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How a copywriter edits

No writer I know would say they write perfectly first time.

And every writer I know would tell you that it’s easier to write something (however bad) and then work on it, rather than agonising over every word as you go.

Yes, you guessed it. Today we’re talking about EDITING!

Woohoo. Get that red pen ready (or ‘Megan’s axe’ as the poor people I used to manage called it). Engage Track Changes. Oh yes.

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Not my actual axe.

Writing an initial draft doesn’t usually take too long.

But editing that draft into something worth reading can take time.

Often, it’s better to edit after you’ve stepped away from the draft for a while (ideally overnight) and got some distance from it. That’s why your copywriter may need several days to write something you think they should be able to produce in an hour or two. Actually, they could write you something in an hour or two, but it wouldn’t be as good as if they’d had the time and space to edit properly.

So, where to start?

First things first, get drafting.

As you write, you might already know that you’re repeating yourself, that you’re not finding the right words, that sentences or paragraphs are way too long, or that you’re not using your beloved keywords. Don’t worry about any of that.

Just write.

If you’re going to make something out of clay, you need clay. If you’re going to cook, you need ingredients. If you’re going to make a great article, you need words. These are our raw materials. Once we have words, the fun can begin.

And that fun is the editing.

So, what are we looking at, when we edit?

Structure

This is one of the big ones for me. Getting the overall structure of the article right isn’t something that always comes straight away. You want to make sure it follows a logical path, with a beginning, a middle and an end. You want to draw people in at the start, hold their attention, and leave them wanting to find out more. You probably know that some paragraphs are more important than others, so getting them in the right place, and structuring with the right sub-headings, is an important part of any edit.

Rhythm

Rhythm is what makes an article flow as you read it. It’s the mix of short paragraphs and long paragraphs, pithy sentences and wordy ones. It’s the music in the words (oh shut up Megan). It’s what makes it read well. Which brings me to…

Readability

Whereas rhythm makes the words flow, readability makes sure they’re easy to understand. For me, this is about breaking up long sentences and replacing any stuffy words with ones that are simpler. ‘Need’ instead of ‘require’. That kind of thing.

Style and Tone

Clients and audiences need different tones depending who they are. I’ve written websites for businesses who are very similar to each other in what they do, but who have completely different tones, personalities, and branding strategies. During editing, I make sure that the whole copy sticks to the tone it needs to, and that I haven’t erred off into some other style by accident.

Typos

Obviously. Read this.

SEO Keywords

Keywords are important, but personally, I find it hard to write them into my articles from the start. If I try to do that, I end up building an article around keywords and that feels artificial. I think it’s much better to write good copy first and then add the keywords afterwards. If you’ve written the article well, you’ll likely find that plenty of the keywords are already there anyway.

Purpose

A final check makes sure that the copy does what it’s there to do. If it’s meant to encourage someone to visit a website, does it actually tell them how to do that? Or have you gone off on a tangent about the mating habits of frogs and forgotten the original point? You might have written a lovely article but if it doesn’t meet the brief, it’s just a lovely article and not very much use (although you’ll be laughing when the frog-lovers website come knocking). Where was I?

Oh yes. So, that’s how you edit. Or at least, that’s how I edit. I can edit for you, too if you like. I edit for lots of my clients, and you can find out more about that right here. No frogs, I promise.

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