Quality over quantity. It’s the mantra of content marketing — focus on creating great content, rather than being a content mill. However, it’s not always easy to create quality content when you are trying to produce a lot of content.
In publishing, it’s not uncommon for written work to be passed to several different people to create a polished product. Journalists also tend to pass along work through multiple desks — from the desk editor to a copy editor and all the way up to the managing editor or editor-in-chief.
But sometimes, content marketers rely on one or two people to write and edit copy before publication. For each step of the process, you wear a different hat — as a writer, a content editor, a copy editor, and a proofreader.
Let’s take a look at the different hats in the content creation process and some of the questions to keep in mind during each stage of the process.
The writer’s hat
If you’re in the content development stage and writing the copy yourself, your goal should be to make the content as engaging as possible while also providing valuable information. It’s important to silence your inner editor while you write — don’t worry about arguing with yourself over whether your writing is perfect or not; that’s a different hat.
Am I writing for the reader?
You should know who your audience is before you start writing. This will help you maintain the proper tone and organize your thoughts in a way that is clear and concise.
Is the topic covered thoroughly?
A good copywriter spends ample time researching the topic when writing. Relevant information should be included and cited to create copy that covers every aspect of your topic and synopses.
The content editor’s hat
As a content editor, your job is to chip away at the content. Focus on inconsistencies in language and style to make the copy as clear and engaging as possible.
Does the writing flow?
Read it out loud. Are there places where the writing sounds awkward, or the flow is broken? Sometimes this can be fixed by adding transitions or deleting unnecessary words and sentences. Get rid of run-on sentences. Each sentence should flow into the next one, just like each paragraph should flow into the one that follows.
What’s the rhythm of the content?
Are all of the sentences long, slowing down what you are reading, or short, making you read quickly through the content? Aim for a rhythm that is a mix of short and long sentences — the sweet spot for reading flow.
Is it engaging and appealing to the eye?
First, start with the headline. If the headline doesn’t pique your interest, rewrite it until it does. A great headline will use keywords while also connecting to the reader.
Do you want to read it or are you dragging yourself through the copy? It’s not always easy to make all content engaging — especially if it’s a dry topic — but it’s possible. Storytelling, or connecting the reader to a narrative, is one of the best tools you have as a content marketer.
If the text looks clunky, consider using formatting to break up the copy. Lists, pull-out quotes, and emphasized text are just some of the options that can help to make the content look more appealing.
The copy editor’s hat
A copy editor’s job is to polish the copy. They are detail-focused and ensure that content consistency is maintained.
Do I have a style guide?
Style guides, even a small one, are essential to producing content that is consistent in quality. Will headings be written in all-caps or sentence case? Are there certain words that need to include rights reserved or trademark symbols? How do your brand guidelines affect the copy? How will you cite sources? Is there a tone or voice that needs to be reflected in all content?
Consider including any expectations for formatting. If you expect a certain number of internal links in a blog post, include it in the style guide. Anything you expect to see in every piece of content should be documented.
Once your style guide is finished, use it as a checklist to edit all content produced. You might also consider pairing your style guide with a professional one, like the Chicago Manual of Style or the AP Stylebook.
Is it free of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors?
Take a fine-toothed comb to the copy. Line-edit to catch errors. Installing an app like Grammarly can help you fix things that you might not notice, such as a split infinitive. Use spell-check — nothing reduces credibility faster than a misspelled word — and make sure that you are using the right word (for example, using “affect” when you mean “effect”).
Punctuation can change everything. Are you using an en dash instead of an em dash? Should you have a semicolon in a place where there is a comma? Review each punctuation mark to make sure it should be there, and it’s the right one to use in that case.
Is everything accurate and are facts cited?
Depending on what your content is about, you might have several statistics or facts in your blog post. You should review each statistic and every piece of data to make sure that nothing is inaccurate.
The proofreader’s hat
The proofreader compares the finished copy to what will be published. Occasionally, parts of the copy might not make the transfer from the proof to the actual HTML.
Is every character there?
Every character should transfer from the polished proof to the pre-publication content. This requires you to study the text line-by-line.
Is everything styled properly?
If you’re moving text from one source to another, for example, from a Word document to a website, font styles might not transfer over. It’s important to check over the text to make sure headings and other font styles make it into the published content.
Is it ready to publish?
A proofreader makes sure that only quality content is being published and there will be no flaws in the publishing process. This might mean simply hitting “publish” when it’s done, but it could also mean double-checking that the date and time it’s scheduled to be published is accurate.
Other jobs of content creation
The jobs or hats mentioned above are just the start for content creation and maintaining content consistency. Often, to create and publish successful online copy, other departments such as SEO and creative will be involved in the process, too. To learn more about SEO, check out this article.
Want someone on your side to cover the different jobs of content creation and help ensure consistency? We have those people ready and willing. Give us a call at (602) 258-5263 or contact us online.