Content creation is a complicated process. Even experienced writers rarely produce their best work on the first draft. They revise their work several times before getting their articles out the door.
In fact, the best articles you read in prestigious magazines always get a bit of help. Just like a diva looking ravishing on the red carpet after fashion stylists, make-up artists and hair and nail experts have done their best to prep her, so does an excellent piece of writing benefit from different inputs before being published.
The truth is, many famous bloggers and authors research and then write their drafts, but there’s always a skilled editor and proofreader that comes behind to wrap up their work and finish the process.
Unfortunately, most freelance writers can’t afford this luxury and editing gets often overlooked. But, if you want to establish yourself as an authoritative voice, you need to examine your content before publishing it or delivering it to your clients. You can’t rush through the editing process and hit “send” without carefully reviewing your work.
Here are four editing tips that every freelance content writer should know and use.
1. Avoid Empty Filler Words
One of the biggest mistakes content writer makes is that they try to pack a lot of information and ideas into one single sentence. They use a lot of empty filler words that add no real value to their content.
Let’s look at a few sentences to exemplify this problem:
- “There are many people who misunderstand the words” AS OPPOSED TO “Many people misunderstand the words.”
- “It takes patience to build trust” AS OPPOSED TO “Trust takes patience.”
The words “it” and “there” followed by a form of the verb “to be” are called grammar expletives and they dilute the writing directedness. A good editor cuts the superfluous use of expletives and puts the emphasis on the true drivers in the sentence.
2. Avoid Weak Verbs
Choosing the right verbs can make your writing clearer, stronger and more persuasive. A strong verb can paint a vivid picture in your readers’ mind.
Consider the following sentence: “She was a fast runner.” That is a good sentence that can project a concrete image in your mind. Now, consider the much more descriptively option “She flew like the wind as she speeded down the track.” You can easily imagine her racing, right?
Content writers often use the verb “to be” on the first draft. The problem with “to be” verbs is that they can weaken the words that follow. The solution is to replace them with more powerful alternatives. For example, instead of “The weather was beautiful.” use “The sun shone brightly that day.”
3. Avoid Weak Adjectives
Similar to verbs, adjectives can drain out the energy from your text. Savvy editors and content creators avoid using words such as “very” and “really” before common adjectives.
Some examples are:
- “Really bad” instead of “Excruciating.”
- “Really good” instead of “Excellent.”
- “Very common” instead of “Ordinary.”
Taking “very” and “really” out of the equation is certainly a “great” thing, as so is the use of strong alternatives. For example:
- Use “Thrilled” instead of “Happy.”
- Use “Filthy” instead of “Dirty.”
- Use “Delicious” instead of “Tasty.”
You should use the most descriptive language to trigger the reader’s senses and help them imagine how things smell, sound, taste, and feel.
4. Know Your Punctuation
You can be the best storyteller in the world. If you lack grammar skills, readers will be turned off by your mistakes.
While an auto correct program can quickly detect typos, more subtle errors can sneak in your text. The sparingly use of the comma is one of the most common punctuation mistakes most freelance content writers make.
Here’s an example:
“You can neglect editing and the audience reading your text may not notice but your ideas are going to be lost.”
In case you didn’t notice, the missing comma between “editing” and “and” suggest “you can neglect the audience reading your text,” which is exactly the opposite of what you should do or intend, for that matter. Of course, if you read again you realize the meaning of the sentence. But, if people need to go back to grasp what you’re saying, your ideas AND your audience are likely to be lost.
In conclusion, small changes in your writing can fuel enthusiasm and make people devour your post. It’s just a matter of finding the most powerful and specific words.