in a reader’s mind when they read a polished, perfect-as-it-can-be piece of writing. The writer, by virtue of having created such a piece, gains stature. Traits like precision, thoroughness, and academic accomplishment are ascribed to the writer, simply because the typos, extra words, and awkward phrasing so prevalent in first drafts are no longer present.
In other words, good editing makes you look good.
The inverse, unfortunately, is also true. Extra words, missing words, misspellings … every one of them takes attention away from your content. After they read your carefully-crafted post, you want readers leave the page thinking about your material or your sales pitch, not wondering why you confused “your” with “you’re” and left out two words in paragraph three.
I’m an editor by trade, but I’ll be the first one to admit that hiring an editor to polish every one of your blog posts is probably not practical or cost effective (although for high-profile pieces, I’d absolutely recommend it). However, that doesn’t mean you need to feel stuck. In the interest of promoting great writing everywhere, I’m happy to share the tools that have worked for me in my writing and editing business for over a decade.
My 5 Self-Editing Tips for Bloggers
- Use your word processor. It sounds silly, I know. But if you’re typing directly into your blog’s back end, you may be missing out on some of the benefits a more robust word processor like Microsoft Word has to offer. (For example, Word’s dynamic spell checker will highlight sentence fragments and missing punctuation, as well as spelling mistakes.) Type your first draft in your word processor, do your edit, run the spell check, and then cut and paste into your blog program.
- If you’re very, very lucky, a quick once-over will show you all of the trouble spots in your piece―but it’s not a usual occurrence. An in-depth reread, however, can reveal word errors your spell checker missed (like the place where you’ve substituted “you” for “your” or “quiet” for “quite”), as well as missing or misplaced content. Reading aloud is even more helpful, since it will highlight awkward sentence construction as well as missing words and typos.
- Condense your descriptions. If you’ve got two or more descriptive words attached to the same noun or verb, chances are there’s a better word for what you’re describing. For example, a sentence like “The beautiful, amazing feeling flooded through my whole self” could become “Joy suffused my being.” In general, targeted words plus shorter sentences equal more powerful writing.
- Check your lists. Lists (like the one you’re reading) are a favorite format for bloggers. However, they’re also one of the most error-ridden. To get the most out of your lists, be sure that they’re consistent. For example, if your list header reads, “By taking time to meditate, you will …” make sure that every one of your bullet points makes sense when inserted into that sentence. “By taking time to meditate, you will feel more calm” works perfectly, so “feel more calm” is an appropriate bullet. However, “By taking time to meditate, you will create an altar to showcase your intention” doesn’t work so well. The bullet, “Create an altar to showcase your intention” seems fine on its own, but it doesn’t match the header, and will cause confusion for your readers.
- Make a style sheet for copyediting. I’ve seen otherwise well-edited articles use three different date formats in two paragraphs. Others jump back and forth between British and American spellings, or cite quotes in multiple ways. A personal style sheet―a list of standard and preferred formatting choices―is a great way to streamline your process, and at the same time give yourself a checklist for error correction. (NOTE: While it’s too extensive to include here, you can find a copy of my personal style sheet, with explanations, in my e-book, The 5 Secrets of Powerful Writing, which you can download for free at theheartofwriting.com/free-gift. A Google search of “style sheet editing” will also produce dozens of great examples.)
Engage in wordplay!
If you have questions, feel free to post them in the comments, and I’ll answer them as soon as I can.
Until next time, happy writing!