How to manage your editing and proofreading to notice a difference in the quality of your writing.
As writers, we’ve all been there: Your blog post meets your minimum word requirement, it’s all down on the page, and you feel great about it.
One month later you go back to the post and you feel the embarrassment hit, “What in the world was I trying to say?” or “How the heck did I spell ‘blog post’ the wrong way?”
The messy and creative process of writing is wonderful, but it can also hinder us from truly expressing ourselves.
Editing and proofreading your writing prevents this gut wrenching embarrassment and paints a clearer picture for your readers.
We’ve created a checklist to help you organize and manage your editing (and proofreading) so that you can create powerful content that makes an impact.
Follow each of the 4 checklist sections for maximum results:
- Pre-Writing Checklist
- Writing Checklist
- Editing Checklist
- Proofreading Checklist
I begin with a pre-writing checklist because the effort you put in before you start writing will affect how your blog post looks at the end.
1. Do You Understand Your Audience?
If you’re speaking to the Queen of England, would you expect your choice of words to be different from when you’re speaking with your best friend? I know mine would!
The style, tone, and language used in your writing should change to suit your target audience.
If you understand your audience, you’ll understand the type of writing that will generate a response.
Pro Tip: Use or create customer personas that describe the kind of language your readers respond to.
2. Do you Understand Your Topic Thoroughly?
How could anyone write a quality blog post without thoroughly understanding the topic?
Before you begin any writing, research your topic to a point where you can summarize the topic in just a few sentences.
Pro Tip: Use tools such a Buzzsumo to research quality content that will help you learn about your topic at an expert level.
3. Do You Have Relevant Keywords to Include in the Blog Post?
Optimizing your writing for SEO is a building block for the success of your blog post.
Follow these 3 SEO basics to improve your search engine ranking:
- Use Relevant Keywords: Choose keywords that you think people are likely to search in Google. Try checking out similar blog posts to see which keywords come up the most.
- Avoid Keyword Stuffing: Stuffing your blog post with keywords will not improve your search engine ranking. Search engines value quality over quantity.
- Place Keywords Strategically: Place your keywords strategically for maximum SEO impact. For example, keywords in your title hold more weight than in your subtitle. Keywords placed at the beginning of your title hold more weight than keywords placed at the end.
- Use Keywords in Your Meta Descriptions: Search engines use keywords to determine the topic of your article. Include as many keywords as you can in your meta description.
4. Are Industry Influencers included throughout Your Blog Post?
Influencers are an effective method for generating credibility.
You will notice that I refer to marketing legend Neil Patel quite a bit throughout this post. This is because of Neil’s reputation as an expert and successful content marketer.
Increase your credibility and readers will increase their trust towards your brand.
Pro Tip: Buzzsumo features an ‘influencers’ tab that displays relevant influencers based on your keyword search.
1. Write in a Conversational Tone
A blog post riddled with complicated language and unrecognizable words will decrease the impact of your writing.
Write using informal, everyday language.
Complicated Language: The cohort of people born between 1946 and 1964 are designated The Baby Boomer Generation.
Everyday Language: Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964.
2. Use Strong Verbs and Adjectives
One strong word can take the place multiple weak words.
Examples of weak versus strong language:
3. Use Trigger Words
Trigger words grab the reader’s attention, evoke emotions, or evoke an action.
Examples of trigger words:
- Picture this…
4. Use the Second Person View
Pronouns like ‘you’, ‘your’, and ‘yours’ have a personal and intimate feeling associated with them.
Use this language to grab the reader’s attention and develop their connection with your blog post.
1. Did You Read the Blog Post Out Loud?
Kate Kiefer Lee is a manager of communications at Mail Chimp, a former magazine editor, and a blogger.
Kate’s favorite editing tip is to read the blog post out loud and here is why:
- Catches errors: It’s easier to stumble over missed typos and unclear sentences when you’re listening and reading at the same time.
- Improves flow: As you read, you will start to hear the rhythm of you writing and if there are any breaks in that rhythm.
- Softens your sentences: Reading out loud will give you an idea if your writing sounds conversational or formal and rigid.
Pro Tip: Ask a friend to read your blog post aloud so you can hear your own mistakes.
2. Are Your Titles Attention-Grabbing?
According to Copyblogger’s Brian Clark, “8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.
The numbers don’t lie, titles are an extremely vital part of enticing readers to actually click on your blog post.
Here are 5 tips to help you write absolutely killer titles:
- Take Your Time: Brainstorm at least 6 title variations and then eliminate 3. Take some time to let the titles simmer in your brain, go back to them, and then choose 1 that stands out the most.
- Make it Clear: If your audience doesn’t understand what your blog post is about, why would they read it?
- Make it Emotional: Use words that trigger emotions and reactions (see below for epic words you can use).
- Include Keywords: As I previously mentioned, using keywords in your titles will improve SEO.
- Make It Short: Short, punchy titles not only grab the reader’s attention, they are easier to share on social media.
Pro Tip: As a rule of thumb, try to keep your titles under 8 words.
Use the following epic title templates. Click here to see more.
3. Does the Opening Line Grab the Readers Attention?
There are many methods for writing attention-grabbing introductory paragraphs:
- Ask and answer a question
- Tell a story
- Start with an interesting fact
- Start with an anecdote
- Start with interesting statistics
For example, if your target audience is having problems with retaining customers, your opening line might go something like this:
Did you know that you’re not alone?
Many business owners and CEOs are looking for new way to retain their customers. In fact, Forbes Magazine conducted a survey and 32% of executives say customer retention is a top priority.
4. Does the Introduction Keep the Reader’s Attention?
Introductions are like first impressions.
In those first few lines, the reader will decide if they like your writing or if they think it’s boring.
Effective introductions contain one (or a mixture of the following elements):
- Welcoming: Think of it like this, your opening line get’s the reader to your door and your introduction makes them feel welcome in your home.
For example, the article Do You Worry About Your Writing? opens with the sentence “Do you feel insecure, anxious, and doubtful about your writing?”
- Relatable: Gain the trust of your reader by writing about something you have in common.
For example, the article Want to Be Fit – or Even Ultra-Fit? opens their article with “Everyone agrees that fitness is good. It boosts your health, brightens your soul, calms your mind, and allows you to do more with your life.”
- Exciting: Entice your audience to read on with an introduction that gets them excited.
For example, the blog post My Creepy Psychiatric Patient Practiced Voodoo, Here’s What Happened To Me When I Investigated Her already gets me wondering what the heck happened. To build the anticipation, the author tells his story:
“I’m a psychiatrist… in training at least. The stories I have heard within these walls could fill a book, but there is one particular case that has caused me to lose sleep.”
Pro Tip: Save your introductory paragraph for last. By the end of the article, you should have a better idea of how to entice readers to read the rest of the blog post.
5. Is Your Blog Post Interesting and Unique?
A catchy title and introductory paragraph are not enough for your blog post to be considered quality.
Aim to create a blog post that is interesting all the way through.
An epic example is blog writer Benjamin Brandall’s post on the importance of business processes.
Brandon titled the piece “How Processes Protect Your Business From Crashing and Burning” to grab the reader’s attention and then used unique and exciting examples to keep the reader engaged all the way through.
- NASA blew up a satellite because their software mixed up metric and imperial measurements.
- The nuclear reaction of Chernobyl was caused by an accumulation of 6 human errors. One of the errors being that the staff turned off the emergency cooling system.
Interesting stuff, right?
Pro Tip: Click here to read Neil Patel’s blog post: “9 Elements of an Interesting Article.”
6. Is the Blog Post Scannable?
After reading the title and introduction, readers usually scan the blog post to find the exact section they’re looking for.
According to Trap!t Blog, “Visitors spend 2.6 seconds skimming a website before focusing on a specific section.”
A scannable blog post:
- Uses headings for readers to find the section they’re looking for.
- Uses images to illustrate points.
- Uses bullet points and numbered lists to break up content.
- Uses 1-2 lined paragraphs to break up content.
- Uses bold and italics to highlight important information.
A scannable post from Gingerbread Marketing’s blog
7. Does the Blog Post Have a Logical Structure?
Many writers focus too much attention on small details and forget about the big picture: Can readers logically understand your blog post?
Without ‘flow’ or structure, your brilliant points and impeccable grammar won’t translate to your readers.
- Are the transitions between my paragraphs smooth?
- Are all of my points organized properly?
- Should I add bullets or numbered lists to make an idea more clear?
- Are my sentences too long? Too short?
- Are my headings organized in a logical order?
- Can the reader find what they are looking for based on my headings?
8. Have You Defined Complicated Terms?
Blog posts are for educating readers and complicated language makes readers feel discouraged to learn.
Avoid using jargon, buzzwords, acronyms and corporate lingo.
Pro Tip: If you have to use complicated words, include a definition.
7. Is the Blog Post Actionable?
An actionable blog post shows the reader’s how they can apply what they’ve learned.
An actionable blog post:
- Includes examples: Use examples as often as possible to drive home your point.
- Uses CTAs: CTAs are extremely actionable as they tell the reader what to do without them having to figure it out themselves.
- Uses Visual Content: Readers respond more favorably to visual content than written content. Use visual content whenever practical.
Pro Tip: Avoid vague and obvious action steps.
Vague and Obvious Action Step: Before writing your articles, do lots of research.
Epic Action Step: Before writing your blog post, research your topic well enough so that you can summarize the idea in a few sentences. Tools such as Buzzsumo or Clear Voice’s ” Content Studio” are great for finding relevant, trending pieces on your topic.
8. How is the Quality of Your Visual Content?
Using visual content will do wonders for engagement, SEO, retention, reach and brand equity as readers respond more favorably to images, videos, infographics, etc.
According to Brain Rules, when people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retain 65% of the information three days later.
Quality visual content has:
- Purpose: Your visual content should serve a purpose in your blog post. Visual content should further illustrate your points, summarize your points (sometimes a picture really is worth 1000 words), trigger emotions, and more.
- Variety: Neil Patel uses a mixture of the following types of visual content:
- Videos: Videos are highly engaging. According to Hubspot Blog, “4X as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than to read about it.”
- Color: Use color to your advantage. Match your images with a color scheme that is representative of your brand.
- Sociability: Images, videos, GIFs, memes, etc. are extremely shareable, and if executed correctly, can increase your reach.
Click here to see fantastic examples of visual content: “11 Smart Marketing Examples That Nail Visual Content”
Click here to see what unappealing visual content looks like: “13 Hilarious Examples of Truly Awful Stock Photography.”
9. Is Your Language Bombastic?
Bombastic may not be the correct word to use here but it sure does sound awesome.
Include colorful language throughout your blog post to generate emotion from your readers.
Fantastic Language: Epic, shocking, majestic, and jubilant.
Plain Language: Great, better, good, and really cool.
Pro Tip: I like to keep a notebook of killer words I’ve read in other blog posts. Otherwise, I check out blog posts like “317 Power Words That’ll Instantly Make You a Better Writer” to expand my vocabulary.
1. Are You Using Spelling and Grammar Tools?
Grammarly is free, easy-to-use, and works seamlessly with most writing platforms. Grammarly checks for spelling, grammar, punctuation, hyphenation, and spacing mistakes.
Grammer Girl (aka Mignon Fogarty) is a fantastic blog to reference when you’re unsure of your grammar usage.
Pro Tip: Grammarly is currently incompatible with Google Docs.
Pro Tip: Double click on any word and Grammarly will display a list of synonyms.
2. Have You Removed Unnecessary Words?
Blog posts lose their impact when writers include too many ‘filler’ words.
Your sentences should be short, descriptive, and clear.
Lengthy sentence: “So today I went to the park and my friend, Kristen, asked me if I want to start walking to her house to watch a movie and then I said yes.
Concise sentence: “Today at the park, my friend Kristen asked if I wanted to watch a movie at her house. I said yes.”
Digital marketing specialist, Erin Feldman, came up with a list of 10 common filler words for you to avoid:
- And then
Pro Tip: I know my paragraphs are weak when I’ve repeated the same word too many times. Keep an eye out for overused words during the proofreading process.
3. Are You Maintaining a Consistent Tense?
Are you writing in the past, present, or future tense?
Using a consistent tense is a sign of killer writing and professionalism.
Past Tense: I walked to the park
Present Tense: I am walking to the park
Future Tense: I will walk to the park
4. Are You Using the Active Voice Whenever Possible?
According to Your Dictionary, an “active voice tells what a person or thing does” and a “passive voice tells what is done to someone or something”
A sentence in an active voice is easier to read than a sentence in a passive voice.
Active Voice: Taylor brought a movie to her friend’s house.
Passive Voice: A movie was brought by Taylor to her friend’s house.
5. Are All Titles and Headings Capitalized Correctly?
A properly capitalized title or headline can make the difference between looking like an amateur or professional writer.
3 basic rules for capitalizing:
- Capitalize all first words in your titles and headings.
- Capitalize all verbs, nouns, adjectives. Capitalize proper nouns (Canada, Tyler), pronouns (you, she, it), adverbs (now, easily, here, very), and subordinating conjunctions (If, whenever, although).
- DO NOT capitalize: a, an, and, in, the, as, or, of, by, and for.
Pro Tip: You can capitalize the word ‘The’ if it’s a part of a book title, movie title, company name, newspaper, etc.
6. Is All Your Factual Information Sourced and Cited Correctly?
Plagiarism is a serious offense in the writing community.
All quotes, statistics, numbers, percentages and any other factual statements must be 100% sourced properly.
Pro Tip: Google Docs has a citation toolbar that finds the citation for unsourced statements.
7. Are You Using Specific Pronouns?
‘You’, ‘he’, ‘this’, and ‘it’, are okay as long as it’s clear what or who the subject is.
Unclear Subject: “After putting the book back on the shelf, Emily bought it.” Did Emily buy the book or the bookshelf?
Clear Subject: Emily bought the book after she put it back on the shelf.
8. Proofread Without Your Spelling and Grammar Tools
Blog posts should be 100% free of grammar, spelling, and formatting issues.
Spelling and Grammar tools, such as Grammarly, may not catch all your mistakes.
Turn off your editing tool, turn on your brain power, and check for:
- Punctuation: Click here for a list of 7 common punctuation errors.
- Commas: Always use the Oxford Comma.
- Spelling: Use either British or American English – British = Colour and American = Color
- Style: Standardize your writing style. E.g. E-book, ebook, or e-book
- Acronyms: I.e versus e.g: Many writers use these acronyms interchangeably, but they have different meanings. I.E. = “that is” or “in essence” and e.g = “for example.”
Editing and proofreading can turn a terrible blog post into something great.
Even better than that, editing, and proofreading can turn an average blog post into an absolutely epic one.
Use our checklist to manage and organize your editing and proofreading process to achieve maximum results, become a better writer, and impress your readers!