Your Simple Editing System for Creating Good Habits and Great Content

by Cathy Miller on November 14, 2016

editing-system-postHow long does it take you to form a good habit?

  • A month?
  • Several months?
  • A year?

Experts don’t agree on the timeline; however, I find a good process helps me create good habits. What kind of good habits? How about editing business communication?

Does your current editing process produce great content?

The following shares my system that helped me overcome bad editing habits. Let’s see if you can relate.

What Editing System?

Does this sound like you?

You create your business communication. You may edit as you go along. If you do check your writing copy, it’s by way of Word’s Spelling & Grammar check.

I followed a similar process. I added my own editing review but it was definitely hit and miss.

Using the Spelling & Grammar check is not a bad thing. But I think we all agree; it is not the most comprehensive means of editing.

I needed a better system.

  • First, I worked at breaking my bad habit of editing as I wrote (distracting and non-productive – I still do it but not as frequently)
  • Next, I broke my editing process into bite-size pieces
  • Finally, I wrote it down to see it, feel it, and use it

Do I use it religiously? Hey, I’d be lying if I said yes. We all get crunched for time. However, what I have noticed is my final copy is not as strong when I don’t use my editing system.

Bite-size Editing System

Before creating my system, my editing was all over the place.

  • For example, sometimes I read aloud
  • Other times I skipped it
  • I did not always do another review after my initial editing

It was bad. I needed more structure. Not everyone is a structure person. Who wants to be told, “Do it this way”? Certainly, not me.

Yet, if I convince myself the structure is only there to help and I can choose to ignore it, I feel better. I’m such a rebel.

Because of my love of three, I wanted a three-step process. And because I like to amuse myself, I wanted atypical category names.

  1. The Head Slap
  2. The Boring Eraser
  3. The Nobel Prize

Want to see how they work?

head-slapThe Head Slap

You know you are a good writer. So, how did those mischievous misspellings, grammar guffaws, and tacky typos sneak into your writing?

I call those the Head Slap moments. It seems the older I get, the more I have. Some leave me gasping aloud.

The following are the steps I take to remove the perpetrators of head slap moments.

Spelling & Grammar Review

Have you noticed how easy it is to spot another person’s typos but not your own? Perhaps it’s a defense mechanism against our readers (at least some of them) who are more than happy to point them out to us.

For that reason, I start with the tools.

  • Word’s Spelling & Grammar check – by the way, interesting side note – some of Office 365 Word versions eliminated the passive voice check. This update may help you recover that feature.
  • Grammarly – I added the free version Grammarly for Firefox app. There is also an add-in that can be used in Word. Personally, I find Grammarly can get a bit annoying while I’m working so I’ll turn it off until I am ready to use it.
  • Miller Mining – no, this is not the latest app – I’m not sure you would want this older version. I write mostly technical papers for the insurance/healthcare industries. So, many words are not going to be picked up by spell check. I mine through my copy looking for those and double-check them. Nice to know my copy still needs me.

Another head slap moment occurs with incorrect word usage (e.g., principal/principle, than/then, capital/capitol). If you know you’re prone to misuse of a specific word, it helps to keep a list to check for those words.

Test links to make sure they work. One sneaky character sends readers to aggravating 404 error messages.

boring-eraserThe Boring Eraser

My next phase of editing attacks slip-ups that lead to boring writing.

It is during this phase that I think reading aloud comes in handy.

  • Listen for overly long sentences
  • Pick up on repeated or unnecessary words
  • Does your content make sense? Are there clear transitions?

Attack boring where it lurks.

  • Archive adverbs for vivacious verbs
  • Use metaphor muscle to tell your story – create a visual for readers
  • Weed out weak words – like really, very boring content, you know?

prizeThe Nobel Prize

I like my business communication to marinate after the first two phases. It helps me shake out the cobwebs and fire up my creativity for the final phase of my editing system.

Allowing my communication to rest may not win me a Nobel Prize, but it does bring back the joy of writing.

I cast my creative eye to detect the following.

  • Does the title entice readers?
  • Is the opening strong? Will it hook readers?
  • Will readers understand and care about the content?
  • Does the communication deliver on the title’s promise?
  • Does the closing offer a good wrap-up and call-to-action?

The final edit is formatting. You may wonder what that has to do with creativity. For me, nothing is more beautiful than a well-formatted document.

Format will vary by the medium you use. You know to adjust for online reading to accommodate scanning. Add bullets, bold type, headings.

After final edits, check the visual look of your business communication.

See it – Feel it – Use it

Developing an editing system was a start. Using it was another story.

I created a cheat sheet with the three phases. With my discovery of Canva, I had a tool to add images and simplify my cheat sheet for visual effect.

I added a header to match this post. See what you think. You can download a pdf version if you are so inclined.

 

editing-system-post-graphic

One last word of advice. The secret to this editing system is focusing on one phase at a time. You may prefer different categories or a different order of review.

For example, some people prefer leaving the Head Slap items as the final phase. I like to get them out of the way.

It’s your system – your choice – See it – Feel it – Use it.

What’s your editing system? Share your process in Comments.

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Canva credit

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

John Soares November 14, 2016 at 8:02 am

What an excellent system, Cathy! I have a similar system, but I confess I don’t always follow it.

A key step for me is giving myself substantial time away from the piece, ideally overnight, before I do major editing.
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Cathy Miller November 14, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Thanks, John. I’m with you in reserving what I call marinating time. Good to walk away from it to clear the head.
Cathy Miller recently posted..Your Simple Editing System for Creating Good Habits and Great ContentMy Profile

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Roy A Ackerman, PhD, EA November 14, 2016 at 12:04 pm

I have been using the same method for four decades.
I used the rudimentary check of the computer (which hast vastly improved with computer and software changes).
I read the document backwards and upwards.
I let it fester for at least 1 day- preferably 3. Then I check it again.
Roy A Ackerman, PhD, EA recently posted..Are you reasonable?My Profile

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Cathy Miller November 14, 2016 at 3:17 pm

Sounds like a system that works for you, Roy. And that’s the most important part.
Cathy Miller recently posted..Your Simple Editing System for Creating Good Habits and Great ContentMy Profile

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Marie McCooey November 14, 2016 at 4:02 pm

Thanks for sharing your editing system, Cathy.
You’ve included some great ideas in here, especially the Boring Eraser to help identify boring writing.
Thanks again!
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Cathy Miller November 14, 2016 at 4:22 pm

Thanks, Marie. I appreciate that. 😊
Cathy Miller recently posted..Your Simple Editing System for Creating Good Habits and Great ContentMy Profile

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