You pound out your final sentence, hit submit, and breath a sigh of relief: You’re done. Ummm…not so quickly. Every good writer knows the necessity of editing. Writing develops your ideas, but editing strengthens the presentation of those ideas.
Writing and editing are separate processes. When you write, don’t worry about grammar, spelling, structure, word choice, or any other nitpicky details. If you have a decent outline, you won’t go too far off-track, so just write, and save your editing for later.
When I said, “Write, then edit”, I should have said, “Write, take a break, then edit”. You’re a busy writer, so I know you want to start your next project right away, but don’t shortchange your editing time.
Ideally, you should take a day off between writing and editing. If that’s not possible, have lunch, go for a walk, or think about something else for 20 minutes.
When you write, you’re heavily invested in your work. Taking a break detaches you from your writing, so that you can edit objectively.
Alright, you’ve taken a break, now you’re ready to edit. Here are questions to ask while editing.
Read your whole copy through once. Do you like the structure? Does it progress logically? Should you move some paragraphs around? Keep in mind that many readers will never reach the end of your post.
Will they still learn anything if they make it half way or only read your intro? Can you use the inverted pyramid layout?
Question every word, sentence, and paragraph. Is that the sharpest, most powerful word you can use? Does that sentence help your argument? Can you shorten it, or divide it into two sentences?
What’s the purpose of that paragraph? Does it belong here or would it be more effective elsewhere? Occasionally, you’ll add words while editing, but editing is mainly about trimming your writing.
If you don’t cut any words, you’re doing it wrong.
Have you answered these six questions? Some questions are more relevant for certain topics than others, but think of how they all relate to the subject you’re writing about.
If you’ve forgotten to include who should use SEO or where the best dog walking parks are, answer those questions.
If you’re like me, you find introductions and conclusions the hardest to write. Knowing that those sections give your readers their first and last impressions is a lot of pressure.
Pay special attention to your opening and closing sentences. Does your intro hook readers? Do you move on to your important points quickly?
Do you finish with a call to action? How will your readers feel at the end of your piece?
Reading out loud is one of the best ways to edit. When you read silently, it’s easy to skim. Reading out loud forces you to slow down, and it also reveals any awkward phrases. Are your sentences so long that you run out of breath? Are they too short and choppy? Do you repeat words excessively?
By now, you may be feeling overwhelmed by my questions. Keep this list, or a similar one, handy while you edit, and move through it from start to finish so that you don’t forget any steps.