Seven steps to polished, professional content

Poor spelling and clumsy phrasing in your website copy at best give the same impression as a jam stain on your jacket, and at worst could drive away your potential clients. There is only one protection: editing.

1) Reset!

The white-hot phase of writing content is exciting, even fun if you like that sort of work. But the next phase, editing, requires a different part of your brain.  Establish distance   between the  you   who wrote the content and the  you   who is polishing it. You can achieve this by waiting – over night is best, but even an hour helps.

2) No choice

Which of these is correct?

  1. organise
  2. organize

If you answered ‘both’, well done. UK English permits a number of such variations, and there are other choices, too, for example, the way you capitalise job titles, and in the presentation of dates and times. If you make these decisions for every single piece of content, you are wasting time and energy. Make these decisions once by maintaining a  house style   document. Or you can use a house style that already exists, such as  The Guardian’s   or that used by  the BBC.

You should also decide which dictionary you want to use.  Oxford Dictionaries  or  Collins  are free online and good for most purposes. You may also want to invest in your industry’s favoured technical dictionary.

3)  Listen to the spellchecker

Some content management systems (CMSs) have a spellchecker. If yours does not, consider writing your content in a wordprocessor such as MS Word so that you can make use of the powerful proofing tools.

4) Read it aloud

When you read text aloud you are more likely to see what words are actually there. You could also use text-to-speech software – but be sure to follow along on screen. This technique won’t pick up homophone (sound-a-like) errors like  mayor   for  mare   or  pier   for  peer .

5) Remember the hyperlinks

Don’t forget to click your hyperlinks to ensure they go where they should. It may be possible to see the destination by hovering over them, too.

6) Soft publish first

A good CMS will allow you to schedule posts so that they are published but not yet live. Use this to take a quick look at how your content sits on your site. Your copy should be clean by now, but you may also pick up some errors at this stage.

7) Another pair of eyes

Many people find it really hard to edit their own work. You could ask a colleague – this is a particularly good idea if you are writing something humorous. But do consider outsourcing this step.  Editorial professionals  can offer a swift turnaround for content that just cannot wait. Or for efficiency you can send over a batch of articles, tweets and other social material once a month. Eonic maintains a list of approved and experienced content editors: just ask us if you’re interested in giving your words that final professional polish!