Content is everywhere these days and the digital age has made it possible for would-be writers to have a worldwide platform. Compelling and entertaining stories are shared across social media, business websites, blogs, and more. Yet in our hurry to generate new content all of the time, we often overlook the importance of quality editing and proofreading. This is especially important for businesses to consider in their online presence: if your website or blog is rife with error, do I as a consumer trust that your product was created with great care and attention to detail? The bottom line is a sloppy and poorly managed online presence can affect your overall brand reputation. (Not to mention what it can do for internal employee morale…) Make sure your content reflects the values of your brand, and this isn’t just about sentiment. It is about the good old-fashioned standards of quality writing, editing, and proofreading as well!
Aren’t editing and proofreading the same thing anyway?
Not even close. Editing and proofreading are two different functions in the writing process, with separate (though equally important) purposes.
Editing is about shaping and improving content. A talented editor can transform your thoughts into an expression that packs more punch. By changing, removing, or adding words, an editor can ensure your message is delivered to the reader in a clear and engaging format, with consistency in style and tone. Long-winded writers need editors to ensure the reader does not drift off to sleep mid-sentence; less verbose writers need editors to ensure the message comes across to the reader in enough detail. An editor will consider your audience and whether the language you have chosen is appropriate for them. Quality editing can turn a mediocre piece into one that is engaging and sophisticated.
Proofreading, on the other hand, can be viewed as a sort of “house cleaning.” Once the content of the piece has been improved via editing, a vital final step is to ensure there are no errors. Proofreading the content involves checking for errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. Even the most talented writers can miss a there vs. their or an its vs. it’s. And while software programs enable us to catch many of these mistakes while writing, there is still no substitute for a final proofread from human eyes.
Four Tips for Expert Copy
Less is More
This is a challenge for many writers. We want to wow our readers with our incredible command of language, which can lead to over-the-top and flowery descriptions when they are unnecessary. Save this kind of writing for your novel: business copy should be engaging, fresh, and to the point. A blog post for your company’s new juicer can certainly be fun and entertaining, but bear in mind…the juicer enthusiast is unlikely to spend no more than a few minutes looking at your content. One of the best rules of thumb for any writer is to start with a draft and then re-read it and consider (and strike!) all of the unnecessary words. Consider this example as an opening line for a hypothetical blog post on choosing the right family SUV:
It is important for families when choosing the right sport-utility vehicle (SUV) to first consider all of the needs of their families and how those needs can be met by an SUV.
(Did you fall asleep? I did.)
Here is a much better way to open:
The sport-utility vehicle (SUV) market is attracting more families these days, and here are some tips on finding one that meets the needs of your growing brood!
The second option has five fewer words and avoids the repetition of using “families” twice.
Even the simple elimination of the word “that” throughout your piece can make a difference.
There are many different options that are available to SUV shoppers. Some SUVs have custom features that are included in standard packages.
There are many different options available to SUV shoppers. Some SUVs have custom features included in standard packages.
Trust us on this one: search your piece for the word “that” and you will be able to eliminate it nine times out of ten.
Know Your Audience
Knowing the intended audience for your copy informs the style and tone you choose in the piece: are you writing a blog post for a senior living community? A travel review aimed at single twentysomethings? The language you choose should resonate with the intended audience (and not leave them scratching their heads or googling unfamiliar acronyms). While it may seem intimidating at first to write for an audience far removed from your own peer groups or experiences, with time and practice you can familiarize yourself with the appropriate tone and style. A great place to start is by simply reading as much content as you can aimed at that particular audience. Ask friends and family to weigh in, too! If you’re a grill-loving carnivore assigned to write a piece on trends in vegan cooking, ask your vegan cousin for help and insight. Think of all of the contacts in your personal network who have expertise in certain areas and you will likely find someone who is willing to act as a second set of eyes, especially if the content is geared toward one of their passions.
Put Down the Thesaurus
Editors can certainly spot this and savvy readers will as well: if the tone of your content suddenly and abruptly shifts with the introduction of a few fifty-cent words, it becomes obvious that a stumped writer picked up a thesaurus. This is not to say a thesaurus can’t be a useful tool, but an abrupt shift in your writing voice can seem disingenuous and off-putting to readers. Most online content should be accessible and user-friendly; you don’t need to wow your audience with unfamiliar words. Rather, you should focus your energy on keeping their attention with a piece that is easy to follow and engaging.
Consistency is Key
Readers are engaged by a voice that is consistent: if your piece is upbeat and lively, keep that tone from start to finish. If the content demands specific jargon for an audience of tech-savvy readers, use it consistently throughout. There is nothing worse than reading a piece of online content and shaking your head at the end wondering if four different writers were involved (or perhaps it was entirely generated by some kind of autobot?) The writer’s voice can and should shine in any piece, be it a blog post about a juicer or a guide to installing hurricane shutters. Quality writing represents your business in a positive light, and engaging content may be the key to driving consumers to your products.