A great writer is an important asset to your team, but don’t discount the value of a sharp editor. Thorough editing can turn good into great, which can make all the difference when it comes to your website. Effective content can build better relationships with your audience and boost conversions. Aside from grammar and spelling mistakes, here are some things you should look for when you edit your website’s content.
Focus on page goals
Every page on your site should have a clear purpose. When you create a content strategy, you should outline the page priorities for each section and its subpages. The outline should include the page’s goal and what you want your audience to learn from it.
If you didn’t create page priorities before writing, it’s not too late to identify them. For every section and its subpages, write out overarching page goals, user questions, who the audience is, and a summary of the specific content that will live there.
When you edit your content, remove anything that doesn’t actively contribute to the page’s goal. Avoid extraneous information that could distract your reader from the main point.
Take a look at this MailChimp how-to guide on template building as an example.
The page is short and to the point. The introduction summarizes the information in the article and explains the value of the feature. The guide is easy to follow and focuses only on creating a template. Related information is linked for users who may have more questions, but the content on this page never strays from the main goal.
Cut out unnecessary words
Effective copy gets to the point. Readers skim content online, so concise writing packs more punch, especially in a call to action.
Look for words you can cut. Adverbs and adjectives add clutter to writing. Words like “really,” “very,” and “just” aren’t necessary.
Consider this example from Writer’s Digest:
“He was cheered by the friendly smiles …
He spied a group of dirty street-urchins …
Do the adjectives “friendly” and “dirty” add anything to the sentences? Read the words without adjectives … Now read them with the adjectives inserted. Is anything more provided by including the adjectives? They contain the thought that’s already in the noun they modify, so they aren’t doing anything for the sentences except taking up space. Aren’t smiles usually “friendly”? Aren’t street-urchins usually “dirty”? Why the adjectives, then?
The short answer is that you’re trying to prettify your prose, to give it a lushness that will settle on the reader. Adjectives are a way of lengthening your sentences and providing a more complicated word picture, and this, in turn, will intrigue the reader because there will seem to be substance in the prose. The reader will experience more, and hence, the reader will enjoy it more.
But misplaced adjectives can do as much damage as botched-up syntax. If the adjectives are there only to prettify the prose, they should be eliminated. The key is, adjectives should be used only when they highlight something the noun can’t highlight.”
This is especially relevant for web writing, where readers have shorter attention spans and are looking to find information quickly.
Use a tool like Hemingway App to find unnecessary words, complex sentences, or words that have simpler alternatives. The app also highlights places where you can use more powerful verbs.
If it doesn’t add information or value, get rid of it.
Eliminate passive voice
Remember when your high school teachers would drone on about the passive voice? Despite this lesson sounding like a broken record, many of us are still guilty of letting the passive voice slip into our writing. While passive voice is not always incorrect, the active voice makes writing more direct and powerful.
Read your writing carefully during editing to catch the passive sentences. It can stay if the subject is unknown (e.g., My bike was stolen) or if you want to emphasize the person or thing receiving the action (e.g., She was praised by many for her work). Swap out any other instances for the active voice to make your writing sound more clear and natural.
Emphasize sections with subheadings
Skimmers are going to skim, so why not make it easier for them? Subheadings are simple edits you can make to your writing to make it easier to digest.
Write clear descriptions that convey the point of each main section of your content. Ask yourself:
- What is the main point of this section?
- What do I want the reader to learn from it?
You might be tempted to get cute and creative, but remember that if the purpose of a section isn’t clear, the reader might skip over it.
Break up large sections of text
This is another quick and easy edit. No one wants to see a long block of text when they’re looking for quick information. Break sections up into shorter paragraphs so that it’s less overwhelming to look at. Try to limit paragraphs to three to four sentences.
Lists can seem like a lazy way to write, but they’re a great method for displaying information. Look for opportunities to break down information. Bullet points make it easier for your site visitors to quickly find the information they need without having to cherry pick through longer paragraphs.
Remove complex words
We’ve all read something that was clearly written with a heavy reliance on a thesaurus. This often happens when someone wants to appear knowledgeable on a topic. It usually ends up overcomplicating the subject. It can also dilute your content and strip away some of its meaning.
You don’t need to use big words to make your content seem smarter. Write what comes naturally, and only use a thesaurus when you find yourself repeating the same word multiple times.
Reference your style guide
You should have a writing style guide that describes your company’s personality, voice, and tone. As you edit, make sure you reference the guide regularly to ascertain that you stay consistent. Style guides ensure that you’re communicating as effectively as possible with your audience, so they should be heavily relied upon during both the writing and editing process.
Less is more
Whenever you edit a piece of content on your site, keep in mind that less is more. As long as you accomplish each page’s goals, there’s no need to add information for the sake of quantity.
Focus on creating clear and natural sounding content, and remove any unnecessary words. Break content into shorter paragraphs and use subheadings and lists to make it easier to read. Always keep your audience in mind, and your content will resonate.