There is a new level of immediacy in so many of the written marketing communications vehicles we use today – including blogs, micro-blogs, and Web sites you can update with the click of a button. Your thoughts can be “out there” in an instant. And sometimes that’s not such a good thing.
Here are five levels of editing you can apply to any piece of writing that will maintain your credibility online:
1. The content. Save your message and walk away from it for at least five or ten minutes, or longer if you can. Then re-read your message from an objective perspective. Is this what you meant to say? Could it be easily misunderstood or inflame controversy? Controversy is not necessarily a bad thing, nor can you always predict it, but it’s helpful to be as prepared as you can.
2. The spelling and typing. Use your computer’s spell checker to catch any typos or other errors. Reading your message aloud (see the next point) can also help with words that are commonly mixed up (e.g., here and hear). If you’re not sure, look it up.
3. The grammar and readability. Read your message out loud and ensure your words flow and make sense. Don’t try to combine too many ideas in the same sentence. Run-on sentences make it too hard for your reader to stay with you.
4. The density. Break up long paragraphs so they are just one or two sentences each. Use lists to highlight key information and to allow the reader to scan through your message.
5. The framework. Introduce your message, make your point, and then conclude your message.
Remember that just because you CAN share your thoughts with people around the world in an instant doesn’t mean that you SHOULD. So click the pause button before you click the send button, and practice these basic editing tips.