Essential Self-Editing Tips to Deliver Better Copy

July 13, 2016

9:51 am

Writing a great copy is hard. Even the best writers struggle to put all the words right from the first attempt.

The secret to writing well is mastering self-editing. A spell-checker can quickly correct all the minor grammar flaws and typos, but great copies should pass an additional test for clarity, structure, and content. Here are the essential self-editing tips for that:

Review Your Copy Goal

Winning content is created with a precise message in mind. You shouldn’t publish new posts just for the sake of publishing.

Don’t assume a reader will grasp the main point of your article immediately. Unless it’s clearly stated from the very beginning, most readers may not be hooked in enough to dig to it later on in the post. Hence, summarize the goal of your new post in 25 words or less, and then style your headline appropriately based on the Four U’s of copywriting – ultra-specific, unique, useful, and urgent.

Edit Out the Weasel Words

Weasel words include those pesky adverbs you insert out of habit e.g. just, very, likely etc. They are weakening your statement and make you sound less persuasive. Create your list of common offenders or use this one and, afterwards, see if you can remove or replace them without altering your intended statement.

Additionally, watch out for grammar expletives – literary constructions that begin with words like “It”, “Here”, “There” and followed by a word of the verb to be. Such sentence openers shift the emphasis away from the true subject of your statement to something unnamed. Your copy loses its power and your sentences become longer and less resonating.

Trim Your Sentences

Long difficult sentences with multiple clauses make your reader feel lost and bored. Review your copy and see whether you can split or trim the lengthy ones. Cut out the unnecessary words and check out if you can replace two or three-word phrases with a single word. Less is more and makes your writing more clear and powerful.

Infuse More Value

Always ask yourself, “How will this information help my reader?” Each paragraph should deliver clear value and satisfy an element of CMKR – provide Comfort, be Memorable, share Knowledge, or list Resources.

“My initial lessons and online guides were lengthy. I kept wondering why my conversion rates were below expectations up until one of the users sent me private feedback, mentioning that I often over deliver information and jump from one idea to another too fast,” – says Jon Quinton, editor at Online Guitar Lessons. “In your pursuit for better content, don’t get carried away. Try not to squeeze everything you know on the subject in one post and keep your end goal in mind. One copy should deliver one clear message”.

Avoid Passive Voice Whenever Possible

Passive voice shifts the subject from you to some vague, unknown element named “it” or “there”. Services don’t deliver themselves; products don’t get build by themselves either. Don’t be afraid to make bold statements and using first person when describing what you do.

Mind the Tenses

We are often guilty of shifting towards the past tense when talking about the present, and vice versa.  In fact, using certain verb tenses over another weakens your writing. And so does using lengthier verbs offer shorter snappier alternatives. For instance:

  • Give away – donate
  • Find out – discover
  • Think of a blogging strategy – Develop a blogging strategy.

Include a Connection Hook

You should aim for creating content that gets shared. However, no matter how informative, innovative and well-structured copy you craft, readers will not feel compelled to share it unless they can connect with it.

Storytelling is the easiest way to build trust and genuine connection bridges between you and your target audience. It doesn’t need go wordy – just share a brief personal insight, admit a mistake perhaps or share a lesson you’ve learned. Before teaching and preaching, don’t be afraid to admit you’ve walked the same walk some time ago.

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Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien

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