In the fast-paced world of public relations, mastering the art of copy editing is essential. Effective copy editing not only ensures that your written content is error-free and polished, but it also plays a crucial role in conveying your brand message accurately and consistently. Whether you’re crafting press releases, social media posts, or website copy, having the right copy editing skills can make all the difference in capturing your audience’s attention and driving your desired outcomes.
In this article, we’ll share 9 expert copy editing tips that every PR professional should know. From grammar and punctuation to style and tone, these tips will help you enhance the clarity, conciseness, and professionalism of your written communications. We’ll delve into best practices for proofreading, common mistakes to avoid, and techniques to fine-tune your brand voice for maximum impact.
By implementing these tips, you’ll be able to deliver exceptional written content that not only captivates your audience but also elevates your brand’s reputation and credibility.
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Before we talk about how to create content that will stand out, let’s first talk about what copy editing is and why you need it.
What is copy editing?
Copy editing is the process of ensuring that any written content that your brand produces is not only accurate but also appealing. In other words, it’s a makeover for your textual content.
A copy editor does the important job of making sure that all your branded content is of high enough quality to support your wider PR strategy.
Copy editing vs. Proofreading
Many people assume that copy editing and proofreading are one and the same. On the contrary, copy editing is much more intensive than proofreading. Anyone who knows what good grammar looks like can proofread an article. On the other hand, it takes a trained professional with an in-depth understanding of your brand as well as your target audience to be a copy editor.
Proofreading involves reviewing an article with the basic requirements of good writing in mind. In other words, a proofreader looks over a piece of text to make sure both the grammar and punctuation are correct with a Grammar Checker tool.
However, copy editing involves reviewing an article to make sure that it presents your brand in a positive light. In order to create a positive brand image, your content must – first and foremost – be accurate. Content that is inaccurate or misleading in any way can destroy your brand’s reputation as a trusted authority in the industry. For this reason, a good copy editor’s most important responsibility is fact-checking.
If you want to gain credibility, then your content must also be formatted correctly. Content that doesn’t follow the recommended format is frustrating to read because readers are left wandering around and digging for important information.
Finally, a good copy editor will focus on the appeal of your message. In case your content isn’t enjoyable to read, it is the copy editor’s job to give it a makeover. This way, it will be received more positively by your target audience.
Why do you need copy editing tips?
As you can now see, copy editing is a valuable skill. So as to do it well, you need to always be on the lookout for opportunities to improve.
Quality copy editing is good news for your brand for three main reasons:
It helps you create a positive brand image
Quality content helps you present your brand in the best possible light. If you can create content that is factually accurate, educational, and enjoyable, then you will also create the impression that you know what you’re doing. People who enjoy your content will come back for more, again and again.
We’ve said this before, but it’s worth reminding you: People who start trusting your brand to educate and entertain them are very likely to purchase your core product or service. Better still, clients who trust you are likely to become clients for life. As you can see, quality copy editing is like an advertisement that you never paid for.
It helps you establish thought leadership
Once you’re known for producing high-quality, educational content, people will also start relying on you as a trusted authority in the industry. With time, your content will earn you a reputation as an industry thought leader. This is a big deal.
As a thought leader, you won’t only capture the attention of your target audience. You’ll also have the media’s attention. If you’ve done media outreach before, then you know how challenging it can be. Now, imagine that instead of having to ask journalists to write a story about you, they started coming to you for a story. Imagine waking up to an email from a journalist asking to interview your founder, or asking to quote you in a story they’re working on.
We’re not saying that once you become a thought leader, you no longer have to do media outreach. There will still be times when you need to go to the media, instead of the other way around. Even so, once you earn a reputation as a thought leader, media outlets will respect you as a valuable source of information.
Hopefully, you now understand why it’s so important to be a good copy editor for your brand. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are our copy editing tips.
9 copy editing tips for PR pros
1) Ensure accuracy
As we’ve already said, your most important role as a copy editor is to ensure your content is accurate. It’s easy to lie or exaggerate on paper, but your lies will eventually be discovered. And, as we all know, it’s very easy for a dishonest brand to go viral for all the wrong reasons. Out of all our copy editing tips, ensuring accuracy might just be the most important one because it helps you protect your brand reputation.
The last thing you want is for your audience to walk away feeling cheated by your brand. Once you lose your audience’s trust, it’s hard to earn that trust again. Let’s not allow this to happen on your watch.
In order to ensure a document is factually accurate, you need to take the time to examine all the data. Double-check any dates, facts, figures, and graphs to make sure they are correct. Check any names mentioned, and pay attention to the spelling of these names.
Taking time to fact-check your document will pay off because people love a brand that tells the truth.
2) Make it make sense
Since you want your content to be enjoyable to read, you should also ensure that it flows from beginning to end. If you can do this, then readers won’t miss the point you are trying to make. By creating content that flows, you also reduce the chances that your readers will wander off to something else halfway through your content.
How do you make sure your content flows? Firstly, you need to focus on the placement of all your paragraphs. Does your thought process make sense? Does each paragraph cover one main point? Does one paragraph lead logically to the other?
If something feels out of place or haphazardly placed, it’s important to find somewhere else to put it. In the event that you can’t find an alternative place for misplaced content, you should ask yourself just how important this piece is to your puzzle. Provided that you can do without it, it’s best to get rid of it altogether.
3) Make it visual
Visuals make up a huge part of an enjoyable reading experience. Think about it for a moment. When you’re reading something and you get tired of paragraphs and paragraphs of words, what do you look for? Pictures!
For this reason, this is one of our most important copy editing tips. In order to provide a memorable reading experience, it’s important to include visuals in your content. Using images, graphs, videos and infographics will come in handy, especially when you’re talking about huge amounts of data. Visual content can also help you break complex information down into something that’s not only easier to understand but also more fun to consume.
4) Appeal to your reader’s emotions
As you’re performing the very important role of copy editing, you shouldn’t shy away from getting personal and including emotions. After all, emotive writing will draw your audience in and encourage them to get invested in your content.
Don’t be afraid to write with passion. Your audience will read into this and get excited about what you have to say. Ultimately, people who are emotionally invested in your brand story are more likely to develop brand loyalty over time.
5) Use the standard narrative structure
Speaking of appealing to your audience’s emotions, using the standard storytelling structure is also important. This is one of the ways in which you can get your audience invested in what you have to say.
Using the inverted pyramid to guide your writing is a good idea. If you can present the most important piece of information first, then you will reel readers in and keep them hooked until the end.
What is the standard narrative structure?
Any good story has a beginning, protagonist, conflict, and resolution. While these elements may seem disconnected from your writing, you can usually find them in your story. The key is not to overthink it.
Whether you’re writing a press release or writing a blog post, the protagonist is easy to find. In the case of a press release, your brand is usually the protagonist.
On the other hand, in an effective how-to blog post, the protagonist is the person you’re talking to, and the conflict is the problem they’re trying to solve. Since you are the one presenting them with the solution, your brand is the supporting character that helps the protagonist overcome their obstacles.
This might seem a bit confusing to you. After all, aren’t you writing your blog post to present your brand as the magical solution to a common problem? If that follows, shouldn’t your brand, not the person you’re writing for, be the protagonist?
Although this line of reasoning makes perfect sense, you should never write a blog post with your brand as the protagonist. That’s because, if your brand is the protagonist, then your blog post will turn into a blatant sales pitch. And everyone is suspicious of brands that are always in your face advertising themselves.
A press release is undoubtedly about your brand and some news that it has to offer, so it’s smart to highlight your brand as the protagonist.
On the other hand, people usually read blog posts for education or entertainment. For this reason, you need to focus on the educational or entertainment value of your blog and present your brand as a supporting character. People will be more open to your solution if your blog post doesn’t seem self-promotional.
6) Add some humor
In the same way that it’s important to include emotion in your writing, it’s also important to add some humor here and there.
Many brands shy away from writing with humor because they worry this will make them seem unprofessional. Even so, people love brands that make them laugh. Humor will make your target audience warm up to you quickly, and associate your brand with positive emotions.
Including emotions and humor in your writing is a surefire way to help people remember that there is a human at the other end of your screen. Ultimately, humanizing your brand will help you build a connection with your readers.
7) Be consistent
Consistency is an important part of building a strong and memorable brand image. Firstly, you should write with a consistent voice so that your audience can recognize your work over time.
Secondly, you should ensure the formatting of your content is consistent so that you create a cohesive piece of work. Consistent formatting helps because it makes it easy for your audience to follow along and find your next point.
8) Get rid of any jargon
We get it. You want to be recognized as a thought leader, and you’re itching to use all the industry jargon you know so that people take you seriously. Before you do this, it’s important to consider the people you’re writing for. Do they know this industry jargon, or will they be rushing to Google for a new definition every 5 minutes?
The last thing you want to do is create content that is tiring to read. And if someone is Googling every other word, reading your content will – without a doubt – feel like work. Since you want people to enjoy reading your content, you need to steer clear of complex terms and keep it simple.
An audience will appreciate you taking the time to teach them something new in words they can understand.
9) Make it concise
Lastly, remember to keep your writing short and to the point. If you’re rambling and going off on tangents, then you’re likely to lose your audience before you even get to the end of what you’re saying.
Write concisely, and make sure you stick to the main point you’re trying to make. In case you find yourself struggling to come up with words just to fill a page, stop and write an outline first. Creating an outline will help you focus on the main point as you’re writing.
Copy editing tips: Best practices
Now that we’ve shared our copy editing tips, here are six things you absolutely must do if you want to create outstanding copy:
Know your audience
In order to produce appealing content, you need to start by knowing who you are writing for. Once you understand who your audience is and what their pain points are, it’ll be easier to create content that they will enjoy reading.
Understanding who your audience is – both on a demographic and psychographic level – will help you to refine your writing. This knowledge will help you to know not only what kind of content your audience wants to see, but also what tone of voice will be appealing to them.
Once you understand what kind of content your audience wants to see, it’s important to find out how to encourage them to join the conversation.
How do you get your audience excited about both reading your content and contributing to the discussion? You start by writing with passion. Then, you use some humor here and there. Finally, you ask questions that will make your readers think and inspire them to initiate conversations.
Read out loud
Reading out loud can help you identify issues in your piece of writing which you won’t see on paper or on your screen. It can help you spot misplaced paragraphs because you’ll be hearing the progression of your points as you read along. It can also help you find run-on sentences because you’ll definitely run out of breath halfway through.
It might seem silly, but reading out loud will help you identify many errors in your text that you would’ve missed otherwise.
Get some help
As a copy editor, it’s easy to get over-possessive of your work, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for help. Asking someone else to look over your work can help you decide whether this piece of work makes sense to someone who is not you. Moreover, bringing a fresh pair of eyes to your work can help you spot mistakes that you had previously missed.
Use editing tools
The editing tools in a word processor or a content editor can also help simplify your copy editing work. However, keep in mind that these tools will only check your text for grammatical and spelling errors. Checking for accuracy, getting rid of jargon, and following the rest of our copy editing tips is all up to you.
Take a break
Copy editing is valuable work but it’s also hard work. Think about it for a moment. Since there are so many factors to consider, copy editing a piece of text properly takes a LOT of mental energy. So, aside from following the aforementioned copy editing tips, you should remember to TAKE A BREAK.
You would be surprised just how much taking a break can improve your copy editing, especially when you’re working on a long piece of text. Coming back to your content with a fresh pair of eyes can help you spot issues that you hadn’t seen before. So, whenever you feel tired, take a break and come back to your work later.
PR agencies like Pressfarm can provide you with a team of professionals to worry about all your copy editing needs. If you’d rather leave the copy editing to someone else and focus on product development, then one of our PR packages might be just what you need.