Concise content is easy to read, immediately resonates and showcases businesses in the best professional light.
Editing is a skill which takes time to master; however these 8 simple editing hacks will quickly make the difference to your writing.
Download a free, printable editing cheat-sheet at the bottom of this page!
1. Walk away
Editing hack #1 — walk away!
Writing can be a tough enough job, before contemplating editing your work. The first trick is to get everything down onto the page. Don’t worry how it reads, just get it all out, and then walk away from your words. Have a coffee, go for a jog, or even better, come back to it the following day.
Then, once you’ve returned and made changes, walk away again!
Time away from your work will allow you to properly analyse content and spot mistakes. Honestly — walking away is one of the most important parts of writing.
2. Always read printed work
When I trained to proofread I was taught a variety of tricks, including reading the text backwards … however, the most useful practice I have found is to always print out the work you need to check.
Somehow, reading from a screen negates our ability to spot glaring mistakes including punctuation misuse and design errors. Attempting to spot typos on a document already covered in track changes is near impossible and will lead to editorial oversights.
3. Sentence length
Not all of us have been blessed with Hemmingway’s ability to write well-crafted lengthy sentences. Keep them short and sweet. Use full stops to let people enjoy your words.
4. Kill dull adverbs
Adverbs are describing words – some are fab, some are lazy. The majority of time people employ an adverb instead of using the correct word.
The dog quickly ran …
is better written as …
The dog sprinted / fled / bolted / charged
Powerful verbs instead of adverbs tighten sentences, prevent a passive voice (clumsy and complex sentence structure) and maintain reading momentum. Avoiding adverbs helps people read your work and improves your organic SEO rankings.
5. Do you make sense?
But seriously, do you?!
You need people to understand your product or service immediately. This is also vital for your website’s SEO ranking; if your content has a strong and clear structure your site will fare better with Google.
We all think our content makes perfect sense and clearly conveys our messages; but, just have a second read-through …
- Are you keeping to the point or disappearing off on a happy tangent?
- Are your sentences actually relevant?
- Does your content have a clear direction eg. an introduction, explanatory middle section and a strong conclusion drawing your details neatly together?
- Are your paragraphs in the correct order? Once content is first written it often requires restructuring to ensure ease of understanding and a sense of natural continuation
6. Delete unnecessary ‘thats’
People (and I include myself) love writing ‘that’ A LOT in their copy, it’s a word we use constantly when we think and talk, and therefore as we write. However, an unnecessary ‘that’ takes up word count, stops the flow and is just pointless. Deleting non-essential ‘thats’ is an effortless way to immediately tighten content and prevent copy from reading amateurishly.
7. Pesky prepositions
Prepositions include: of, it, is, at, on, in, beside, after, for, off — they tell you when or where something is, in relation to something else. Try to never end a sentence on a preposition, it can really wind people up!
(Did you spot what I did there?! I’ll let myself out … )
Ending on prepositions in speech sounds correct and natural, for example …
Who are you going to the cinema with?
sounds to a modern ear better than …
With whom are you going to the movies?
However in formal writing it is still considered grammatically incorrect and lazy to end on a preposition. And although we might say, Where’s the party at? Writing Where is the party? quickly ensures content is easier to read.
Look to restructure your sentences, this may take time, but steering clear of sentences which end with a preposition will set your writing apart and prevent you appearing unskillful.
To ward-off sounding like a drunk relative on Christmas day, avoid repeating words. We all commit this common writing faux pas, but a second read will almost certainly identify repetitions you had unconsciously placed in your content. Also, try to curb the need to fixate on one buzz word (common in industry jargonese …) — if you’re struggling to think of another, use a thesaurus.