5 Editing Techniques

If your first drafts are perfect, you can stop reading right now.

The rest of us mere humans, however, need to edit our work.

Even the most experienced writer doesn’t write perfect content on the first try. That’s why we call it a first draft.

Whether you’re writing content for your own business or for a client, editing is an inescapable part of the content creation process.

Yet no matter how diligent we are, we still miss things …

A typo here. A missing punctuation mark there. A dull intro. Flow issues in the middle. An overly predictable conclusion …

You can do better.

Go ahead and follow your usual revision process. Finish your draft, read through your work and make any necessary changes. But before you hit “publish,” or before you send the draft to your client, try one of these 5 unusual editing techniques to polish that content to a shine.

1. Read Your Work Backward

Use this technique is exactly as it’s written. No interpretation needed. Simply start from the last word and work your way to the first.

We tend to go on autopilot when we read – especially when it’s our own work and we’re way too close to it. The analytical parts of our brains shut off and our eyes gloss right over glaring errors.

Reading your work backward forces your brain to reengage. It turns off the autopilot.

It’s a surefire way to catch mistakes that you missed the first 10 times you read through your work.

2. Record Yourself Reading It Out Loud

Reading your work out loud is pretty common advice. And it does work to give you a fresh perspective on your writing. You’ll see quickly where the clunky parts are, where thoughts appear unfinished, and where you drone on too long.

However, sometimes even reading your work out loud, that darn autopilot turns on in your brain again and you miss things.

Grab an audio recorder – the one on your phone or the one that came with your computer will work fine – and record yourself reading your writing.

When you play it back, you’ll not only notice those issues with flow, but you’ll also notice things like poor word choice and sections that don’t connect well.

3. Change the Font

I use this technique during the first edit of almost every piece of content I write.

I, like every other writer out there, get way too close to my own writing. When I’m done with the first draft, before I read through it, I change the font type and size.

Changing the font triggers your brain to treat the writing as new. It helps you to take a step back from your work and look at it with fresh eyes.

4. Cut the First and Last Paragraph

Delete the first paragraph and the last paragraph from your first draft.

A little scary, right?

Do it anyway. You’ll be surprised by how often these two simple slices make your writing so much stronger.

More often than not, our first paragraph is a dud. It’s virtual throat-clearing. Once that’s out of the way, we get to the good stuff. So cut the phlegm (forgive me – but I was so excited to have the chance to use that word in a blog post!) from the get-go and see how your piece reads with the second paragraph as the new first.

As for the conclusion, for most marketing content it’s simply a brief recap of the piece. And reminding readers what they were supposed to get out of the content is a fine conclusion. Most of the time. But sometimes, the piece has so much more punch when you end it on a more active note.

Try it!

5. Sleep on It

I know, I know. You’re on a tight schedule. You don’t have time to wait a day to edit your draft.

To that I say: Get your draft done earlier, then.

Edit your writing with fresh, well-rested eyes. You’ll get some distance from your writing and have more perspective. Your brain will have had a chance to forget what you wrote – so the piece will be “new” again.

Also, your brain works through problems while you sleep. After a good night of shut-eye you will have new solutions for challenging sections, different words to use to bring the writing to life, and fresh ideas on how to make the piece better.

Now You’re Ready for Publication

If you use even one of these techniques, you’ll publish much cleaner work – and save yourself from those “helpful” reader comments about typos they’ve found in your content.

And if you’re writing for a client, they’ll be thrilled that they don’t need to edit the content you write for them. (Trust me, this might seem like a small thing to you as a freelance writer – but it’s huge to your clients.)

Back to you: What unusual editing techniques do you use to polish your content?


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