After the years we spend learning to write formally for academia, content writing at first seems a little unnatural, mainly because blog writing lends itself to a certain brevity and casualness in both style and tone. What I’ve found is true for me as well as other bloggers is that proofreading and editing can also take on a quick, casual manner, often hinging on sloppy.
When you’re focused on meeting deadlines and cranking out strong content, editing, proofreading, and refining the writing process can get pushed onto the backburner. But part of producing strong, quality content is ensuring that it’s clear of the errors and clumsy wording that tends to seep into writing. Sometimes weeding out those mistakes is simply a matter of getting back to basics, so try refining your writing and editing process with these 10 easy tips.
- Ditch the distractions.
Even if you think you’re a good multitasker, you’re not. Nothing sets you up for failure more than flipping between Spotify, Twitter, your word document, and chatting with coworkers while trying to write. When you sit down to write something, be all the way present and eliminate your distractions. Put in headphones and ignore the incoming text messages-they can wait and your writing will require less editing once you finish.
- Determine the content format first.
Some writers are gifted enough to sit down and produce something great without a clear plan of action. For those of us who can’t do that, winging it doesn’t always work out well. Before even getting started on a piece of content, decide what the end result is going to look like. Is the piece going to be a list? A guide? A quiz?
- Add editing and proofreading into your workflow.
Adding editing and proofreading into your workflow is a great idea for content teams. It adds accountability and checks and balances into the writing process: you write something, another edits it, you take the feedback and tweak it again, etc. The more eyes you can get on your writing, the better. Though it may sound like a time suck, adding it to the team process eventually becomes a quick and routinized process.
- Learn to spot your common mistakes.
Most people tend to make the same mistakes in their writing. For example, I use the phrase “baring that in mind” excessively, as well as weak wording such as “really” in place of more deliberate words. But because I know that, I’m usually able to catch myself as I’m typing it. Read over some of the writing you’ve done and try to identify common mistakes you make. By simple being aware of them, you’re less likely to make them.
- Create an editing checklist.
One way to streamline the editing process is by making yourself checklist (this is also helpful for reposting content). A simple list of reminders creates fewer editing tasks for you to memorize and a visual of what needs double checking. It can include “have a coworker read” or “cut excess wording,” or whatever editing and proofreading tasks you need to be reminded of.
- Try using an editing tool.
If you create tons of content and don’t necessarily have time to fine tune your editing and proofreading process, there are plenty of tools out there to help. Investing in a software or service that catches technical details, readability, word choice, and more can be a hassle-free way of refining your writing. Plus, there are plenty such tools available for free.
- Read it out loud.
This is one of the oldest hacks in the book, and though it seems juvenile, it’s surprisingly helpful. I mutter nearly every piece of writing out loud to myself before publishing it, and I’m always amazed at how many mistakes I catch by hearing how it sounds out loud. Hearing your writing allows you to understand how it will relay to readers while also exposing any awkward wording that needs correcting.
- Take a break and come back to it later.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away from your writing for a while-especially if it’s a longer piece. When you’re working on something and spend a lot of time staring at it, things start to look jumbled and your focus shifts to just getting the words out. Walk away from the screen for a while and come back with fresh eyes.
- Change the font/size.
I like to do this after the aforementioned break. After a while, your writing can start to look too familiar to catch mistakes. To make yourself more aware of what you’re looking at, upping the font size and changing the font can reveal errors in your writing you might otherwise miss.
- Get feedback from better writers.
One of the things I’ve found most helpful in refining my own writing is getting feedback from writers who have far more experience and are much more talented than me. Learning from those whose writing you admire is an excellent way to push yourself towards new goals. Many successful bloggers and writers are happy and willing to share what they’ve learned and give feedback, so try reaching out to them.