TEN GREAT TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR EDITING SKILLS

If you have trouble recognizing weaknesses in either your writing or the writing of others, you may be aware of this and, as a result, become nervous when trying to improve a piece of writing. If this sounds like you, read on. 
By the time you finish this article, not only will your editing confidence have improved, your writing confidence will have as well. No matter what it is that needs improvement, whether a blog entry, an e-book, web content, or anything else, these tips will help you gain and keep the skills needed for successful writing. 
These tips will help when your words start running ahead and you can't catch up.

Ten Tips for Improving Your Editing Skills
To put it simply, an intrigued reader is a potential customer, and marketers are consistently looking for new prospects. A good marketing strategy involves deeply engaging the prospect, and so it makes sense that clear, well-written copy would be a key to doing that.

Ready to improve? Pay attention…
1) The Power of The “Yes” Factor
Understanding your audience can go a long way towards making someone say “yes” rather than “no.” If the reader feels like you are creating a 1:1 relationship, they are much more likely to say “yes” to whatever it is you are trying to get them to agree to. Copywriters constantly tweak their projects to fit their audience. Any marketing agency will appreciate this ability, and as a Bozeman-based marketing agency, we take understanding the market very seriously.

2) Let's Play with White Space
A lot of writers feel most accomplished when they see the big, dense blocks of text they have created. For a rough draft, that’s fine, but for a final draft, white space is your friend. Your customers will thank you to. In the era of 140 characters and short status updates, customer's have a short attention span.
Paragraphs do not have to be long. They still get a paragraph seal of approval even if they only contain one or two sentences. 
White space not only draws the eye to where the writer wants it to go, it makes the content appear much more readable and much less intimidating. Chunking is your friend, so use it liberally.

3) Familiarize Yourself with In-Text Formatting
Bolding, underlining, italicizing, capitalizing, linking, and other techniques can help a content writer to become adept at emphasizing what they want without having to use extra words. Bolding the key ideas can be incredibly useful in drawing the eye, and is an implementation of the idea that the human eye notices changes, even the subtle ones. Content marketing depends on making the reader’s eye go where the writer wants it to go. You hold the power, now use it for good.

4) Get to the F'ing Bullet Point
Just as white space and bolding can draw the eye, so can bulleted lists. Copywriting involves paying attention to format, so why not use that format to your advantage?
• Bullet points draw the eye downward, which is a natural progression. 
• They will also organize the text and make it more scannable, as opposed to the reader having to read every single word. 
• Marketing only has a few seconds to hit home, so get to the point.

5) A Little Mood Music, Please
Creative writing involves the use of the less technical parts of the brain, and even though copywriting can be far less exciting than, say, science fiction, it is still possible to make it engaging, fun, and useful.
One way to draw the reader in is to start sentences with words like “imagine” or “remember” to set the mood for the rest of the piece. The writer could be urging the reader to remember a family trip, such as skiing at Bridger Bowl in Bozeman, Montana, or they could be asking them to imagine a beautiful spring day. By having the reader participate in the piece, the writer is using mind trickery. Kidding, but not really.

6) Buzzwords Aren't All Bad
I know, I know, “but buzzwords are bad! Nothing but filler!” While this may be true in some aspects, buzzwords are also useful tools to let the reader know they are already familiar with part of the content, but if they want to know more they have to keep reading. We are talking about standard buzzwords, not crap like, "integrated" or "low-hanging fruit."
One more normally accepted buzzword is “because.” “Because” makes the reader believe that there is a reason they should keep reading or a reason they should consider doing what the content is asking them. “Because” implies that there is going to be an explanation, which is a marketing strategy that not only draws people in, it builds credibility for both the writer and the marketing agency. 
Appealing to what the reader may find familiar is also a good idea. If for example, the reader lives in Bozeman, using the name of the city could grab their attention. 

7) Active Not Passive
Active voice and passive voice are very aptly named. Active voice involves the subject doing while passive voice involves the subject being a part of an action out of their control. Active voice is engaging, and passive voice is worth overlooking.
One example of active voice versus passive voice is the sentence “Mrs. Dollard watered the flowers.” The sentence is currently in active voice, but if it were converted into passive voice, it would read, “The flowers were watered by Mrs. Dollard.” 
Which sentence is easier and smoother to read? Its sentence one and if you got that wrong, we are judging you. Mrs. Dollard is a strong ass woman, and she will not be subjected to some second-fiddle grammatical role dictated by a garden of pansies. 
To combat passive voice, pushing ctrl+f in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and other word processors opens up a box in which “problem words” can be typed. “Had,” for example, can be a problem word, such as in the case of “had been.” “Had been” can easily be converted to “was” with much less nonsense.

8) Second Counts in Writing
Referring to the reader as “you” gives them no choice but to become invested in the article. “Who, me?” they may ask, and then they realize they have to keep reading because subconsciously they want to know what is going to be said about them. Human nature.
You, the copywriter, must draw in the reader. You, the writer, are responsible for making sure the reader stays engaged. 
See how much better that is than “one will engage the reader?”

9) Death by Adverbs
Creative writing and other types of writing may welcome long, lush descriptions, but copywriting gets to the point. Adverbs really, really weaken your writing. See what I did there? “Adverbs severely weaken your writing” is better, but “adverbs weaken your writing” is the best. Using "really really," makes you sound like a whiny baby. Content marketing largely depends on short, snappy sentences that grab and keep the reader’s attention and a keen understanding of the audience to use emotion, wit, and persuasion to create action.
There is an alternative to adverbs, and that is simply the verb. If a writer said, “he was really sad,” that writer could improve their piece by changing the sentence in question to, “he was despondent.” It takes up less space both on the page and in the reader’s head, and so it gets the point across without any extra baggage. Plus, despondent is more fun to say.

10) Why, not What Chicken Butt
People like to be told why they should do something, not just that they should do that thing. Reasons are essential, as the discussion of the word “because” explained. 
The “call to action” that is at the end of a lot of pieces of copy can sometimes tell people what to do but not why they should do it. As people, we like reasons, not orders. 
When you tell someone why they should do something, they not only listen to the reasons, they feel involved. If a reader feels involved in the action of the writing, they are much more likely to do what you want them to. 


Editing is hard. Editing your own words is even harder. You cried for those words; you bled for those words, and now they want you to chop them up?
Go bravely into the prose with a machete in hand and take no prisoners. Your audience and results will thank you.