There are writers. And then there are professional writers.
Over my career as an editorial director, I’ve noticed one key factor that enables writers to perform their craft professionally.
I’ve said it before, so you won’t be surprised to hear:
It’s the ability to self-edit.
A strong self-editor doesn’t just show up to work — they show up with a seemingly counterintuitive balance of compassion and criticism that allows them to write prolifically and precisely.
That combination is exactly what companies and publishers look for when they hire writers.
Self-sufficient writers know they’re going to:
- Choose the wrong words.
- Add distracting tangents.
- Repeat information.
But since they are disciplined, and aware that they make mistakes, they produce more sophisticated content than writers who don’t rigorously examine their own work.
Here are three steps that strengthen your self-editing skills.
Step #1: Form your structure
However, your first draft is almost certainly going to be a mess that no one other than you will understand.
To tackle this obstacle, assign yourself deadlines for each phase of your writing process.
Plan time to:
- Explore your ideas.
- Shape them into a presentation.
- Fine-tune your message until a reader can effortlessly follow along.
And when you think your final draft is ready to publish, review it one more time.
The “secret sauce” I reveal at the end of this post helps ensure you clearly guide your reader through your content.
Step #2: Encourage a transformation
What will a reader get out of your writing? How will they think or feel differently?
Once you’ve established a solid structure, add details that enrich your writing voice and remove the parts that don’t serve your readers.
Your writing has to be personal, but not self-indulgent.
As you review each sentence, ask yourself:
“Does this text contribute to the transformation my reader wants?”
You’ll establish a connection with your reader faster when you succinctly make your point in a believable way that inspires action.
Step #3: Value accuracy
Content managers and editors want to make writers look great.
They’re less enthused about correcting sloppiness.
When they find factual errors, inconsistencies, and excessive typos, they wish the writer took the time to review their final draft as if it would be published without any further editing.
Use this simple checklist to spot and correct five of the most preventable content mistakes.
- Names: Google the names of people, places, products, and companies to verify they are spelled correctly.
- Days/Dates/Years: Every day of the week should correspond to the correct date and year.
- Times: Start times of events should be double-checked.
- Hyperlinks: Any hyperlinks should go to the intended web pages that enhance your content.
- Templates: If you use a template, don’t leave any sections blank or republish outdated information.
The secret sauce
Proofreading is typically an undervalued (and half-assed) part of the writing process.
It doesn’t feel fun or creative, so it’s treated like an afterthought.
But it’s a mandatory step for self-sufficient writers.
My favorite way to catch mistakes in everything I write and edit is to proofread from the end of a document to the beginning.
Be the artist who treats their craft with the utmost thought and care. It leads to better relationships and more opportunities for creative work.
Professional writers know that attention to detail is never a waste of time.
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