So you have a draft of content that needs to be perfectly polished for publish. How do you know what to do next? Depending on how critically you want it reviewed, you have to know the steps involved or what to ask for.
So the first thing to figure out is if you will be proofing or editing it yourself, or having someone else do it. In this post, we’ll go over both scenarios so you have the tools for each.
But first, what’s the difference between proofreading and editing? Here’s a quick guide …
Proofreading is a quick review of content, considered a “light sweep” to identify any glaring issues. Proofing the content analyzes it with grammar, spelling and punctuation criteria in mind, fixing issues on the fly. Know that if you don’t provide a style guide that your company uses for content, the editor will typically default to their own. Here at bizbuzzcontent, we default to AP Style.
Editing is more in depth, and takes a critical look at what’s being said, how it’s being said, the format of the content and storyline, and makes recommendations on how to improve it to a professional level. A full editing process also includes proofing to look for any grammar, spelling and punctuation issues.
Different professionals define editing in different ways. Some editors may want to go further than asked because it’s hard not to make suggestions if you see opportunities for improvement, while others may only look for typos when what you really wanted was critical feedback on the structure. Make sure you articulate what you want ahead of time.
Editing Your Own Writing
You can learn to proofread and edit your own materials, you just need a repeatable process. Here are some tips you can borrow to create your own:
- Some recommend writing freely, and worrying about editing later. This is so as not to stifle creativity and productivity. For me, I like to edit as I’m writing each section. So before I go on to the next section of the content, I reread and make adjustments to the first. This is really a preference thing but do what works for you.
- Sleep on your draft, and start the proofreading and editing process the next day. I promise your words are going to look much different in the morning versus after the fifth time you’ve read it same day.
- Sit in a quiet place when you’re editing, free from any noise or distraction. If you find yourself reading the same sentence seven times and wondering why it’s taking so long, you need a better space for editing.
- Read the first draft with a proofreading mindset, looking for any spelling, grammar and punctuation issues you can fix. On the second read, start taking a more critical look at the flow and structure with your editing “hat” on. You’ll likely want to tweak the introduction once the whole piece is complete, and come up with a couple headline options at that point, too. (p.s., there’s a plugin for WordPress that allows you to split test your headlines if you can’t choose just one.)
- Take a final pass, and even read it aloud. Editing and proofreading is as much about making the content polished as it is about how the words sound together and roll off the tongue. This is where you might switch one word for another for more impact.
Dealing with Multiple Reviews and Approvals for Content
If you work in an environment where you have multiple levels of approval for content, it’s important that everyone get on the same page about the review and editing process, or things can get very messy.
Here are some tips on process based on how we do it here at bizbuzzcontent. This is assuming you’ve written the content on behalf of someone else, and it has already gone through the internal editing process …
- Make sure there is always document version control, so only one person is reviewing the document at a time, and that there is established nomenclature for the different versions – for example, the person’s initials added to the end or something else.
- Establish ahead of time how many reviews are included in the process (for example, two rounds of edits). Remember, if you have a thorough content creation process, you minimize the amount of edits in the review process, because the content you’ve delivered is targeted. That typically means stakeholders have approved the direction of the content before it is written (in the form of a content brief or outline) so there are no surprises.
- Encourage the reviewers to either make edits directly or use the comments feature in Word to articulate what they want. I recommend using Word documents for reviews of content with “track changes” on to capture edits. This is the most simple way to track what people want where, and you can modify their suggestions in the next round.
- Don’t have everyone and their brother review the content. To help make the process most efficient, only involve those that truly need to be – for example, the “author” you are writing on behalf and a supervisor. If you’re in a position where multiple people need to be involved, think of ways to temper the situation by focusing on the efficiency of only involving the select few (nobody wants deadlines to extend weeks past just because Bob down the hall can’t seem to get to a review).
So that process was assuming you did the writing and put it into review for approval. But other times, you’re handed someone else’s content in rough draft format, and asked to take it from there. When you’re editing for another, you want to be as helpful as possible, applying your own proven process for proofreading and editing, and thinking of “bigger picture” things, too.
Here are a few tips for an editing process for someone else’s work:
- Perform a grammar, spelling and punctuation review.
- Edit so the tone and messaging is consistent, making it feel like a professional, branded piece of content for that person or company (sometimes this means you go the extra mile to establish what that is, if it’s in your wheelhouse).
- If you’re editing multiple pieces of content, for example, a series of reports, you’ll want to ensure the format is consistent across all papers, meaning creating a template for layout that each report follows for the beginning, middle and end of the report (like how to treat the headers, subheads, the different sections of the report, imagery, etc.).
- Always cite questions when statements or data is unclear, and point out areas for expansion to improve it.
- Add data points or references where applicable from third parties that would back claims up (look for the most recent research from reputable sources only) or cite areas where they should include additional data points.
Well there you have it. I hope this quick guide helps you in your review process the next time you want to publish content or help someone polish theirs. Happy editing!