With everyone able to fire up a blog or Medium account and broadcast their thoughts for all to see, it’s easy to imagine that careful editing is passé or a skippable step. After all, the internet is a Wild West of slapdash content hurled online without a second look, and the readers who consume it are none the wiser, right?
Just the opposite, actually. In an online environment deluged with writing and content, quality matters. In thought leadership, just as in news, editing matters. Readers notice the errors, inconsistencies, and structural problems in the articles they read online — and they make judgments about the professionalism of content creators by how well that content is edited. This means that writing must be clear, facts must be checked, spelling must be correct, and structure must be logical in order for content to successfully engage and educate an audience.
At Influence & Co., content undergoes at least two rounds of edits — one to ensure we’ve nailed strategy, structure, and voice and a second to hone the finer points of grammar and style — before a piece is deemed ready for readers. Want to crib some tricks of the trade? Arm yourself with these 10 resources for getting content into tip-top shape:
Readers may have learned not to judge a book by its cover, but they’ll invariably judge an article or blog post by its headline. That’s why it’s worth putting in a little sweat equity to craft headlines that entice readers and induce clicks.
For help in creating click-worthy headlines, try out CoSchedule’s headline analyzer, a tool that uses data to gauge whether a headline carries the right character count, contains powerful language, and packs an emotional punch. This analysis makes crafting a search engine- and reader-friendly headline much easier — and more fun.
Even full-time content creators can use a little prompting from their AI-assistant friends to improve their writing’s grammar and clarity. Enter browser extensions like Grammarly, which helps eliminate typos, grammar mistakes, and syntax errors as you write. The extension follows you as you navigate in your browser from Gmail to Twitter to Salesforce to Slack, keeping your communications tidy across platforms.
Grammarly has extensions for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox, but if you need a free program compatible with Microsoft Office Suite, OpenOffice, Google Docs, and more, you might opt for Scribens. If you want grammar and spelling support in multiple languages, you might test out Grammar Checker or Ginger. All can help ward off preventable copy errors.
Those of us who commit our thoughts to paper (or word processor) in a stream-of-consciousness style know that sometimes those thoughts require a little refinement before they’re fit for readers’ consumption. If your main challenge is cutting back overgrown phrases and clauses to reveal clearer messages, you may benefit from a readability checker such as Readable, Datayze’s Readability Analyzer, or the Hemingway App. The first two help reduce complication, while the last one focuses on making prose bolder, more concise, and more impactful. Each aims to help you turn out copy that your readers will find easy and engaging to read.
Grammar and spelling checkers abound, but some grammar and usage questions are more difficult to parse. That’s why our editors love online references like Quick and Dirty Tips’ Grammar Girl, which answers language lovers’ questions in a helpful, unstuffy way. Need tips on how to use a semicolon? Racking your brain for the distinction between “rack” and “wrack”? Grammar Girl’s Mignon Fogarty has you covered.
If you create content, you need standards for keeping your writing and formatting consistent from one piece to another (and from one writer or editor to the next), and that’s where a style guide comes in handy. Journalists tend to use some version of the Associated Press Stylebook, publishers favor the Chicago Manual of Style, and academics keep the MLA Style Manual close by. Depending on your audience, you may discover a need to build your own style guide that reflects changes in industry trends. No matter what, you’ll want a style resource at the ready.
Ever fall down an editing rabbit hole while hunting for a (possibly nonexistent) perfect statistic to support your point or making a 14th attempt to rewrite that introductory paragraph? You may find yourself more efficient and accountable when you’re actively trying to beat the clock. At Influence & Co., we use Toggl for time tracking, which enables us to monitor our task duration in real time. Some editors might like a Pomodoro timer that schedules out 25-minute productivity bursts interspersed with short (usually five-minute) breaks. Even a kitchen egg timer might do the time-management trick.
Editors have a reputation for introversion, but that doesn’t mean they work best alone. A community of editors with the same passion for precision can provide support and guidance for the times when texts get tricky. Editors may find their tribes among ACES: The Society for Editing, Facebook communities like the Editors’ Association of Earth, subreddits dedicated to editing, or editing Q&As on the knowledge-sharing site Quora.
Don’t forget the fundamentals for finding the right words. Get yourself a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a reverse dictionary, which lets you type in a phrase to find the right word. Influence & Co. relies on Merriam-Webster as a spelling authority (a bonus is its delightful Twitter feed). To hit upon the right synonyms, try Merriam-Webster’s thesaurus option, Dictionary.com’s Thesaurus.com, or OneLook’s reverse dictionary, which is currently in beta mode.
To avoid duplicate content that could harm your credibility and SEO, you’ll want to run your copy through a plagiarism checker. Influence & Co. editors use Copyscape to screen our copy for plagiarism concerns, but many alternatives are available. Grammarly, for example, offers a built-in checker for its premium customers. Numerous free plagiarism detection tools can also be found across the web.
Editors and readers both are tired of content that’s full of buzzwords, jargon, and clichés because it doesn’t sound authentic. Double-check your buzzword deletion with the help of the De-Jargonizer, which was designed for science communicators but can help any editor determine how accessible an audience may find a sample of writing. Paste in your text or upload a file to see which of your words are easily understandable and which may be too technical.
Editing is an art, not a science, but we can still apply a little technology to make our content more clear, accurate, and enticing.