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Editing Writing Process (w/ Examples and Cheat Sheet)


Neville

Learn how to edit

I wanna tell you a little secret.

Nobody writes a perfect first draft.

Not Shakespeare. Not Mark Twain. Not Neville Medhora.

Nobody.

In fact, most great writers are quick to admit their first drafts are absolute CRAP.

They then take that crap, put it through a strict editing process, and polish it up into a masterpiece.

In this post, I’ve broken that editing process down into a simple, step-by-step checklist.

Whenever you write something, run it through the checklist, and watch as it instantly improves.

So, got that draft ready?

Let’s get started.

 

#1 - Break up “Giant Walls of Text”

People are lazy. Nobody likes reading huge blocks of text. If you’re writing looks too intimidating, nobody’s going to read it.

Go through and break any “Giant Walls of Text” into small bite-sized chunks (4 lines max per paragraph).

break up walls of text

 

#2 - Add in “bullet point sliders”

Here’s another trick to make your writing look less intimidating. Instead of writing out long lists in sentence form, put it in a bullet list. This is a great way to highlight your main ideas while naturally breaking up your text.

To make it extra pretty, make a “bullet slider” and order your bullets according to their length, like this:

  • Check this out.
  • It’s a trick Neville taught me.
  • It helps the reader “slide” down the page.
  • The shortest bullet goes on top, the longest at the bottom.

 

#3 - Make your headline obvious AF

The ONLY objective of the headline (or email subject line) is to suck the reader in and get them to read your first sentence. Your headline is not a time to be clever. Make it as clear as possible. The reader should know exactly what they’re getting into.

That said, don’t be afraid to add in some curiosity. If you’re headline gives it all away, there’s really no point to keep reading.

obvious-headline

 

#4 - Include a clear call to action

Everything you write should have some sort of call to action…

Buy

Like

Share

Click a link

Take a physical action

Think about something differently

If possible, limit yourself to just ONE call to action per piece of content and make it ridiculously obvious.

For example, my call to action for you right now is to:

Keep reading the rest of these tips!! Continue below…..

 

#5 - Use the “Caveman Test

Read through your draft with a caveman voice. If anything makes you bored or confused, simplify it.

caveman confused

 

#6 - Turn on Google Docs Spelling and Grammar

Before sending or publishing ANYTHING, turn on Google Docs Spelling and Grammar to make sure you didn’t make any stupid mistakes.

google doc spelling

If you don’t use Google Docs, run it through the Grammarly web extension or desktop app.

Depending on your audience, one small spelling error is all it takes to tank your credibility.

#7 - Use the “So What” Test

Hate to break it to you, but people don’t care about you or your content. People care about THEMSELVES. They want to know if you can solve their problems. If your writing isn’t strictly focused on them, you’ll lose their attention.

With that in mind, go through each section of your writing from your reader’s point of view and ask yourself, “So what? Why should I care?”

Cut anything that doesn’t pass the test.

 

#8 - Balance your “I” to “you” ratio

This one goes hand-in-hand with the “So What” test.

Hit Command+F (or Control+F for you Microsoft weirdos) and search for all the places where you used the word “I”. Now do the same for “you”.

How does your “I:You” ratio look?

Remember, people care about THEMSELVES. So find ways to re-write your “I” sentences into “you” sentences.

balance your i to you

 

#9 - Back up your claims

Is your writing believable?

If you make a claim you need to back it up with proof. This might mean adding in research, analogies, stories, testimonials, stats, quotes, images, case studies, specific details...anything that adds credibility to what you’re saying.

See what I mean? There are lots of ways to prove your point—just make sure to use at least one.

 

#10 - Add images wisely

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words...literally.

Images are perfect for simplifying complicated concepts. Think of ways an image, table, or graph could help you get your point across. (Here’s a whole article on how to simplify your message using images).

Text-vs-pics

 

#11 - Stay laser focused

Each piece of content you write should have ONE purpose or main idea. Resist the urge to include everything you know about the topic.

Go through each section and ask yourself, “Does this directly support my main idea? Does it tie back into my headline?”

If not, delete it.

 

#12 - Use the “lunch date” test

Read what you wrote aloud. Would you actually say those words in a real life conversation?

If not, pretend you’re eating lunch with one of your target readers. How would you explain your message to them?

Do this exercise to help you write in a casual tone and avoid using buzzwords that confuse your reader.

Eliminate Buzzwords Banner Protest

 

#13 - Sprinkle in transition words

If you write like you talk, your content should automatically flow nicely.

That said, if any part of your writing sounds choppy or disconnected, simply add in some transition words to smoothen it out.

Transition words are also an effective way to “soften up” your writing so you don’t come off as a dick.

Transition word examples

We have a whole list of more power words here if you need.

 

#14 - Fight the fluff

There’s a fine line between “casual writing” and fluff.

To fight fluff, constantly ask yourself these two questions:

“Can I express this idea with less words?”

“Will my message be equally as strong if I delete this sentence?”

If the answer is yes to either of these questions, you’ve got a case of the fluffies.

Here’s how to cure it:

 

#15 - Do a final runthrough (remove spots you trip over words)

By now you’re writing is almost ready to be published. The last step is to read it aloud one last time to look for sticking points.

Any spots where you trip over your words?

Rewrite them.

Any parts where you start feeling bored?

Delete them.

The editing writing process in action

Now let’s test our 15-step editing checklist in real life—a cringeworthy cold email trying to sell brings to a construction company:

 

Alrighty, let’s run it through steps 1-5:

1.) Break up giant walls of text

2.) Add bullet points (not needed in this case)

3.) Make your headline obvious

4.) Include a clear call to action

5.) Make it “Caveman Simple”

 

 

Next we apply steps 6-10:

6.) Turn on Google Docs Spelling and Grammar

7.) Use the “So What” test

8.) Balance your “I” to “you” ratio

9.) Back up claims

10.) Add images wisely (doesn’t apply in this case)

 

 

Finally, we apply steps 11-15:

11.) Stay laser focused

12.) Write like you talk and remove buzzwords

13.) Add transition words to clunky parts

14.) Eliminate fluff

15.) Do a final runthrough (remove spots you trip over words)

 

 

Here’s the final product...WAY better!

Final Product

 

Remember, this editing checklist will make ANY type of writing better.

So before hitting publish on your next email, blog post, or other piece of content...run it through this checklist and give it an instant facelift.

Here’s a “Quick Editing Cheatsheet” you can use below

 

Hope this helps with your editing process!

Sincerely,

Mitch Glass

mitch glass

P.S. If you need more help getting your writing done, checkout some of these other helpful articles:


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