Editing to Keep Your Message Clear

High quality editing is at the heart of successful copywriting. Composing the copy for an article, like this one, is only the first step. Once it’s taken shape the experienced copywriter will, like any other artist, step back and judge their work with a critical eye.

Does it deliver the right message clearly and simply? Is the composition correct? Is the balance right? When you’re working on the detail, building sentence by sentence, it’s easy to lose track of the bigger picture. Often it’s only when you stand back to review the completed whole that you spot the flaws and the gaps. Then it’s time to do some touching up.

The obvious problems are spelling or typing errors or rogue words left behind in the editing process. Your editing software might highlight these with warning symbols, but spelling-checkers can’t tell whether you meant to say ‘stationary’ or ‘stationery’.

But beware of focusing on these relatively easy problems. There are bigger issues to consider, such as whether the article achieves the objectives you had for it. Does it convey a consistent message in a consistent way?

One of the pleasures of writing is the constant flow of ideas. As you write you think. Let’s say you’re putting together a 500 word piece about buying an inexpensive laptop computer for use at home. This sets you thinking about the issues of which operating system to use or the practicality of a smaller notebook computer. These thoughts start flowing into your copy.

Before you know it your article has started to address multiple subjects. The main message is no longer clear. Choice of operating systems and the style of laptop might be related but they’ve changed the focus of the article, which was meant to be about buying a cheap computer.

The ideas spawned in the writing process could become new articles in their own right, so make a note of them. But don’t get distracted from your main message.

Editing also addresses other questions. How well does the text flow? Can the punctuation be improved? There are broader issues as well, such as the value of working with an editor, and indeed who might make a good editor. These can be picked up at another time.

Today’s message is, I hope, a clear and simple one. Make sure your copy is exactly that – clear, simple in order to communicate the message you want your readers to hear.

This post was written by guest blogger Andrew Knowles, a freelance copywriter who also runs a blog for small businesses.

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