Six tips from expert editors
“Words are a lens to focus one’s mind.” – Ayn Rand
“Editing is a lens to focus one’s words.” – Boomm
If you have an editor on staff, please send them a thank you email. Their job is to make your writing more focused, accurate and effective.
If you don’t have an editor on staff, this article is for you. That’s especially true if you must do your own editing.
Let’s start with the most important insight: Editing is a mindset as well as a skillset. To ensure you’re in the right frame of mind to sharpen B2B content, here are six smart tips from expert editors.
- “Be bold”
As an editor, your role is to protect the story and attract readers, and you have to hold this in balance. Good editors aren’t afraid of making changes to the content. They know their priority is 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 vibrant content.
- “When in doubt, edit out”
Don’t get so attached to what’s on the page that you can’t cut any of it. Even if a sentence or paragraph is well-written, it may not be serving the larger purpose of the piece. Remember, you can’t say everything about a given topic in one piece of content, so focus on the most important points. If you don’t believe something contributes to the points the piece is trying to convey, edit it out.
- “Build the Pyramid”
The Pyramid Style is a technique that journalists employ to make their writing more effective. In essence, the most important topic in the story comes first, as the lead. Then, subsequent levels of the pyramid are determined by the importance of the subject matter. This structure gets the main point across no matter how much the story is edited, and it hooks the audience from the very first line. When editing, the Pyramid Style provides a helpful framework to ensure that readers don’t have to hunt to find key takeaways.
- “Edit like a reader”
As an editor, your primary duty is to the reader. That means you should set all your prior knowledge about the topic aside to edit like a reader. Most of your audience may not know much 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.
- “Read, wait, repeat”
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. 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.
- “Every detail matters”
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. 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. Small details can turn a reader away just as much as issues with structure or content.
Remember, when you’re editing content your ultimate goal is to improve the reader’s experience. By following these expert tips you can improve the content in every piece you review.