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The Art of Revising

You’ve written your piece, it’s coherent, readable, somewhat put together. But to make your draft sing, you need to take a few extra steps, including performing a thorough edit. That’s where good old proofreading comes in.

Editing Pro-Tips

The word revision means “to see again.” Is it any wonder that the key to successful revising is seeing your copy with fresh eyes? You need to rethink your approach, your evidence and your target audience to create a masterpiece.

Here, 10 tips to take your copy from draft to done with re-vision.

Take a break

One writing tip: Stop writing. After you write a blog post, web page or ebook, put it away — even if you have a short turnaround time. Let it sit for an hour or two, or overnight if that’s an option.

Then, when you get back to it, you’ll be more objective: “That sentence is a little wordy.” “I should switch these paragraphs around.” “Oh, wait, there’s a MUCH better way to phrase this.” A bonus: Taking time away makes proofreading easier. 

Remember your target

As a writing pro, you have your audience in mind from the get-go. When you read through your copy again, pretend you’re one of them.

Does it capture your interest? If you’re targeting doctors, is your tone too basic? If you’re writing for teenagers, is your copy too formal? Put yourself in the audience’s seat to craft copy that resonates.

Mix it up

Find yourself using the same words and phrases repeatedly? Challenge yourself to mix up your language and get acquainted with your thesaurus to select the most fitting words for your message.

Suspect you’re overusing a word or phrase? Use the “Find” tool in Word. You may be surprised at how many times this word crops up.

Get to the point

Replace long-winded phrases with concise statements. Instead of “There are several reasons writers use metaphors,” write “Writers use metaphors for many reasons.”

Adverbs are also suspect. Rather than, “She closed the door firmly,” write “She slammed the door.”

Avoid passive voice

Read each sentence in your piece and convert passive voice verbs to active ones to move your story forward.

If you’re working in Word, you can change your settings to flag passive voice. Click on the word tab and select Preferences. Then click on “Spelling and Grammar.” Within the grammar box, you’ll see additional settings, and you can check “Passive Voice.”

Stay positive

Instead of invoking fear in your readers (“Cancer kills millions of Americans”), focus on positive solutions (“Reduce your risk of cancer with these 5 strategies”).

Ask for a critique

At Aha Media, we have a built-in review process that includes at least a few sets of eyes on each piece of copy. Even if you don’t have that luxury, you can seek out a friend, co-worker or anyone who can read, really, to act as an editor. Ask them to review your work and point out problem areas.

Read your piece out loud

When you read your work out loud, to yourself or an audience, you’ll notice when awkward phrasing trips you up, when the tone or pacing is off and when you repeat the same word. You can also enable your “text-to-speech” feature to hear your draft read aloud, making it easier to catch typos.

Revisit your beginning and your ending

The first sentence of your piece determines whether your reader continues reading or clicks to the next story. Make sure it sets the stage in a compelling way. Then review your closing line. Does it hit home? If not, rewrite it. Then, rewrite it again.

Make sure you have a call to action

A clear call to action is the most critical component of effective marketing copy. At the end of your post, eBook, newsletter, web page, article (etc. etc. … you get the idea), tell your reader what you want them to do. A few examples:

  • Sign up for our newsletter
  • Like us on Facebook
  • Take a pledge

Make It Sing

Look at your copy critically to help you identify whether you have offered the reader something new, exciting or valuable. Revising offers you an opportunity to ask yourself whether your work follows the rules of engagement:

  • Is it worth saying?
  • Is it effectively communicated?
  • Will your intended reader “get” the message?

Follow those 3 rules, and you’ll gain a loyal readership.

Here are more ways to craft polished copy:

6 Steps to Blog Writing Magic

Writing Tips from the Editor Who Rejects Everything

5 Tips for Writers—Plus a New One Every Wednesday

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About Amy Paturel

Amy Paturel

Amy is an award-winning health journalist and blogger whose work frequently appears in Prevention, AARP, Parents and SKY Magazine, as well as custom publications and websites including Neurology Now, WebMD and BabyCenter.com. A passionate essayist, Amy also teaches personal essay writing to stude... More >