The Ultimate Copy Editing Checklist for Producing the Best Content

Why do you need a copy editing checklist for your marketing?

With WordPress it has never been easier to publish your own content.

This opens up the gates for small to medium sized businesses with little marketing budget to be able to reach large amounts of people. This new capability is inherently a good thing, but great care has to be taken in the message.

The whole time you’re writing, that publish button looms on the right side of your screen. It’s easy to just forgo the time and effort, and hit publish, pushing your writing out to the world before you’re ready. But publishing too early is a recipe for publishing material that is less than professional.

Keep in mind that everything you publish represents your business to a new potential customer. Great care should be taken to make sure it will represent your business in a positive light.

Below is a copy editing checklist with all the steps you need to produce top-notch content. Save a copy on your desktop. Print a copy. Refer back to it as you write your blog posts in the future.

You don’t have to be a prolific writer, but you do have to take the time and make sure you are representing your business the way you truly want to be seen.

Your Content Copy Editing Checklist

It may take more than one read through of your content to ensure it is publishable. This is normal, especially for more in-depth pieces.

Read for structure

Your headline, lead paragraph and body content should all be in-sync. Your call to action should make sense with the words printed above and around it. With your headline and lead paragraph, you are drawing people in. You are making a promise of what the reader will receive in exchange for their time.

This read through is geared toward making sure your marketing content stays on point. Any part of your writing that diverts from the main point needs to be deleted — no matter how quality the writing is.

For example, if your blog post is about why underwater basket weaving is the best method for expressing your creativity, it is possible the section on the best materials for this undertaking belong in a different blog post.

This is the time to delete ANY diversions from your main point. Many copy editors take this pass through to try and shorten up a given document by 10 percent. This helps you become a better writer.

Read for grammar, spelling and style

Spell check is an amazing tool. It alerts us to so many potential mistakes, and eliminates many of the most catastrophic missteps we could take — but not all of them. For example, the wrong usage of there, your, or its could creep in. This is your chance to catch any of the mistakes that can make your post look a little less professional.

You should also take some time to consider style. Do you remember writing papers in MLA or Chicago style while you were in school? It’s the same kind of deal. While we don’t need to be so academic about our marketing writing, it’s good to keep consistency in mind.

For example, do you capitalize every word in your subheads, or are some lowercase? Is every word in your headline capitalized or do you lowercase the shorter “to, a, of” etc.? They don’t seem like major decisions in the time, but they compile.

As you go through your writing, consider yourself a detective or a surgeon. Make sure you sharpen your focus and concentrate on improving your marketing. This may be the most important part of the copy editing checklist.

Those are the basics, but here are a few more things to keep in mind…

Keep your voice

Whatever you do, make sure that your writing voice survives the copy editing process. A conversational writing tone can help you engage readers, but it needs to remain professional.

For example, I have a friend who spells dude “dewd” every time he writes the word. I’ve looked over his writing in the past and wanted to make changes until I read further and understood it was part of his voice, and part of his brand.

Don’t kill the personality. That’s what drives your business.

Consider your reader

Most of your readers probably don’t know as much about your industry as you do. They are turning to you to educate them. Every time you write, and every time you copy edit, you need to keep this in mind. It’s called a knowledge gap.

How you treat this knowledge gap will go a long way in determining whether your readers stay with you or not. As you copy edit, look for the unnecessary usage of $10 industry words. Look for the unnecessary usage of acronyms and other garble.

These don’t prove how smart you are. They create stopping points. If your reader leaves, they are not going to a dictionary. They are going to the next search or social result, and chances are you’ve lost them.

You also want to consider your reader from a higher level point of view. Make sure that whatever you are writing about is something your audience will care about. Are you answering the pressing questions? You can have a great blog post, but if it doesn’t resonate with your audience, it may sink.

The editing process is the last check in making your writing more readable, and creating something that will resonate.

Think Visually

This idea bears repeating: your marketing writing should never be mistaken for an academic dissertation. It means stripping out unnecessary geek-speak, but it also means making it easier for your reader to scan.

Shorter paragraphs, lists and subheads can all make long posts more manageable. Make sure that the photos and graphics you choose are enhancing your post.

A second set of eyes

It’s always good to have someone look over what you are about to publish. It can be a copy editor, but doesn’t have to be. It can be a friend, spouse, coworker, frequent customer, or anyone else who you might trust.

Make sure that whoever you choose isn’t just going to tell you how good your writing is. Choose someone who will offer ideas, and constructive suggestions on how to make improvements.

Just an added note on the second set of eyes — you are the author and decider. It is possible that someone will give you suggested changes you don’t agree with.

If you don’t feel their idea will make your piece better, you are free to reject it. (This may not apply to those who require approval from their bosses before publishing.)

Learn how to shake off negative criticism and pass on the things you want to pass on. This will also make you better.

Publishing

Remember, your marketing may be the first exposure that someone has to your business. This is the same reason businesses keep their storefront tidy and clean. So before you publish make sure you’ve been through this copy editing checklist:

  • Is the structure of your piece sound?
  • Are there any glaring spelling or grammar mistakes?
  • Is your writing voice still in tact?
  • Have you considered your customer?
  • Have you considered the visual aspect of your piece?
  • Have you had a second set of eyes review it?

When you are satisfied with the answers to these questions, you can hit the publish button. But make sure you are following this copy editing checklist to improve the quality of your business’s online presence.

Matt Brennan is a Chicago-area marketing writer and copy editor. He is also the author of Write Right-Sell Now: How to Create Content That Grows Your Business. Read more about blogging and content marketing.