Face it: you need to edit your work.

Sending off unedited copy to your clients that is rife with spelling mistakes, punctuation errors and run-on sentences is not going to show off your talents in the best light. Your clients expect – and rightly deserve – your best effort, so it’s critical that you return only the best edited version of your work to them.

I sat down with my editor, Lois Gordon, to share her insights on what to watch out for when editing your copy. Here are a few editing tips to get you started:

Know your audience.

Spelling and punctuation often differ for US, Canadian and global clients. Bear this in mind when typing favorite vs. favourite, center vs. centre, honor vs. honour, signaled vs signalled. Check punctuation, too. The US uses the “Oxford comma”, inserted after every word in a list. Ex. turkey, stuffing, and gravy vs. turkey, stuffing and gravy. The US also would have written “Oxford comma,” with the comma inside the quote marks.

If you’re not sure which spelling or punctuation your client prefers to use, check their website to see if it offers any clues, or just ask who their audience is.

Tighten your copy.

Cut the clutter. It provides little help in delivering the right message to your reader.

Example 1: the word “very”. Can something be “very unique”? Given that “unique” means one-of-a-kind, something is either unique or it isn’t. Use the right word to describe something and you won’t need to fall back on an adverb to modify it.

Example 2: unnecessary words. Meaning is not lost when you delete unnecessary words. It’s actually clearer. Instead of “We are so very happy that you have chosen to read this”, write “We are glad you chose to read this”.

Example 3: repetition. Do a search in Microsoft Word to highlight the number of times you’ve used a particular word in a document. In the technology industry, we often use words like “enable” and “solutions”. Rework your sentences to find an alternate way of conveying the same meaning. Your reader will thank you.

Read out loud.

There is something about reading in our heads that just doesn’t cut it. Reading your work aloud will improve your editing results. Mistakes and unnecessary or repeated words will jump out at you, making it much easier to tighten your copy.

When in doubt, find out!

Keep your dictionary, your Thesaurus and your favourite style book close at hand. Check for correct spelling and word meanings, find different ways of saying things, and consistently use the style your client prefers.

Watch the full video with Lois Gordon and myself here.