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Enlightened Leadership Blog | 10 Pro-Tips for Effective Self-Editing for Business Owners | August 2023

A moment of honesty, if I may? (Thank you.) 

If I see headlines while I’m scrolling through news feeds, blogs, or online magazines that intimate there are lists within the stories or articles, I get excited. Lists are time-savers. If I click the link and scan the article, and it has no clearly marked list (with numbers or bullets), annoyance seeps into my otherwise curious heart. I don’t read the article to find the embedded list. I want you to read this and benefit from it.

So without further ado, here is the list—not an exhaustive one—of ten tips for effective self-editing for business owners, as promised in this blog’s headline:

  1. Yes, business owners, when writing anything, you should self-edit everything that another pair of eyes will see. I encourage you to make this a company policy. Have you ever crafted a business email, a social media post, or something similar and, in a rush, thought, “It’s just going to my business partner; I don’t need to re-read this before sending it” or “It’s a five-sentence post. I’m sure it’s fine,” only to find out your business partner then forwarded the email, complete with mistakes and a questionable tone, to five other people? Or the post has a misspelling and has to be edited or deleted? Right. Me too. Enough said.
  2. It’s okay to start a sentence with a conjunction. What are conjunctions? “But,” “so,” and “yet” (among four others). In seventh-grade English class, we learned how to write. Points were deducted for starting sentences with these words. It might seem a bit rebellious to go against your high school education. Do it, anyway. It adds variety and makes your writing easier to read. But do it sparingly, or it feels lazy. 
  3. Learn how to use the semi-colon. The semi-colon connects related independent clauses (i.e., sentences that communicate a complete thought and make sense if they were to stand on their own). Here’s my tip for business owners: avoid using it altogether. There are other ways to punctuate (commas or periods) that make more sense for business-related writing. The semi-colon feels stuffy.
  4. Learn how to use the colon. We’re not talking about GI issues here, but we are talking about mastering some simple punctuation. For your purposes, entrepreneurs, just use colons to announce, introduce, or direct attention to a list (e.g., bring the following items to our meeting: the attached agenda, your ideas, and some patience.)
  5. Speaking of i.e. and e.g., know the difference. I.e. means “that is,” as in, “She’s a Hoosier (i.e., she’s from Indiana).” E.g. means “for example,” as in, “He ordered several kinds of sandwiches for the meeting (e.g., turkey, tuna, and veggie).” The way I remember it is to say to myself, “For eggs-ample” = e.g. And “in other words” starts with i, so it’s i.e. 
  6. Trim the fat. In the business world, time equals money. People don’t want to read a long email or an overly descriptive newsletter or social media post, especially when the content or words feel redundant. There are a few words you can easily delete without losing meaning or power. They include just that (in most cases), own (when preceded by my, your, their, his, or her), up or down (when they come after stood or sat), I think, and most -ly words, such as honestly, absolutely, and totally.
  7. Watch your tenses. Check your verbs. Ensure you haven’t switched between past and present tense or future and present tense. It’s easier than you think to mess this up.
  8. Check your tone. The tone of writing is the attitude you convey. It can be instructive, motivational, angry, caring, supportive, encouraging, degrading, superior, or hundreds of others. Think about your audience as you write. Read the content out loud and ask how the information comes across with your “reader hat” on. Bounce it off someone who can give you some insight into how others might hear it when they read it.
  9. Use a spell check. This one is easy. A free spell check is built into most email and document-writing platforms. It takes seconds, so why would you not use this as a back-up in your business writing? I used it with this blog post, and I had originally misspelled preceded! It will help with those pesky their, they’re, and theres!
  10. Use Grammarly or ProWritingAid, but realize AI is not perfect. For critical communication or writing that will be viewed externally, it might be a good idea to invest in AI software to check behind you (though, there is a free option for Grammarly), especially for longer pieces, like blogs, newsletters, business cases, market analyses, and annual summaries. Just know these resources are not perfect. Ensure the suggestions make sense and align with your meaning.

Write and self-edit with confidence, entrepreneurs!

By Cortney Donelson

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*Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay