4 C’s in Refining Your Content: The Power of Editing

Content writers are much in demand at the moment, and for a considerable time to come. All businesses require regular content for their websites, and it is like Christmas every day for content marketing professionals.

The situation creates another problem. With so much content bring posted every day, getting the attention your content needs is becoming more and more challenging. It is not enough to publish content online. You want the reader to take a certain action, and that is unlikely to happen if you don’t have great content. That is where the power of editing comes in.

Great content does not happen by mistake. Making sure that the content is relevant to the target audience is the work of the content marketing strategist. Creating the content itself and making sure that everything is in order is the responsibility of the content writer.

It is important to make sure each post fulfills the 4 Cs of polished content: Clear, Concise, Coherent, and Correct. The only way to do that is to do thorough proofreading and editing. Here is the lowdown on how to achieve the 4Cs through the power of editing.

Ensure Your Message Is Clear

How can people understand your message if you don’t make sure you are expressing it in a clear manner? Defining what is clear with regard to content is not easy. What may be clear to you may not be clear to the reader because people come from different experiences.

You may have experienced this in school. Some teachers just seem to have the knack for explaining the lessons in terms their students can understand, while others, no matter how knowledgeable, can’t seem to teach students anything.

Experts on anything are particularly bad at this, because they make a lot of assumptions over what their readers know. For example, ask a psychologist to explain paranoia and you will probably get a long explanation using terms that will only make sense to another psychologist. Putting it in terms that an ordinary person can understand is probably a stretch for many professionals.

As a content writer, this is something you have to overcome. You cannot assume your readers can follow your train of thought unless you walk them through it step by step. Keep your reader’s probable level of experience in mind. At all times, aim for the lowest rung of the ladder. Only then can you edit the content so the message will be clear to any of your readers.

You can try the following techniques to reach that goal.

  • Use headers – Headers serve like a roadmap to your content. Your readers can see at a glance what you have to say, and they can help you stay on point. Headers help you organize your thoughts so you don’t go off on tangent. It can also make your content look more professional.

  • Cut up long passages– Many writers get caught up in the moment when discussing a topic, and simply go on and on.

    It can be difficult for your reader to follow what you are saying if you present them with a long block of text or in a run-on sentence. It is even worse when you jump from one point to another.

    Cutting up long sentences and long paragraphs make your content more visually relaxing and easier to read. It also makes it easier for you to catch where you may have digressed during editing. If you experienced a “Wait, what?” moment, it is likely your readers will go through the same thing, so work on that part of the content.

  • Use simple words– The most important technique is to use the simplest words you have in your arsenal. It is not so much as dumbing down your content, but ensuring it makes sense to the least knowledgeable of your target audience. If your target audience happens to be rocket scientists, then use language that the dumbest of them can understand.
  • Use proofing tools – Some text editors, such as Word, have built in proofing tools that include readability statistics. You can use them to identify passive sentences, wordiness, and other things that can make content unclear.

Editing is often harder for writers than the actual writing, so if you find yourself going around and around in circles, then maybe you need to take a break.

Working too long and too hard on something can make it hard for you work effectively. Do something totally unrelated to writing, preferably something physical. If you are still finding it hard to get your point across, then maybe you are trying too hard. Leave it alone and work on something else. Make a point of drawing back from what you are doing for a few hours. This way you can go back to revising your content with a new perspective.

Ensure Your Content Is Concise

American novelist Ernest Hemingway is known for his laconic writing style, and if you were to look up the word “concise” in the dictionary, you might find his picture next to it.

Concise means “cut short,” from the Latin concisus. The ability to be concise is especially important today, because readers have a short attention span. They would not appreciate long-form content that is long for the sake of being long. Using a dozen words when one would do is a sure fire way to cause your readers to click away.

It is the same case with your choice of words. You may fancy yourself smart by using long, complex words in lieu of short, simple ones even if they are more effective, but they only serve to make you sound pompous.

As the “Father of Advertising” David Ogilvy says, “Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.”

The Power of Editing

Using more words than you need will certainly make the content longer, but it will not make it more meaningful. It can even hurt your aim to increase readership. So, you have to be ruthless with your editing. An online app such as Hemingway can help cut away the fat by identifying violations of conciseness, including:

  • Oft-repeated words
  • Passive sentences (is/are + verb)
  • Adverbs, i.e. extremely
  • Idiomatic expressions
  • Wordiness, i.e. the use of “that,” “this,” “these”

After you have taken care of the basic problems with conciseness, you can start more comprehensive editing. Check the work line by line, and identify words, sentences, or even paragraphs you don’t need.

Mark Twin said, “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” Take out certain words then read the sentences. If they still make sense, you can leave them out.

The Power of Editing

Ensure The Message Is Coherent

Some people say that clear and coherent may be the same thing, but they would be wrong. Coherence focuses on delivering consistency than clarity. The purpose of editing in this instance is to make sure the choice of words, tone, and verbs follows a pattern.

For example, the term Wi-Fi is regularly used as a generic term, but in fact, it is a name of an organization, so you cannot play fast and loose with the way it is written. You cannot write it out as WiFi, Wifi, or wifi. None of these are correct, so make sure you use the proper format throughout your article. Create a style guide for all the terms you use to make sure you use the same one all the time.

You also want to avoid long, involved sentences that are like breadcrumbs in the rain. You risk confusing and losing your reader. If you use several commas in one sentence, and think semi-colons are a gift from heaven, then you have this problem.

American author Kurt Vonnegut puts it another way, “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.” Instead of semi-colons, use a period.

The next step is to proofread and edit for errors in grammar. This includes verb confusion, typos, and wrong use of punctuation. A few misspellings may not ruin your message, but they can affect your credibility. They make you look unprofessional. As Ernest Hemingway would say, “Write drunk, edit sober.”

Of course, that sounds simpler than it really is. Most writers tend to scan through their own work, and may not do as good a job of proofreading as they would if they were checking someone else’s work. You develop “writer’s blindness,” and you miss obvious errors and inconsistencies. You can think of it as trying to find something wrong with a much beloved child. It is very hard to be objective.

Your text editor will probably have some type of spelling and grammar checker, but that is not going to be in depth. A tool such as Grammarly can correct many errors that fall through the cracks on the first pass in your draft before you do manual proofreading.

Even the best and most expensive automated proofreaders will not catch everything. If you feel you have writer’s blindness, you can get professionals like the editors at EduGeeksClub to give your content a look. They can provide good suggestions on how to improve your content as well. Nothing beats the human input when it comes to proofreading and editing for ensuring good flow and readability.

The Power of Editing

Ensure Your Content Is Correct

Check your facts to make sure they are correct. Most writers make research their first stop for gathering raw data and information they will need to populate their content.

Back in the day, this required going to the library and hitting the books. Research has gotten a lot easier now with the Internet. However, with so much information floating around on the Web and no one to monitor their provenance, it is your responsibility to separate the chaff from the wheat.

The thing you have to keep in mind is the value of the content to your reader. The sole reason most people go to the Internet is to get information, so you want to make sure what you are saying is right.

Avoid statements and generalizations until can find supporting information. Go through each one of your statements and facts, and verify them using reliable sources. This will keep you from getting lazy and on your toes.

You can develop credibility by consistently doing the research. Confirming your facts before you publish is the responsible thing to do. Make sure to choose sources carefully, and cite them as links in the text of your article, or as footnotes.

On the other hand, if you are stating an opinion, then you will not need sources. However, you must make it clear that it is your personal opinion or experience. There is a place for your personal stories.

Novel writer Neil Gaiman says, “Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you.”

The Power of Editing

However, there is a time and a place for personal stories. You have to earn the right to express an opinion on some subjects and have people believe them. Many experts can express an opinion as fact, but unless you have already attained that status as an expert, you have to rely on professional or peer-reviewed studies to support your content.

The Takeaway: Create awesome content through thorough editing

Editing can greatly improve the quality of your content. You can justify all the effort you put in to make it a valuable read for your audience. However, it is not as easy as it sounds. Few writers have the ability to edit their own work effectively. The best way to do comprehensive editing is to hire a professional to give it an objective look.

If that is not possible, then you should cut the work up in chunks and work on it in easy stages. Walk away at regular intervals for a few hours, or even a few days if your deadline allows it. This will give you time to get over your writer’s ego and go through the content with a new perspective. You can then edit the work to achieve the 4Cs for your target audience.

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2 Comments

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