Content marketing requires editing for the same reason gardening requires pulling weeds: It is essential for good results.
At a magazine or online journal, it is common for an article to be written, edited, and, perhaps, even rewritten and edited again. Content marketers are wise to take some cues from publishers and develop a process for proofreading and editing content before it is published, distributed, and promoted.
Here are seven proofreading and editing tips for content marketers.
1. Follow Your Editorial Mission
The first time you read through a piece of content, check to ensure its lives up to its editorial mission.
A mission statement for content marketing should answer three questions.
- Who is your core audience?
- What do you give your core audience?
- How does your content help your core audience?
Once created, this mission statement is a yardstick for measuring the content your business produces. If a particular post doesn’t measure up, send it back for a rewrite.
Professional writers know proofreading, editing, and even rewriting are part of the content creation process. Image: Glenn Carstens-Peters.
2. Have a Style Manual in Mind
A style manual or guide is a set of rules or standards for writing. It helps make your written work consistent and easy to read. Taken together with the standard rules of grammar and proper spelling, adhering to a style manual can make your content better.
There are a number of style manuals. Here are three of the most popular.
- The Associated Press Stylebook. The AP Stylebook, as it is often called, is used by newspapers, news magazines, and many online publications and blogs. It is a solid choice for content marketing, too.
- The Chicago Manual of Style. One of the oldest and most comprehensive style guides. New editions have been updated for writing in the digital age and are also a good choice for content marketing.
- MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. May be used for research and academic topics, including some technical content marketing.
Pick a style manual and use it.
3. Use a Spelling and Grammar Checker
There are a number of good grammar-checking apps. Every editor should use at least one. Some of the most well known include:
Read through a content draft once or twice with the checker’s help. Not every suggestion will be correct, nor will these apps catch every error, but they are a huge help.
4. Don’t Fool Yourself
Writers should proofread their work many times before passing a draft on to an editor. Unfortunately, it is very easy for a writer to read what she intended to write, rather than what she actually wrote.
There are a few tricks you can use to proofread your own work.
- Change the font. After completing a draft, change the font before you proofread. Compose in a san-serif font and proofread in a serif font, or vice versa. You could also change the font size or color.
- Read out loud. Audibly saying the words will help you avoid misreading them.
- Point at the screen. Use your finger to follow along on the screen as you proofread.
5. Get a Second Pair of Eyes
Before your business publishes a blog article or even a social media post, have a second person or an editor proofread the content draft. In publishing companies, agencies, and large writing organizations, this is often called “a second pair of eyes.”
It is also a common practice to make this a formal procedure, wherein both the writer and the “second pair of eyes” are held responsible for grammar, spelling, or content mistakes.
6. Edit for SEO
One of the final steps in the proofreading and editing process is search engine optimization. Content marketing is meant for people. Thus readability, grammar, and quality outrank SEO.
Nonetheless, once you have created content that is useful, informative, or entertaining for your core audience, you want folks to be able to find it on Google, Bing, or some other search engine.
In this step, make certain you have proper header tags and ensure that you are using phrases your audience would use — keywords.
This is also a good time to write the title, URL slug, and metadata featuring the terms and phrases your target audience members are likely to use when they search.
7. Wait Before You Edit
Content marketing should be planned and scheduled. Your business is not competing with CNN or Twitter for breaking news, so there is no rush.
Wait a day or two after a draft is written before editing it. The distance in time can give an author a bit of perspective.