I say “anything”, but the truth is there’s always an exception to the rules. The exception for this list would be social media posting. Things in the social media world are a little more relaxed and spontaneous, but keep in mind mistakes can be embarrassing and costly to a business owner. If you plan your social media posts, you can do as I do and aim for a little formatting to help with readability. And – depending on time – a quick proof. But that’s just me. Pedantic ole me. Only pedantic where it matters; you should see my car. Joke. You do not want to see my car.
And on to the list! In no particular order because priorities will vary for everyone and I can’t please all of you. No matter how hard I try.
I’ve talked about this before. Mind your headings, paragraphs, font size, and formatting. Emphasize the bits that need to stand out and let the rest flow together. As much as it might beg to differ, it is not all about CAPS LOCK.
CAPS LOCK IS FOR PEOPLE WHO CAN’T CONTROL THEIR RAGE. OR SPEL. Oops. My bad. Shoutout to the trolls of the internet.
For those that plan their writing, this one is easy. Your main points of discussion are subheadings to be filled in – voila!
For those that don’t plan their writing, come back to this during the editorial stages. And combine with number two just below, as you shuffle/rewrite content.
2) The Bird’s Eye
If you write by the adventurous seat of your pants, give it an overall look for knowledge gaps or unclear writing. These gaps will not be obvious and an outside perspective might be just the ticket.
This is where I lightly skim the words, whereas others might read it aloud. Just depends on you.
This check will result in adding, removing or reorganizing sections. A lot of people will be comfortable adding or reorganizing, but the delete key is a scary one to use. And my favorite. Shhh.
If it helps, copy the content to another place –- elsewhere in the document or another document altogether – so it’s not gone forever and you can bring it back or revive in a different project.
3) Play Wordsmith
There is more than one way to say the same thing:
1) I could write the same thing in different ways and each way will have a different impact. Examples to follow in a future post.
2) I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat and rewritten my own content. Number one is educative; number two is chatty; redundant words are removed if I’m looking to make the most impact with the least amount of words.
I come from a strong academic background and have a propensity to expand my content with complicated vocabulary. See what I did here?
And what I need to do is take it down a notch and write at a level that is readily understood. Not because I’m aiming for a specific readability score. I’m not making this any harder on myself than I have to, and the same applies for – and to – you. My readers have limited time and capacity for information. How many hats does a business owner wear? Too many.
The right word is not fancy or simple; the right word is necessary.
4) The Eagle Eyes
So, my Eagle Eyes will be different to your Eagle Eyes. But it doesn’t mean you don’t proof:
- Look for inconsistency in formatting. I just went back and edited my subheadings to headline-style capitalization.
- Look for inconsistency in language. Don’t switch from a first-person narrative to a second- or third-person narrative. I see this in website copy and honestly catch myself falling into this same trap.
- Check titles/subtitles. Headings are not exempt from checks. Typos can be made here, not to mention relevance might be lost as you develop/rewrite your content.
- Check punctuation. My favorite punctuation mark is the semi-colon; your favorite punctuation mark might be the comma. I catch myself using it without thinking, then going back to read and thinking hey, you don’t belong here! Which punctuation mark do you love? Commas and dashes are probably the most frequently used. A lot of times these can be amended to periods or other punctuation for easier reading and – hence – understanding.
- Check capitalization! See my point above about subheadings. Consistency with how you cap headings will offer your work a subtle yet polished touch. Points for presentation!
A lot of these points might be mundane or tedious. You don’t have to do it; I’m not here to strong-arm you. But this check over all others can make the difference between professional-looking content and amateur hour; the other checks will help with the overall value and depth of your content. Consider your audience and decide accordingly.
5) Play Artist
Remember what I said about wearing too many hats? This is one of them! It’s not enough to search the web for images, find the right one, save it and then… use it… It’s not enough. It’s not even legal!
Just as you write your own words (I hope), you create your own images.
So this point is actually my least favorite, because Writer I am and Artist I am not. I’m working on it, and any images I use are my own creations. And if you want to do the same, you can visit this resource (shoutout to Gwen Montoya!) and get started.
But I make this point for all non-word content: charts, diagrams, video, pictures, etc. Sometimes you can better drive your point home with a visual (or audio). Mixed media is the ultimate goal (we’re living in a multimedia world, right?), with your main media of choice being the thing you trend towards naturally.
That is it! All done, guys. Quick recap:
- Bird’s Eye View
- Play Wordsmith
- Eagle Eyes
- Play Artist
You can download the checklist for your use/reference here: