By Joe Gillespie

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There’s a viral reminder out there that has even inspired a Facebook group. The text is simple: “ ‘Let’s eat Grandma!’ or ‘Let’s eat, Grandma!’ ”; often followed by “Punctuation saves lives.” To clarify the importance of the message, not including the comma in “Let’s eat, Grandma!” would suggest, even promote, cannibalism. And even though this is meant to be humorous, it underscores the importance of ensuring that your inbound marketing is perfect—one unintended phrase, badly misspelled word, or other textual gaffe in your content could give the impression to readers that you might not be the expert you claim to be.

Too many copy mistakes in your content and visitors will simply click away. After all, your blog should be easy to read; if it’s too mentally taxing because it lacks basic punctuation or hard returns, prospects will seek answers to their problems elsewhere. But editing is important for more than correct spelling and good grammar. The editing process should also be geared toward ensuring your content is on the mark, delivering the message you want to deliver. If a writer produces a blog post that doesn’t match the title—or your inbound marketing goal—it might not have its intended effect of keeping the reader coming back to your website.

The challenge, of course, is that most marketers aren’t editors. However, the process doesn’t need to be daunting, and any resources you can spare toward improving your content will help. Here are some editing strategies to follow to help you on the path to inbound marketing success:

Plan for Editing

Too often, copyediting is an afterthought in the inbound marketing content creation process. For many businesses, the challenge is simply to find employees with enough time to write blogs and e-books; after all that effort, editing feels like just prolonging what already can seem like an arduous journey to get content online. The temptation then becomes to publish the content without even the most cursory look—which can lead to headaches later (it’s much easier to fix mistakes before publication than after, especially with e-books, whitepapers, and other PDF files). Avoid this temptation by building a copyediting step into the process. Defining editing as part of plan makes it much more difficult to ignore the task, allows you budget time for the step, and, ultimately, improves the content that will eventually be posted.

Watch the Rambling

A 500-word blog post that is two paragraphs long will not be easy to read. You might know the tricks of breaking up copy and delivering appealing content that doesn’t strain the reader’s eyes, but your co-workers might not. If you start sending revision requests to these writers for what are essentially technical concerns, they might balk when asked to write another post. Fortunately, rambling text can be fixed during editing. Break up the text with catchy headers, list-forming bullets, and other display devices that make a post stand out. If the copy seems repetitive or extraneous at times, don’t be afraid to delete sentences for concision. Remember, inbound marketing content is for your readers’ benefit, not the writer’s.

Be Stylish

Consistency is important within your content, and diligent copy editing can help ensure the words and usage contained in one blog post is similar to every other post, as well as e-books, the emails you send out to leads, and website copy. You have some options to take on this route. First, you can strictly adopt one of the various style guides out there, such as AP, APA, Chicago, or MLA, to follow. Second, you can create your own style guide—it doesn’t need to be deep, but it should define the preferred way you use industry terms, people’s titles, headers, commas, dashes, and so on. Or, you can combine the first two approaches, following (for example) Chicago style for most usages, APA style on citations, and your own preferences for industry terms. Choose whatever works best for you and your content—and edit to conform to that in everything you publish.

Use the Spell Check, but Don’t Solely Rely on It

Turning the spell and grammar check on whatever program you are using for your inbound marketing content is imperative, as is running the check as the last thing you do before publishing or sending it to design. However, here’s a dirty little secret about many spell checks—they don’t catch every mistake. In fact, they catch surprisingly fewer gaffes than you would expect. Therefore, looking at every word is critical, because a typo might not necessarily have a squiggly underneath. And, for example, if you are writing in Word and copying over to HubSpot, run the check for both applications; one program might catch something that another doesn’t.

Be Mindful of Keyword Usage

Incorporating traffic-driving and SEO-friendly keywords into your blog posts is essential for your inbound marketing success. However, it can also be an art form. Many writers struggle to repeatedly use keywords, thus turning the copy into something too clunky to follow. As you edit, a little bell should sound in your head every time you see the keyword. Reread the sentence containing the phrase—does it make sense? If not, consider revising, which may include taking out that instance of the keyword. If you need to, add the keyword somewhere else (a subhead is a good, sneaky way to reach your quota), but don’t muddle text for the sake of SEO.

Edit Out Loud

I’ve mentioned this tip before, and I am a big believer in it: You should read copy out loud on your final editing pass. Read it slowly, too—this forces you to absorb every word into your brain, one word at a time. If you are in a place where you can’t easily speak out loud, let your voice or a celebrity voice (I sometimes imagine legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully …) annunciate the words in your mind. When you are seriously crunched for time and just can’t give a piece of content as deep an edit as you would like, following this one tip (capped off with a spell check) can catch a good chunk of the problems that might be present in your copy.

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Joe Gillespie

About the author

Joe Gillespie is a Senior Brand Journalist for SmartBug Media. He graduated from Marquette University with a B.A. in journalism and is a two-decade veteran of the newspaper industry. As a Senior Brand Journalist, Joe writes and edits inbound marketing content for SmartBug's clients. Read more articles by Joe Gillespie.

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