Copy Editing – Tips for Editing Your Copy Like a Pro

Copy editing tips

Still struggling with polishing your copy to unveil its true potential to your prospects and get you your desired result?

You are not alone. Editing is many writers burden. It was for me until I found out how to edit my copy with more confidence. 

In this post, you will find out how I did it and how you too can. 

BS: This report is great for copywriters and editors of all kinds. Even intendiing copywriters and editors will find this article to be a useful resource to them.

What Is Copy Editing? 

Copy editing is the act of reviewing an already written copy for grammatical errors as well as making sure it conveys its intended message in a manner best suited to achieve its goal.

Copy editing is usually done after the first draft has been written. 

Many might think that copyediting is typically about grammar check, writing style and sentence structure. But it’s way more than that.

The goal of every copywriter is to get his copy to make its prospects buy what he is offering. So the main goal of copy editing is to make sure that the copy achieves this goal by conveying its intended message in clarity and style. 

Though it involves a close attention to detail on the grammar check, writing style, sentence structure, as well as tone, if the copy doesn’t achieve its intended goal, then copy editing isn’t done. 

Tips for Editing Your Copy Like a Pro 

Writing your copy is just about half the job. The other half is in editing it to ensure you have crafted a powerful copy.

Tip #1: Don’t Edit at the Time of Writing 

There are two major reasons for this advice. 

First is that when you are writing your first draft, the goal is to pour out everything you know, feel and want to share. Trying to edit while doing that will hinder the flow. Don’t mind how it looks. As Hemingway puts it, first drafts are like shit.

Concentrate on just putting down what you know and feel and keep it flowing as it comes to you. It will be mostly crap but don’t yield to the temptation of editing while writing your first draft.

Secondly, every writer need to stay away from his copy after the first draft so that he can look at it with fresh perspective. Only then can her really critique his own copy. Sugarman calls it “the writers period of incubation”.  The longer the better.

This period of incubation can take several weeks or days. However, if you cannot afford to leave your first draft for such long periods, then at least leave it for some hours and do something completely different that will take your mind away from your copy.

Tip #2: Don’t be too attached 

In writing, you must kill your darlings

– William Faulkner

While writing your first draft and getting that surge of inspiration, you would have written a number of lines that made so much sense to you. 

When you are ready to start editing, it’s best to keep an open mind. This will help you to rewrite or remove entirely a sentence that makes the least sense even though you felt it was a great line at the time of writing. 

Don’t be too attached to it as long as it doesn’t add much value to the copy even if it’s your darling.

If you develop this attitude, it will help you in the following tips.

Tip #3: Tackle the structure 

Check! 

Does the structure of your copy convey the intended message of the copy well enough to achieve its goal?  Are there any sentences/paragraphs that need to be moved – entire sentences/paragraphs that need to be taken out, new sentences/paragraphs that need to come? All while having the goal of your copy in mind. 

Other things like grammar check can come later.

Tip #4: Grammar check.

This is where you check out for wrong spellings as well as correctly spelt words used in the wrong context. 

It is very important to eliminate every grammatical error in your copy. Failure to do this will result in your product/service perceived as inferior.

Grammarly is an app trusted by many writers to do 90% or more of the work. Make sure you have it installed. The free version is good enough for basic spell check.

So run a grammarly check and correct all spelling errors.

Tip #5: Eliminate Passive Voice.

Passive voice was used by our great grandfathers because they didn’t want to show any responsibility in their writing. This created a gap between the writer and the reader. 

Today’s writing demands that the writer take more responsibility in his writing by using the active voice.

Active voice has a way of making your copy more interesting, more lively and …well, active!

Example: 

  1. Nine apps were launched by TruTech at the event = Passive voice whereas, TruTech launched nine apps at the event = Active voice.
  2. About 7 men were killed by unknown gunmen at the event = Passive voice; whereas, Gunmen killed 7 men at the event =  Active voice

Grammarly app will easily help to  identify every sentence in a passive voice so you can change it to an active voice. 

Tip #6: Eliminate unnecessary adjectives and adverbs

Filling in your copy with too many adjectives and adverbs makes it look like your reader lacks a sense of imagination. 

There are sentences that will still convey the same meaning without that extra adjective or adverb. 

Example:

  1. He barged into the office forcefully. The adverb  forcefully isn’t necessary because the verb barge already tells us it was a forceful entrance.
  2. Mrs. Henson’s dog was rescued by a brave superhero. We all know superheroes are brave so there is no need for the adjective. 
  3. The young men are determined to climb the high mountain. Mountains are always high so there is no need for the adjective ‘high’. 

Your aim here is to make sure that you don’t stuff your copy with unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. Many writers do it to make their copy more lively and exciting but it usually ends up giving the opposite effect.

Tip #7: Check for the “that” and “then” word

This should go together with Tip #5 on adjectives and adverbs but they are so common that I want to point them out separately. 

Most times, where “that ” and “then” is used, if you remove them, the sentence still retains its meaning. 

Where applicable, remove every that and then word that adds no meaning to the sentence. 

Tip#8: Check the tone and flow 

Tone means your attitude towards the subject. Your tone can be formal, informal, cheerful, sarcastic, serious, sad etc. It is conveyed through your choice of words or your viewpoint on a particular subject. 

Flow happens when readers are able to see the connection between sentences and paragraphs clearly. To create a flow, you need to create cohesion. And to create cohesion, you need to tie your words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs together, to create a text where the relationships between these elements is clear and logical to the reader, giving the text ‘flow’.

Sugarman best describes it as “making sure your first sentence makes your reader want to read your second sentence and your second sentence should make your reader want to read the third sentence and the third should make your reader want to read the fourth and so on.”

One good way to check for the tone and flow of your copy is to read it aloud or have someone read it aloud to you.

An easier but good alternative is to use a reading app like naturalreader to read out your copy. There are many reading apps out there but many sound robotic. Naturalreader has more real voices to help make you feel your copy is being read by a human.

Tip #9: Read Your Writing from the Customer’s Viewpoint 

Put yourself in the position of your prospects and read your copy. Does it satisfy your inquisition? Does it answer all your questions? Does it clear your doubts? Do you buy it? 

Try to see if your copy moves you to buy when you read it like you are the customer or better still give it to someone and seek to know if it made him/her want to buy what you are selling.

Tip#10: Include an external eye

Although optional, getting a fresh pair of eyes to review your copy can be of great help.

Consider their remarks while keeping an open mind. You don’t need to accept all their remarks but it still helps to engage them as they might see what you missed.

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