Why read this? : We share the top 9 lessons we’ve learned from editing blogs. From how to hook readers from the start to how to end with a clear call to action. Learn how to use editing to improve the quality of your blogs. Read this to sharpen up the way you do your blog.
Most non-writers think writing is all about getting words down on the page (or screen). But, as writers know that’s just one part of the writing process.
An important step, for sure. Without those words, you have nothing. But, as any writer will tell you, editing those words is just as important. Polishing them towards perfection. Drafting the words creates the raw materials of writing. Editing turns those raw materials into finished goods.
Writing is a mentally draining process. When you write your draft, there’s a limit to how many words you can get out in a day. When you write regularly, such as blog writing, you need a process to manage your energy and edit that raw content.
So, you find someone willing to read, edit and give feedback on your writing. Or, if you prefer to do it yourself, you leave time between writing the draft, and editing it.
As part of improving your writing skills, you should make a habit of re-reading and re-editing some of your older content, too.
In fact, it was as we were doing just that, that we had the idea for this article.
There’s lots you can learn to improve your writing style as you’re editing blogs.
So, we’ve collated these 9 lessons we felt were most useful for anyone who has to write or edit blogs for their business.
Lesson #1 - Avoid meandering intros
When we started our blog, we found it’d often take us a few paragraphs to get to the main point of what we wanted to say. It often still does, especially in a first draft. It’s very common in first drafts to meander your way towards the main point. Rather than land that point early.
And what we noticed from our digital data, is we had a high bounce rate on those early articles.
So, we did 2 things.
We added the why read this summary. A single paragraph up-front which outlines the point of the article. The aim was to get to the point sooner. So, readers knew if this was something relevant for them.
And then we spent more time fixing the headline and the first few sentences of the article. We made a point of crafting and polishing those first few sentences and paragraphs, so they were clearer. More interesting.
That’s not to say every article now has a perfect introduction. But, we can see from our website data, lower bounce rates on our newer articles. And longer time spent on the page. So, this focus on the introduction to grab people’s attention earlier has had an impact.
Lesson #2 - Make the reader the hero
We recently read Building a Story Brand by Donald J Miller. It’s an interesting book if you’re a business owner, business writer or work in marketing or advertising.
He creates a story framework from the basic story elements you find in storytelling. Then, he links this framework to the core elements of brand strategy and marketing planning. There’s a specific lesson we wanted to share from that framework.
Customer focus should drive your marketing. From a storytelling point of view, that means making the customer the hero of your story. Not your brand. Many brands spend more time talking about themselves, than about their customers. And that’s a mistake.
When you make the customer the hero, it makes your marketing communications and writing feel more relevant to them. The reader feels like the story (and therefore the brand) is talking to them and about them, or someone very like them.
Someone who only talks about themselves soon gets to be quite boring, right? But interesting people don’t do that. They ask you questions. They make YOU feel important. Like they understand YOUR situation. And they offer ways to help YOU.
So, we’ve found when editing blogs, the articles which performed best were the ones where we talked to YOU, as the reader, about problems YOU face, and how WE can help YOU fix them.
Lesson #3 - Spelling and grammar mistakes are easy to miss
Most of our articles are written in Word first. Then pasted into WordPress. And finally laid out via Elementor. Each has some sort of spellcheck function.
We also make sure each article is read by more than one person. Or, if only the writer is available, there’s a decent time gap between writing and the editing / spell-check phase.
And yet, despite all these checks, we still keep finding the odd spelling and grammar mistake. In fact, as we were editing the first draft, we had to fix 3 spelling mistakes. In the section on spelling mistakes!
Spelling and grammar mistakes are the cockroaches and the pantry moths of editing blogs. (if you’ve ever had pantry moths, you’ll know exactly what we mean by this). It feels like every time you’ve eliminated them, back they come.
It’s very frustrating. It drives you crazy.
There are a couple of regular examples, we can share. Its and it’s, for example. We find ourselves stopping every time we see those 3 letters together and consciously checking, does it mean “it is”? Because if not, no damn apostrophe.
Another “favourite” is the similarity between the words “identify” and “identity”. Particularly with the font we use. We always have to look closely at the “f” and the “t” to make sure we’ve got the right word. And we use both of those words a lot. This part of editing blogs is not good for your eye-sight.
As an aside, a quick funny story we can share.
Spelling mistakes can damage the credibility of your site
We recently got an email enquiry from someone who said they’d spotted a spelling mistake in one of our articles. No details on the mistake or which article.
They then pointed out how spelling errors can damage the credibility of your site. And then shared a link to a website which would spell-check our content for us.
Sounds ideal, yes?
Except, when we looked at that spell-check website, we spotted 4 (!) spelling errors in the first 6 paragraphs of their FAQ page. Talk about damaging credibility …
Lesson #4 - What you write, read and say are different
Most people’s main experience of writing is at school or university. Or maybe doing a Powerpoint presentation for work. But typically, these contexts drive writing which feels very formal and structured. You write to show off your knowledge, and impart wisdom. You use words like impart, for example.
But writing like that isn’t what people actually enjoy reading. It’s dry and academic. Boring, even. Because, if you think about what your reader actually needs, or wants, then you think quite differently about what and how you write.
So, a big lesson we took editing blogs, was to put ourselves more in the shoes of the reader. The more your writing feels like a conversation rather than a lecture, the more interesting and engaging it’ll be.
To get around that “formal” style of writing, it’s worth reading the words out loud. Some words look fine on paper. But said aloud, they sound clunky and weird. If it sounds good when you say it, it’ll read well when you write it.
So, you should avoid long technical words and sentences. When you’re editing blogs, check if you can say it with a shorter, easier to understand word.
Your audience will like that.
Lesson #5 - If in doubt, leave it out
Which brings us to our next lesson from editing blogs. Each article will have an initial structure. But you often have extra ideas you want to include as your write.
That’s fine. But sometimes you have ideas which don’t fit into the structure. Or, you go off at random tangents which don’t answer the question you started with.
So, you debate whether to include an idea or not. And our general rule of thumb, is if you have to debate including it, 9 times out of 10, it’s better to leave it out.
By all means, keep a note of the clever idea. Include it in a future article. But, in general, the less words you use, the sharper the writing. And the clearer the point you’re trying to make.
If in doubt, leave it out.
Lesson #6 - Constructive and conversational tone of voice
Of course, if you write blogs yourself, you want a tone of voice which fits your brand identity.
When we reviewed some of our very first blogs, it was pretty clear, we didn’t really have a clear tone of voice or brand identity. At a push, we might have said our brand identity was to whinge a lot.
That wasn’t intended. Sorry.
We had quite a moany tone of voice to start, which was never meant to be part of our brand identity.
Don’t get us wrong, having a good moan is fine. It’s human. Everyone does it. But if you do moan about something, try to make it at least entertaining and funny.
And be constructive in your criticism. Make sure you follow any moaning with some sort of better answer to the problem you’ve identified.
When you pick a topic to write about, try to make sure you offer constructive criticism. You might point out things that aren’t working. But always aim to add feedback or ideas or thoughts which could make that problem better.
Write as if you were talking directly with the reader, and trying to help solve their problem. A conversational tone, as if you were chatting with the reader over a coffee makes your writing easier to read and remember. This makes the writing feel more helpful, relevant and valuable. You want the editing to make sure it delivers all those.
Lesson #7 - Storytelling is good
We’ve always loved storytelling. But, it’s only as we’ve been writing and editing blogs, we’ve seen how much value it adds to writing content.
That’s not to say every article we write tells a story. But using a story to bring an important point to life usually lifts the quality of the writing. It’s an important skill for writers and for marketers.
And even if sometimes, we just add stories because they’re funny or entertaining (like our spell-check email above), then that’s all good too.
Blogs aren’t meant to be a dry read like a text book. They’re a much lighter, more human way to bring points to life. Use storytelling and different story types to be more human in what you say.
Lesson #8 - Calls to action
Much as it’s a cathartic exercise to write a blog and get things off your chest, there have to be some marketing benefits to writing your blog too. One big thing we’ve done as we’ve been editing blogs is to make sure there are clearer calls to action, particularly towards the end of the article.
Almost all our blog articles relate to major topics we cover in our skill guides. The articles tend to focus on one specific element of the topic. Or, a case study or a specific review of something in the news. We always try to make sure the links in the content are genuinely helpful.
And that we make clear the call to action is to learn more about the topic, like the one on writing blogs. Or to contact us if there’s a specific question we can help with.
Lesson #9 - Our last editing blogs lesson is have a good ending
The 2 most important parts of your writing are the start and the end. The start determines if the reader will read the whole article. And the ending determines what they’ll do next.
In most of our articles, our ending is that call to action, to learn more or contact us.
But, just this one time, we’re going to end with something else. And that’s that there are 2 things you really, really need to know when it comes to any writing. But in particular, writing and editing blogs.
The first is you should always leave your audience wanting to know more …
Woman editing on a laptop : Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash
Frustrated Man : Photo by Usman Yousaf on Unsplash
Conversation over coffee : Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash