Let’s be real: Writing is not that hard.
Any 8-year old can barf a few words onto a page and call themselves a “writer”.
But that’s not where the real gold is. The real gold, my friend, is not in typing a couple paragraphs out of your head and onto a Google Doc (or Word Doc if you’re that kinda person, cough).
The real gold is in the EDITING.
Editing your copy like a pro is not only harder than writing it… it’s also way more important.
But since it doesn’t sound as glamorous and exciting, nobody ever teaches you HOW to do it. And how to do it PROPERLY.
So here’s a cute little promise to you: Once you got a technique in place, the editing won’t be hard at all. Your copy will be at least 237% better. And you can stop praying and hoping for conversions… and actually GET SOME instead.
Now let me share my best-est, most effective and (insert other hypey word that gets you excited about the not-so-exciting topic of copy editing) techniques with you.
Wait a minute now, hold up.
Let me get clear on what exactly copy editing is before we get this party started. Clarity is king, right?
Ok, so the editing process I’m talking about is not the boring proof-reading part where you dig through all your wonderful words, looking for spelling mistakes and embarrassing typos. (Even though I obviously recommend that you check yourself before you press send, publish or “tweet”, because those tiny errors do make your brand look sloppy and crappy if you let them happen more than just occasionally.)
Anyway, back to the point: if we’re not talking about proof-reading…. Then what the heck is copy editing, really?
So glad I asked!
Copy editing is the process of digging through your copy and ELIMINATING ALL THE CRAP.
Let’s get more specific.
Copy editing is the process of digging through your copy and making sure everything that stays is relevant and serves a specific purpose of your choice.
Such as to connect, entertain, inform, convert, stand out, yadda yadda yadda.
Making sense so far?
So in a first step you wanna write everything out of your head: All the information you want to get across. All the messages you want to share. And since you are trying to catch your best thoughts and ideas during that process (and we all know they can be sneaky motherlovers who slip right through your fingers if you don’t capture them right away), it’s best to do this in FLOW.
Which means without interruptions. (Like stopping to do “some quick edits” in between.)
Let it all out, maintain the flow and continue until you’ve emptied your brain.
THEN you move on to step 2: Cleaning up the mess.
It’s like throwing a hell of a party. And then coming back the next day to get rid of those empty Heineken bottles, air out the stoner smell or resurrect the last hung-over folks who passed out in your front yard.
Because just like you don’t want your house to be a hot mess “the day after”, you don’t want your copy to be an even hotter mess when your people actually read it.
So the gold is in the cleanup
Alrighty now. Point made. Let’s move on and look at the HOW:
So at this point you’ve gotten it all out of your head, you went back to read through your masterpiece aaaaaaand…
It ain’t Shakespeare, but it’s also not that bad. AWESOME! We can work with that.
Now, to make it easy and clear, I’ll break up our editing process (the one that you’re about to NAIL) into 2 phases:
PHASE 1: Content Editing – The WHAT
This phase is all about the content (DUH!?). At this point we’re only looking at WHAT you are saying:
Is it clear?
Is it valuable?
Does it serve a specific purpose?
And this is how we do it:
1. Drop The Mic And Walk Away
This one is so important! Because when it comes to your content, chances are that you’re IN TOO DEEP.
You can’t see the wood for the trees and all that jazz.
So it’s CRUCIAL that you drop the mic and step away once you’re done with the “getting it out of your head” part.
Whether you go for a 15-minute stroll around the neighborhood (and maybe even catch the occasional Pokemon) or you hit the hay to come back with refreshed brain cells the next day, the only thing that matters is that you give yourself some breathing room.
The creative process can be a bitch and trick you into believing that whatever you just created is a worthless piece of crap. And in order to NOT fall into that trap, mark my words my friend:
2. Be A Content Cop
Now that you’ve walked away, it’s time for you to come back and do a thorough content inspection – popo-style!
How? By using my “Asshole and Hannah” technique of course. Actually, it’s partly Frank Kern, partly me (credit where credit belongs, eh?) and here’s how it works:
Read through every single sentence of your newly written blog post, sales page, email, landing page, about page or whatever it is that you just created. And while you’re doing it, imagine there’s two people sitting next to you:
An asshole sitting on your right hand side and me sitting to your left.
With every single sentence you read, the asshole on your right asks: “And who the fuck cares?” and I ask “So what exactly does that mean for your customer?”. (Yeah, I’m much nicer than the asshole, you’re welcome!)
Ok now what’s the point of this admittedly weird exercise? Simple:
Making sure that everything you write serves a purpose and is clear to your ideal customer.
If you follow through with just this one exercise, I guarantee you, your content will be 100-times more valuable and enjoyable for your readers. Which means that they’re gonna motherfriggin’ LOVE it which then again means CONVERSIONS for you. Cool? Cool.
So if your first sentence on your About Page is “Hello, my name is ____” your brain should instantly go: “And who the fuck cares” as well as “So what exactly does that mean for your customer?”
Answers: nobody cares (yet) and it also doesn’t mean anything. Result: that might not be the perfect first sentence for your About Page.
Let’s look at another example.
The first sentence on my About Page goes a little something like this: “You’re not here to be loved by everybody.”
Asshole: “Who the fuck cares?” Well, everyone who agrees and identifies with that!
Me: “What exactly does that mean for your customer?” It means that if they wanna speak and appeal to everyone and their pet-rat, they’re not in the right place.
See the difference? And it all depends on who you’re talking to. Some people won’t care whether you’ve spent 3 years volunteering in Guatemala and it won’t mean shit to them. It WILL mean the world to others though, so never lose sight of who you’re talking to while you’re editing like a pro.
Point is that whenever you’re not sure if anyone cares or what exactly that means to your ideal customer, there’s only one remedy: Cut the crap! Edit that baby or worst case…
Your readers and conversion-rates will thank you for it.
PHASE 2: Detailed Editing – The HOW
You’ve walked away from your content to gain the necessary distance. You came back and did a thorough inspection, keeping only what serves a specific purpose and is crystal clear to your ideal peeps.
Now it’s time to dive into the details and look at the actual HOW of our editing party.
See, there’s a bajillion different editing techniques out there but since this blog post is titled “Cut The Crap”, I’m only gonna share the ones that will get you the most results within the least amount of time.
Here we go:
3. Break up long sentences
You know them long-ass sentences ain’t nobody got time to read?
Yeah, let’s cut them in 2. Or 3 if we have to.
Because if you wanna convert, you need to connect.
And if you want to connect, you need to write like you speak.
So unless you’re trying to prove a point (such as “this took forever”), let go of trying to jam every single idea you’ve ever had into one goddamn sentence. Because if people get lost in all your commas and have to re-read a sentence to make sense of it in their brains? Everybody’s gonna have a bad time.
You want your people to ENJOY your content… so don’t make it hard for them to read!
4. Cut the jargon
That’s right. A lot of people use big, fancy, jargon-y words in an attempt to sound smart(er).
But again clarity is key, because you sure as hell don’t wanna confuse your readers… or make them feel dumb for having to look up your words in a freaking dictionary.
People live busy lives for Christ’s sake! Nobody has time to decipher your writing and if people feel like they have to, it’s gonna be click-bye-bye for you.
5.Step up your verb game
I love this one!
And here’s the general idea: Instead of using ADVERBS (the -ly words) to describe your VERBS….
Choose better VERBS!
Which means verbs that already imply the description you’d otherwise gain from the adverb.
Huh? Enough with the grammar talk, let me give you some examples:
Walk fast = run, spurt, race and so on
Walk slowly = saunter, linger, stroll, creep
Speak loudly = yell, scream, shout, bark, blare, squeal
Get the picture?
Adverbs make your copy weak, lame and boring if you’re overdoing them… But even when you’re not using adverbs, chances are that there’s room for improvement when it comes to your verb game.
So when in doubt (or lazy like I am): Use a thesaurus like this one http://thesaurus.com to dig up the verbs that best suit your purpose. (See I could’ve said “find the best verbs” and the meaning would have been the same. But the subtle nuance I introduced by using the word “dig up” instead, makes my copy less boring and way more alive).
6. Really, very, absolutely, totally, seriously and so on
This one is
really hard for me, too! (And I’m saying “too” here because I’m subtly and sneakily implying that it might be hard for you, but that’s why you need it even more, so keep going my dear!) It can be very difficult to stop all those seriously unnecessary words that clog up your sentences and totally pollute your copy’s lovely neighborhood.
Look, it’s similar to the verb game point I made above: If you use “really”, “very” and so on as your little helpers to describe your ADJECTIVES, you’re
really just being very lazy and your copy is gonna be weak and mediocre.
And we don’t want no mediocre, so here’s some examples for you:
Really, very + good = awesome, incredible, breath-taking, panty-wetting (whatever nuance you choose to go for)
Really, very + old = ancient, antique, aged, senior, whatever
Really, very + cold = freezing, crisp, frosty, icy and so on
Again: the Thesaurus IS your friend! So go ask for help if you need some.
Now I’m super curious to hear from you:
Which editing technique are you gonna implement ASAP?
Which one do you think will have the biggest impact on making your copy convert?
I can’t wait to hear, so be sure to drop me a comment below.
Big truckloads of love to you,