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The Self-Editing Checklist You Need Before Hitting Publish On Your Writing

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Do you need to be the best writer in the world to captivate your audience and inspire them to buy? No, not really. 

But you do need a message that is clear and concise. There is a whole science behind writing copy, but nailing down some basic writing skills will make your message stand out more than you think. Back in my marketing agency days, we were required to go through a very similar checklist for every piece of content we wrote.

It was a little taxing, yes. But it also helped me double-check my writing so it would turn out stronger in the end. So I decided to recreate the same checklist for you whenever you decide to write a piece of content for your business.

Encouragement Before You Get Started…

The biggest key to successful writing is self-editing. Even the best writers out there don’t get it right on the first try. They always go back to edit their work. Don’t get hung up on every single question, though. These are guidelines to help your writing become concrete, concise, and valuable to your online audience. 

The bold represent good examples of writing while the italic represent bad examples. 

Ready to write? You got this!

The Self-Editing Checklist

  1. Is my language precise?

Stay away from generalized or abstract statements. Refer to something concrete, especially when explaining a complex idea or process. Otherwise, it’s hard for readers to picture what you’re actually saying.

Spraying for weeds is good for your yard because it increases overall health. 

Spraying for weeds is good for your yard because it maintains proper nutrient levels. 

2. Am I using needlessly big words?

Words like “utilize,” “evident,” and “consequently” make you sound fancy. But remember, this is online blogging, not an online thesis. Keep your words simple and at an 8th-grade level. Not sure how to measure grade level? The Hemingway Editor is a great tool to lean on.  

Consequently, utilizing the techniques of proper workouts makes your expertise more evident.

As a result, using effective workout techniques makes your expertise clear.

3. Are my sentences too wordy?

If you’ve heard the phrase “word fluff” then this is exactly what I’m referring to. This is an easy fix though. Phrases like “due to the fact that,” “in order to,” “make sure to,” “you need to,” “in an effort to” and other phrases are the culprit. Delete these phrases and replace them with shorter versions. This also makes your writer more clear. 

Due to the fact that many Christmas shoppers wait last minute, they will attend Black Friday in order to make up for lost time.

Because many Christmas shoppers wait last minute, they attend Black Friday to make up for lost time. 

4. Am I using words that stimulate senses?

When you use descriptive language, it’s easier for the reader to visualize themselves in the scenario. Plus, it makes things interesting!

Writing blogs can be hard. Most business owners stay away from blogs because it takes too much time and energy to create. 

You block off CEO time, plop into your home office chair, and open a new Word Doc page eager to write a blog. After 20 minutes of staring at a blank computer screen, the blinking mouse curser is beginning to taunt you. You knew writing blogs would be hard, but not this hard!

5. Am I using passive or active voice?

I know I’m bringing out the grammar terminology, but don’t freak out. Basically, passive voice sounds strange and makes your writing less clear. This image explains it best:

You’ll know you’re writing in the passive voice when you use words like “was,” “by,” or “are.” I’ll give a couple more examples with these phrases:

The man was bitten by the dog

The dog bit the man

Up to 100 emails are sent by marketers every single day

Marketers send 100 emails per day

6. Are there any repetitive words or phrases?

This sounds simple, but when you’re writing a blog about dogs, it’s pretty easy to use the word “dog” in every single sentence. In your first draft use the word as much as you want. Once you’re editing, press Ctrl+F to see how many times you used the word. Then, you can restructure sentences or use alternatives. 

When walking you’re dog, it’s important to take your dog out during the cool part of the day. That way you’re dog’s paws don’t get burnt by the hot concrete. 

Walk your dog during the cool part of the day. That way your furry friend doesn’t burn their paws on the hot concrete

7. Am I using cliches? 

You know how I feel about cliches. I don’t like ‘em. They don’t add any new perspective to your writing. And in fact, you may have some cliches in your industry that you hear a lot. Here’s an example directly from my website: 

Around here, you get to build up demand and draw in dream clients — all with copy that sounds authentically you.

Around here, you get to build up demand and draw in devotees (the pinch-worthy ones who feel right) — all with copy that sounds authentically you.

Yes, in cases like this it does add more wording. But I used both an anti-cliche phrase and adding a sensory word (pinch-worthy) to make up for it.

 

8. Do you have a clear call to action? 

Hopefully, this one is a given. However, you want your CTA to be crystal clear — not one that is too overwhelming to think about. We want to make a response as effortless as possible. The more specific you can be with your CTA’s, the better. Here’s an example:

I’m planning to launch new resources next year and I’d love to know what you’d like to see from us. Templates? 1:1 Consultations? VIP Days? Let us know in the comments below! 

I’m planning to launch a new resource in the next year and would your help. Let me know in the comments, would you prefer more 1:1 Consultations or VIP Days? 

Notice how in the second sentence, I’m giving the audience two choices. All they have to do is comment on one of the two. With the first sentence, they have to make several decisions: what they want to see more of (which will take a few seconds to think about because what they want more of may not be in the list I provided) then typing that option. It’s too many brain cells burned. 

Remember, we want to coach our readers into making a choice. Not overwhelm them with choices.

The Best Writers are Strong Editors 

I’m proud to say when you hire me for a copy project, I outsource to a trusted copyeditor so every word has you pulled in to perfection. Truly it’s that important. Want to collaborate on your next project? Visit the contact page to book your slot in my calendar!