Copyediting Tutorial #2

How to use this page:

In the blockquote section below is a rough draft I hacked into shape. Corrections are in red. Suggested replacements are in blue.

Step 1: Study the edits and try to guess why I suggested the corrections. Doing so will prime your mind to think like an editor.

Step 2: Scroll down to the Notes section and read my rationale for the changes. Doing so will confirm how well you guessed in step 1.

Step 3: Share some of your passion (or downright hatred) for editing in the comments.

This tutorial is a full course meal designed for digesting in one sitting. We’ll create bite-sized blog posts containing one copyediting concept per post.That way, if studying copyediting in small chunks is more your style, these full tutorials won’t overwhelm you.

Enjoy copyediting tutorial #2.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could ask your readers what they really(truly) think of you?

Not the things(what) they write in your comments section or the words which(that) stream into your inbox, but the things(what) they are too polite to give voice to. The things(That) which they might put in a Dear John letter if they were breaking up with you.

Knowing how your audience reacts to your work, knowing what touches them, what gets under their skin, what turns them off—all of these things are invaluable information that can make(make) you a better writer. In fact, one(One) of the best aspects of blogging, compared to most writing ventures, is the immediate feedback that lets you settle into the head of your audience. This valuable insight makes you a better writer, and grows your blog or business.

But, if you’re only paying attention to what your readers are saying(say), you’re likely missing the (most meaningful) messages which mean the most.

Tuning in and learning what they really(truly) think of you can help you(will) bring(advance) your writing to the next level. And, perhaps keep them from writing you off.

Here’s 10 things your audience won’t tell you:

1. “I’m losing interest.” Comments or analytics may not reflect waning interest, at least not in the first creep of its cancerous spread. But, you must always be aware of it. A failure(Failing) to connect is an encouragement of(encourages) indifference. Sure, that reader may still leave a comment here and there, and might even return the following week, but the goodwill you’ve banked is by no means bottomless, and it’s only a matter of time before your account overdraws. Beware those borderline posts that cost you popularity, loyalty or trust. And, never settle for mediocrity. Not every post requires brilliance (is brilliant), but if it’s not even(your post is nowhere) close, you shouldn’t press publish.

2. “I don’t get it.” A confused audience is often bewildered in silence. Sure, you’ll have a few outspoken regulars, bold enough for a “What you talking about Willis?” or two, but most students don’t raise their hands when they don’t understand. Never alienate readers with ambiguity. Being clear and concise doesn’t mean dumbing things down; it means conveying a clear understanding of your subject, coupled with an obvious respect for your reader(s).

3. “You’re not meeting my needs.” As a writer, (you’re responsible for) identifying and understanding audience needs is your responsibility. If you wish to cultivate a loyal following, you must offer consistent value. Do you provide unique information on a topic your readers value? Do you make them feel good about themselves, their relationships, or their circumstances? Do you speak the words they’re too timid to say out loud? Do you provide an adequate escape from reality for a period of time by weaving a web of fantasy, fiction, or emotionally charged storytelling? What needs are you meeting for your most loyal readers? If you can’t answer that basic question, please pause before publishing your next post.

4. “Your community is not a safe place for me to share my thoughts.” The comments section on a blog can take on a life of its own, and often does. While you can’t control who comments or what people(they) say, it’s your backyard and you set the example. If one or more of your readers is creating an environment leaving people feeling in danger of ridicule (and perceived danger), the community will deflate, as those who are(feel) threatened evaporate before hearing what you have to say next.

5. “I really want you to like me.” While most readers won’t come right out and say it (and those that do might require a restraining order), your readers want you, as the writer, to like them. They want to feel accepted, appreciated and acknowledged. Use available opportunities to connect with your readers on an individual basis. This will help to increase your reader base while deepening their level of loyalty.

6. “I want to be significant.” Nothing’s more alienating to an audience than feeling they don’t matter. As a writer, your readers are reliable indicators of your success. If your writing makes your readers feel insignificant, you will miss the magic dusting(sprinkling) the development of a loyal audience.

7. “I can relate to what you’re saying.” You can’t expect your readers to come right out and tell you every time you’ve made a connection(connected). But, when they do, they grant certainty of significant impact. Pour your humanity into your posts and you will relate to your audience on a deeper level. This effort will add up and expand your audience, with every new connection developing a lasting bond with your readers.

8. “I have expectations when I read your writing.” Bloggers beware! Readers visit sites with certain expectations. These vary from blog to blog, but overall, readers desire condensed knowledge, delivered in an easy-to-read and familiar format. Your readers will also come to expect a certain level of quality, a particular style of writing, and an overall character that is unique to your blog. If you want to know more about your readers’ expectations, and you probably should, set up a survey or ask pointed questions to a sampling of readers.

9. “I like to laugh.” A little levity, even for serious discussions, can make(makes) good content great and great content easier to spread. If your blog becomes the harbinger of doom and gloom, you’ll surely lose some readers. Serious discussions are great, but be sure to balance heavy with humor. While you’re laughing, make sure you’re able to laugh at yourself. Self-deprecating humor is the safest kind and can help(helps) establish yourself as a well-balanced person who doesn’t take themselves too seriously.

10.“I don’t care about how much you know until I know how much you care.” If your audience can’t see that you care(thinks you’re indifferent) , then your words, even if read, are reduced(reduce) to their lowest common denominator. If you write with the goal of reaching people, changing lives, or giving advice, then you must show your readers how much you care before your words will take root. Never calculate care, but (if you) allow the concern for your audience to creep through the cracks of your sentences and(,) you will nurture a contagious, long-lasting bond.

In real life, readers don’t usually send Dear John letters to bloggers. So, chances are, you’ll never know why they left until one day they’re suddenly not showing up any longer(gone). Learn to listen and care about your audience now and you’ll continue to thrive in a happy relationship for years to come.

NOTES:

  1. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could ask your readers what they really(truly) think of you? – I really hate really. It’s a flabby modifier. I either don’t use it or replace it with truly.
  2. Not the things(what) they write in your comments section or the words which(that) stream into your inbox, but the things(what) they are too polite to give voice to. The things(That) which they might put in a Dear John letter if they were breaking up with you. – I deleted the things because the things is ambiguous. I used the pronoun what twice to shave two words and keep the rhythmic repetition the author achieved with the things. I changed which to that. I won’t explain why this was the proper switch, because people forget this rule more often than anything else. Just bookmark a great reference guide and use it when uncertain. Mainly, words that is easier on the tongue than words which. Try saying that five times and you’ll hear what I mean. Give voice to is a flabby expression. I deleted give and to. A savings of two words. I couldn’t resist using a more formal that which combination opening in the next sentence.
  3. all of these things are invaluable information that can make(make) you a better writer. – Of these things is a flabby expression. All is all the author needed here. Blogger Authority Alert. Used make instead of can make. If you believe something is true, don’t use can or may or might; just say it and believe it. Shaved 4 words total.
  4. In fact, one(One) of the best aspects of blogging…In fact is a flabby expression. You don’t need it.
  5. But, if you’re only paying attention to what your readers are saying(say), you’re likely missing the (most meaningful) messages which mean the most. – Used the simple form of the verb construction is saying. Shaved a word. When you have a noun followed by the word which that further describes the noun, look for ways to turn these phrases into adjectives. Here I used most meaningful, thus shaving two words and creating a nice triple-m alliteration.
  6. Tuning in and learning what they really(truly) think of you can help you(will) bring(advance) your writing to the next level. – Again, I don’t like really. I changed can help you bring to will advance to increase the authority of the statement, used stronger verb (advance instead of bring), and shaved two words.
  7. Here’s 10 things your audience won’t tell you: – I’m not a fan of the phrases here is, there is, there are, there were. Where is here? Should the word here have an underline linking to the 10? Above here or below here? Start your list sentences with whatever noun here is refers to. I could have changed things to secrets, but I chose not to.
  8. A failure(Failing) to connect is an encouragement of(encourages) indifference.Nominalization Alert. Nominalization occurs when you take  perfectly good verbs (or adjectives), in this case fail and encourage, and use the noun forms, in this case, failure and encouragement. Try to avoid this construction. I shaved four words as a result.
  9. Not every post requires brilliance (is brilliant), but if it’s not even(your post is nowhere) close, you shouldn’t press publish. – Another example of nominalization. In this case, the author took a perfectly good adjective (brilliant) and used the noun form (brilliance). Ambiguous Antecedent Alert. What noun does the pronoun it refer to in it’s not even close, how close brilliance is, or how close your post is to brilliance? Be more specific whenever possible.
  10. Being clear and concise doesn’t mean dumbing things down; it means conveying a clear understanding of your subject, coupled with an obvious respect for your reader(s). – I made reader plural because I’m certain people reading the post will have more than one reader.
  11. As a writer, (you’re responsible for) identifying and understanding audience needs is your responsibility. – Fixed nominalization of responsibility. Allowed nominalization of audience needs so I didn’t have to increase word count by adding what your before audience needs. Moved the  phrase you’re responsible for to the beginning since he began it by focusing on you the writer. If I didn’t change it, the focus would have been on you the writer, followed by the audience, followed by your responsibility to that audience. Too much focus jumping.
  12. Do you provide an adequate escape from reality for a period of time by weaving a web of fantasy, fiction, or emotionally charged storytelling? – Ambiguous, flabby phrase that adds little to the sentence meaning.
  13. While you can’t control who comments or what people(they) say, it’s your backyard and you set the example. – The author focuses on commenters, so I thought the sentence should continue with what those commenters (they) have to say, rather than what people in general say. If I left it alone, it’s as if the author is talking about two separate groups with two separate actions.
  14. If one or more of your readers is creating an environment leaving people feeling in danger of ridicule (and perceived danger), the community will deflate, as those who are(feel) threatened evaporate before hearing what you have to say next.Leaving people feeling in danger is flabby, hard to say, and reads as if it’s the second item in a list of actions by your readers. I read it as your readers are creating and leaving. Changed are threatened to feel threatened to match the earlier phrase feeling in danger.
  15. “I really want you to like me.” While most readers won’t come right out and say it… — I didn’t touch really inside this quote, because it’s a quote and people talk differently than they write. Right is an unnecessary word.
  16. This will help to increase your reader base while deepening their level of loyalty.Help to is a flabby phrase that adds little meaning to the sentence. I could have replaced the first word of this sentence, This, to something more concrete like doing so to refer to use available opportunities in the previous sentence, but I missed it.
  17. If your writing makes your readers feel insignificant, you will miss the magic dusting(sprinkling) the development of a loyal audience. – I’m not happy with this change I suggested. I should have put sprinkling atop so that people don’t read magic sprinkling as a combination noun. Besides that, I ruined his d alliteration in dusting the development. I should have used magic dusting atop the development of a loyal audience.
  18. You can’t expect your readers to come right out and tell you every time you’ve made a connection(connected).Come right out and is flabby and unnecessary. Shaved four words. Not only is made a connection flabby, it’s nominalization too. I changed it to the stronger verb form, thus shaving two more words.
  19. This effort will add up and expand your audience – Flabby, unnecessary, redundant phrase.
  20. Your readers will also come to expect a certain level of quality, a particular style of writing, and an overall character that is unique to your blog. – Unnecessary phrase. Sentence meaning doesn’t change without the phrase.
  21. If you want to know more about your readers’ expectations, and you probably should, – Authority Alert. You’re the blogger giving someone information. Believe it yourself, or your readers probably won’t.
  22. A little levity, even for serious discussions, can make(makes) good content great and great content easier to spread. – Authority Alert. Refer to note #21.
  23. If your blog becomes the harbinger of doom and gloom, you’ll surely lose some readers.Some is ambiguous. The word also robs the sentence of authority. Read the before and after versions and you’ll hear what I mean.
  24. Self-deprecating humor is the safest kind and can help(helps) establish yourself as a well-balanced person who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. – Authority Alert. The word can sounds too much like might to me.
  25. If your audience can’t see that you care(thinks you’re indifferent), then your words, even if read, are reduced(reduce) to their lowest common denominator. – Not a big fan of the word can’t. People don’t want to know what can’t be done, only what can, and they don’t want to know what something isn’t but what it is. Ex. That isn’t good. Just write That sucks. Besides that, I changed can’t see that you care to thinks you’re indifferent because it reads easier and uses less words. I deleted then because it’s a weak linking term. Are reduced is passive voice, bringing focus to the person doing the reducing instead of to your words.
  26. If you write with the goal of reaching people, changing lives, or giving advice, then you must…Then is a weak linking term. Delete whenever possible.
  27. Never calculate care, but (if you) allow the concern for your audience to creep through the cracks of your sentences and(,) you will nurture a contagious, long-lasting bond. – I added if you because the sentence reads like never calculate, but allow for concern. Allow for concern is only part of a larger conditional statement and needs and if conjunction. As a result, I deleted and and inserted a comma for the sentence to make sense.
  28. In real life, readers don’t usually send Dear John letters to bloggers. – Authority Alert. Usually takes the punch out of this sentence.
  29. So, chances are, you’ll never know why they left until one day they’re suddenly not showing up any longer(gone). – Flabby phrase. Six words down to one. A savings of five words.

That’s it for Copyediting Tutorial #2. I know you learned something (Authority), and had some fun, too. Tell us how much in the comments.

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2 Comments on “Copyediting Tutorial #2”

  1. Ram Iyer says:

    Hey,

    Nice tutorial. Just one thing that came to mind.

    Note 16: I think “help to” could have been left as it is, for connecting with the readers is just one among the many tips the author talks about. Deleting it makes it seem like it will increase the reader base by itself. A bit too authoritative, isn’t it?

    Other than that, good tutorials on the site. I hope you come up with more 🙂

    – Ram.

    • Shane says:

      @Ram: Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. I appreciate that. I know Sean is big on being an authority while blogging. He’s written on this topic before, so I thought the change was appropriate to add more authority to this sentence. Ex. Lifting weights helps you get stronger. Lifting weights gets you stronger. I believe these two sentences mean the same thing, but the second sentence sounds like the author means it more.


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