Edit Your Own Writing to Make Your Small Business Brand Stand Out

 

After you’ve forced the time, sweat and branding into a piece of content, the last thing you want to do is edit your own writing.

One glance. Looks like English. There them words have made sentences. The sentences worked themselves into paragraphs or bullet points or whatever you intended.

Looks good. I’m done, you think.

Screeeettttttttttcccccccccchhhhhhhh! Hold it, my small business friend! Here I am, waving my arms, putting my fingernails to the chalkboard, trying to get your attention, so I can tell you:

The quality of your content is vital to your small business brand.

Editing? Isn’t that a privilege of the big-name brands?

Nope. No way. Editing is a must for all brands. Why?

Your target market don’t got time for errors.

Attention spans have shortened. Reading has become a rare pastime. Brands have inundated channel after channel with content. If your target market is connecting with your content, that’s major. Reward them with error-free, valuable content. The minute they run into an issue — be that a simple grammatical error or a major content issue — they’ll move along. Because there’s plenty of other things they could be doing with their time.

Your content adds to your brand’s value — and errors crush that.

Your content represents your brand. Your target audience comes to expect certain things from your brand, over time, as they connect with your content. If you make errors time and again, they’ll come to know your brand for that — and they’ll probably think you’ll fail with your products or services too. Help your brand voice and brand value shine through by creating clear, consistent content.  

Rest assured, my small business people, even professional writers can’t knock out a final-worthy first draft. They, too, edit. You should edit your own writing too.

But editing our own writing is tough. Our eyes ignore errors because our brains insert corrections, without our noticing. Our attention spans waver after spending so much time with a piece.

Here’s how you can overcome the pains of editing your own writing

1. Give yourself a break.

Whether or not you’re on a tight deadline, let your content sit for a while before you pull out the red pen or click “track changes.” How long? This depends on how long you’ve got. At least give yourself half an hour to look away, reemerge from the depths of the piece and take a step back. What’s better is to allow yourself a day or two. When you look at your content again, with fresh eyes, you’ll be looking at it more similarly to your target audience. You’ll see misspellings easier. You’ll notice areas that had once made complete sense to you start to crumble now that you’re out of your head.

PROFESSIONAL EDITOR TIP!

Even after time has passed, editing your own writing can be overwhelming. Our head editor at Zao525 suggests to >>

  • Read through your entire piece while sitting on your hands.
    Okay, you don’t have to sit on your hands, but those hands better not do any editing just yet. Reading through your content this way allows you to take in the piece overall. You may notice small errors here and there, but try to focus on the message, the flow and the voice.
  • Ready, set — start editing.
    Free your hands and get your pen at the ready. Start marking up any errors you see, grammatical, voice, consistency — whatever. This is the time to be tough on every sentence, on every word choice. Can you reword with stronger verbs, with less words? Do it. Can you vary your sentences more? Yes please! Do you need to replace that pesky, ineffective passive voice with powerful active voice? Let the editing colors fly.
  • Read one last time to check your edits.
    Sometimes, the edits you make introduce errors or throw off your flow. You may be tempted to skip this third read, but I urge you not to. This is your last chance to make sure everything is perfect for your audience.  
2. Look at your content differently.

When you create your content in one format — be it on paper or, more often, on the computer — you’re more apt to be blind to errors as you review it on that same format. You’re especially more prone to blindness while editing on your computer screen. Just think about it: Screens wear on our eyes; your computer has a hundred other fun distractions that keep your mind straying from your editing objective; you’ve come to know the content on this platform.

So change it up.

  • Increase the font size.
  • Use a different font.
  • Color your words green or blue or anything other than black.
PROFESSIONAL EDITOR TIP!

Along with changing up the way you read your content, consider changing up how you edit. Many fear editing. Your red pen glares up at you with a menacing effect. So don’t use red. Pick up a blue pen, a green pen or a purple pen. The color of your editing pen may seem arbitrary, but by making this adjustment, you’ll start to see edits less as wrongdoings and more as easy-to-fix oops and opportunities for improvements.

3. Get vocal while you’re at it.

As we read in our heads, we sometimes miss glaring errors because of speed. We also can’t always hear the flow and rhythm well. Speak your words aloud, and you’ll slow down and start to notice things you hadn’t before.

I can hear your objections: “I can’t read this aloud in the middle of my office!”

There are a number of ways to get around the uncomfortableness of reading your work aloud.

  • Be brave, be bold and be okay with people hearing you read. At best, they’ll feign interest and offer to give your content a look, too. At worst, they’ll think you’re losing it and talking to yourself. And research shows people who talk to themselves have a higher I.Q.
  • Whisper. You can still achieve the same effect without belting out your content.
  • Take your content to an empty room, be that a conference room, a break room — maybe even your car.
  • Bring it home with you and read aloud in the comfort of your own house. Your spouse and your dog already think you’re crazy.
PROFESSIONAL EDITOR TIP!

Ask yourself — and be honest — “Is this hard for me to read?” If you’re tripping up on words or running out of breath before the ends of your sentences, something’s got to be edited.

4. Keep a checklist of your common errors to review every time.

Even if you know something is a writing no-no, the error may come naturally to you. I know I struggle with adverbs, which makes my writing less punchy and harder to get through. So what do I do? I have a sticky note on my monitor that says “CHECK FOR ADVERBS!” I look at this every time I’m editing content, and I immediately search for all “ly” words in my document, delete the adverb and replace the verb with something stronger. Bing! Bam! Better!

PROFESSIONAL EDITOR TIP!

At the start, you may not be aware of your common writing gaffs. Keep a running list of things you notice pop up every time you write something. If you know about the issues, know how to fix it and still miss it — you would benefit from an editing checklist. Email info@zao525.com, and we’ll send you a free starter editing checklist!

5. Review for consistency.

I decided to include periods at the end of these five subheads. So? So, I made sure I added periods to all five. The same goes with how I handled capitalization of my subheads and the formatting of my bulleted list.

As you finalize your edit, make sure your content is consistent, in capitalization, in text treatment (italics, bolding), in font and in format. Your reader, even if not consciously, will notice inconsistencies and, as such, will leave your content quickly or with a bad feeling.

PROFESSIONAL EDITOR TIP!

For optimal consistency, create and follow an editorial style guide. What’s that? It’s a master document that will tell you, your team and anyone who contributes to your content how your brand does things. Guess what? My team at Zao525 can create an editorial style guide for you, too!

And if you’re not the editing type, if you can’t possibly look at your content for another minute — don’t worry about it! I have an awesome team of writers and editors who can ensure your content is clean, clear and consistent.

GET YOUR FREE EDITING CHECKLIST!

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2 Comments. Leave new

Great points and tips here! Small businesses really do need to develop that consistant brand voice to stand out from the competition, and to do that, you’ve got to edit and pay attention to how you come across. There are a lot of people out there doing similar things, so you need to truely resonate to get followers who love what you’re about!

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