The ultimate guide to writing and editing your content – Copywriting 101 [free download]

12.5 min |

So, you want to write {more of} your own content?

Brilliant! You’re in the right place.

But making your words matter to the right people – your ideal clients – is tricky.

Don’t worry – you can write {and edit} with ease when you know how.

In this article, I’ve taken all the guesswork out of it and broken it down into three easy-to-read, short and savvy sections: Write, Edit & Format.

This is a “does-what-it-says-on-the-tin” post. 

First, you’ll discover how to tap into your inner muse and write freely, plus find out the essential ingredients for making magnetic connections with your ideal client, reader or listener.

Then I’ll guide you through editing and proofing your own work – what needs to go, what needs to stay and all the things you need to do to polish your crappy first draft into engaging content.

If you download the free guide, you’ll also have the lowdown on the important elements of formatting to make your words web-perfect, readable and shareable.

You can use these guidelines for any piece of writing {from blog posts to emails to sales pages to you-name-it} and I have four mantras to help you remember the core purpose as you move through the three stages of writing.

I’m a non-conformist, like you, so enjoy my essential guidelines – NOT unbreakable rules – to writing and editing your own content.

Skip the post and get writing, editing and {bonus} proofing guide, only available in The Vault {my FREE Members’ Library for Change-Makers + Creative Entreprenuers}:

The first mantra is vital to remember throughout every piece of content and marketing collateral you create:

Mantra #1:

Relate & Resonate to Radiate

Relate & Resonate to Radiate - making deep, magnetic connections with your ideal clients

How to get past your inner critic and start writing

Mantra #2

Writing Mantra:

Keep it swift & leave it sloppy

 

1. Know the essence of your ideal clients

If writing fiction, you can skip this one but, when creating content for your business, this is the vital first step before you even open up a fresh document or put pen to paper. When you know the essence of your ideal clients intimately, everything you write will be what they need to read. Note: I’m not talking about avatars, profiles or personas here, I mean the commonalities your ideal clients share. Confused? Read this.

 

2. Centre the purpose of your writing

There’s only one question to ask yourself before you start, and it can help to determine the main goal or objective of your copy: “What’s in it for them?”

Put your ideal client first – focus on their main issues and your main solutions. Generate a sense of community by showing how you’ve listened to their deepest pains and desires. Ask questions that matter to them. Make them feel like the only person in the room.

Your audience decides how valuable your content is – do yourself a favour: make sure you’re writing with your ideal clients in mind. Click To Tweet

 

3. Soothe your Inner Critic

So you’re raring to go, but before you lay a single letter down on the page {or a few minutes in}, those nasty thoughts creep through your mind. That biting, caustic voice shaming your efforts. Enter: the Inner Critic.

I know her well.

She loves dragging you down through a tunnel of despair. But I believe, instead of trying to switch that ever-present voice off, you should soothe them, as you would a tearful child.

Don’t silence your Inner Critic or imagine her as a monster – she’s coming from a place of fear, when constructive critical thinking spills over into doubt.

Creative people like us – entrepreneurs, artists, actors, writers, designers – we need our Inner Critic for the critical thinking which helps us invent ideas, develop solutions and refine our work. While we’re still figuring out the possible close relationship between mental illness and creativity , we have to find ways to deal with our Inner Critic on a daily basis.

Stop bullying yourself and ask your inner child “Why are you so scared/worried?”.

 

How do you handle your inner critic? Treat them like a child who needs love

 

4. Write for one person

You may have thousands within your audience, but that community is made up of individuals who expect to have your undivided attention. It’s also MUCH easier to pretend you’re writing to one close friend/super-fan/dream customer, imaginary or real – the choice is yours. Doing this helps:

  • Subdue your Inner Critic
  • Write more relatable content
  • Build a deeper connection with each member of your audience

 

5. Be distinctive

You are unique.

Even if you’ve not invented an out-of-this-world piece of wearable tech {because you’re one of the 50,000+ coaches gracing our planet}, you can still stand out.

How?

Don’t try to be the someone you think you should, just be yourself. If you bring your genuine self – your actual tone of voice – into your writing, your sales copy and all your business writing will sound more distinctive.

Celebrate your passion

Don’t hide behind a mask.

You could take a defiant stance in your sector or use your manifesto to empower your words, or simply channel every ounce of your core purpose into everything you produce.

When you’re real with us, we’ll respect you.

When you give us your authentic personality, we’ll get to know, like and trust you – vital customer journey ingredients. Click To Tweet

6. Connect through emotion

35 years’ worth of studies  has now proven we make decisions based on emotional triggers and rationalise them later.

“Emotions constitute powerful and predictable drivers of decision making” ~ Lerner, et al.

Invoking emotional responses in your copywriting and marketing can motivate your specific ideal clients to take actions which are right for them.

You’re guiding them through their customer journey and in order for them to want to start that journey, stay with you and make purchases, you need to create magnetic emotional connections with them over and over again.

We can use compelling storytelling techniques in our writing by tapping into empathy, the most important storytelling element, to empathise with the hopes, fears, frustrations and dreams of your ideal clients.

How do you want your ideal clients to FEEL?  Download Sing to Their Hearts to help you make an emotional connection in minutes.

 

7. Forge ahead

Whether you get stumped on the introduction or mid-way through, push on regardless.

Remind yourself that everyone’s first drafts are shitty.

{Your favourite authors have theirs’ stashed away, reminding them how hard it is to get down the bones of the next novel.}

Try and keep your Inner Critic at bay with gentle wishes and verbal hugs.

One of the things I do to trick myself is turn off my spellcheck in Microsoft Word. It stops me jumping back and forth between editing and writing modes and helps me get my crappy first draft down. My typing is messy and {confession alert!} poor speller – automatic spellcheckers are to me, like over-tired pre-schoolers passing by a sweetie shop.

Stuck in writer’s block quicksand? Download the Writer’s Block Breakthrough list {no opt-in required}.

Writing Mantra - Keep it swift & leave it sloppy, share on Pinterest

 

Skip the post and get writing, editing and {bonus} proofing guide, only available in The Vault {my FREE Members’ Library for Change-Makers + Creative Entreprenuers}:

 

Learn how to edit your own content, copy and blog posts in 10 simple steps

Mantra #3:

Editing Mantra:

Cut, Clarify & Captivate

1. Have patience

It’s best to leave some time in between writing and editing {and each round of subsequent edits}.

You need to come to your editing refreshed and having forgotten a little of the first draft.

I’d recommend, approximately:

Short copy

Under 2,000 words

1-2 days’ rest

Mid-length copy

2,000 – 10,000 words

3-14 days’ rest

Long copy

10,000-120,000

1-12 months’ rest

Include this turnaround time in your editorial calendar and project timelines. Copywriting a 5,000-word sales page from scratch typically takes me three to four weeks, whereas editing similar content can take half that time or less.

Did you know, most authors leave 6-12 months between a novel’s first and second draft and they often have several editors and proofreaders before their book goes to print.

 

2. Switch ON your critical thinking

Time to stop championing yourself and bring out your inner viper!

This, undoubtedly, is much easier that switching the callous critic off. You need to balance on the tightrope of logical, constructive criticism to edit your work, without falling into battling the Inner Critic.

As you’ll see, you need your critical thinking to carry out all the different editing tasks.

 

3. Precision with clear & direct language

If you get a weird satisfaction from picking nits out of your kid’s hair or refuse to let anyone else pack the fridge, then you’ll probably enjoy the editing process.

Time to go through your work with a fine-tooth comb, untangle, slice and re-weave it {much more than just typooo finding}.

Use clear, direct language. Distil your copy down to the barest of essentials. Cut, cut, cut.

 

4. Captivate & validate your ideal client

I am your ideal reader so don’t bore me!

To keep me captivated and validated, you need The 8 Storytelling Sirens – 8 key storytelling elements for strong sales-related writing: Intrigue, Character, Journey, Empathy, Conflict, Solution, Action & Clarity.

Intrigue to capture your ideal client’s attention and keeping them captivated.

Character – what makes the lead characters in your business story {you, your ideal client, staff, audience, etc} stand out?

Journey – the journey of your business river and how you help your customers on their journey {you are the guide – the mentor, leader or navigator}.

Empathy – understanding, listening, holding space, growing conversations, building trust.

Conflict – the change-agent. The impact the main characters have on one another – a character can be a person, place or thing, including the intangible {eg, emotions, concepts, time, energy, attitudes, memories, etc} or environment {situation, setting, etc}.

Solution – how your “pearls” {offerings, products, services} appeal to different groups of people and how they impact their lives.

Action – goals, strategy, expectations, CTAs {Calls-To-Action}, momentum of your copy/content/video/launch…

Clarity with direct and succinct language, void of repetition, jargon, clichés, ambiguity.

 

5. Use specificity

It’s a word I hate to twist my tongue around, but specificity is a vital writing ingredient to keep your reader interested. As well as being clear, direct and succinct, you can use specificity – specific, concrete, storified details to help give your reader a vivid visualisation and keep them on the page.

 

6. Get suspicious

Though we may use these in informal speech, watch out for:

Waffle
 Repetition
 Clichés
 Jargon
 Ambiguity
 Rhetoric
 Flowery metaphors
 Passive voice (see #7)
 Homophonic mistakes, eg your/you’re
 Redundant phrases, eg” end result”,” added bonus”,” advance preview”, etc
 Too many adverbs, eg “maybe”, “quite”, and most words with “-ly” on the end.

 

7. Avoid passive voice

Passive voice deserves special attention because it’s tricky to notice it in our own writing. When using a casual tone, it’s easy to fall into passive voice without realising. In fact, first drafts are always full of it.

 

Passive voice uses forms of “to be” plus a past particle, for example:

I will show you how to edit your own writing with the Copy Architecture Guide.

Direct voice: Learn how to edit your own writing with the Copy Architecture Guide.

 

However, there are instances where passive voice is the right choice – when the focus is on the person, object or thing being acted upon, eg:

The school will be awarded its fourth eco-flag in January.       

Passive voice is also appropriate when the object of the action is unknown, unseen or unimportant, eg: The velvet brocade curtains were faded. [Object: the sun.]                                    

It can also work well when used in conversational writing, such as blog posts.

Noticing and excavating passive voice can be confusing, so don’t stress over it too much. Try and find ways to be use more direct language.

 

8. End with the beginning

You need persuasive headlines, subject lines, opening sentences, introductions and sub-headings to entice your reader to start, or keep, reading. They are the toughest part and can drive you to distraction. A whole book could be dedicated to them! In fact, I wrote a 2500-word blog post just on headlines for my amazing client, Danielle Zeigler: What six ingredients do you need to write superior headlines?

The lowdown is, to use Curiosity Spark to “hook” a reader, eg:

  • be revealing/mysterious/secretive
  • use sensual words, eg taste/touch/sight
  • explain how to/why/what/when/ways
  • use surprise/shock/unusual angle/quirkiness
  • state caution, eg risk/fear/warning/scarcity
  • evoke hope/wonder/amazement

 

9. Proof it like a boss

Proofreading other people’s work is SO much easier that proofing your own writing!

With practice, you can proofread your own work, but be warned – it’s time consuming.

Anything that’s getting printed on actual paper – hire a proofreader. Important bodies or large text? Hire a proofreader. Just finished writing your memoir? Hire several proofreaders!

Here are some helpful proofreading techniques:

Print it out and read it aloud {essential part of both the editing & proofing process}.
 Don’t trust spell check and grammar apps 100% over a real, live person.
 Check for certain types of errors in one pass, eg check spelling in one pass, then grammar & punctuation, and so on {optional}.
 Read it in reverse {optional}.
 If your thoughts start to drift off, take a break.
 Avoid proofreading when you’re tired.

My favourite writing and editing online tools are:

Grammarly {picks up much more than the standard spellcheck}

CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer

Thesaurus.com try One Look if the adverts are distracting, Reverse Dictionary , Oxford Dictionary , Urban Dictionary for slang {rude words aplenty}.

 

10. Know when to break the rules

Us writers love to break the rules and often do.

For example, with web copy, the general rule of thumb is: stick with a conversational style. This often brings more passive voice into your writing, but formal language is dry and boring. Unless you’re writing your thesis, put as much “fun” in functional as possible. 😉

As you write more, your writing will improve and you’ll see what resonates with your audience + develop your own tone of voice your audience will love.

Don’t be afraid to follow your intuition and break the rules.

Editing Mantra: Cut, Clarify & Captivate

 

Discover the vital elements of formating to make your content readable, digestible and shareable

Mantra #4

Formatting Mantra:

Make it readable, digestible & shareable

To get my top 7 bonus tips for making your web & blog content readable, digestible & shareable + 18 of the best tools & resources (+ all of the above), download the free guide:

Skip the post and get writing, editing and {bonus} proofing guide, only available in The Vault {my FREE Members’ Library for Change-Makers + Creative Entreprenuers}:

 

So what are your thoughts on the above – will writing &/or editing come a little easier now?

Share what tip/s you’re going to try in the comments below.

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