Edit in Sweeps

A few years ago I saw Joanna Wiebe talk about her 7 sweeps editing technique at the Business of Software conference.

The basic idea is that you edit a work in successive sweeps where each sweep only tries to improve one kind of thing. For example, her first sweep is to improve clarity. Her sweeps are designed for advertising and marketing copy, but the basic idea of editing for one thing at a time is working for me.

Since I bank posts, I have a lot of time to edit them before they get posted. Right after I write my first draft of the next post, I go to the upcoming posts and edit the ones that would publish next.

Here are my current sweeps

  1. Clarity as Joanna describes: Who is it for and what is the message? Is that clear?
  2. Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  3. Remove unnecessary parts – these may be the start of another post.

I don’t yet do these sweeps, but I should

  1. Make the post actionable. What can I challenge the reader to do right now?
  2. Edit for voice and tone. Joanna has a video about that too. I am struggling with finding my voice.
  3. Make the post valuable to the reader. (I’m sorry, but I am trying)

So, do this now:

  1. Watch Joanna’s Clarity Video.
  2. Pick a piece of recent or upcoming writing you have.
  3. Think about who your audience is (a key part of how you make things clear).
  4. Do a clarity sweep on that piece.
  5. Think about what sweeps would make your writing better and figure out what you will actually do in that sweep. As I develop mine further, I’ll share.