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What we’ve learned editing blogs

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Snapshot : In this article, we share our top 9 lessons of what we’ve learned editing blogs. From crafting more impactful beginnings to adding clear calls to action at the end, here are lessons you can apply to make your own blog writing clearer, more impactful and more successful. 

When you think about writing, you tend to think about the specific act of committing words to the page or screen. But, that’s really just one step in the writing process.

For sure, it’s important. Without those words, you have nothing. 

But, as any writer will tell you, it’s also important to be able to edit and polish those words. Your first draft words are the raw materials of writing. But editing is what turns those raw materials into finished goods. 

Writing is a mentally draining process. When you write your first 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 content. 

You either need to find someone else willing to read, edit and give feedback on your content. Or, if you like to do that yourself, you need to leave some time between writing the first draft, and then 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 recently re-reading and re-editing some of our older blog articles, that we had the idea for this article.

There’s lots you can learn about your writing style during the process of editing blogs.

In fact, we came up with nine lessons we’d like to share with anyone who has to write or edit blogs for their business. 

A checklist of nine items to help with writing blogs

Lesson #1 - Avoid meandering intros

When we started our blog, we found it’d often take a few paragraphs to get to the main point of what we were trying to say. It often still does, especially in a first draft. It’s a common thing 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 that we had quite a high bounce rate on those early articles. 

So, we did two things. 

We added the snapshot summary, a single paragraph up-front that outlines the point of the article. The aim was to grab people’s attention earlier. You’ll find this on ALL our articles now. 

And then we spent more time, focussing on the headline and those first few sentences of the article. We made a point of going back at the end of the first draft, and crafting and polishing those first few sentences and paragraphs, so they were clearer and more interesting. 

That’s not to say every article we’ve done 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, it definitely seems like this focus on the introduction, to grab people’s attention earlier has an impact. 

Lesson #2 - Make the reader the hero

So, we recently read Building a Story Brand by Donald J Miller, an interesting book if you are a business owner, business writer or are just involved 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. We plan to cover that framework in a future article, but we did want to share one specific lessons here. 

Being customer-focussed is a big aim of marketing. From a storytelling point of view, that means the customer is the hero of the 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 marketing communications and writing in general much relevant and impactful. The reader feels like the story (and therefore the brand) is talking to them and about them, or someone very like them. 

If you meet someone who only talks about themselves, they soon get to be a bit boring, right? But if you meet someone who makes YOU feel important, like they understand YOUR situation, and the offer a way to help YOU, then your interest levels are much higher, right? 

So, we’ve found when we were editing blogs, the more we could talk to YOU, as the reader, and talk about the problems YOU might face, and how WE might help YOU fix them, those types of articles had much better levels of performance and engagement with our audience. 

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. Two of these three systems have in-build Spellcheck. (and we’re pretty sure we could add a plug-in to the WordPress block editor too, if we didn’t think two spell-checks was enough.)

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 three 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 sooo frustrating. It drives you crazy. 

Man with hands behind head and a frustrated look on his face

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 three 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.

Thanks.

They then pointed out how spelling errors can damage the credibility of your site. They then shared a link to a website / piece of software which would spell check the content on our site and help us fix it. 

Sounds ideal, yes? 

Except, when we looked at the website for the spell-check software, we spotted FOUR, yes, FOUR spelling errors on their FAQ page. And not the whole FAQ page, just the text that was above the fold. 

Talk about damaging credibility … 

Lesson #4 - What you write, read and say are different

For most people, their main experience of writing comes at school or university. Maybe, writing a Powerpoint presentation for work. But this school / university / work style of writing forces you to write in a specific way. A way of writing that’s 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 style feels like a conversation with the reader, than a lecture, the more interesting and engaging your writing will 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 should read good (well?) when you write it. 

So, that means 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 on to our next lesson from editing blogs. While each article might have an initial structure, often as you write, you find new additional ideas coming to mind, that you want to include. 

That’s all fine. But sometimes you find that ideas just don’t fit into the structure. Or, you go off at random tangents that don’t actually answer the question you started with. 

So, you start to debate whether to include an idea or not. And our general rule of thumb, is if you have to debate whether to include it, nine times out of ten, 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 that fits your brand identity

When we went back and 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 that brand identity was to be a bit of whinger. A bit of a whiner.

That wasn’t intended. Sorry.

We had quite a ranting, moaning tone of voice right at the start, which was never meant to be part of our brand identity.

Two people sitting at a table with coffee cups in front of them having a conversation

Don’t get us wrong, having a good moan is fine. It’s human and everyone does it. But if you do moan about something in an article, 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 that 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. 

When you can do all this, your writing will feel much more helpful, relevant and valuable to the reader.  You want your writing to be all those things. 

Lesson #7 - Storytelling is good

We’ve always been interested in storytelling. But, it’s only as we’ve been writing and editing blogs, that we’ve seen how much value it adds to writing content. 

That’s not to say every article we write tells a story. But every opportunity we have to add a story that brings an important point to life, we can feel right away that it 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 are funny or entertaining (like our spell-check email above), then that’s all good too. 

Blogs are not 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 is a customer and business purpose to writing blogs if you run a business. One big thing we’ve done as we’ve been editing blogs is to make sure there are clearer call to action, particularly towards the end of the article. 

Almost all of 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 that run through the content are genuinely helpful.

And that we make clear the call to action is to learn more from the overall skill guide, like the one on writing blogs. Or to contact us if there’s a specific question or something we can help with. 

Lesson #9 - Our last editing blogs lesson is have a good ending

The two most important parts of your writing are the beginning and the end. The beginning 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 two things you really, really need to know when it comes to any writing. But in particular, writing and editing blogs.

The first is that you should always leave your audience wanting to know more

Photo credit

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

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