14th September 2018 Claire Hawes

10 copy editing tips to sharpen your business writing

By the time you read to the end of this page, you’ll know exactly how to turn ‘blah’ text into clear, concise, copy that conveys your ideas and moves readers past the first sentence.

Do you think people who write for a living get first drafts right every time?

They don’t. Compelling copy is rarely produced in the first draft.

Good writers write first, then edit.

If you’re someone who struggles to get words on the page because you agonise about getting every word right first time, then it’s time to rethink your writing process.

No matter if you write a report, email or marketing copy, get your words on the page first.

Then follow the example set by professional writers. Transfom your efforts into clear, concise, readable words that persuade your audience to read past the first sentence… in the edit.

But where do you start with the editing process?

I’ve put together 10 tips to help you.

Let’s begin:

1 Cut out the waffle

Trim wordy sentences:

Call us to discuss how we may be able to help your business.
Call us to discuss how we can help your business.

The flux capacitor has the ability to transport a car through time.
The flux capacitor can transport a car through time.

It’s important to note that the flux capacitor is fuelled by nuclear power.
The flux capacitor is fuelled by nuclear power.

Prior to joining the firm,
Before joining the firm,

Due to our expertise as a Criminal Defence firm,
Our Criminal Defence expertise means…

2 Lose the word ‘that’

Read a sentence out aloud. If it works without the word ‘that’, remove it.

Our Satisfaction Guarantee means that you can choose to reduce our fees if you’re not 100% happy.
Our Satisfaction Guarantee means you can choose to reduce our fees if you’re not 100% happy.

3 Seek out the word ‘and’

If it makes a sentence over 25 words, delete it and re-write the sentence.

We offer frank informed advice to help you feel in charge and if you are unsure about whether you need legal advice or proceedings, you can ring us up and have a chat on the number above.

We put you in charge with frank informed advice. Unsure if you need legal advice or proceedings? Call us for a chat.

4 Reduce your use of prepositional phrases

Beware. Wordy prepositional phrases can make your copy sound stuffy.

‘With regards to/In reference to’

I’m writing in reference to the forthcoming meeting.
I’m writing about the forthcoming meeting.

‘In terms of’

We compete well in terms of price.
We’re competitively priced.

‘In the event of’

In the event of something going wrong,
If something goes wrong,

‘In the process of’

We’re in the process of building the flux capacitor.
We’re building the flux capacitor.

5. Watch your usage of singular prepositions such as ‘of’,’to’, and ‘in’.

Our aim is to support you.
We aim to support you.

6 Banish pointless words such as ‘really’ and ‘very’

Mark Twain said: “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

The gorilla is very large.
The gorilla is enormous.

7  Ferret out superfluous sentence openers ‘There is’ and ‘There are’

Rewrite weak sentence openers to make them punchy.

There are 100 people working for Flux Capacitor Ltd.
100 people work for Flux Capacitor Ltd.

There are several problems that are caused by the slow response.
Slow response causes several problems.

There is more information explaining what we do on our website.
Visit our website for more information about our services.

8 Track down words ending with ‘ing’

See if you can strengthen words ending with ‘ing’ by rewriting them:

I am running three times a week.
I run three times a week.

Or if you can replace words ending with ‘ing’ altogether.

We can help you by making sure that you meet official deadlines.
We guarantee you meet official deadlines.

9. Run a search for words ending in ‘ly’

Adverbs slow readers down and weaken copy.

The burglar ran quickly.
The burglar scarpered.

We examine accounts closely.
We scrutinise accounts.

We continuously check for errors.
We monitor errors.

10. Do away with redundant words

Don’t use two words when you can use one.

We collaborated together.
We collaborated.

I commuted back and forth to London.
I commuted to London.

Enclosed herein is a top secret document.
Enclosed is a top secret document.

I issued a final ultimatum.
I issued an ultimatum.

Once you’re done, read your copy out loud.

Then lather, rinse and repeat.

Give it a go. It’s easier than you think.

And finally

If you would like help with copy editing, then drop me a line to get information about pricing.

Claire Hawes, copywriter and owner of The Content BoutiqueAbout Claire Hawes

Claire Hawes is a marketing communications copywriter. She enjoys writing engaging copy that helps businesses to get noticed and attract enquiries. Claire’s experience mainly lies in the business to business sector. Her clients include both businesses and digital marketing agencies.

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