Sloppy copy can be the undoing of a professional writer. When a client hires a writer for a project, the last thing they want to worry about is cleaning up word vomit. Creating content does not just involve turning fresh ideas into an article, blog post or press release. Every writer also needs to put on the editor hat to polish their content so it meets the needs of client and target audience alike.
How do you produce content that is well written from start to finish? The short answer is that you learn and practice smart self-editing habits.
Cut the Fat
Famous 19th Century authors like Charles Dickens were paid per word for their novels. The end result were stories going into every possible detail imaginable over hundreds of pages. Wordiness is not an acceptable tool for modern writers. Many forms of content – such as press releases, blog posts, web pages and news articles – are limited by space because readers don’t want to spend extra time reading to obtain information. A writer should share important information quickly and eliminate wasted words.
Put Your Client’s Needs First
Some writers have a preferred style or voice for their writing. Changing it to suit another person’s needs can feel like a blow to their ego. Being a professional writer means swallowing your pride and creating content according to your client’s tastes. A company who hires freelance press release writers to produce press releases, for example, will send back a press release for edits if it does not match their branding voice in other company documents. It is up to the writer to adjust their writing style to meet the client’s expectations.
Focus on the Essentials
Editing isn’t all about ferreting out grammar and spelling errors. Writers often need to weed out entire sentences and paragraphs because of ideas that don’t mesh well with the rest of the content. Read through your document a couple of times after finishing a rough draft and listen to how it sounds. If some parts don’t fit, reshape the content to focus on the information your target audience needs most.
There is no such thing as perfect content. We are all human and prone to making mistakes. The worst mistake for a writer is spending too much time self-editing. It is impossible to word every single sentence perfectly. Self-editing should not be focused on perfection. It should be focused on polishing content so the intended message is delivered without any major distractions.
Lengthen the Editing Clock
It can be tempting to dive right into editing content immediately after finishing a rough draft. Taking that route isn’t a good idea because a writer can’t always spot mistakes right away. Allow extra time and space to edit. Walk away from the computer screen for a few minutes and do another activity. It lets you look at your writing with fresh eyes when you return and you can make changes more objectively.
John C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.