The more I sharpen my skills as a blogger, the more I find that nothing quite beats awe-inspiring writing when it comes to blogging success. After all, the audience on retainer needs incentives to keep them coming back. And let’s face it, it makes more sense to write stellar content than to create an opt-in freebie every other week…
And the first rule of stellar content depends on how it’s written. As my favorite blogger Jon Morrow says, and I’m paraphrasing, if you know how to write well, you could write a step-by-step guide on how to cut grass and people who have nothing to do with cutting grass will devour your grass-cutting blog post.
And you know what makes a grass-cutting blog post impossibly alluring? It’s called editing. Yes, guys, good writing is all about editing. The more I learn about editing, the more I come to understand that the one thing that separates a decent writer from a great writer is the power of editing. After all, many people have amazing ideas, but not all of them have access to amazing editors!
And yes, many of the greatest writers that we know and adore, have reached the height of otherworldly goodness thanks due to their editors’ mighty skills.
So, where does that leave us fledgling writers and bloggers? Are the ideas we craft doomed to mediocrity until we have enough riches to hire the editing Gods?
Well, they don’t have to be.
Fortunately, editing isn’t rocket science. With a bit of practice and patience, we can learn to edit our own content. We may not become the next Hemingway or even Jon Morrow, but some specific editing skills should be sufficient to give our work enough of an edge to hook the readers.
And ultimately, isn’t that what we bloggers and content creators are aiming for? Hook the readers?
With that in mind, let’s now look at some of my favorite editing steps that can be easily implemented in our written body of work. Specifically, those that are written for the internet, a.k.a. blog posts, website copy, content created for digital publications, and in general, your standard, non-fiction articles, and essays.
1. Read it Aloud
Try it! You’ll be surprised at how different your prose sounds when you read a passage aloud than when you read it in your head.
How it sounds when you read aloud is the closest to the experience your readers will have, even if they are not reading it aloud.
By reading aloud you’ll also catch things such as weak words, a missing punctuation, run-on sentences, unnecessary adverbs, etc. More on these later.
2. Separate Longer Paragraphs (and Sentences)
This is specific to content written for the internet. Our experiences vary significantly when we’re reading off of a computer screen as opposed to books. You’ll have noticed that we tend to lose focus while reading longer paragraphs on the screen.
Whenever you come across a paragraph that stretches beyond 4/5 sentences or 6/7 lines, consider breaking it up into two.
Similarly with sentences, if one tends to stretch out using commas and/or semicolons, use a period instead. Break it apart.
Also, create some variation whenever possible. If all your paragraphs are the same length, it will bore your readers. Mix in shorter and longer paragraphs. That said, even for longer paragraphs, keep them under 6/7 lines or 4/5 sentences, whichever comes first.
3. Use Headers and Sub-headers
Another way to hold the readers’ attention is by further segmenting your content into headers and sub-headers. They make skimming content easier.
This may sound counter-productive, after all, we want our readers to read everything we have painstakingly typed up. However, we live in times when finding time for reading can be hard. That’s why, help skimming easy, and you’ll have happier readers.
If your content is not suited for such segmentation, consider at least making the important parts bold.
See what I did?
4. Avoid Unnecessary Words by Getting Rid of Grammar Expletives
Grammar expletives are sentences that start with here, there, or it, and are followed by a verb to be. Such sentences end up using unnecessary words and make your word count higher, while doing nothing to add value. To add on top of it all, these sentences make your prose weaker.
— There are a lot of bloggers who also offer coaching services.
How about this instead?
— Many bloggers offer coaching services.
Much better, right?
A few more examples:
- Here is a list of 5 breakfast food that will give you more energy throughout the day: → A list of 5 energy-boosting breakfast food:
- It can be hard to ask for a raise. → Asking for a raise is difficult.
5. Opt for a Power Word or a Stronger Verb whenever Possible
Often, switching out the verb to be or using a stronger verb can strengthen your prose. While contextual, try this method whenever possible.
- I have been blogging. → I blog.
- He is irritating me. → He is annoying/irritating.
- She found a cure. → She discovered a cure.
- I went to Maui last year. → I traveled to Maui last year.
Whenever you come across an adjective or a verb, train yourself to think of a word that may be stronger than what you’re using. Some more examples are:
- bad → terrible
- happy → thrilled
- excited → ecstatic
- angry → outraged
- hot → sweltering
6. Avoid Adverbs
Adverbs also have an uncanny way of weakening our sentences. Let’s take a pledge today to cut out words like “very”, “really” and any other word that ends with “-ly” from our sentences, shall we?
I agree that there are times when adverbs are unavoidable. As much as I preach, I’m guilty of overusing them myself.
It’s only by practice and a conscious effort that we can eradicate as many useless adverbs from our prose as possible. The best practice is to get rid of “really” or “very”, and use a stronger verb for the verb modifiers.
Check this out:
- It was really cold yesterday. → Yesterday was freezing.
- I’m very disappointed. → I’m disappointed.
- She was very angry about… → She was mad about…
- My dad had to speak really loudly on the phone because of all that noise. → My dad was yelling on the phone due to all that noise.
- She boldly claimed. → She asserted.
7. Let Your Personality Come Through
I struggled with sounding like myself when I first started blogging. We’re so used to writing academic papers, journals and other formal reports that we tend to bring the dryness of it along the ride when creating content.
In reality, people don’t like reading those boring papers nor can they relate. Is there anyone here who loves reading robotic monologues? A show of hands please, if you will?
Didn’t think so.
A simple trick I learned about copywriting from superwoman Marie Forleo is this: using contractions makes our writing instantaneously a lot warmer and personal, and a lot less robotic.
Contractions are those words that are a combination of two words. Like, “I’m”, “you’re”, “isn’t”, “ain’t”, “there’s”, “don’t”, and the list goes on and on.
Basically, contractions are all those words we tend to combine when we speak. Like in real life, when we’re conversing with other people. The goal is to make our content read as though we’re talking. This warms up the written content and makes it a lot more personal, which in turn makes the content relate more with readers.
Don’t believe me? See for yourself!
- I am about to go take a dump. → I’m about to go take a dump. (OK, not the best example, but you get my point.)
- Here is a list of 5 superfoods. → Here’s a list of 5 superfoods.
- There is a way to make your copy more personal. → There’s a way to make your copy more personal.
- I am going if you are coming along. → I’m going if you’re coming along.
Well, there you have it. 7 super simple editing tricks that will warm up your writing and instantly make it way more powerful and convincing, and much, much more readable. Try these out, and if you have some more editing tricks in your writing bag, let me know in the comments!
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