The Straightforward Guide You Want to Keep at Hand when Editing Your Copy

In this article, you are going to learn how to edit your copy for:

  • Grammar and spelling
  • Scanners
  • Messaging
  • Clarity
  • Specificity
  • Heightened emotions
  • Zero risk
  • Believability
  • Voice and tone

Let’s do it!

Edit Your Copy for Grammar and Spelling

1) Typos. Running a spell check is not enough. Read your copy aloud. Make someone else read it aloud. Read it backward.

You may think that reading your copy backward is a weird thing to do. But it works. Don’t worry, you are reading the words frontward.

Start with the final sentence and move backward from there. By editing backward, a familiar piece becomes a foreign one. Without the flow of the copy, you have a tight focus on the individual words and phrases. Try it!

2) Check misused words/phrases such as:

  • Your / you’re
  • There / their / they’re
  • Than / then
  • Accept / except
  • Affect / effect
  • Elicit / illicit
  • Who’s / whose
  • Compliment / complement
  • Insure / ensure
  • Its / it’s
  • Which / that

3) Cut weak words that rarely add value to a sentence. Delete unnecessary words, such as:

  • Very
  • Really
  • Quite
  • Extremely
  • Indeed
  • Of course
  • At any rate
  • Nevertheless
  • Due to the fact that
  • It goes without saying

4) Remove industry jargon unless it’s used by your prospects.

5) Review sentence construction and punctuation. Periods, question and exclamation marks, commas. Check that you are using them correctly. Capitalize proper nouns.

6) One last thing. Don’t be a grammar nazi. In copywriting, write the way your audience talks… even if that makes your English teacher cringe.

Edit Your Copy for Scanners

Elements that enhance scanning include headings, large type, bold text, highlighted text, bulleted lists, graphics, captions, and topic sentences.

1) Make it visually clear which element is the headline, which one is the subheadline, and those that are subheads.

2) Subheads break up your content, making it easy to digest. Use them as a mini-headline that introduces the next block of content. Reading your subheads should be enough for the scanner to know what your copy is about. Make them meaningful.

3) Bullet lists make your content easy to scan. They are different from the rest of the text, providing a visual break for your reader. Remember that they are much more than just a formatting trick. While you are editing, make sure you are using bullet lists to:

  • Highlight the features and benefits of your product.
  • Emphasize pain and danger.
  • Show the results.
  • Define your target market.
  • Show the reader what he gets.
  • Tell the customer how the product work.

The most important points should go at the top, keeping the third most important point to add at the end of the list. The words and their order are also important. Review the section about bullet points to see if you have missed something.

4) Review that your sentences and paragraphs are short.

Edit Your Copy for Messaging

1) Make sure your copy includes all the critical messages. Did you miss a relevant benefit or feature? Tie features to benefits or outcomes.

2) Go over your sales objections list. Make sure your copy is answering every objection. At least the ones you have discovered during the research phase.

3) Your headline must get attention and select the right audience. The headline must touch your prospects at their awareness point at that moment. Make sure it focuses on what the prospect gets and is clear. Remember that a great headline is Unique, Ultra-Specific, conveys Urgency, and is Useful.

4) Do you have the right testimonials in the right place? “I love it!!” means nothing. If you have one of those, get rid of it. A good testimonial demonstrates that you have solved a real problem for a real customer. They have to show the benefit(s) behind the product, and how it has helped the user solve a specific problem. The more specific and focus the testimonial, the better.

5) Make sure to summarize the value of the testimonial by writing a header that introduces each testimonial. Choose the best part of it to reinforce that message.

6) Don’t forget your CTA. Your call to action should be clear and explicit. Make sure the reader knows what to do next. Use click-triggers near your CTAs. A click-trigger is a message positioned near the main call to action that compels visitors to click on the button. These messages tell visitors what will happen after clicking on the button and how much work is involved.

Edit Your Copy for Clarity

Your goal is to be clear to your One Reader. You want to make sure your messages are clear and that people know what to take away from the page they are reading. Always start with your One Reader

“My one reader is _____________ who wants to ___________. They came here expecting ___________. I want them to believe ____________ so they take action.”

Before you start editing your copy, answer the following questions:

  • Who is this page clearly for?
  • What message am I supposed to take away?
  • What is the clear action to take?

With all this in mind, let’s see some of the editing tasks you should perform to make clarity a priority.

1) Cut all the irrelevant ideas.

2) Scrap redundant sentences. Is the sentence adding to your sales message? Yes, keep it. No, cut it.

3) Spot weak words and phrases and replace them with stronger and specific ones.

  • Weak words such as perhaps, just, actually, very, truly, really, actually, in my opinion, and stunning, to name a few.
  • Phrases and words that were at some point powerful but, over time, have lost their power — ultimate, amazing, awesome.
  • Words that can be interpreted in many different ways. These words are not specific enough — successful, good, nice, bad, effective.

4) Replace complicated words with simple ones.

5) Avoid passive voice. In a passive sentence, the subject is the recipient of the action. In an active sentence, the subject performs the action. Active sentences are more persuasive. To be persuaded, the reader needs to understand what you are saying. According to Hosman (2002), passive sentences are grammatically complex and more difficult to understand. Active sentences make the message easy to digest.

Edit Your Copy for Specificity

Is your copy specific enough?

General statements tend to be less credible, so read your copy and make it more specific. Some tips:

  • Focus your copy on one topic. You can’t be specific if you are talking about several topics.
  • Help the reader visualize how the product would work or what it would look like in their lives.
  • Create vivid word pictures.
  • Engage the reader’s imagination.

Let’s see how to edit your copy for specificity.

1) Use facts and figures when it makes sense. Facts and figures are specific and increase credibility.

Statement A — “43, 543 people are using our service”

Statement B — “Nearly 50,000 people are using our service”

Statement A is more specific. It sounds like a fact, giving the impression that you have count your users one by one.

Statement B sounds like a marketing message, a claim made without having any proof. In your reader’s mind, it seems an exaggerated claim.

2) Write numbers as digits rather than words.

Numerals stop wandering eyes and enhance the scannability of the content. Research from Nielsen Norman Group discovered that numerals stop wandering eyes and attract fixation because numbers represent facts.

Readers look for specific facts on sales and product pages (product’s weight, dimensions, resolution, memory size, battery life).

3) The same applies to symbols. When the reader is scanning your copy, he will see first $ than the words “money,” “dollars,” or “savings.”

4) Help the reader visualize by creating vivid word pictures.

Make sure you have transformed important messages into mental images. One way to do it is by using sensory words and metaphors.

We use metaphors when we cant’ visualize intangible concepts. A metaphor makes the intangible tangible providing a concrete mental image that makes your message more persuasive.

Review your copy and see if you can find a sensory metaphor for key words in your copy. Adjectives like polished, sharp, fuzzy, heavy, and bright originate in sensory experiences but have become commonly used as metaphors.

Edit Your Copy for Heightened Emotion

There is an emotional reason behind every purchase. It is crucial to understand the emotional drivers, the reasons why people buy from you. Your copy should trigger specific emotions in your prospects.

When you are editing, make sure those emotions are in your copy.

Ask yourself, “Is your copy about the customer or about you and your product?”

Read your copy and pay attention to the following:

  • Does your copy focus on providing value to your customer or your product’s features and benefits? Make sure your copy focuses on the value you provide to your customer, not on you and how good your product is.
  • Does your message focus on what your customer is currently feeling or wants to feel? You can start your copy by showing what people are currently feeling (their pain, the before) or with what they want to feel (the promise, the after). Either way, make sure the emotions you want to show are there.
  • Are you using the right words to bring out the emotions you want to create on the page? Look for words like “us”, “our”, your brand name… if they appear in your copy constantly, you are making it about you, not your customer. Replace us/our with you/your.
  • Are the testimonials addressing people’s concerns or hesitations? Make sure you use testimonials addressing every concern and hesitation your prospects may have. Avoid self-praise testimonials.

Now, take a look at your design. It should support your copy. Does the design support your emotional strategy?

Some things you need to check:

  • The images need to feel real, relatable, and authentic. Customers want to see people like them.
  • Make sure there’s no visual noise. The text should be easy to read.
  • Make sure your copy looks good on mobile. Our intent, needs, and emotions may be different when we are on mobile. Sometimes it is necessary to create another version for it.
  • Color on the page and buttons is important. Know what specific colors symbolize for your customers, the emotions they feel toward a color.
  • Does your page pass the 5-second test? Ask people what emotions they feel. Is it the same emotion you wanted to create?

Edit Your Copy for Zero Risk

Edit your copy to reduce the perceived risk. What is the main risk preventing your One Reader from moving forward?

Start by measuring risk for the prospect on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being incredible risk. Then, assess your copy against what you know your One Reader worries about:

  • Risk of performance: Will it work like you say? — Level (1–10)____
  • Risk of value: Is it worth what I’m going to pay? (Even if we are talking about the prospect giving you his email address) — Level (1–10)___
  • Risk of design: Will it cause harm or introduce friction into my life? — Level (1–10)___
  • Risk of social success: Will the people who matter to me approve? — Level (1–10)___
  • Risk of joy: Will I be satisfied/improved personally by it? — Level (1–10)___

Focus on one of these risks when editing your copy. Choose the risk that is closer to 10.

Let’s say you are writing copy for a product for teams. The person responsible for buying the product will feel the risk of social success and performance the most. Edit your copy to nail that risk.

The last thing to do is try to neutralize the risk. As a starting point, you can use the following:

  • Specific names of influential (to your One Reader) users.
  • Specific testimonials that directly neutralize identified risks.
  • Quantities of the right kinds of users.
  • Quantities of users in general.
  • Data points about user success.
  • Data points about new user success in X time.
  • Data points about social success.
  • Info about what happens next.
  • Info about guarantees.

Most of the time, the reduction of risk happens around the point of conversion (your call to action). Start there.

Edit Your Copy for Believability

Read each section of your copy putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. At the end of each section, ask yourself “so what?”. If I’m the customer, why does this section or sentence matter to me? What is in it for me? If, as your One Reader, a sentence or a fragment is irrelevant, you’ll need to fix that section.

Highlight it and keep reading your copy while asking, “so what?” until you reach the end of your copy.

Next, make sure you have provided the necessary believability throughout your copy. You do not have to lead always with social proof (testimonials). Other ways to provide believability are: logos, video demos or screenshots of how the product works, data proof (results others have got using your solution), and influencer proof, to name a few.

Read every section of your copy and highlight those sentences where you think more proof is needed.

Edit Your Copy for Voice and Tone

Pre-work you need to do:


Voice describes your company’s brand personality and values. It is consistent and doesn’t change unless your company changes over time.

How does your brand sound? Choose 2–3 words to describe it.

If you need help finding out, answer the following questions:

  • If the brand had one day left before it vanished from the planet, how would it sound?
  • Which fictional character (or real person) does it most sound like?

2) Tone

Tone is the emotional inflection applied to your voice. It changes based on the situation. Different circumstances may require different tones depending on the message, the platform, or the segment of the audience you are trying to reach. You have one brand voice and many tones depending on the situation. It can be positive, neutral, or negative.

What is the brand’s tone? What attitude do you want to transfer to your reader?

If you need help finding out, answer the following questions:

  • What situation is the reader in at the moment?
  • How does she feel right now?
  • How is this content going to affect the reader?
  • How can I maintain the reader’s state of mind or put her in a better one?

Editing for Voice and Tone

Is there a brand voice chart to follow? Some companies have a brand voice chart that you’ll need to consider when writing and editing your copy. If you are writing your own copy, do the following. Take the three adjectives that better reflect your brand personality, and create a chart with four columns: voice characteristic, brief description, do’s (how to use this trait), and don’ts (how not to use this trait).

Example of brand voice chart. Image Source: Content Marketing Institute

Once you have a brand voice chart, edit your copy for voice and tone:

  • Read line by line, start to finish — Does your copy have an appropriate voice?
  • Read line by line, finish to start — Does your copy have too much voice?
  • Read without stopping, start to finish — Does it have an appropriate mood?
  • Go over once more, start to finish, for voice.

Once you have finished, read your copy again to make sure that clarity still prevails.