A 7-Point Checklist to Top-Tier Editing
Yesterday, I shared three ways you can turn off your internal editor and let your writing flow.
Today, I’m going to help you fix one of the biggest problems I see time and again as a web-writing editor. Turbulence.
Imagine you’re on an airplane, reading a great book. Suddenly the plane hits a patch of turbulence. Your eyes fly up and you look around to make sure everything is okay. Now you’re faced with a choice. You can either go back to reading your book or you can do something else.
If the turbulence had never happened, you wouldn’t have even thought to stop reading.
Writing has turbulence, too. Any time there’s a bump in your word flow, you make your reader look up. And then, he has to decide whether or not he’ll keep reading. Many readers won’t.
Smooth writing is critical. But the time to smooth out your writing isn’t during the actual drafting. During drafting you want to write fast — that’s how you tap into your best ideas and your best turns of phrase.
Editing is the time to smooth things out.
Today, I’m going to share seven quick tricks you can use to make your writing effortless to read. Perfect for an online article … or for any type of writing at all.
7 Ways to Make Your Writing Effortless to Read
After you finish your draft, let your article sit for at least a couple of hours. This will help you edit with fresh eyes. During editing …
- Give clichés a new spin. People talk in clichés, so it’s only natural that they’ll show up in your writing. When you see a cliché during editing, just give it a little twist. Instead of saying “up to your eyeballs,” try “up to your cheekbones.” Instead of “swinging for the fences,” you could say, “swinging for the parking lot.”
- Use concrete and specific words. The more specifically you can describe something the better. It’s not a “red, four-door sedan with a big trunk.” It’s a “cinnamon-red family sedan disguised as a sports car with a trunk so big you could fit your mother-in-law in there.”
- Format for inflection. Help readers to “hear” how you’re saying things by adding bold and italic formatting to give stress to specific words.
- Break it up. If you see a bunch of sentences together that are all the same length, do something to break them up. Same thing with paragraphs. Don’t let the rhythm of your writing get monotonous.
- Use touchbacks. When it makes sense, start a new paragraph with a reference to what you just said in the previous paragraph.
- Read it out loud. This is the best editing tip. Ever. If you take away one tip from this list, let it be this one. When you read out loud, you’ll hear the bumps. And then you’ll know to fix them.
- Re-do your headline. Most of your readers will decide whether or not to read your article based on the headline alone. During editing watch for the most striking points of your article. Consider repurposing one of those for your headline.
Your assignment today is to take what you wrote yesterday and apply these editing tricks to it. Tell me about it in the comments.
Tomorrow we’re going to wrap up this hands-on series with a final tip to give your article an extra bit of polish. I’ll also share four suggestions for how you can use your article to launch yourself into the lucrative world of web writing.
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