Becoming Your Own Editor

Are you looking to improve your writing? Here’s a simple tip that can make a world of difference:

Read your work aloud.

That’s it. Well … not quite. There’s a second part:

Listen as you read.

As you read your writing aloud, pay attention:

  • Is it easy to read or hard to read? Hint: if you’re gasping for air, you probably have some run-on sentences!
  • Is it understandable or confusing? Hint: anytime you hesitate, you want to figure out what made you pause.
  • Is it interesting or is your mind wandering as you read it? Hint: if you’re bored, your audience will be, too!
  • Is it paced well or is it rushed or dragging on? Hint: if it is rushed, you will feel dissatisfied; if it is dragging on, you will feel weighed down.
  • If there’s humor, does it sound funny when you hear it spoken out loud? Hint: get a second opinion on humor!

You may want to record as you read, then listen to the recording. Or, you may want to have someone read the piece to you. Oftentimes, you can pick up on the above items even more easily by listening to someone else as they read. (And since they’re reading it “cold,” they are more likely to read it as your target audience would.) Notice if they stumble over word choice or sentence structure, pay attention to where they hesitate or if their eyes glaze over, and – of course – ask for their honest feedback as to whether the piece made sense and achieved your goal.

Read aloud and listen. It’s a tip everyone can try – with immediate results!




De-Cluttering Copy

Have you ever visited a website where the pages ran on and on like the Dead Sea Scrolls? Read a white paper that appeared to have everything including the kitchen sink shoved in it? Skimmed through a book and found your eyes crossing because the author went off on a hundred tangents? I can sum up what happened with the copy in two words:

No editor.

An editor has a hard job: we have to question everything, asking: “Does it fit? Does it make sense? Does it work?”

You see, an editor does more than correct grammatical errors and awkward sentence structure. An editor is also responsible for making sure that the piece – whether it is a website, a white paper, a case study, a book, a direct mail letter, etc. – does its job well.

That means we may have to:

  • Encourage the author to cut information that they love, but that doesn’t add value.
  • Analyze the logical flow and progression of the piece and make recommendations  as necessary.
  • Challenge examples, quotes, statistics, etc. if they do not adequately support the point under discussion.

The result is the same as when you spend a day cleaning out the closet. It’s attractive. It’s orderly. It’s effective. And that is good copy!