Writing blog posts is one thing. Writing good, polished blog posts is something else, and the difference between the two is editing. I’ve learnt the hard way – whenever I think I’ve written a spectacular post, I find someone misunderstands what I’m saying or (horrors!) I find a typo in it after it has been published. Discerning readers hate typos. I know I do. I manage to stop short of being one of those people who makes pencil corrections in the margin of printed library books, but I understand the compulsion.
Neglecting this aspect of your blog writing will eventually affect your readership, so follow these 5 tips for editing your posts to ensure they aren’t just memorable, they’re technically correct too.
Editing Tip #1: Run the Checks
Your first order of business in blog writing once you have a draft is to check the technicalities. I normally run several automated checks before I do anything else:
To see if I’ve used similar phraseology to something that’s already published. I know I won’t do this intentionally, but there are only so many ways to say things, right? At 5 cents a pop, it’s worth it for me to have a premium account and use it for everything.
Spelling and grammar
I write most of my posts in Word, so I use the Microsoft tool first. It isn’t great, but it picks up any obvious mistakes. I set it to identify instances of passive voice too, which is useful. I also run important pieces through WhiteSmoke or Grammarly — you’d be surprised at how good these programs are.
If I’m writing something around a specific keyword, I use a free online keyword analysis tool to check the density of my keyword usage. These days, you can get penalized if you use the keyword too much, and lose traffic if you use it to little. It’s a fine balancing act.
I also use Google's page rank checker to verify the rank of any site I link to, which ensures I don’t build links with spammy websites.
Editing Tip #2: Read It Aloud
Reading the piece out aloud is a sure-fire way to detect any remaining funnies, but it doesn’t work if you just rattle through it. Focus on making sense of the words as you read, or do it in front of a mirror and read it to your reflection. Read it aloud to someone else and you’ll realize how different it sounds from when you read it to yourself. Make notes as you go and re-read any changes to ensure flow and continuity with the rest of the copy.
Editing Tip #3: Use a Checklist
It’s very easy in blog writing to ramble all over a topic without realizing it. Don’t wait for your reader to say “wtf?” half-way through - check your copy against a list such as this one and make sure your writing says what you intended it to say:
- Does my content fulfil the title adequately?
- Does my introduction pull the reader in?
- Is my angle clear within the first 100 words?
- Does my body copy support the introduction (or does it launch off at a tangent without following the concept)?
- Does my conclusion tie the content back to the title and intro?
Evaluate your post against each of these criteria individually—it only takes a few minutes—and you’ll spot changes you want to make.
Editing Tip #4: Let It Rest
Set your blog writing aside and do something else for a while. Make coffee, go to the store or clean the house—each of these is a way to clear your head. My best is to leave it overnight, but that’s not always possible. Whatever you choose to do, as long as you’re not writing it will have the same effect. Then go back and re-read it one more time before finalizing it.
Editing Tip #5: Kill Your Darlings
William Faulker said it and Stephen King reiterated it. It’s really true when it comes to blog writing; all those fabulous turns of phrase that thrill you to your bones—delete them! Chances are good that what thrills you is just going to sound “smart-alecky” and cheesy to your readers. Can you really risk them believing you think you’re clever? If it’s witty you’re after, ask someone else for an opinion. For any other format, kill ‘em off!
Professional editing gets faster with practice and will make the world of difference to the quality of your blog writing.