How to Edit Like a Pro

You’ve just written a brilliant story that will captivate your readers’ imaginations, keep your existing donors engaged, and inspire new donors to throw their support behind you.

But before you hit that “send” button, take a moment to make sure your story is, 1) editorially flawless, 2) easily digestible, and 3) destined to make an impact (whether your audience reads the whole thing or just the juicy parts.)

Don’t jeopardize your organization’s credibility or risk leaving money on the table by promoting copy that’s tedious, error-ridden, or downright boring.

Before you make your masterpiece available to the whole free world, make sure you’ve covered all your bases by testing it against this 12-point checklist. Better yet, have a buddy or colleague check it for you.

  1. Does your story sound like it’s written by a human?
  2. Did you personalize where possible?
  3. Is your tone warm and upbeat?
  4. Did you proofread? (A no-brainer, but important all the same. I use Grammarly for Chrome to catch sneaky spelling and grammar errors.)
  5. Is it written in an active voice? (Keep readers engaged. Nix the passive voice.)
  6. Did you avoid jargon and buzzwords?
  7. Is your story skim-able?
    • Are your phrases short?
    • Did you use bold or italicized phrases?
    • Did you avoid complex words?
    • Did you break it up with subtitles?
  8. Are your sentences short, punchy, and simple? (Write like you’re writing for a 5th grader. Plug your content into Flesch-Kincaid to find out what grade you’re writing for. Another great app for readability is Hemingway App.)
  9. Is your story donor-focused?
    • Did you use the words “you” and “your” more than “I,” “we,” and “our”?
    • Does the reader have an important role to play in your story? Is he/she a part of the solution?
  10. Did you include a photo or image?
    • Did you include a caption and photo credit with your photo?
  11. Did you avoid using too many facts and figures? (Two is too many.)
  12. Is your title compelling and intriguing? (Analyze your headline with CoSchedule here.)

Do you have additional editing advice? Please share your advice, along with any suggestions for writing and editing tools you like, in the comments below.

If you found this post helpful, I’d really appreciate you giving it a share. Here’s a pre-populated Tweet you can use and a LinkedIn update.

Need help writing stories that inspire people to give, buy, or do? I live for this stuff. Contact me today at sarahlambie@smackdabcommunications.com. Let’s get started!

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4 thoughts on “How to Edit Like a Pro

  1. Lorraine Francis May 6, 2018 — 1:44 pm

    The idea is make the written piece enjoyable and easy to the readers. Write in a style that sounds the reader is sitting across from you a local coffee shop.

  2. Valuable advice, especially #4. I would suggest, however, not relying solely on a program like Grammarly. A trained pair of eyes may pick up an error that an automated checker misses, as in the paragraph introducing your 12-point checklist: “basis” should be “bases.” 🙂

    1. @Paul D. Ahh…I just knew there’d be a typo somewhere in this piece. Thanks for catching it! Yes, another set of trained eyes is an infinitely valuable resource.

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