Partly (OK, mostly…) because I’m lazy.
Few things make me want to go to bed and pass out than the prospect of having to edit a 3000-word-plus article.
So yes, I hate editing.
But even so, it’s an essential process of blogging because of a few reasons, notably:
– Sloppy writing makes you seem unprofessional, and people don’t like to buy from or give money to unprofessional business owners.
– Even if you’re a mediocre writer, certain editing practices can give your writing the edge it needs to be convincing.
The second point is important to note, especially if you’re not born with an inherent talent for writing.
Here’s the thing. Writing, like any other art form, shouldn’t have to be bound by rules. That statement is true for super talented writers who can spin words like threads in a Pashmina.
But many bloggers are not wordsmiths of that level. I certainly am not! So, people like me have to depend on rules to make our writing stand out. Because the good news for writers like us is that if we follow conventional wisdom and stick with certain writing dos and don’ts, then even we can make our words convincing enough for our audience to want to read what we write and act on them.
And that’s pretty much what you need as a blogger — the power of conviction.
I guarantee that if you follow the editing rules I’m about to share with you, you’ll be the kind of writer who can affect their readers. You won’t be Hemingway or Orwell, but you’ll be a blogger who will exert authority. Your words will carry weight, your readers will pay attention to you, and eventually, they’ll help you make sales and bring in the profits you so desire.
Good. Let’s get on with it then, shall we?
In this post:
There are four main areas of blog editing, namely:
- Stylistic editing
- Editing to improve readability
- SEO editing
- Editing to improve engagement
I’ll walk through each of these, but before that, I want to start with some good practices of blog post writing and editing that will make your editing process much smoother and the end product much better.
General Considerations for Blog Post Writing and Editing
There are a few practices that will make you a much more productive blogger. Also, if you hate editing as much as I do, then these simple practices will help your editing process go a lot smoother.
Have some pre-requisites or goals.
When you’re editing, having these pre-requisites will give you a clear vision for what the end product should look like, and they, in turn, will guide your writing process. If your writing has a clear beginning and ending from the start, the finished blog post will be that much easier to edit.
Some of these qualities or pre-requisites are:
- Easy to read and understand.
- Free of redundancies and unnecessary flourishes.
- Focused on the subject.
Once you’ve established these three clear boundaries for your blog post, the next steps will help you stay within these boundaries throughout your writing and editing process.
Steps to establish efficient writing and editing processes:
- Make an outline. Ever since I started making an outline for my blog posts, not only has my writing improved, but so has my efficiency. I write a lot faster now, and I also don’t go off on a tangent during writing. This cuts down on my editing time because I’m not spending additional time rewriting entire sections to make them more on point anymore.
- You can use apps like Evernote or OneNote or Ulysses to jot down your ideas and outlines. Ulysses is a paid app for Mac users and worth the subscription fee per some of my Mac-user writer-buddies. OneNote is free to use and a great app if you’re on Windows. It also has user-friendly organizational capabilities making it an excellent app for when you write on multiple platforms. I use it often. However, for writing down outlines on the go, my favorite tools are my Moleskine notebook and Pilot G2. I’m kinda old-fashioned like that.
- Craft a strong blog post title before you start writing your post. And then, let the title be your guide while you’re writing the post. (Check out tips for crafting a title that gets clicks and shares.)
- Do not edit while you’re writing. When you’re in the zone, just keep writing. Don’t interrupt your creative flow. Also, it’s super inefficient.
- Walk away after finishing a piece and before editing. I often find it easier to edit and catch more mistakes when I have had a good night’s sleep. I understand that’s not always possible. None the less, take a little break. Take a walk around the house or a stroll around the park, drink some water, give your eyes a little rest before you start editing.
- Read aloud. This will help you spot run-on sentences or sentences that do not have a conversational flow.
- Edit in the text editor as well as in preview mode. Sometimes you only catch things once you’ve published a piece. Editing in the preview mode can help minimize those mistakes.
Now, let’s get into the actual editing! Who’s excited?!
The stylistic editing parts will often coincide with editing parts for improving readability. After all, styles in a writing body exist to enhance readers’ experience. With that in mind, I tried to separate the two (style and readability) based on strictly visual elements (styles) and contextual elements (readability).
Break up your content with headers and sub-headers.
This will help ensure you have clear and defined sections in your post body, each section focusing on a particular aspect of the post you’re writing.
Each of these points (as per your outline, if you’ve made one) should focus on a singular aspect of the topic at hand. Break up these points under a header, and then use sub-headers to break them up further into bite-sized sub-sections (when required).
As much as these are stylistic choices, but at the core, they are here for improving readability also. Your goal is to help your readers understand what point(s) you’re making and why. Your job is to do so in a way that allows your readers to digest the content easily. By breaking up content in sections (much like how books are broken up in chapters), you’re helping your readers learn better and faster and more efficiently.
Use short but varying lengths for consecutive paragraphs.
Ideally, for writing bodies meant to be read on-screen, you should use shorter paragraphs (and sentences.) Long paragraphs distract readers. With that in mind, also make sure that consecutive paragraphs have varying lengths to avoid monotony.
Don’t be afraid to have only one sentence in a paragraph.
Or just one word in a whole sentence.
But immediately follow them up by making surrounding sentences and paragraphs longer. Just try not to make them too long. If a paragraph is getting longer than 7-8 lines, you’ll be better off chopping it in two.
Have clear visual breaks between sections.
The more breaks you give your readers, the higher the chances of them reading your post to the end. Do not ignore these formatting practices. Trust me, formatting has a lot to do with whether you succeed as a blogger or not. You may think this is trivial, but it’s NOT!
After you’ve taken care of breaking down your content in sections (pro-tip: make a habit of doing this as you’re writing. You’ll be better equipped to do so if you have an outline of your post before you start writing) add additional visual separation.
You can do this at the design level, or you can do this manually with things like horizontal lines or images.
- At the design level: As you see on my blog, I have a separate background-color for my main headers. This helps because I don’t need to add an extra step during the editing process.
- Manually add separation: Background color for headers works for me because of how my blog is designed. Depending on your blog’s design, you may not want a separate background color for your headers. In that case, use images (if appropriate and relevant) or a horizontal line to create the visual separation.
Add images to your post.
Strong visual stimulation will keep your readers on your blog longer. They can also help you demonstrate complex ideas through visual stimuli. Aside from that, there are other reasons for having images to your posts, such as:
- Many social media platforms pull images when you share a link, which in turn grabs your ideal readers’ attention.
- You can use images to create visual separation in-between sections.
- Adding relevant images to your posts enriches the quality of your post to search engines. They can be a great SEO booster for you.
Here are some essential blog graphics:
- Featured image: Most social media pulls the featured image from your posts. If you use WordPress, you can easily add a featured image (from the designated featured image section). On other platforms, typically, the very first image you add on a post is regarded as the featured image.
- Pinterest image: All of your blog posts should have a Pinterest-optimized image. Ideally, it’s a vertically oriented image with an aspect ratio of 2:3 with the blog posts title right on top of the image in big and bold font(s), so it grabs people’s attention.
- Screenshots: These are great for tutorial-type posts or posts where you’re trying to make a point/prove something. Use only when relevant, and only if they enhance your post’s quality and authority.
Additionally, feel free to use any other image if you deem them necessary to prove your point.
Editing to Improve Readability
The following section deals with making sure your blog posts have a natural flow, and they’re well-written without silly grammar or structural mistakes, and they’re written in ways that take a reader on a journey and keep them in your blog throughout the entire post.
Check for spelling and grammar mistakes.
The only way to minimize spelling and grammar mistakes is to read and re-read your post several times (with intervals in-between because our brains are good at adapting to errors). Some tools can help, but no tool will capture all of your mistakes entirely.
That said, the Grammarly app can help eliminate most of the obvious mistakes right off the bat. Grammarly Premium, which is what I use, can take this a step further and help you with things like spotting repetitive words, words that are overused but have better alternatives, proper usage of punctuations, use of adverbs and passive sentences (which you should try and avoid as much as possible), etc.
But even with the premium Grammarly app, there are certain mistakes that you can only spot by going over your article manually. So, yeah, don’t skip this part. Read and re-read a few times to minimize your mistakes as much as possible and improve the reading experience.
Get rid of adverbs.
“Adverbs make your prose really week.”
“Adverbs make your prose week.”
Now, compare the first sentence with the second one. Did you need the word “really” to make your point? In fact, I’d argue that getting rid of “really” made that sentence stronger and more assertive.
Here’s the thing. If you want people to listen to you, trust you, act on your words, then you have to sound convincing first. Adverbs make your words weak, so avoid them the best you can.
Grammarly Premium can help you spot adverbs (very, really, just, and adjectives with the added “-ly” at the end are the most common types of modifiers we use in our writing.)
Hemingway App is another tool that can help you spot adverbs.
Get rid of passive sentences.
Passive sentences are just as bad as adverbs. However, sometimes they can’t be helped, and that’s fine. Again, use Grammarly Premium or Hemingway app to catch all passive sentences, and then try to rework them to make them active.
I like the Hemingway App for checking passive sentences because they give you suggestions as to how many passive sentences you have and how many is too many, etc.
Avoid grammar expletives.
Grammar expletives are sentences that start with here, there, or it, and are followed by a verb to be. These sentences end up using unnecessary words that add zero value to your writing, other than making your word-count go higher.
— There are a lot of bloggers who teach online courses.
How about this instead?
— Many bloggers also teach online courses.
Much better, right?
Use more persuasive words whenever possible.
Switching out the verb to be or using a stronger verb will strengthen your prose.
- I have been blogging. → I blog.
- He is irritating me. → He’s 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
Use contractions to make your prose more personal and informal.
Contractions are a combination of two words, such as, “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.
Here are some examples:
- I am about to go to the grocery store → I’m about to go to the grocery store.
- Here is a list of 5 superfoods. → Here’s a list of 5 superfoods.
- There is a way to make your text more personal. → There’s a way to make your text more personal.
- I am going if you are coming along. → I’m going if you’re coming along.
If you’ve been around TSB long enough, you know that I don’t like to write my blog posts for robots, but for humans instead.
That said, there are a couple of things you can do to make sure your posts are not only appealing to search engines, but also to fellow human readers.
Make sure you have a meta title and description.
So, it used to be that Google would show your meta description and meta title in search result pages. But lately, they changing up a lot of things. It seems like they’re still showing the title, but replacing the description with their own based on what it thinks the user would benefit the most.
Regardless, make sure you have a meta description and meta title for your blog posts. Also, social media platforms pull information from this, so even if Google has its own agenda, at least for social media shares, your meta descriptions are still important.
To add meta title and description, use the Yoast SEO plugin. This plugin has a designated area in your post editor page where you can insert the title and description.
You can use the same title for your post for the meta title, and for the description, use a brief, clear explanation of what the post is. Do not write for computers. Write for your human readers. Think about what kind of description will make your human readers want to click on your post.
Use inbound links.
Inbound links are those that link to some content on your website. Meaning, your readers stay within your site but go to a different post or page.
Inbound links are useful for many reasons. When used the right way (do not spam them, use when relevant, to relevant content that will be useful to your readers), they will help your readers understand the topic at hand better.
Inbound links also keep your readers on your site longer. It reduces website bounce, which makes your site look good to search engines.
Use alt texts for your images.
Alt texts are great for SEO, and it’s also good for accessibility when it comes to user experience.
For example, users with visual impairment can use alt text to understand the on-page content and context.
They also let search engines know what the image is about, which improves how search engines interpret your page and rank them.
Editing to Improve Engagement
when you write a blog post, you want people to engage with your content in various ways. If people are not engaging, then something needs to change.
Now, most people don’t like to engage. But if you can get even a few to take action consistently for most of your posts, then that’s good enough. It depends on what kind of engagement you’re hoping for too.
Let’s look at a few different ways to engage your audience now.
Make it easy to share your posts.
If you want your readers to share your post on social media, you need to make sharing easy!
Create a featured image people would want to share on their social media accounts.
The featured image is essential. Most social media platforms take your featured image (on WordPress) and show it to their feed when you share a link.
If you have a sloppy graphic or a free stock image every other blogger seems to be using, it’s not going to have the appeal of, say, a well-thought-out graphic or image that’s easy on the eyes.
If you’re a brand new blogger on a budget, find free stock images that are not super saturated. Unsplash has a lot, I mean, a LOT of free photos. Don’t be lazy and spend some time finding the right kind of photo that’s also not overused on the internet. I’m sure you’ll find some if you really looked.
When you have the budget for it, consider subscribing to one of these membership sites for premium stock photo uses and downloads.
- Canva (You can sign up for a 45-day Canva Pro trial here which gives you access to over 7 million premium stock images.)
Another website I love going to for stock images is Moyo Studio.
Create Pinnable graphics.
All of your blog posts should have at least one pinnable image.
By pinnable, I mean vertically oriented graphics with the post title on top of the graphics with big and bold letters.
A great pinnable image has the following traits:
- Has an aspect ratio of 2:3 or 1:2
- Great design (incorporating images or solids or patterned backgrounds)
- A well-written post title on top of the image in big letters that’s easy to read.
- Has the blog name and/or URL on top of the image itself.
If you want to learn more about pinnable graphics, check out my blog post: How to Drive Traffic with These 5 Pinterest Graphics (+ FREE Canva Templates)
Pro-tip: Make sharing easy with share buttons. You can use plugins (on self-hosted WordPress) to create social share buttons on all of your posts automatically. Personally, I like the Sassy Social Share plugin because it’s free and versatile and comes with a lot of customization options for its style and looks. But, there are plenty of other similar plugins to choose from.
Have a CTA (Call to Action)
Again, people usually do not engage. So, to have them engage with your content, it helps if you give them a reminder. In all of your blog posts, add some kind of CTA (Call to Action). You can add them to your post body or at the end of each post.
For example, you may ask people to subscribe to your newsletter and add a newsletter opt-in (I do it on all of my blog posts). Additionally, you can ask people to leave a comment on your post. Instead of just asking to leave a comment, give them something to think about. Ask a proper question, and then advise them to leave the answer in the comment section.
So guys, what do you think? Doable?
I’m such an impatient person that it’s hard for me to spend enough time editing. But I try my best. And you should too!
Do you have a specific editing process? If so, I’d love for you to share with me and the other readers, in the comment section 🙂
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