“Real writing begins with re-writing” (James A. Michener).
I began blogging in 2008, and I’ve visited many websites to determine the most effective way to communicate online. I developed a helpful web-editing checklist below from my research for a writing workshop using three photographic terms—the panoramic, macroscopic, and microscopic viewpoints.
Panoramic View. Begin the editing process by determining the overall, or broader view, of contents and evaluating your audience, purpose, context, and the design elements.
- Read aloud from the reader’s perspective (not the writer’s).
- Find main point and sub-points. Can you summarize your piece easily?
- Examine benefits for reader (take-away value).
- Use appropriate fonts (not fancy or distracting to your content).
- Use subheading in boldface type to introduce more points.
Macroscopic View. Take a closer look at paragraphs, word usage, and tone.
- Place main topics near beginning of each paragraph and sentence.
- Limit each paragraph to one main idea.
- Use shorter units of text with more breaks.
- Use an introduction for a “teaser” paragraph (preview for content).
- Avoid long texts that break content into several pages.
- Provide a brief summary or table of contents hyperlinked to each section for text over 500 words. Use lists, hyperlinks, and extra white space for a long document to break up dense patterns of text.
- Avoid slang, jargon, and inappropriate humor.
- Use nondiscriminatory language (e.g., bias based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexuality, disability).
- Use common words (appropriate for target audience).
- Avoid vague words.
- Use key words to describe the site in the first 50 words of text.
- Build verbal bridges to connect text (transition).
- Use action verbs rather than passive.
- Incorporate single links into content (embedded into the text).
- Make short, bulleted lists of links.
- Use “Find Out More” links, when details are needed.
Microscopic View. Zoom in on the elements of grammar, mechanics, and punctuation.
- Grammar http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/1/5
- Mechanics http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/1/4
- Punctuation http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/1/6
Self-editing should distance you from your piece, so you can examine it without the emotional attachment. You can see your actual words, rather than just intentions. Consider these final ideas to help you edit for the web.
- Create style sheet/guide with some common problems, to avoid repetitive research of the editing rules (e.g., grammar, mechanics).
- Find someone to read and edit your work (e.g., critique group, another writer).
Remember: “You write to discover what you want to say. You rewrite to discover what you have said and then rewrite to make it clear to other people” (Donald Murray).
Related articles (wordservewatercooler.com)
- The Search-and-Find Feature by Barbara Scott
- Dumpster or dumpster? Important Editing Skills That You Need to Know by sarahjoyliteraryagent
Do you have any tips for editing for the web?