Batching content writing (part 4) – editing your blog posts
If writing a blog post for your website takes you ages, or you struggle to find the time to share regular content on your blog, I’ve got news for you. (And it may not be what you want to hear). You need to come up with a system to help you write and publish written content without spending too much of your valuable time. A system that allows you to get it done without getting overwhelmed or ‘stuck’ (ever felt lost for ideas or words?). I write and publish a lot of content (for myself and my clients) on a regular basis, so I had to come up with a way to be more productive and effective. And the way I do this is by batching content creation. I’ve broken this process down into five steps, and I’ve covered the first three in previous posts, which are all about planning, outlining, and drafting your posts. This post is all about editing your blog posts.
One at the time vs batch-editing?
I don’t know about you, but editing takes it out on me. When I’m planning, outlining, and drafting my blog posts, the process is quite ‘private’, and I can get through it fairly quickly. I know I’ll get back to the writing later anyway. And make it better. Whatever I do during those earlier stages of the content creation process isn’t yet for the world to see.
But when it comes to editing, that’s when things are starting to get serious, and those blog posts begin to take shape. It’s time to make sure the content makes sense, and it’s the best it can be. Time to make sure that all the points are clear, there’s no repetition, and the sentences flow and link well with one another.
Editing isn’t a one-off job for me. When I edit a piece of writing, I go over it at least three times (yes, three).
- I do a structural edit,
- a line edit,
- and then a final edit where I proofread and do some final checks.
While I can batch (and strongly recommend you do too) planning, outlining, and drafting, the editing phase takes more time, more concentration, and more attention. I tend to spend anything between half an hour to an hour per blog post when editing, so if I’m working on four blog posts for the month ahead, I tend to break the process down into at least two sessions. Obviously, if you can edit all your blog posts for the month in one go, do it! You’ll get all the benefits that come from concentrating on the same type of task – i.e. you’ll be more efficient and productive. But if you can’t, work at a pace that makes sense to you.
So here’s how you edit your blog posts.
In the publishing world, a structural edit is also known as developmental or substantive edit. A structural edit is fundamental in fiction, where things like plot and dialogues are thoroughly checked. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re writing a blog post, which, as long as it may be (let’s say around 1,000-1,500 words) is a short piece of writing. So the main things we are going to check are:
- Is the topic clear? Have you gone off-topic, making points and using examples or stories that aren’t relevant to the topic you were covering? Have you explained things well enough to your reader? Remember that you’re writing for your audience. Don’t make assumptions or take things for granted. Your audience may not know what you know!
- Is the information organised logically? Are your sub-sections (the text under each of the sub-headings) in the right order? Have you covered the topic logically and sequentially? When you look at the sub-sections, are each of the paragraphs well defined? Do they link to each other nicely?
- Is the text accessible? Have you used jargon? Technical terms? If not, can you write in plain English instead?
At this stage, you might re-write some of the sentences, link them up in a better way, or decide to get rid of some points altogether. If you think the content you’re removing from this blog post could be covered in another piece, do save those points. Add them to your outlines or drafts if you already have other blog posts on-the-go.
My second pass is for line editing. Also known as copy-editing, this is the part where you need to start looking at things like spelling, grammar, punctuation, repetition, and your choice of vocabulary.
So let’s break this down a little more.
With plenty of spell-checkers available on the market, checking for spelling mistakes should be fairly straightforward. If you’re typing your blog posts using a word processor, you may want to use the in-built spell-checker there. I often create my drafts straight into my website (which isn’t actually recommended as you can occasionally lose work). To help with spelling I use the free version of Grammarly as a Chrome plugin. (A paid-for version with more functionality is also available).
A tool like Grammarly will also help you with your grammar. I don’t know about you, but here are some of the things I’m most likely to get wrong:
- Have I used my abbreviations and my possessives correctly? I.e. ‘they’re’ vs ‘their’ or ‘it’s’ vs ‘its’.
- Are all apostrophes and plurals in the right places? I.e. the ‘children’s school’ vs ‘your customers’ needs’.
- Have I used too many passive voices? These aren’t grammatical errors as such (as long as you use the verbs correctly!) but using active voice instead of passive can make your writing easier to read and allow you to use stronger vocabulary.
- Are verbs used with the correct prepositions? I.e. ‘to search for‘, ‘to look up to someone’ etc.
If you have any doubt, Google is always an excellent go-to tool, but it doesn’t hurt to refer to a grammar book if you feel you make the same mistakes again and again.
I’ll write a separate post about punctuation, but once again, Grammarly is a good tool for that. As a rule of thumb, whatever you decide to do (and that mainly goes for the way you decide to use your commas), make sure you’re consistent!
Choice of vocabulary
This is your chance to check (once again) that you haven’t used any big, fancy words that your audience won’t understand. You don’t want to use jargon and technical words that you haven’t explained, for example. Try to keep your vocabulary nice and easy to understand – would a 10-year-old understand what you’re writing? This doesn’t mean you have to ‘talk down’ or patronise your audience. You just want your writing to be clear and easily digestible. You’re not writing an essay or a white paper here, so no need for big words that can alienate your readers. (See that? I could have totally avoided using the word ‘alienate’).
If in doubt, double check the meaning of a word to make sure you’ve used it correctly. Is the context right? Does that word mean what you think it means? Especially when it comes to expressions or idiomatic phrases, if you’re unsure, do check twice before you hit publish!
Sometimes when trying to stick with plain English and language that’s clear and easy-to-understand, we can fall into the trap of not using enough variety in our vocabulary. Writing in plain English doesn’t mean being boring and repetitive! So if you’ve used the same word twice in the same sentence and four times in the same paragraph, try and shake things up a little. If you’re on WordPress and use the Yoast plugin, you’ll be reminded not to start more than two sentences with the same word – the plugin just won’t give you the green light for readability! And while that isn’t the end of the world, it’s good to try to add some variety to your writing where you can.
Final edit (proofreading)
My third and last pass is to check for details and proofread the piece. This takes me about 5-10 minutes to complete, and it’s more to make sure that I haven’t made things worse when doing the previous rounds of editing. Sometimes you decide to delete a sentence, and you get rid of too much. Or remove the wrong part of the sentence. Or you leave fragments of sentences here and there. I might not change much in this final check. But I still go through the piece one more time to make sure everything looks as it should be.
Would you like more tips on editing?
If you’d like more information on how to edit your own work, I’ve written a blog post that goes into more details – How to edit your own writing. The bottom line is that editing is a crucial step in the blog writing process. Make sure you don’t skip it! It’s what makes your writing great, especially if you’ve been following my batching system, and in your previous step, you only created a rough draft. You really need to go through this part of the process to make sure your blog posts stand out and hit the mark with your readers.
And if you’d like to outsource the process of editing your work so that you can leave your blog posts at the rough draft stage and hand over the editing, proofreading, optimising, and the task of turning your work into a well-structured blog post, give me a shout and let’s talk about how I might be able to help.
The post that follows is all about the last part of the process: polishing and publishing your blog post. We’re nearly done – so exciting!