Writing for the web begs the question of how to edit online content. Should you approach it the same way as you do for offline writing? Are there any special aspects that make the process different? The answer is yes to both questions.
Most of the same grammar, style and mechanics apply to both offline and online content. With writing for the web, though, how to edit is also about checking how easy your content is to scan and the overall user experience it delivers.
How to edit content for the web involves a process:
Small typos, grammar errors and wrong word choices have a bigger negative impact than you think. Not every online reader notices mistakes, but some do. With every reader that does, you run the risk of coming across as unprofessional or unreliable. If you earn money writing content for Write.com, your mistakes may become someone else’s problem to deal with, but your reputation is still on the line. Instead of taking the risk of driving away readers or hurting your reputation, create error-free content that delivers your message and a good experience.
Set aside your content
If your eyes and brain are fresh, you find more errors. Putting your written content aside overnight or for a full day helps. Sometimes that amount time isn’t possible, but even walking away for as little as 5-10 minutes makes a difference. Not only are you more productive, but you’re also more likely to spot mistakes faster.
Check how well your content accommodates online readers
Scan. Scan. Scan. Read a snippet here. Read a snippet there. That’s how your readers look at your content. They’re deciding if what you wrote applies to them and offers value. If you don’t accommodate online readers by keeping your content easy to scan, readers are more likely to never know whether it has value because they leave.
Read your content out loud
Hearing your content out loud makes errors you miss speed reading and skimming more apparent. Read out loud slowly. Take your time. Don’t let a single word escape your scrutiny. Not only do you spot errors you might have missed reading through your content, but you also get to view your content from the perspective of your readers.
Develop a checklist
Some grammar errors, spelling mistakes or style issues are easy to make. Avoid them by creating a proofreading and editing checklist. Include common errors and errors you know you, specifically, make on occasion. With a list, you are more likely to catch errors before your content is published when you’re writing for the web.
Approach editing in stages
Edit in stages. Avoid doing only a simple read through of content. Instead, look it over multiple times looking for something different each time. For example, read it through once looking for redundancy, deadwood or filler—the omission of which is necessary for clear, concise and compelling web content.
Then read it through again looking for spelling errors. Do it again looking for grammatical errors. Go through it again for word choices. Then go through it one more time just for good measure. The trick is to focus on one aspect at a time, which allows you to do a better job proofing and editing when writing for the web.
Realize that spell checkers aren’t perfect
While using a spell checker helps you catch many mistakes, realize that it’s not perfect. It may catch misspelled words, but it doesn’t catch typos that result in spelling a word different from the one you intended. Misused homonyms are often the result of typing mistakes. “To/too/two” and “there/their/they’re” are just two examples.