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A 7-point checklist for editing your own writing

If you’re writing a book for a commercial publisher, or an article for a serious magazine, your work will be thoroughly edited before publication. Unfortunately, the only third-party editing most of us get in marketing is to pass the item to someone else in the office with the request: “Have a read of this, will you?” Sometimes even that’s a luxury which doesn’t happen. So here’s a list of seven things you might want to consider if you’ve got the job of having to “self-edit”.

1. Check you’re happy with the narrative.
You should always map out in advance the “story” of anything you’re writing, but maybe you didn’t, or maybe you got distracted. Confirm there’s a coherent narrative, even if it’s just a two-part structure of explaining the problem and resolving it.

2. Check you’re happy with the arguments.
Do your claims stand up? Have a think about how a competitor might attack your article, and how you might respond.

3. Check your facts.
If nothing else, skim through the numbers and the units, and confirm these with the source.

4. Check your jargon.
Is there anything too technical for the intended audience? Is there anything too bland or condescending? Read the article out loud. Is there anything you wouldn’t say in a conversation with a fellow human being?

5. Check your grammar.
This means reviewing spelling, as well as every punctuation mark and every apostrophe.

6. Check your searchability.
In an age of information overload, it’s all about being found. And being found requires using words that people search for. List half a dozen searches for which you’d like your article to appear as a result. Have you got those words or phrases into the article?

7. Check your links.
Every article you write should act as a gateway to other material which benefits you. Every article should include embedded links to web pages about your company, your products and your existing relevant background articles. Check all those links are correct.

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