Whenever you write to your customers, it’s crucial that you edit before you hit print, publish, or send. Writing gives us the time and the space away from our audience to make sure we’re saying exactly what we want to.

But editing takes time, patience, and skill. It’s a significant investment of your time, so let’s talk about why it’s worth it.

image of handwritten text with edits in green ink

© Katie Goudie

Use fewer words

Industry professionals have put hours of time into researching the ‘ideal length’ of emails and other media.

For example, researchers at TOPO found that the ideal length for a sales email is 50-125 words, which is far shorter than you might think.

NewsWhip found that short Facebook posts are better. When posting links to your own content, your captions will be hidden behind a ‘Read more’ link if they are longer than 400 characters. The most popular content creators get the best results with captions that 25 words or less.

With Tweets, you can only have 140 characters, so of course you need to choose each one carefully.

We don’t think in a very efficient way when it comes to words. Going back to edit will help you cut down your descriptions, to focus on the key messages.

Write in Plain English

The campaign for Plain English started off targeting the government, but it’s not just politicians who are guilty of using jargon to hide their meaning. Business owners can also put off their customers and waste their clients’ time by doing the same. Even HRH The Princess Royal has supported the Plain English campaign. She told the Inside Write Awards conference that

“No-one has the time or patience to wade through long sentences, legalese, small print or tortured English. People want to be able to absorb information quickly, easily and at first reading. Using plain English will help our readers achieve this aim.”

I feel like she and I would be friends. At least we’d bond over Plain English, I guess.

We all like to sound intelligent when writing. We feel like long words and complex sentences will show off our bold ideas. Really, this kind of language makes it harder for our audience to understand our ideas and share our knowledge. There are very few people in the world who can write perfectly plain English right off the cuff, so going back to edit your work is key.

Avoid embarrassing mistakes

People have more tolerance for errors than you might imagine. Even when you’re applying for a job, you’ll probably get away with a typo or two, writes Alison Green of Ask A Manager (a.k.a. my hero!) The occasional mistake might be acceptable for a small business, but you still don’t want to end up like these people, on HubSpot’s list of the ‘worst typos ever’. Editing your work lets you check for those awkward mistakes that spellcheckers can’t find. If you aren’t confident in your own grammar skills, you can learn with online tools or popular books. Or you might decide that professional first impression is really important to your business, in which case you should get in touch to talk about our editing and proof reading services.

Clarify your own thinking

Longer articles are more likely to get you seen through a search engine or clicks from social media. Snap Agency have suggested that this year, posts longer than 2000 words are performing best in search results, and getting the most shares on social media.

Lean Labs also recommend blog posts of at least 1,500 words but their post is full of ideas and suggestions for how to determine the ideal length for your blog and your topic, not just a generic average, so it’s definitely worth a read of its own.

However, we aren’t talking about the first 2,000 words on a topic which leap into your head and out through your fingers. Your initial drafts will help you get ideas down on paper. Editing then helps you see where you need more research for a stronger argument, and you can think more deeply about your structure. Refining your ideas will make sure they come across as clearly as possible, so that your customers get the most value possible out of your post. That value is what keeps them reading and sharing your posts with their network.

Your stories

Do you have any examples of when editing has saved you from a typo going viral? Or feedback from customers that shows they prefer the posts you spent more time on? Share your stories in the comments below, or let us know on Facebook or Twitter.