Where to Begin When It’s Time to Edit Your Content
Overcoming perfectionism while content editing is not an excuse to publish sloppy or uninspired writing.
Content that works for your business is not only clear, accurate, and educational, it also gives insight into your values.
And if it doesn’t contain aspects that make it memorable, it’s not going to work.
Of course, memorable content doesn’t automatically lead to conversions. But forgettable content amounts to time and energy you spend on work that doesn’t move prospects closer to making purchases.
Memorable content makes an impact on your audience members’ lives … and when they’re ready to buy something you offer, your product or service will be the only reasonable choice.
So, content editing revises an article into a winning presentation, but where do you start?
Here are five smart self-editing strategies that help turn your drafts into memorable content.
1. Locate your goal
You should be able to succinctly state why you’re going to publish the piece of content you’re editing.
Reference your content calendar to identify how the article serves both your audience and your business.
That statement won’t go directly in your text most of the time, but it helps influence the message you’ll communicate.
Your introduction should support your goal.
It’s your chance to answer the unofficial question going through every reader’s mind when they look at the beginning of an article:
“Why should I care?”
When you present a taste of the most important information right away, it gives the reader confidence that they’ll get even more of what they’re looking for if they keep reading.
Then the rest of the article can reveal more compelling details that provide a payoff for the time the reader invested in your content.
2. Customize your message
When you have a goal in mind for a specific piece of content, it’s important to remember that other people in your niche might have the same goal for a piece of content they create.
It should drive you to infuse your content with all of the special qualities only you can provide.
Is there something about your topic that’s difficult for most people to understand, but you have a simple way of explaining it? Or, have you spent time mastering a subject and share your expertise in an unconventional way?
Look for creative ways to demonstrate why your business website is the best resource.
Now it’s time for a classic Copyblogger disclaimer:
Aiming for “memorable” is not permission to be a train wreck, disrespectful, or offensive.
None of those qualities build memorable content that builds your business.
Having a thoughtful point of view that satisfies your target audience in ways that other content on other websites does not is what memorable content is all about.
It stands out because it educates in entertaining, enjoyable ways.
3. Mop up “unicorn vomit”
Unicorn vomit (noun): excessive text that lacks value.
It’s inevitable that some people will disagree with you or won’t particularly like your writing style … and those people might not be who you want to attract.
What you want to avoid is turning off level-headed, engaged prospects.
If your tone or language distracts your ideal readers from your message, you’ve crossed the border into less-effective-content territory.
For me, it comes down to respect. You want to grab your readers’ attention, but not waste their time.
To the untrained eye, unicorn vomit looks like aspects that customize your message. But as Sonia Simone has put it:
“Sometimes well-meaning attempts to give your writing life end up producing writing that’s silly, trivial, cluttered, or condescending.”
Editing is the perfect time to extract the goodness you intended and toss out the parts that may harm your credibility.
4. Cut out (but save) tangents
Context plays a huge role when determining what is, or is not, excessive text that lacks value.
The trick is recognizing when information goes beyond the scope of a post.
Some of that unicorn vomit, such as a funny or heartwarming story, might fit perfectly in another article or content series.
I begin writing all of my articles in plain text files, and I keep a section at the bottom of each one for all of the unicorn vomit I cut out.
When I review those sections later, I sometimes find great sentences for future articles or even post ideas — they just didn’t work in the original places where I wrote them.
5. Streamline similar sentences
You often need to elaborate on a point to express yourself clearly, but one thing that makes editors salivate is spotting two sentences that repeat the exact same information.
The words in the sentences may be different, but the writer reveals nothing new.
Editors love these spots because our “you’re wasting your readers’ time” alarms go off.
Proofreading from the end of your document to the beginning can come in handy. It forces you to evaluate your words from a different perspective.
Why I chose 5 content editing tips for this post
I could have given you a longer list of content editing tips, but my goal for this post (see tip #1) was to provide a go-to process you could easily use the next time you edit a piece of writing. 🙂
If you simply focus on these five ideas every time you review a draft, you’ll sharpen the quality of your content. Then you can add on more steps that work for you.