The Ultimate Editing Checklist
How to Edit Your Writing
Nobody is perfect. Even the most experienced copyeditors can miss a typo, and even the most respected institutions send errors to print from time to time. Although typos in Tweets are virtually unavoidable, some errors are more costly. For example, in 2019, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) printed 46 million banknotes that misspelled “responsibility” as “responsibilty.”
As hard as we try, typos and writing errors will never become obsolete. Especially when producing several pieces of content every week, writers need a standard method to proof for structure, content and grammar. That’s why we’ve cultivated the following professional editing checklist for both new and experienced writers. Read on for a comprehensive list of what to look for when editing your work so that your organization can uphold its credibility when publishing content.
Your Self-Editing Checklist
Follow this list when editing to ensure your content is clear, concise and error-free:
- Format and flow. Ask yourself these questions: Is this the right format for the content? Is the flow logical? Determine if a different format would work better for any section, such as numbered lists or bullets. These could make it easier for readers to take in the information and identify key takeaways. If the flow of the content appears disjointed, look for ways to rearrange it logically.
- Complete structure. Does your article have an introduction followed by clear points and a conclusion? These three sections should appear in any blog or article. Add a short introduction that adequately summarises the content to draw readers in and a conclusion that serves as a recap.
- Distinct, titled sections. Is each section separated with a clear title? If any sections are running long without any distinction, consider dividing them with subheadings. These will help people quickly scan the content and stay on track as they read.
- Paragraph length. Each paragraph should only deal with one topic or idea. Avoid paragraphs with too many sentences, as people may be less inclined to thoroughly read large sections of copy. Can you split any paragraphs into two or three? This can make the content more digestible.
- Is your purpose for writing this blog or article clearly stated in the introduction? Is there a hook that quickly captures the reader’s attention? The introduction is essential, as people won’t keep reading your content if the beginning is not engaging. Make sure your introduction provides a clear and accurate summary of the subsequent sections.
- Does your content have a closing paragraph? Your conclusion should summarise key points and end with a call to action or an interesting point for further consideration.
- Do your transitions help readers effectively navigate your content? Identify your transitions between paragraphs to check for any that could flow better. There are multiple types of transitions, like those used for illustration (for example, for instance, in other words, etc.), contrast (on the contrary, however, rather, nevertheless, etc.), addition (furthermore, moreover, in addition to, etc.), emphasis (above all, certainly, truly, etc.) and more.
- Passive vs. active voice. Many writers struggle with this particular point. The truth is, it is often much easier for readers to understand active voice than passive. Search for any uses of passive voice and adjust to active voice wherever possible. Often, this simply requires a bit of restructuring so that the sentence leads with the person or agent performing the action.
- Identify any long or repetitive sentences that can be more concise or combined. Shorter sentences can lead to higher rankings on search engines. Plus, people can be confused by long, winding sentences that fail to effectively get to the point.
- Adding sources to your content adds credibility and provides additional resources to readers. Search for any information that may require a source, like statistics, claims and quotations. Are all quotations attributed correctly with the right name and title? Are your statistics current and relevant to the region in which your content will be published?
- Cut the fat. Cut out the filler words and remove adverbs that add nothing to your meaning. You can cross-check with this helpful list of filler words and copy-and-paste your work into Hemingway Editor to identify superfluous words.
- Replace weak verbs. Switch out weak verbs and adjectives with strong, specific ones. For example, replace “think up” with “devise” or “not very good” with “atrocious” where appropriate.
- Consistency. Check for language and punctuation inconsistencies. Whether you decide to use “ecommerce, e-commerce and eCommerce,” for example, make sure that the word appears the same way throughout your content. Additionally, scan to ensure all uses of the Oxford comma are consistent throughout the piece and with your organization’s style guidelines.
- Spelling and grammar. Grammarly is a useful tool to catch most spelling and grammar mistakes in your writing. Make sure to proof your work with and without Grammarly, however, as it’s not perfect and may miss some errors. Be sure to adjust spelling based on your region, switching “color” to “colour,” “percent” to “per cent” and “recognize” to “recognise” when adapting U.S. content for Europe, Australia, parts of Canada and more.
Next Steps Before You Publish
Now that you have completed the checklist, try reading the piece aloud one final time to catch any remaining mistakes. After your writing is in top shape, don’t forget to click all hyperlinks to ensure they direct readers to the correct content and aren’t broken, review any visual content and include keywords where possible for enhanced search engine optimization (SEO). Finally, proofread the headline, subtitles, URL and author’s name to ensure all are correct before hitting “publish.”
Looking to develop high-quality content for your organization’s target audiences? Contact us today.
Theresa Colston is an Account Executive at Mulberry Marketing Communications, an award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in Chicago, London and Australia. She enjoys developing creative marketing ideas and building connections to drive results for clients.