On the first read-through, check for basic errors, like spelling and grammar errors. Word processing software will pick up any obvious spelling mistakes, but some may still have crept in.
Watch out in particular for words that look similar but have different meanings. So, “identity” and “identify” for example look very similar, but have different meanings. We’ve had this one happen a lot.
You should also check areas like spacing between words and sentences if you are writing online content. You need to be consistent in how you do these. It’s easy for a double space to drop in without you noticing.
Check that any links you have put in work, and that overall the writing makes sense. Make sure there’s no sentences that are unfinished or paragraphs that don’t go together, because of something you cut and pasted.
This happens a lot in first drafts.
On the second read-through, focus more on how to make the writing more concise. Use the advice we gave above, like using the active voice and removing unneeded adverbs. Your aim is to tighten up the writing so that its cleaner and simpler.
Look for long sentences or paragraphs.
Do they need to be that long? Can you break them up to make them easier to read? If you have access to an online tool like Yoast as we cover in our guide to SEO writing, it automates many of these checks so you know where to look.
Look out for any language that’s overly technical or requires jargon or buzzwords. Can you find simpler ways to express these ideas or concepts that will be easier to understand?
Make what you write simpler.
If time allows, we suggest you leave some time between the second and third read-through. You want to read through the whole thing from a fresh point of view, as if you were the reader.
So if you have written the content, give yourself a break before you read something through for the third time. Go and write something else, and then come back to it.
Look at how you’ve structured the key ideas and points you want to make. Do they still make sense? Do they flow in a way that’s both easy to follow and engaging? Think about how all the elements of the writing come together, do they work as a whole?
At this stage, you want to be fairly ruthless in how you edit. Eliminate anything that isn’t necessary. If you question whether you should or shouldn’t cut something out, the chances are you should cut it out. Park it in your ideas notebook for another time.
The more you prune your writing down to only what’s necessary, the better your writing will be.
In particular, look out for any ideas or thoughts that sound woolly or indecisive. If ideas “seem to” or “tend to” (two that we’re guilty of) do things too often, it can imply you’re not fully confident in those ideas.
How can you express those ideas with more conviction and certainty?