In today’s world, so many of us are doing ALL the things for our business.
All. On. Our. OWN.
Maybe for you, one of those things is writing your own content—from blog posts to emails, social media posts, and everything in between.
But do you ever sit down to copyedit all of that goodness before you send it out into the world?
If not, you should be! To help get you started, I’m here to share my top tips for copyediting your content for ultimate grammar gold.
Let’s start with the basics:
“The first draft is black and white. Editing gives the story color.” – Emma Hill
I love these words from Emma. They’re a more formal take on one of my favorite sayings, “Write drunk. Edit sober.”
Both, despite their differences, speak to editing.
There’s a good reason why we follow a writing process that sometimes leads to multiple drafts here at Woven Copy Studio. You know, versus typing up a piece and quickly hitting publish (no shame if that’s your game). Writing isn’t a process you want to rush.
Basically, your first draft is your opportunity to get your creativity flowing while laying out a pile of words—aka all those ideas from that brilliant brain of yours.
So, no, it’s not going to be pure perfection. It may not look or read the best the very first time.
But that’s where copyediting your content comes into play. It’ll take your words up a notch, giving it some serious color.
And not only that, but it’ll help build TRUST with your readers.
I know what you might be thinking – such a simple task can build TRUST? It’s true.
Think about it…you get an email or come across a social media post from a trusted brand. You’re reading through it, and smack dab in the middle of an important message is a grammatical mistake. You might run into a few more missed edits after that—from an incorrect date to a broken link.
That’s why it’s SO important to take your words from mess to masterpiece.
Hold up. I’ve heard the phrase proofreading, too. Is that the same as copyediting?
The short answer is: they’re two different tasks.
The long answer?
Copyediting comes FIRST, and it should be a thoughtful, detailed process—from checking written material for all the things (think spelling, grammar, formatting) to rewriting content, if necessary.
Proofreading, however, is the LAST step before hitting “Send” or “Publish” on your final draft. You’re simply catching any remaining edits.
Now that we have that covered…
Here are 8 tips for copyediting your content:
1. Walk away. Give it some time.
Unless you have a strict deadline to meet, walking away from your content and returning to it a day or two later is the best thing you can do.
That’s because of…FRESH. EYES. Hello!
A fresh perspective offers you an opportunity to really think about your message and how you can make it shine even more.
Also, this time away helps you release your writer’s ego (you know, the one that causes us to feel SO connected to our words that we’re hesitant to nix any of them). That way, you can easily step right into copyediting mode.
2. Read your content aloud. maybe even take some notes!
Did you know that when you read your content silently, your brain tends to fill in the gaps (like punctuation, misspellings, missing transitions or words) without you thinking twice?
To avoid this, read your content out loud! Yes, this may seem silly at first, but it works wonders.
You’ll probably be able to catch edits you didn’t while writing, or maybe even words or phrases you don’t commonly use but thought they “looked” smart on the screen.
Bonus: if you’re just getting started, I recommend printing off a hard copy of your content to read aloud and take notes in the margins, so you don’t forget the edits you need to go back and make!
3. Now for the heavy lifting.
Resolve spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Are there any misspellings Google Docs or Word just didn’t catch? How’s your use of commas, quotation marks, and em/en dashes? Are there any subject-verb agreement errors, prepositional words/phrases, “squinting” modifiers, and missing/double articles? Are event dates, names, stats, and even hyperlinks correct?
Tighten & brighten. What do I mean by this? Cut the fat. If you can explain your message in less words, DO IT. Long sentences don’t work online! Also, delete any uncommon, unnecessary, or fluffy words. For example, I see the word “that” used way too often in content. Most of the time, your message is fine without it. And in the end, your readers will appreciate you keeping it SIMPLE.
Pay attention to repetition. Do you find yourself using the same word or phrase over and over again? PowerThesaurus.com will be your best friend here! Every sentence you write should say something new—no matter how slight it might seem.
Check for flow and tone of voice. This is where reading your content aloud can help. If you feel a paragraph or sentence transitioned funky, or you jumped from one idea to the next, get to copyediting to help with flow. Add on to an idea with words like “and,” “additionally,” “finally,” “also.” Or, compare points with words like “However” and “although.” As for your tone of voice, ask yourself: does it mirror my past content? Do I stick to “I” voice or “you” voice throughout the entire piece? Or do I begin referring to a reader as “they”? A brand messaging strategy can be a HUGE help here! It outlines who your audience is (who you’re attracting and repelling), your tagline / core offerings, brand beliefs, strengths, and differentiators, words to describe your tone of voice (examples being inviting / engaging, friendly / relaxed, and upbeat / playful), messaging goals, and a common words/phrases bank.
4. Use your resources.
Having a second set of eyes on your content is essential. Here are two of my favorite starter resources:
Your spouse or friend: We often get so wrapped up in our own content that we miss the little things and also assume our reader will fully understand what we’re saying. Another perspective (someone close to you) helps!
Grammarly: Drop your content into the desktop app, set your content’s goals via the prompts, and it’ll guide you through recommended edits. I will say, use your best judgment when accepting changes!
Remember: these resources don’t serve as a complete replacement for YOU doing your own copyediting or reading your content out loud.
5. Don’t take edits personally.
Again, release your writer’s ego because mistakes will happen.
Hey, even the most professional writers will come across glaring errors when going through the copyediting and proofreading process.
Making edits and tuning in to feedback from others is how you create a golden piece of content!
6. Ask yourself some questions.
As you’re nearing the end of the copyediting process, here are a few questions you need to ask yourself:
Does the content fulfill its PROMISE? Refer to your headline or your intro copy to best answer this one. You don’t want your reader to leave your piece without feeling like they got what they came for.
Does it meet QUALITY standards? I’m talking about grammar, punctuation, and all that other good stuff. It should be free of errors.
Are there any additional REVISIONS I need to make to answer “YES” to the above? If so, it’s time to return to your content to proofread once again and make those changes versus hastily hitting the “Publish” button. As I like to say, just as you can’t do mornings without coffee, you can’t do copyediting without proofreading!
7. Take a deep breath.
From time to time, no matter how well you get the copyediting and proofreading process down, there WILL be an error that slips past you.
These moments are learning lessons. Make a mental note to pay extra attention to those specific errors you didn’t catch for future content pieces. Then, move forward.
Need help copyediting your content?
Send me a note today so we can chat all about your goals to weave together words with purpose.