Have you ever written something, thought it was the best thing since sliced bread but then, when you’ve gone back to it after a few months or even years later, cringed at how awful it was?
I used to write a lot as a child and had a little notebook I’d write stories in. I found it a few months back – was I glad I’d never shown them to anyone else!
Today, I may not be the award winning novelist I’d always hoped to be one day, but I am writing for a living as a freelance copywriter. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt since copywriting it’s to always, always review your writing.
The problem with writing is, you become completed absorbed in the process. Once completed, you’re so close to what you’ve written it’s hard to review it objectively. But time changes your perception and that’s when you begin to see the chinks in what you thought was perfect writing.
Being a commercial writer though time is very limited. Deadlines are often very tight so being able to objectively critique your own work can be a challenge.
But I’ve learnt a few tricks along the way—have a read, they might help you too:
1. Leave it
We’ve already touched on this one and know it isn’t always easy to do. When you’re up against tight deadlines you can’t leave work for days or weeks before checking it through.
One way of getting round it is by working on a few projects simultaneously. That way you can complete one draft, leave it for a day or so whilst working on the next, and then go back to it with fresher eyes.
2. A second pair of eyes
Unless you have a very understanding spouse/partner this can prove costly. If you use a proof-reader you can build the associated costs into your quotes. Getting someone who’s not been involved with the original work is the best and most effective way of picking up any errors.
3. Be the reader
Before undertaking the project, you would have taken the time to get to know your client’s business and products before writing. You understand their customers’ needs and the type of people they are to ensure you use the right tone.
But once you’ve written the copy you must then read it like the reader. Review it as if you don’t know the product—does it all make sense? Are there any words or phrases that sound strange? Has any jargon crept in that is clouding the message? There are all things you need to consider to ensure your message is clear.
4. Read out loud
Reading out loud is so important. You might think you can save yourself a bit of embarrassment by reading through your copy in your head. Trust me, it’s much better to read out loud. By doing so you are listening as well as reading; you’ll pick up on any repetitions, sections that don’t flow easily, words that clash causing you to ‘trip over yourself’.
This is incredibly important. If you are writing commercially (or even writing internal memos, reports or even emails) you must read through your work before publishing or sending.
There is nothing worse than printing out a letter or sending emails only then to find a typo. It looks unprofessional and that’s not an image you want to portray.
Your written communications are often the first impression someone will have of your company so you have to be sure they give the right impression. It might seem like a waste of time or inconvenience to have to read through your work, but it’s worth it.
And we’re not talking about a cursory glance—read every single word; check for typos, grammatical errors and the layout of your text. Make sure it looks right as well as reads right.
How do you review your work? Are there any tips you’d like to share?