If you looked at my standardized test results from when I was back in school, you’d see I scored very high in math and very low in verbal — not exactly the marks you’d expect from one of the web’s most seasoned content editors.
Your content needs to quickly communicate what your audience wants and needs, so my natural abilities are actually the perfect fit for content editing.
This story comes down to turning a “weakness” into a strength.
Most of my English tests in high school weren’t adorned with those coveted “A” grades because timed exams to test reading comprehension didn’t fit my reading style.
I read text passages slowly, studied each word carefully, and analyzed how the writer could have presented his or her message more clearly.
It’s no surprise I’d run out of time before I finished every question. (It’s okay, 16-year-old Stefanie. The future looks bright for you.)
My poor test scores could have convinced me that the English language and reading comprehension were my weaknesses, but instead, I turned my way of reading into a career.
The title of this interview on Contently’s The Content Strategist says it all: ‘You Need Editors, Not Brand Managers’: Marketing Legend Seth Godin on the Future of Branded Content.
When asked how he’d build a brand media property, Godin replied that brands often opt for playing it safe rather than thinking, “How can we be more interesting?”
“Enjoyable content” sounds a bit weak, doesn’t it? It’s less serious than “effective content” or “content that produces business results.”
Editors produce the right content experiences with refined messages that help meet their business blogging goals.
For example, I enjoy painting, but I don’t always have time to paint on canvas, so I frequently paint my nails. It’s relatively quick, and I get to display my work every day for as long as the manicure lasts.
Essie is one of my favorite nail polish brand and the company’s YouTube channel has a collection of nail art tutorials. To communicate a persuasive message, each concise video required a focused vision and intentional refining.
Every aspect of these videos also form a seamless call to action — the instructive lessons make you want to buy the products used in the tutorials so you can try the looks yourself (see below for an example).
That is enjoyable content for a nail polish lover. I watched a number of Essie tutorials while researching this article and now have a long list of new colors I’m going to buy. ????
So, by now I’m sure you see there’s more to becoming a content editor than just aiming to produce error-free content.
Let’s look at eight steps that professional content editors use during their content creation and production process.
In addition to optimizing your chances of connecting with your target audience, research is also the foundation of captivating writing. It helps you stand out with unique content ideas your audience won’t find elsewhere.
I prefer preparing over planning because it allows for more flexibility when unforeseen circumstances arise.
If you’re prepared, you can easily adapt. Editors prepare their content schedules in advance and adjust them as needed.
Synthesize your research into a cohesive presentation, whether it’s an article, podcast, or video.
While first drafts are certainly the place to let your ideas run wild, stay focused on the message you need to communicate.
Content editors remove repetitive and excessive content — only essential information should make the final cut.
For example, the videos on the Essie channel don’t distract viewers with statistics about how many people give themselves manicures each year. That information doesn’t directly match the video topics or serve viewers.
The argyle nail art tutorial on the Essie channel below shows how to create the pattern with diamond shapes.
If you take a closer look at the bookcase in the background, you’ll notice it has diamond-shaped compartments.
The producers of this video pushed themselves creatively beyond a standard plain background to construct a complete experience for viewers.
Once your content is complete, how can you make it sharper? Is there a more succinct phrase you could use, or do you need to explain a point with more details?
To address a possible concern, about halfway through the nail art tutorial, Rita reassures the viewer, “This may look difficult, but don’t be scared. It just takes a little practice.”
I’m not talking about nail polish this time.
Grammar and spelling lovers rejoice; this is the step where you check for bad writing mistakes — large and small.
Dedicate time to fact-checking (even if you think you already did) and hold every aspect of your content up to professional standards.
You don’t have the chance to make a positive impression on your ideal prospects until you release the content you create.
Confident content marketers have overcome the false security of perfectionism and publish their best efforts. They simply stay vigilant about possible ways to improve in the future.
They’re also content editors who critically evaluate every aspect of their content.
Strong editing skills help contribute to their distinct writing voices and knowledge of rock-solid content strategy.
But when you want to do a good job, you tend to obsess over your work. Since it needs to be “perfect,” it never quite seems finished.
Careful and thoughtful content editors have to develop another skill … they have to learn to let go.
To get past the goal of perfection, accept that your writing is never going to be perfect.
“Good enough” not only feels a lot better, it’s actually an attainable goal that helps you start writing.
As I mentioned in 3 Critical Tips for Beginner Writers Who Don’t Have an Audience Yet, you can create new content later with your additional thoughts or update your original content if it’s crucial that an old post has certain details you didn’t include when you first published it.
I say “this week” because if you’re spending more than a week on a piece of content, you’re likely stalling, which will prevent you from becoming a professional writer.
To help you aim for “this week’s version of perfect,” here’s a five-point blueprint of items content editors double-check after they’ve finished their standard editing and proofreading process.
These “checks” will help you gauge when it’s time to let your writing go.
When you’re done editing and proofreading, you’re extremely familiar with your writing on a micro level.
It’s almost like you’ve had blinders on.
Before you publish, look at your content one more time on a macro level to see it from a big-picture perspective.
These last-minute optimizations will boost your confidence about publishing.
Your sentences may be in tip-top shape individually, but how do they look next to each other?
Each sentence is an opportunity for content editors to offer their site visitors an incentive to keep reading.
You don’t always have to use proper grammar. (Yes, you can quote me on that.)
Any grammar, syntax, spelling, or language choices that aren’t 100% approved by Strunk & White should be intentional choices, though, not accidents.
If you go rogue with your grammar occasionally, commit to your irreverence in the face of criticism.
It helps a reader easily comprehend your message and enhances your writing voice. Skeptics can ask me about the sheer pandemonium that ensured on Twitter a couple years ago when I forgot to include a comma in a Copyblogger tweet. ????
There are two easy punctuation checks you should always perform.
Geeking out about punctuation makes you a better writer.
I’ve saved the most important Check for last.
Eliminate any phrase that could be misinterpreted as ignorant or hateful. Even if you mean no harm, it’s not worth the potential backlash.
This vigilance for precision and accuracy isn’t a call to walk on eggshells. You can have a point of view without making a gaffe.
If you’re spending a lot of time polishing your writing for your audience, you’re already way ahead of many writers.
Give yourself credit for your hard work and finishing a piece of content. But you also need to confidently make the judgment call that confirms you are done editing.
Delaying publishing only delays the time it takes to attract the right people.
Interested in learning more about how smart content editors think? Check out our free ebook below …