How to Edit a Rough Draft

3 minute read

Team Kapost

So you’ve beaten writer’s block and have that first draft of your eBook, whitepaper, blog post, article, or email done. But you’re terrified to reread it, expecting to find a nonsensical monstrosity.

Even Thomas Jefferson’s “original Rough draught” of the Declaration of Independence needed an edit.

Take a deep breath, my writer friend, and give yourself a break.

The truth is that every content asset—to be truly effective—requires a solid edit. Even Thomas Jefferson’s “original Rough draught” of the Declaration of Independence needed work (although I would have liked to see “our everlasting Adieu!” to British rule in the final cut).

Today, in honor of Independence Day, here are 4 tips to help you “advance from that subordination” of your rough draft and create an excellent final content asset.

Tip 1: Step Away

It’s almost impossible to go directly from writing your first draft into editing. You’re simply too close to the text.

Switch to a different task, or get up and go for a walk. If possible, give it a few days. If you’re on a short timeline, take an hour or two. You need distance from your piece to see it with fresh eyes. Otherwise, you’ll likely miss edits in flow and consistency and gloss over details like punctuation or word choice.

Tip 2: Review Your Style Guide

Your editorial style guide should always be close when you’re writing or editing marketing content. Consistency is powerful, especially in marketing, and you want to present your prospects and readers with polished, professional content. Before editing a rough draft, review your company’s style guide to get yourself in the right mindset to catch those little details specific to your brand.

Don’t have a style guide? Download this fantastic template, based on Kapost’s own style guide.

Tip 3: Print It Out

I started my career in book publishing, surrounded by thousands of pages of printed manuscripts. Editor after editor would pass version after version to and from authors, agents, and copyeditors. It may seem wasteful, but if you’re having trouble focusing, actually print out the piece and mark up the page. Having a physical, tangible page engages more of your senses in the editing process and, therefore, more of your mind. I have zero data to back this up, but anecdotally, I’ve heard other marketers and editors agree: you catch more mistakes on the printed page.

If you don’t take this route, make sure to give yourself a break from the screen every once in a while. Tired eyes might miss an “it’s” that should be an “its.”

Tip 4: Hunker Down

Dig into the content you’re editing. Go somewhere quiet, somewhere you can focus. Have headphones? Throw them on. Turn off your social media notifications. Put your phone on “do not disturb” mode. The key is to focus your brain fully on the content. This ensures you’ll see the piece as a whole, and be able to catch inconsistencies or places where structure could be improved.

You may not be writing the Declaration of Independence, but a good edit will help you reach your buyers with high-quality, consistent, and clean content—the kind of content that would make Thomas Jefferson proud.

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