Phew! You’ve just finished your first draft of an important business document and now all you need to do is proofread it, right? Well now, let’s just back up a bit there because you’ve missed a very important step in the process: copy editing.
Copy editing isn’t just kind of a good idea, it’s absolutely essential for anyone wanting their writing to flow well and sound professional. Just ask any well-known author if they could manage without their editor and they’ll almost certainly need to breathe into the nearest paper bag. OK, so maybe you’re not the next J K Rowling (yet) but your work will still benefit from following these five top tips to whip your writing into shape.
Check your document more than once
Making multiple edit runs is a particularly useful exercise if your document is complex, such as a technical piece or an academic paper. But the process works equally well for blog articles and website copy, too. Pretty much every type of writing will benefit from several versions of edits.
Give yourself some mind space
Give yourself a well-earned break between finishing writing and editing; you’re simply way too close to your work to consider doing it the moment you’ve put your pen down. Editing can be a ruthless business so you need a clear head and a fresh perspective to do it well, so make sure to have that break. Ideally, sleep on it.
Read the document aloud first
That’s right: aloud. Sound crazy? You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to pick up where the flow is dodgy or spelling and grammar mistakes are lurking. It also gives you a chance to preview your writing ‘voice’ – does the tone sound right for the message you’re trying to convey? Reading the document before you edit is also an excellent way to pick up red flags relating to factual content or mistakes in headers and footers, too.
Keep it simple
Whether a business document or a blog, try for the most part to keep your language and sentence structure simple. Heavy or overly-technical writing isn’t appealing to anyone. Consistency is equally important, too, so check that your style is the same throughout. For example, if you hyphenate a word, ensure it’s hyphenated in every instance.
Headers, bullets and numbered lists are good
Breaking up your copy by using these handy little formatting styles is a great idea, particularly if your document is a long one. It works particularly well for online writing where readers tend to scan copy very quickly. Using subheadings and bullet points makes it easier to read and, if your piece is easy on the eye, people are more likely to read it right through to the end. And that’s a good thing.
Extra hot tip: Not everyone feels comfortable with their own writing and editing skills, so don’t hesitate to call on the services of an experienced copy editor to review your work. It’s what they do every day, so they’re really good at making content flow smoothly and giving your words that extra shine that will help get your message across exactly the way you want it to.