How to Think Like an Editor: Tips for B2B Content Marketers
B2B content marketers wear many hats, from “writer” to “social media guru” to “lead generator.” One of the more intimidating things that content marketers are called upon to do is editing. Depending on your experience, editing may feel like a daunting task. But with a little practice and the right mindset, you’ll be well on your way to being a confident, effective editor.
Put On Your Editor Hat
If you’re not used to thinking like an editor, you might need to adjust your thinking before putting red pen to paper. One major characteristic that good editors have in common: they’re bold. As an editor, your role is to protect the story and attract the reader, and you have to hold this in balance. Good editors aren’t afraid of making changes to the content, whether large or small, in order to improve the story and make it more compelling to its audience. It’s like pruning—just as cutting back a plant helps it grow stronger, editing keeps content smart, readable and vital. Each edit should contribute to your goal of strong content.
Editing Tips for B2B Content Marketers
How can you more easily identify what content is strong, prune away the unnecessary words, and transform a piece into something spectacular? Here are a few techniques:
Use an outline. Ideally, your writers would start their work by creating tightly defined frameworks that form the backbone of whatever they create. The work of an editor is much easier when the writing is outlined beforehand. However, even if this doesn’t happen, creating an outline after the fact can help you keep track of which components are most important to include. Make a list of the main points of the article, and then evaluate each paragraph based on whether it communicates those points. This will help keep the piece focused and well-organized.
Let go of the words. Don’t get so attached to what’s on the page that you can’t get rid of any of it. Even if a sentence or paragraph is well-written, it may not be serving the larger purpose of the piece. You can’t say everything in one piece of content, so focus on the most important points. And “when in doubt, edit it out”—if you aren’t sure whether something contributes to the points you’re trying to convey, don’t include it.
Follow the Pyramid Style. The Pyramid Style is a technique that journalists learn in order to make their writing more effective. In essence, the most important topic in the story comes first, as the lead. Then, each subsequent level of the pyramid is structured by the importance of the subject matter. By presenting the most important information up front and the details later on, the writer gets the point across no matter how much the story is edited down for space, and the audience is hooked from the very first line. When editing, the Pyramid Style is a helpful framework to ensure that readers don’t have to hunt through a blog post or white paper to find key takeaways.
Edit like a reader, not a writer. When you’re a B2B content marketer, you have great writing skills and tons of subject matter knowledge. Chances are, you wrote the piece you’re editing, or one of your colleagues did. But as an editor, your primary duty is to the reader. You have to set all your prior knowledge aside in order to serve your readers well. Most of your readers will not know much, if anything, about the topic you’re discussing. They might not even be that interested at first—just vaguely curious. Would this piece get them excited about the topic? Is it accessible to someone who’s unfamiliar with the subject matter? If not, it will probably be ignored. Good editors check that the point of a piece is clear, the writing is compelling, and the length is not intimidating. These all help ensure that readers will stay engaged and learn something.
If there’s time, read it twice. It’s easy to miss something if you only read a piece once. After you read and edit the content for the first time, set it aside for a while. Optimally, a few hours would go by before you reviewed it again; depending on your schedule, you may not be able to wait that long. At the very least, you should put it out of your mind for twenty or thirty minutes. When you pick it back up again, ask yourself if the edits you made improved the piece. Is the writing stronger? Is the main point easier to understand? You might find something you didn’t catch the first time around.
Be consistent and thorough. The best editors are always detail-oriented. Don’t just focus on the big picture—also check the grammar, spelling, formatting and punctuation. Proofread when you make the initial edits, and then again before you post the piece. Consistency is also important for compelling writing. Make sure that proper names, terms and phrases are used in a consistent matter. For example, you don’t want a reader to be thrown off by an acronym that’s never spelled out. In addition, double-check that the tone of a piece is the same all the way through. Your readers will certainly notice if a piece that begins as something dry and informative ends up as casual and friendly. These smaller things can turn a reader away just as much as issues with structure or content.
B2B content marketers don’t always come to the job with an editor’s mindset. But anyone can become a better editor by paying attention to details and setting a goal of improving the reader’s experience.