When you’re writing a website – or a book, or a newspaper article, or any other kind of prose – the creative process doesn’t end after you get to the final page. Far from it. Proofing and editing are absolutely essential, so here are some top tips for honing your rough first draft into something publishable:
Let your first draft flow
Try not to edit the first draft until you’ve finished it. Let the words spill onto the page as they form in your head, without going back and making any changes. Why? Because the creative process is completely different from the editing process, and if you try and make your brain do both at the same time, you won’t do your best at either. Finish the first draft, then go back and tear it to pieces.
Take a step back
Don’t edit your copy straight after you’ve finished writing it. You’ll still be too involved in it, and you may not spot obvious errors. If you can, go and do something else for a few hours and come back to it later. Even better, wait until the next day.
Cut down your syllables
If you can replace a long word with a shorter one, do it! This is particularly important for web copy, which people tend to scan rather than reading word for word.
Cut some words out
Similarly, if you can replace a three or four word phrase with one word – do it. Look out for phrases like “with regard to” and “at this point in time” and replace them with “about” and “now”.
Say it loud, say it proud
Read what you’ve written out loud. When you’ve re-written and re-read a paragraph multiple times, there’s a danger that your brain will start reading what you think should be there, rather than what actually is. Reading it aloud gives you a different perspective and helps you to spot mistakes.
Spelling, punctuation and grammar
Check all three. Then check them again. Then get someone else to check them. If that sounds over-zealous, think about it from the customer’s point of view. If a business doesn’t even care enough to get the spelling right on their website, do they seem like the sort of business that will care about providing a good service to their customers?
Remember, no one creates their best work the first time round. King Lear didn’t flow out of Shakespeare’s quill pen perfectly formed. JK Rowling spent six years writing and editing the first Harry Potter book. Editing is an essential part of the writing process. It’s worth taking your time over. As Oscar Wilde put it:
“I have been correcting the proofs of my poems. In the morning, after hard work, I took a comma out of one sentence. In the afternoon, I put it back again.”