As modern marketers, we’re used to thinking about the user experience. But for MSPC senior content director Molly Bennett, a seasoned magazine editor, the time-honored craft of editing has always been about audience engagement.
Customer journey mapping, user experience (UX), the sales funnel, content calendars—the art and science of content marketing is all about making sure you’re giving people what they need, when they need it, as conveniently as possible.
UX is a technical term, describing the process of designing and engineering every touchpoint a user has with a product, service or piece of content. But even before the term was a twinkle in the industry’s eye, the discipline of editing was already focused on a seamless and enjoyable reader experience.
Whether the article outlined the benefits of independent financial advice or illuminated six uses for puff pastry, the goal was—and is—to keep the reader engaged from the opening hook to the satisfying conclusion.
Editing an article so it fulfills this reader engagement goal has a lot to do with the fundamentals: things like making sure the inverted pyramid structure is intact, the lede isn’t buried, typos are zapped and sentences are varied in length to add rhythm.
But as a visual thinker, I think of editing in a less textual way. I envision a well-edited piece of content as a smooth piece of fabric. I want my eye to glide down the page (or screen) without feeling irritated by inaccuracies or confused by what I just read. And that means that my job as an editor is to unpick snags and iron out wrinkles.
Content Marketing Writing Tips
Here are some examples of what I mean by snags and wrinkles:
- When you have to read something twice. If I stumble over an oddly constructed sentence or am befuddled by a non sequitur, I back up a few lines and pick at the anomaly until it makes sense.
- When you can’t tell who’s talking. In a quote-heavy piece, I want to know who’s saying what. If I can’t tell, it means that quote needs a speech tag. And if there already is one, I move it higher up so the reader isn’t left hanging.
- When you’re blinded by figures. Faced with a paragraph or two of percentages, my eyes glaze over. Could those paragraphs be turned into a mini infographic instead?
- When you can’t believe it’s not over yet. If that article’s feeling endless, make it feel shorter—without cutting. That means looking for more places to add subheads or even pulling an entire chunk out and turning it into a sidebar.
My golden rule of editing is this: Question everything. Use your editorial instincts. If it seems weird or wrong, it probably is. So don’t ignore that wrinkle. Plug in your metaphorical iron and smooth it out. Because when it comes to an article, the best user experience is the one that lets the reader glide from headline to conclusion without hitting any snags.
Read next: Content Marketing vs. Advertising: What’s the Difference, Again?