Editing is a real skill, not one to be sniffed at. And being an editor of your own work isn’t easy — it’s actually pretty difficult.
Indeed, lots of writing ‘fails’ merely because it hasn’t been very well edited: things haven’t been spotted. And I don’t just mean grammar, punctuation and typos, I mean problems of structure, tone of voice and content.
So here are 13 advanced editing tips from me, under three themes. to make your editing jobs quicker, less stressful and a lot more effective.
1.) Step into your reader’s shoes
- Imagine you are one of your target audience/readers reading your text, or a first-time reader who doesn’t know anything about the subject. Ask yourself: ‘Is the tone right? Do the headings make sense? Does it answer their questions?’ etc.
- Of each of your sentences, ask yourself, ‘So what?’ i.e. Check you have: included the essential content; explained and demonstrated things; etc.
- Some people find it hard to edit and see errors in their own work – in which case label your document ‘Draft 0’, OR give it someone else’s name!
Getting the views of a document from several people at once can be constructive, e.g. at a team meeting – a way to debate the content, balance viewpoints, etc.
2.) Give editing sufficient time
- Build in sufficient time for making one or two rounds of edits.
- ‘Writing is rewriting’ – i.e. rewriting/editing is a really vital and stage (it’s like the other side of the same coin).
- The word ‘P-0-W-E-R’ highlights all the different stages of writing (Planning – Organising – Writing – Editing – Reviewing), and it shows the importance of both pre-writing stages and post-writing stages.
Even great writers go through several drafts of their text, and it takes them years to write a book. There is nothing wrong about taking 2–3 drafts to get your text right.
3.) Be more effective when you edit
- Edit a hard copy/print out – we see and critique things much more effectively when they are in print than on a computer screen. (The same is achieved by reading them aloud, when we are likely to spot jargon, long sentences, slow pace, etc.).
- Read without a pen or pencil in your hand – that way you will concentrate on the overall state of the work, rather than homing in immediately on the fine details (which you can check over later). If you need to flag up passages for your attention later, have a pen/pencil to hand.
- It is impossible to check everything while reading, so edit longer documents in three stages. First, look through the overall document (check e.g. for consistency across chapter headings, tables, etc.); then work at a ‘page’ level (its layout, formatting, plus the headers etc.); and finally check things ‘line by line’ (the actual text).
- ‘Write with the door closed; edit with the door open.’ – i.e. We have to write on our own, but when editing, and in order to improve our work, we need to be open to change, corrections, the input of others, different ideas, etc.
- Edit with the following principle in mind: ‘One should aim not at being possible to understand, but at being impossible to misunderstand’ — Quintilian.
Everyone can IDENTIFY a robin, but can they reproduce its bird call – i.e. its tone of voice?
Maybe you are you trying to decide your business or organisation’s tone of voice? How to articulate it? How to get it reproduced across staff and colleagues? Or how to tweak your tone into something more akin to you and your brand – something more appropriate?
Fuel for your thoughts now follows .. .
I have carefully distilled 150+ different tones of voice (that I researched from across the web) into what I believe are 12 main types .. . and here they are, below.
12 Types of tone of voice
What I suggest are the 12 main types of tone are listed below, with supporting examples and slight variations for each one. It should help stimulate, guide and develop your thoughts when you look at your tone of voice.
Need help with your tone?
- Download my chart to show you how these 12 tones are related, in my special diagram – download it here.
- I have developed a tone of voice function – this explains how your tone is determined, and what you can do to influence it.
Contact me here to talk through these ideas, and what you want from your tone of voice.
thoughtful, earnest, genuine, downbeat
gentle, simple, apologetic, timid, nervous
thoughtful, supportive, interested, tuned in, complex
You might be interested to VIEW my tone of voice function here – to help you understand what factors determine your tone of voice, and what you can do to influence it.
accessible, clear, definite, explicit, praising, vague
happy, positive, confident, idealistic, boastful
enthusiastic, warm, passionate, persuasive, extreme
playful, engaging, lively, comic, illogical
f assertive, factual, explicit, unfeeling, outspoken
dissatisfied, fed up, complaining, pessimistic
f upset, aggressive, argumentative, offensive
pessimistic, gloomy, critical, cold
formal, analytical, flat, heavy, dull
Want more followers to your blog, and more comments?
Unsure if your blog is achieving your gaols?
Use this checklist (below) for some ideas for acitons that you can take:
Your blog is easily FOUND on Google
- Effective SEO, keywords etc. – matches people’s searches, topical etc.
- Plenty of posts
- Alt text on images
GOOD and USEFUL content for visitors
- User-focussed – Content meets people’s needs, focussed, answers their Qs, etc.
- Scannability, and clear headings
- Visually attractive – and infographics, video blog posts etc.
- Variety of posts – and think of new mediums: slideshows, webinars, podcasts, pdf
- Simple navigation, menu, categories
- Links within blog, and between posts and pages
- Has ‘authority’ – demonstrates knowledge and experience of subject
- Added benefits: Freebies, recommendations/ideas, redirects etc.
Opportunities for INTERACTION – Give readers a reason to RETURN
- Like/Social Media buttons – for readers to like and share your content
- Comments fields, with responses by you
- Frequent, varied and good quality posts
- Invitations to reader: polls, questions, set challenges
SELF promotion of your blog
- Cite blog on footer of your emails
- Social Media buttons, for readers to share blog posts – and ask them to share
- Capture emails of those visiting your blog; build up a mailing list
- Syndicate your work, sharing on other blogs/websites
- Reach out to those who have liked/shared your content, or related content elsewhere
- Promote your posts on your own social media, using #, and eg a video on Youtube
- Feature guest bloggers, with followers
EXTERNAL promotion – Finding readers / Increasing your FOLLOWING
- Write a guest post on comparable blogs, with followers
- Post on forums, with blog address in your signature
- Target and connect with influencers, industry experts, etc.
- Establish links/relationships with organisations you’d like to pair up with
Recap: Evaluate your blog against your GOALS
What were your goals?
- More followers
- Get comments from readers
- Secure work opportunities with specific organisations
- Lift your website’s ranking on Google …
Hope that helps, Robert
Here is my review of the new WordPress editor, Gutenberg.
Will be interested to hear your views…
- Overall, greater range of content possible, and easy to set up
- Particularly good for images: lots of different options re size, background etc.
- Good visual impact also, with lots of styling options: text colours, background colour, drop caps etc.
- Wider range of formats possible beyond just text, e.g. tables and columns
- Flexible and quite good fun to use
- Works well on mobile (apparently)
- Smooth insertion of Social Media and other links – Slideshare, YouTube, etc.
- Can revert to Classic Editor (plugin available till 2022) – even for only one ‘block’.
… And also ‘Negatives’
- Overall, for the first-timer in particular, WordPress no longer feels quite as easy to use as before (or as other software, e.g. Word). Rather a headache when you get started. Somewhat fiddly menus, etc.
- You could quickly waste a lot of time doing all the formatting – whereas using a page-builder theme would be a lot quicker
- Two/three different menus, which isn’t neat; and Classic Editor has only an abbreviated menu
- Occasional gremlins and some unusual features of questionable usage (e.g. Verse mode; Markdown)
- You can’t format small passages of text without putting it first into a separate block – and you lose formatting if you cut and paste text from Word
- Plugins, and themes from small companies, may not have been updated to work with Gutenberg
- Rated poorly for people who are blind, visually impaired and dexterity impaired
One other negative …
It is surprising that there isn’t a simple list of menu options for Gutenberg blocks …
So here is mine:
MOST USED – For example
(as above plus…)
Classic (old editor)
LAYOUT ELEMENTS (arrangement on page)
Media and Text
And many more
Untitled reusable block
What do you think of Gutenberg?
Research your Keywords – 5 Great Websites
Answer the Public – Great for generating ideas for your next blog
Google Ads Planner – Keyword finder
Keyword Shitter – Get help with your keywords (Excuse the French)
Search Console – Analyse your website/blog
SEMRush – Compare yourself against competitor websites/blogs
2 Websites to Build Backlinks & Up your Digital ‘PR’
Ahrefs – Grow your traffic (se Blog articles)
Moz – Explore and develop inbound links to your website/blog
Follow Top-ranked Content – 3 Powerful Tools
BuzzSumo – Review top performing content
Google Alerts – Keep up to date with new posts on your chosen subjects
Ahrefs Content Explorer – Ideas for improving your profile
Which one did you LIKE BEST? – Would love to hear …
It is easy to forget the frame of mind of people visiting our organisation/business website.
When we write our website text, and tweak words here and there, we can forget what matters most. For example:
- People dart in and out of websites very, very quickly. — Speed
- They are often searching for particular things and key words (though they may not have formulated them precisely in their heads). — Search
- They make snap decisions as to whether or not a website (yours) can help them. — Snap
Don’t agree? / Agree?
If you need a little persuading, cast your mind back to the last time you used the web to trawl through several websites, for example to find a budget holiday, or choose somewhere to stay.
Think how quickly you made judgements of different websites, and their offers. And how quickly you decided whether or not to spend more time investigating any given website.
Did an attractive PICTURE (e.g. a luxury bedroom, or tasty-looking buffet) or CATCHY HEADING (‘River view’, ‘Convenient for …’) lure you into looking further… or maybe to book?
I make those comparisons as a reminder that people browsing websites are reading so fast that your text has to engage with them in a flash, and/or catch their attention immediately.
‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ – the saying goes.
But the right words can achieve the same ‘pull’.
Mistakes to AVOID
With this in mind, here’s the main heading on 5 homepages of websites that I reviewed recently – followed by my comments and suggestions.
1) ‘Finding clients for our customers’
How effectively does that engage with target customers. Instead, I’d suggest ‘We find you more clients. Guaranteed!’? — Be absolutely clear with your main message
2) ‘Increase your online presence in Style!’
What is that about? Putting something like this requires reader to read further in order to find out. But will people bother? — Make sure you have an impact.
3) ‘No sooner said than done’
That was used by a promoter of voice recognition software. But I’d argue it is a little cryptic. Instead, I suggested something clearer, like ‘Discover how to type at double speed – no course required.’ — Don’t try and be too clever.
4) ‘Welcome to …’
Looks a nice greeting, but people have already typed in your url, or selected it on Google, so do they need it? Plus, it means they are crowding out their main message. — There is no need for such ‘Happy talk’ on websites.
5) ‘Working with small and large businesses in the UK. No job is too small’
Don’t a lot of companies claim things like that? Does it distinguish you enough, I asked them? — Try and be unique, if you can
Advice for your homepage
The way to engage people, and lure them into your website, is by making sure your homepage’s words ‘speak to’ the reader in one of two ways:
- Pick up on ‘problems/issues’ that they are looking to solve/answer
- Highlight the benefits that your product/service can do for them.
For further information
This is one of a series of articles to help you ‘self-test’ your website and the effectiveness of its writing. In my next article I will look at how to Engage more clients through your text.
We encourage you to consider using a professional copywriter to draft the text for your new website. Here are eight reasons why, connected with the written content and the production process :
- Correct perspective – Being external to your business, a copywriter will see things from the perspective of one of your customers, not one of your staff. So there’ll be better able to describe your service/product, and its benefits, and create copy that engages well with target customers.
- Freer to ask questions – Because they are not one of your staff, freelancers are freer to ask questions that may arise when writing about your business – questions that a staff member might find awkward or hard to ask of colleagues or their boss.
- Appropriate tone of voice – The way your website speaks must reflect your brand, the culture and values of your business, and match your customers’ expectations. A copywriter can ensure your tone of voice is consistent across all marketing collateral, and draw up tone of voice guidelines if you don’t have any.
- Will go the extra mile – As ‘wordsmiths’, copywriters love playing with words. So they have the experience, and are willing to go the extra mile, in order to find just the right words, phrasing and tone for your new website.
- Refresh/recycle existing content – If the text on your existing website has got a little tired or dated, a professional copywriter can refresh it and give it a new lease of life.
- Websites are more powerful when the design and text work together – Your new website will use visual and written media, and their messages are more effective when the graphic design, images and words are created alongside one other. This can be achieved by your design agency and copywriter working closely together.
- A perfect fit – Another benefit of developing design and written content in parallel is that approximate word-counts for body text can be agreed in advance, which means that draft text fits well first time around, rather than needing lots of cutting and editing later on.
- Avoid delays to your new website – Most copywriters can write with ease and speed. Not least because, once contracted, they will clear their diary for the job in hand. Plus, they don’t have the everyday distractions and commitments of employees, which can sometimes hold up the launch of your new website.
It is is not easy to get the right tone of voice – for example to politely decline when we are asked to go somewhere, do something, or be at a certain place and at a certain time.
At times like these, many of us are overcome by guilt and responsibility. We feel we really ought to say ‘Yes’ … but really, we want to say ‘No’.
How can you avoid feeling guilty? How can you say ‘No’?
Here are 10 ways to answer those difficult and embarrassing questions …
1. Use modal verbs (i.e. could, might, should, would)
I would have loved to have come, but I don’t think I can – I might have come, but I have another engagement
2. Put things into a question
Would it be OK if I came on another occasion? – Might/Could I come back to you?
3. Express some doubt
I don’t suppose you could ask me again in a few days time?
4. Be apologetic, even for small things
Sorry to disappoint you, but I might not be able to attend.
5. Use If – If followed by will, would, can or could
If you don’t mind, I will look at my diary and come back to you. – If you wait a few days, I could get back to you.
6. Use the past tense even though speaking of the present
I thought we could have a chat about it – I was wondering if we could talk? – I wanted to ask you a question about it.
7. Include the person’s first name
Robert, I am awfully sorry but I don’t think I can come.
8. Use polite phrases, eg Sir/Madam etc
Madam, can I consult my diary and get back to you.
9. Be approximate and indirect, rather than specific
Would it be OK if dropped in more of less around midday?
10. Use longer words for things
Could I ruminate over that and get back to you?
Clear and effective written communication is an essential requirement of any business – be it for reports and proposals, press releases, marketing brochures, websites, or even everyday jobs such as email and letters.
The cost of poor writing is miscommunication, but also lost business opportunities, and a damaged company image and reputation.
Good writing isn’t as hard as writing in a foreign language, but there are some essential skills for all of us to learn. For example, how to
- Write a press release that will grab media interest;
- Compose web pages, reports and proposals that will engage and influence readers;
- Write emails that get those everyday jobs done efficiently and smoothly.
Experienced trainer in writing skills
As an experienced trainer in business writing skills, I can offer SMEs a fairly unique blend of experience – described below.
- As a former journalist (five years writing features for the Guardian and The Telegraph), I can show directors and managers the tricks and techniques used by professional writers – so your writing is clear, engaging and effective.
- My wide employment experience – I have worked as a manager in local government and the voluntary sector, and a private sector consultant – means I can relate well to many different types of business/organisation, their ethos and way or working … and their writing style.
- Indeed, I have delivered training for high-profile clients such as the World Trade Organisation and European Commission, several high-street clients, and the University of Oxford’s Department of Continuing Education, for whom I deliver six business writing courses every year.
My training style is engaging and interactive.
According to people’s needs, I can run intensive, bit-sized, 90-minute sessions through to day-long courses.
A full list of my course repertoire is available here, on my website.
Would any of the topics already mentioned be of interest – or an amalgam of some of them, such as these?
- Winning reports, proposals and press releases
- How to attract and engage an audience – Marketing materials and press releases
- Making your working day smoother – Tips for effective emailing
- How to write with ease and speed
‘Hard Brexit’, ‘Max-fac’, ‘Passporting’ … What do they mean, and do they mean the same to all of us? Hum.
These Brexit terms are a reminder that using unfamiliar and undefined jargon runs the risk of confusing and annoying customers. And they can also be interpreted differently by staff. If you give instructions to ‘reach out’, for example, are you telling staff to speak to an organisation, invite them to a meeting, or form a partnership with them?
And with more and more pressures on people’s time, and Social Media enticing and forcing us to use ‘shorthand’, the use of jargon is undoubtedly escalating. Despite its risks and consequences. So, here are my tips – drawing on my experience of what works.
- Paint your audience – As you write, think of someone who characterises your target audience – ideally someone you know well. Imagining they are seated in front of you will help you tune into your audience’s needs, and stick to everyday language.
- Ditch your suit – Believe it or not, how you are feeling and how you are dressed will influence your writing’s tone of voice. It is true. So, wearing a suit and tie could be at the root of your problem?
- Find a hero – We absorb the writing styles of what we read around the office, just as children pick up their parents’ accents. However, if you keep examples of writing styles you want to copy, and read them before you start writing, they will rub off on your work.
- Decide your style – Decide on three adjectives you’d like your writing to sound like, and then identify their extreme opposites that you want to avoid (e.g. confident – extreme opposite, arrogant). Use these adjectives to guide your writing.
- Beware of nominalisations (abstract nouns) – It’s common for businesses to use these instead of what are their verb and adjective equivalents (e.g. notification compared to ‘to notify’; precision compared to ‘precise’). However, they make your sentences wordy, unclear and bureaucratic – so ditch them!
- Read your text out loud – This is a great way for spotting anything unintelligible before you share it wither a wider audience. Long sentences, clichés and jargon should leap out at you as you read – for your immediate treatment.
In summary … Write clearly, and you won’t pay the cost of jargon