Content Editing for Dummies

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Content isn’t just an SEO strategy. It establishes your brand’s voice and proves you’re an authority. If your content is well-written and engaging, your audience will keep coming back for more.

To be effectively engaging, your digital content needs to be well-written. Well-written content is ultimately well-edited content. It should be clear, concise, and to the point. Spellcheck simply can’t replace the human touch. If you’re going to make a good first impression, your work needs to be polished and professional — every time.

If your goal is compelling content, consider these four tips the next time you put pen to paper (or fingers to keys):

1. Remember Your Message
A lot of writers lose sight of their point midway through writing an article. They may slip into a lengthy digression, or somehow end up with content that’s completely off-topic. Ask yourself if every single sentence serves the main point of your article. If one doesn’t, change it or cut it out completely. If you’re looking at a particularly lengthy digression, consider writing a follow-up article down the road.  There’s no need to cram everything into one piece.

2. Read It Aloud
Your brain may forgive a lot of grammar errors but your mouth won’t. Reading out loud forces you to slow down, unearthing sneaky grammatical errors, as well as clumsy and repetitive wording.

3. “Kill Your Darlings”
Not literally (it’s a Faulkner quote). Editing involves a certain willingness to be brutal. Sometimes, that may mean telling an author that her work simply isn’t very good, or asking what she means by a particularly opaque turn of phrase. Don’t forget that as an editor, your job is to make the author shine, even when it hurts her pride.

4. Hire a Professional
A lot of people think that because they are avid readers, they can write well. It’s true that the digital information age has made writers out of all of us, but writing is a craft, honed over time. So is content editing. If you’re neither a professional writer nor professional editor, you probably haven’t honed that skill set. There’s no shame in that. Just as you’d hire a professional plumber or electrician, you should consider hiring a professional editor to make certain your written content is top-notch.

Content Editing

What to Look For When Hiring Content Editor

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When you hire a content editor to improve your writing, you must look for something beyond impeccable use of the English language. While correcting errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation is a vital part of copy editing, a professional editor performs a number of more specialized functions. It’s in these areas of expertise that content editors truly prove their worth.

If you’ve made the smart decision to hire a content editor, look for one who can accomplish each of the following:

Cut the Fluff
Using 100 words when you could make the same point in 30 weakens your writing, no matter its purpose. Professional content editors should be able to immediately identify the key point in any sentence or paragraph. They need to decipher what specific point you are making, or what you are asking for or trying to accomplish with your words. They will identify this key point and know which words serve to communicate it and which words do not—the latter is “fluff.” An editor should know how to keep the meaningful words and cut the rest.

A content editor will rarely write whole new sentences from scratch. You should always be able to recognize your original message in the edited version of your writing.

Respect the Author
An editor should not be creating new content for you. An editor’s role is to work with the content you have already written and respect your role as the original author, maintaining your voice, tone, and intended message. A content editor will rarely write whole new sentences from scratch. You should always be able to recognize your original message in the edited version of your writing.

Choose the Right Words
While editors should not be writing new content, their role can stretch to replacing poorly chosen words with better ones. This goes beyond correcting errors in usage (such as replacing “affect” with “effect”) to a more nuanced understanding of word choice. Editors know what you are trying to communicate and can draw upon their expertise to select the words that will best convey your message. Editors know when to use “myriad” and when to use “many.” They also know that flowery, poetic descriptions have their place, and it isn’t in your blog post about DIY plumbing repairs.

Improve the Final Product
Writing is an art, not a science, which is why human editors are always superior to software. In a matter of minutes, professional editors can transform your writing from boring to compelling, waffling to concise, chaotic to readable. A great content editor will use the right words—primarily your words—to help you come across as intelligent, professional, and trustworthy.