If you’d like to write the best post ever, you need to do three things:
The first post of this series was about how to plan your posts. Your plan is about what you want to say in your post.
In our example, the essence of what you wanted to say in your post was: by taking care of just 5 things (nutrition, exercise, sleep, work and relaxation), people can lead a healthy life.
You then followed six steps to flesh out your plan into all its component parts.
The next post of the series was about how to write the post you planned. Good writing is all about writing for the audience. You focused on what would make your audience care.
You then followed seven steps to write the post you’d planned.
In the last part of the series, we’re going to check the post you wrote.
Part 3: Editing
Sometimes, people will read a post a number of times to ‘check’ it. This is good. If you allow long-enough breaks (at least 24 hours) between two subsequent ‘checkings’ you will probably spot a couple of mistakes you did not catch the last time you checked.
But there’s a better way to check your post. A more effective, more efficient way that will help you achieve your goal of writing your best post ever. Each time you check, check for one thing only.
Before you begin checking your post, read through your plan (Step 1 in How to Write Your Best Post Ever – Part 2: Writing).
Then, think for a few minutes about who you are writing for and what will make them care. Suppose you’re writing for busy professionals over 40. What will make them care is that being healthy will give them more energy, make them more productive, and help reduce the niggling aches and pains they get from stress.
Now that you’ve re-oriented yourself, you can start checking your post. Follow the steps below in order.
Remember, to edit your best post ever, each time you read your post, check for one thing only.
Follow These Six Steps
Step 1: Check for balance.
- Are your introduction, middle and conclusion balanced? Typically, you’d want the introduction and conclusion to be no more than 10% each of your post, leaving 80% for the middle.
- Have you given equal weight to the points in the middle? Nutrition, exercise, sleep, work and relaxation must all be explained in relatively equal depth in your post. If, when talking about sleep as an essential element of good health, you quote an example of how someone functioned so much better with 7 hours or more of sleep than with less, have you quoted examples or research or case studies in each of the other elements of good health as well?
Step 2: Check your paragraphs.
- Read what you’ve written. Every time you see a new idea, make that the beginning of a new paragraph. Examples and anecdotes can be in the same paragraph or in a new one.
- If you find that a paragraph is too long, see where you can break it up to create two or more paragraphs.
- Vary the length of your paragraphs to prevent visual and mental monotony.
Step 3: Check your voice.
Is your voice appropriate for:
- The topic?
- Your audience?
- Your style?
For instance, when you talk about nutrition, you might say:
“Nuts are an important source of healthy fats. They contain trace quantities of minerals that are vital for proper body functioning and which are better absorbed when they are ingested as food rather than as food supplement pills.
It pays to be nuts about nuts, eh?”
This last sentence is your voice making itself heard. Whether it works or not depends on your topic, your audience and your style.
If the tone of your post is professional and caring (remember, you’re writing for busy professionals over 40), the sentence sounds awkward. It sounds forced and false, and the post is probably better off without it.
If your audience hears you saying the words, it might not sound so bad. Because some things sound nicer when said than read. But in writing? You might not be able to carry it off.
Consider that you might have written your post while in some zany mood, but once the mood passes, you will cringe at having included this sentence.
The written word leaves a mark, so you want to be as sure as you can be that it’s a mark you can live with once your mood has passed.
But sometimes your voice can help you connect with your audience. You might write:
“If you don’t already eat nuts regularly, adding them to your diet can seem like too much trouble, but it doesn’t have to be so. It can be as easy as adding nuts to your grocery shopping list. Once you buy the nuts, you can add them to recipes or eat a few as a snack. It’s as simple as that!”
Here, your voice comes through clearly in the first sentence. But this is a friendly, I-understand-your-situation, you-can-do-it voice. This is a wonderful voice, and readers feel connected to you. They want to ‘hear’ more of you.
Be conscious of your voice, and tone it down or turn it up, depending on what you think your audience needs to stay connected.
Step 4: Read your post aloud.
Read your post aloud. Nice and slow and clear. And loud. (Yes, I’ve said that twice now.)
Mark everything that sounds wrong. Mark everything that reads wrong.
After you’ve read the entire post, fix everything you marked.
Step 5: Rest.
By now, you’ve accomplished a lot of work. It’s time to rest.
Please rest for at least 24 hours. Don’t read the post – even for pleasure!
Step 6: Check your GPS.
Use your GPS to ensure you’re headed in the right direction.
Since G, P and S stand for different things, you’ll be performing this step 3 times – once for G, the second time for P, and finally, for S.
G = Grammar and Usage
Here are some of the elements of grammar you’d want to check.
1. Are your sentences grammatically correct?
Maybe you changed the sentence: “Dr. XYZ says…” to “Experts at the American Medical Board …”, but missed changing “says” to “say”.
2. Are parts of the sentence correctly placed?
When talking about sleep: “He slept at midnight in Paris.”
There’s something not quite right about it. It would be much better (and clearer) to say: “In Paris, he slept at midnight.”
3. Have you mixed your tenses?
“Most people feel they don’t sleep enough, but decide they will sleep more.” Ouch! The present tense has morphed into the future tense, and this sentence reads strangely.
Here’s the correct sentence: “Most people feel they don’t sleep enough, but would like to sleep more.”
4. Are your prepositions in the right place?
Prepositions describe the relationship of a noun to another word in the sentence.
“Eat at the table”: this says eat with your food on the table.
“Eat on the table”: this says eat while you are sitting on the table.
Two completely different meanings, you’ll agree.
5. Are you using too many adjectives?
Adjectives describe nouns: “The rejuvenating, revitalizing, immunity-boosting qualities of restful sleep…”
Adjectives are like make-up. A little, used judiciously, is good. Too much has the opposite of the effect you are aiming for.
Using too many adjectives is a sign of lazy writing. Your writing should be able to make its point without leaning on adjectives.
6. What about adverbs?
Adverbs describe verbs: “Eating quickly is harmful for many reasons.”
Adverbs are also a form of lazy writing. Try to look for more powerful verbs instead. “Gulping down your food is harmful for many reasons.”
7. Check your usage.
Many things sound alright when said: “Jumping off of a cliff while tied to a rope may not be everyone’s idea of relaxation.”
But that is verbal.
When writing, you might want to change it to the more universally accepted form: “Jumping off a cliff while tied to a rope may not be everyone’s idea of relaxation.”
8. Watch out for common culprits: very, really, and, well – and whatever else is personal to you.
If it’s “very important” that you “really like” “X and Y and Z” and “well, A and B as well”, your reader will find it difficult to get your message. These words are so over-used that they have almost lost their ability to add impact.
Everyone has favorite words or phrases. Do you start many sentences with “so”? Do you use the word “just” or “only” quite often? If yes, your post will benefit from removing these words.
P = Punctuation
- Does each sentence end with a full stop, question mark or exclamation mark?
- Does each sentence begin with a capital letter?
- Are quote marks correctly placed?
- Is there one space between words and after each punctuation mark?
- Should a comma be replaced by a semi-colon or a colon?
S = Spelling
- When you write for your audience, the decision of which spelling convention you will use is already made. Broadly speaking, you could choose British or American spelling. If you use British English, for instance, you will spell ‘colour’ and ‘realise’. American spelling, on the other hand, will give you ‘color’ and ‘realize’.
- Beyond this, there is almost infinite variety. You might use Australian English or Singaporean English or Indian English or Mexican English or …
- Spell check won’t help you if you want to talk about ‘lead poisoning’ but write ‘led poisoning’ instead. You need to check your spelling consciously.
- You also need to check if you have spelt the names of people and places correctly (if you’re using them).
The list above is an indication of elements you need to check. There is an ocean of detail I haven’t gone into. You can also find useful information by clicking on the links below:
- Eight Simple Tips for Editing Your Own Work
- Get Your Eagle Eye On: 10 Tips for Proofreading Your Own Work
- Warning: Your Grammar Mistakes are Killing Your Traffic
- The Ultimate 15-point Checklist to Make Your Writing Come Alive
- How to Edit in 5 Easy Steps
You have finished editing your post! Your GPS has brought you to the end of your journey. But before you get off the road, you need to see whether you’ve done 3 things:
- Did you read your plan?
- Did you keep your audience in mind, focusing on what would make them care?
- Did you follow these six steps in order, checking each time for only one thing?
If not, please go back and do this. You are so close to the finish line – to writing your best post ever. It would be a shame to sabotage your post after having put in so much work.
To understand how important this is, imagine if I were to begin checking the grammar, then punctuation and then spelling for this paragraph. I might end up with a paragraph like this:
“Good health is very (good catch) essential if we want to lead a full life (missed this one – there should be no space between the word and the full stop). There are many ways you will (missed this one!) can be helthy healthy.
When doing brain work, it is best to concentrate on one thing at a time. And planning, writing and editing your best post ever definitely counts as brain work.
To edit effectively, each time you read your post, check for one thing only.
And with that, you’re done editing your post!
Let’s pause for a moment and take a deep breath. Your GPS has brought you to your destination.
You’ve just written your best post ever. Congratulations!
It’s probably been a lot more work than you bargained for when you set out to write your best post ever:
- Planning each element of your post.
- Writing, keeping in mind your audience and what would make them care.
- Editing, reading your post over and over again, checking each time for one thing only.
All that remains is to press “Publish”. You can do so confidently. You’ve given this post everything you have. And it will repay you a thousand times over as your readers find value and connection with you.
Another thing: this is your best post ever – till now. Nothing prevents you from making the next one another ‘best post’.
The best thing about writing your best post ever is that as you keep repeating the process, it gets easier and takes less time. And you write a lot of best posts ever!
What do you find most difficult to do in the editing process? Or do you have a few tips to make it easier? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below!