Creating content can be an ongoing challenge for startups.
Content marketing provides a platform for us to show off our expertise, but it takes a lot of time and effort to pull it off correctly.
Quality over quantity is key, but even publishing one blog post per week can be hard when there are so many other facets to running a small business.
Even if you manage to write your blog post for the week, the work doesn’t end there. The last thing you want to do is publish a blog post that has errors or doesn’t read well. Remember, your content is representative of your business!
Even though it is best practice to get another pair of eyes on your content before you hit that publish button, sometimes due to time constraints or team size, that’s just not possible. Fortunately there are some simple editing hacks that can help you eliminate, or at least minimize, errors in your content.
Don’t know where to start?
Here are some straightforward hacks to edit your own content effectively and easily.
Give it a few hours
Once you’ve finished a piece, take a break from it and do something else for a few hours. If you can sleep on it, that’s even better.
The important part here is that you get your mind off your first draft. This way you’ll be able to look at it with fresh eyes, allowing you to see errors and awkward wording that you may have missed.
Evaluate “weak” words
Read over your content with a specific eye for “weak” words. A weak word is one that is vague or overused. Take your writing up a notch by replacing these less than specific words with descriptors that improve your content, or removing them altogether.
Here are 11 “weak” words to watch out for:
Keep in mind that it’s not necessarily bad to use these words here and there, but over-using them could devalue your content. A simple trick I use is to look for these words using the “Find” feature in Word.
Look out for passive voice
While using passive voice is not necessarily wrong, writing in passive voice often leads to weak sentence structure. A good trick here is to look out for all of the “to be” verbs like “were”, “are”, “is”, “had” or “will be”.
Is there a better way to structure the sentence that would be more interesting and engaging? Sentences written in a passive voice aren’t living up to their potential.
If you’re still unclear about passive voice, check out this example. The first sentence is written in passive voice, while the second has been rearranged and is much stronger.
- Charles was a terrible leader, which was shown by his refusing to listen to his team.
- A terrible leader, Charles refused to listen to his team.
Read it aloud
Take the time to read your work out loud. While this might seem like a bit of an onerous step, it’s well worth it.
Read quietly to yourself, mostly mouthing the words in a soft voice that only you can hear if you’re working around others. If a sentence sounds awkward, there’s likely a grammar or sentence structure problem. When in doubt, go with a quick rewrite.
Seek out structural opportunities
Sometimes we miss natural breaks in content or opportunities to convey ideas more clearly through bullet points, headings or paragraph breaks. When you’re combing over your writing, seek out places to improve the structure of the piece, letting your content shine through.
Just because you’re editing your own content doesn’t mean that you’re actually on your own. Look for a boost from editing tools, which are especially useful if you’re feeling less than confident in your skills.
The Hemingway app assesses writing based on passive voice, readability, long sentences, adverbs and complex words.
Inexpensive and effective, Hemingway is more than serviceable when it comes to running a quick check for spelling and readability. The only downsides are that the app doesn’t do much for grammar problems, nor does it offer solutions to the problems that it finds.
For the full set of features, including a detailed analysis on sentence length, plagiarism, redundancies, consistency, writing style, overused words, clichés and more, you’ll need the premium version. However the basic is still amazingly functional and works well for most blogs, marketing emails and the like.
If you’re interested in pulling your writing down to its most potent and readable form, then Word Rake is the ticket you’ve been looking for.
This app scrapes your Microsoft Word documents for extra bits of fluff and unnecessary phrases. It’s important to remember that this tool will not check for grammar and spelling, but then those functions can be covered well with other supports in Microsoft Word.
Another limitation is that it has to be used on a PC as it’s connected to Word. Given all of that it’s still an incredible tool.
After the Deadline
This is another holistic piece of editing software that goes above and beyond. After the Deadline flags spelling, grammar, passive voice and more, in addition to offering style suggestions as well.
You’ll get a detailed set of reasons behind the corrections that the program presents to you. The best part about that feature is that the more you use this program, the better your writing gets as you learn what you’re doing wrong and why.
Perhaps the biggest boon to After the Deadline is the sheer number of platforms that it’s available on – everything from Google Chrome to WordPress to Open Office. You can truly use this proofreading tool wherever you are.
A few points to remember
Keep in mind that editing tools are really just what they sound like – tools. While they will assuredly give you a jumpstart on the editing process, you still need to read and re-read your content in order to ensure that it’s readable to actual humans.
Unless you’re in a real emergency situation for a piece of content, don’t rush your editing process. While you might be able to get something quick and dirty out there without thoroughly editing, it’s not going to be the best that you can offer. Taking the time for a thorough edit is always worth it, particularly if you are editing your own content.
On the other side, be wary of over-editing, which can cause you to lose the flow of your writing. The goal is to execute minimal amendments that have a significant impact. It’s rarely necessary to go over a piece more than once or at the most twice before publication. Balance is key.
You are perfectly capable of editing your own content, even if it’s not how you might go about it in a perfect world. By following the steps outlined here, you can be confident that the content you’re publishing is high quality.
Guest Author: Michael Georgiou is the CMO and Co-founder at Imaginovation, a web design & mobile apps development firm in Raleigh, NC. He’s a dynamic business professional and entrepreneurial guru with proven success in creative strategy, online branding, project management, and communication projects in both the public and private sectors.