Originally featured on A Problem Like Maria
I fell into writing and editing. My education didn’t include fine arts or English, yet 16 years into my career I am working as a freelance editor and writer, and I love it! Planning a career in editing or writing was not something that crossed my mind, until a friend and fellow volunteer spoke simple words changing my career path. Although, neither of us knew it at the time.
She said, “You are a good writer.” That was it!
I started slowly, joined a writing group and began writing more in my job and personally. Then four years ago, my manager came to me and asked me to consider a different position in the company as the associate editor of the magazine and blog. I found online editing certification courses and quickly signed up. I was passionate about it in a new and more fulfilling way than I had ever experienced before.
Growing your platform or having your work accepted to the places you want, necessitates you editing your own work well. Maybe you have a natural sense or have no idea, either way, here are seven tips to help you grow as a writer.
HOW TO EDIT YOUR BLOG CONTENT LIKE A PRO
1. UNDERSTAND STYLE.
Professional writing has a variety of styles, and outside of higher academics, you have two main styles. AP (Associated Press) Style Book is what most newspapers and journalists adhere their writing. Most books you read follow the Chicago Manual of Style guidelines.
Both are correct, but as a blogger you need to choose which style you will follow and adhere to it. It will create an overall flow and consistency for your voice. If you have guest writers, be sure to edit their work to the style you choose.
2. PASSIVE VOICE.
My personal writing nemesis – the passive voice. I struggle to display confidence in my writing and hide behind the passive voice. An active writing voice engages the reader and even the most technical writing needs to win over the reader.
The best advice for ferreting the passive voice out of your writing comes from Grammarly. Most often, the simplest advice works best. After your verb, insert “by zombies.” If the sentence makes sense, you have a passive voice.
Active voice: An active writing voice engages by zombies …
Passive voice: An active writing voice is by zombies …
3. CLEAN UP THE CLUTTER.
One of the hardest lessons I learned as a fledgling writer was cutting the clutter. I loved the flowery language and clichés and tripped all over the redundant language in my pieces. I thought it would make me a better writer. Concise writing with everyday language tells the best stories and sells the best product.
Pinpointing redundancies is challenging at the beginning, and I used tools likeAbout Education’s list of 200 common redundancies. Reading a variety of resources helped me view my writing with a more critical eye. Look at each complex sentence and ask yourself, “Can I eliminate words and still make my point?”
One of my pet peeves as an editor are the overused, superfluous words such as that, just, then.
Read your article out loud and whenever you come to a that or a just, read it without the word and see if it still makes sense. If it does, cut it, and your piece is on track to decluttering.
My writing group bolstered me in the beginning. I could not believe I had been invited to join this group of writers, most of whom were far more accomplished than I was. Writing prompts, reading our pieces aloud in the group, expanding the types of writing I was comfortable with built within me the basics of writing. It pressed me and taught me to look at my work more critically.
And there is nothing like a little bit of peer pressure to push us to our best! Writing an assignment for our group mattered to me. My writing was exposed, and if I was exposing it, I wanted to give the best piece I could write.
Over three states and 12 years, I have stayed involved in a writing group. If you are serious about growing as a writer, get involved with a local or online writing group. It will change your writing!
5. BUILD IN TIME.
Writing and editing use different parts of the brain. When writing, my mind is flowing and moving faster than my fingers can always type. I don’t think about sentence structure and flow and grammar in the same way. But when I am editing, my brain switches, and I dig into the words with minute detail.
If I am the author, parsing an article is harder because the words lived in my head. They are a part of me in some way. I always give myself a day buffer for any article I am writing. I put the deadline 24 hours earlier on the calendar. This allows me to sleep on the piece and come back to it with fresh eyes. I catch errors I couldn’t see when it was still fresh.
6. RESOURCES, RESOURCES, RESOURCES.
I cannot emphasize enough the value of using the plethora of Internet resources to continually develop my self-editing skills. These are a few of my favorites.
- 25 Editing Tips for Tightening your Copy
- The Comma
- Guidelines for Revising an Essay
- Top 5 Tips to Edit and Write in Chicago or AP Style
- Grammar Girl
7. HIRE AN EDITOR OR WRITING COACH.
Finally, if you are serious about developing your skills as a writer and are not seeing the progress on your own, consider hiring an editor or writing coach. An outside voice with professional skills help you see areas of weakness and strength. If you dream of becoming a professional writer, growing your blog, treat yourself like a professional writer and blogger!