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What we’ve learned editing blogs

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Why read this? : We share the key lessons we’ve learned from editing blogs. Learn from our experience everything from how to hook readers early to how to end with a clear call to action. Read this to learn how editing sharpens up your blog articles.

Non-writers think writing is all about getting words down on the page (or screen). But writers know that’s just one part of the writing process. Editing is just as important. Polishing words to perfection. Turning raw material drafts into edited finished goods.

Writing is mentally draining. 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 feedback on your writing. Or, if you do it yourself, you leave time between drafting and editing.

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.

Going back over your old work and working out how to make it better helps you refine your style.

That’s why we thought we should share these 9 lessons as we’ve found them the most useful for editing blogs. 

A checklist of nine items to help with writing blogs

Lesson #1 - Avoid meandering intros

When we started blogging, we found it’d often take us some time 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. First, we added the why read this summary. A single opening paragraph to outline the article’s main point. This helps readers work out if the content is relevant. Then we focused on fixing the headline and the first few sentences. We crafted and polished those to try to hook the reader’s interest. 

That’s not to say every article now has a perfect introduction. But, our website data shows lower bounce rates on our newer articles. This focus on the introduction has had a positive impact. 

Lesson #2 - Make the reader the hero

We recently read Building a Story Brand by Donald J Miller. It’s a helpful book if you’re a business owner, business writer or work in marketing or advertising. 

He creates a story framework from the core story elements of 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 drives marketing. From a storytelling point of view, that means making the customer the hero of your brand’s story. But, many brands spend more time talking about themselves, than about their customers. And that’s a mistake. 

Making the customer the hero makes your marketing comms and writing feel more relevant to them. They feel 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 is boring, right? 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 do best are the ones where we talk to YOU, as the reader, about problems YOU face, and how YOU can fix them.

Lesson #3 - Spelling and grammar mistakes are easy to miss

Most of our articles are written in Word. Then pasted into WordPress. And finally laid out via Elementor. Each has some sort of spellcheck function. (Note – we now also use Grammarly to check spelling and grammar).

We also make sure each article is read by more than one person. Or, if that’s not possible, there’s a decent time gap between writing and the editing / spell-check phase. 

And yet, despite all these checks, we still find a few spelling and grammar mistakes. In fact, as we edited the first draft of this section, we had to fix 3 spelling mistakes. In the section on spelling mistakes!

Spelling and grammar mistakes are 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. 

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 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 isn’t good for your eyesight. 

Spelling mistakes can damage the credibility of your site

On that thought, we recently got an email 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. And shared a link to a website which would spell-check content for us. Sounds ideal, yes?

Except, when we looked at their site, 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 doing a PowerPoint presentation for work. But typically, that creates writing which feels very formal and structured. You write to show off your knowledge. To impart wisdom. And use words like impart, for example. 

But that kind of writing isn’t what people enjoy reading. It’s dry and academic. Boring. Because, if you think about what your reader actually needs, or wants, then what and how you write goes quite differently. 

So, a big lesson we took editing blogs, was to think more about 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. This helps you avoid long technical words and sentences. When you’re editing blogs, aim to replace these with shorter, easier-to-understand words. Your audience will appreciate it.

Lesson #5 - If in doubt, leave it out

This 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 you 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 fewer 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, that we didn’t 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.

A moany tone of voice 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. Everyone does it. But if you do moan about something, try to make it at least entertaining. Even better, make it 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. Yes, 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 to the reader, trying to help solve their problem. A conversational tone, as if you were chatting over a coffee makes your writing easier to read and remember. It makes the writing feel more helpful, relevant and valuable. Use editing to make sure it does that. 

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 tells a story. But using a story to bring an important point to life usually lifts the quality of the writing. It’s a great skill for writers and marketers. And even if sometimes, you add a story just because it’s funny or entertaining (like our spell-check email above), that’s fine too.

Blogs aren’t meant to be a dry read like a textbook. 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 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 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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