Content editing: what it is and how you can edit drafts in 10 easy steps

Content editing: what it is and how you can edit drafts in 10 easy steps

7 minute read

Content editing: what it is and how you can edit drafts in 10 easy steps

7 minute read

Content editing: what it is and how you can edit drafts in 10 easy steps

Masooma Memon

Freelance writer
Content writing and content editing go hand-in-hand when it comes to creating high-quality content. Whether it’s a whitepaper you’re working on or social media captions – all written content needs to go through the content editing process.

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Content editing makes sure your draft is well-written, SEO-optimised, and consistent with your brand voice.

Ready to learn the ins and outs of the content editing process?

Dig into this guide as we walk you through:

  • What content editing is
  • How it differs from other types of editing
  • The content editing frameworks that experts use
  • 10 steps for editing drafts to make them more readable and rank-worthy.

What is Content Editing?

Content editing, also known as developmental editing, is the editing process that reviews content for its flow, readability, and ease of understanding.

It’s here that you edit the draft to lift it to a publishable standard – making sure it reflects your brand voice and is factually correct. To add, it involves SEO-optimizing content.

Why Content Editing Is Important?

Content editing is an essential part of the editing process as it polishes content to ensure it's on-brand and optimized for readers and the search engine.

Here’s a rundown of the importance of content editing as it helps ensure content is:

  • Consistent in terms of the voice used.
  • Optimized for SEO so it stands a chance to rank.
  • Easy to read so it encourages readers to consume it in the first place.
  • Structured well and has a smooth flow so as to provide a good reading experience.
  • Provides accurate information to help you earn readers' trust and position your business as the authority on the topic.

The Difference Between Content Editing And Copy Editing

Where content editing involves standing back and looking at a draft to scrutinize and polish it for its flow and cohesiveness, copy editing reviews it line by line for spelling, capitalization, grammar, and punctuation mistakes.

Copy editing or line editing also involves fine-tuning content for your target audience by making regional differences to it. For example, it ensures the entire draft is written in British English or American English depending on who your audience is.

It also corrects word choices according to the target audience. For instance, the word “cuppa” better resonates with a British audience than an American one.

Finally, copy editing ensures the content follows your style guide. For example, using the em dash without spacing on either side. Again, this helps create consistent content.

Need to know: Share notes on style and more using embedded guidelines in GatherContent so writers have them front and centre as they draft content.
Embed guidelines in your brief template in GatherContent
GatherContent helps you provide embedded instructions on writing better content in the briefs you create in the content editing platform.

Put simply, content editing sees the big picture for improving a draft’s flow and readability. On the other hand, copy editing puts content under a microscope for catching grammar and spelling errors.

Content Editing Prioritisation Framework From SMEs

The question now is: how do experts prioritize editing content?

Here’s a summary of the content editing prioritization framework that two experts follow

1. Editor-in-chief Billy Chan

Billy's editing prioritization framework: Review flow, subheadings, grammar, and headline

As Editor-in-Chief at DroneLast, Billy Chan prioritizes the following steps as part of their content editing process:

  • The flow of the article, i.e. the structure and the sequence of paragraphs. “If the structure is unclear or important points are missing, I give the author detailed feedback and ask him or her to revise the article," Chan writes.
  • The article’s subheadings. Chan explains why: “Online readers generally skim the subheadings to find the information they are looking for. So the subheadings are important to really engage the readers.
  • Grammar of the text and typos. "I use Grammarly and InstaText for this process.”
  • Headline. “Last but not least, I spend at least 15 minutes polishing the headline with CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to make it SEO-friendly and appealing to the audience at the same time. A good headline trumps everything in the article,” concludes Chan.

2. Editor-in-chief Susan Melony

Susan's editing prioritization framework: Grammar check, review 4Ws and 1H, fish for the hook, fact check, and prune

Next, Susan Melony, the Editor-in-Chief of Product Diggers, explains their framework as a content editor – shared word for word below:

  • “Basic Grammar Check

Before I even begin reading, I run the written piece through a basic spell-check and grammar software. I use Grammarly for that. This eliminates any minor and basic mistakes that the article might have and helps you in initial proofreading.

  • 4 W’s and 1H

Then I skim-read the article for the basic 4 W’s and 1H: What? Why? Where? How? When? After highlighting the answers to these basic questions, I move on to the rest of the story. But first, I ensure that all these questions have been answered in the first few sentences.

  • Fishing for the Hook

It is important for the story to have a ‘wow factor’ that interests the reader. So it is important to identify whether the right hook has been chosen by the writer. This hook should be strategically placed at the beginning of the story to interest the reader in reading further.

  • Fact check

Cross-check at least two references, Google any facts and figures, and make sure to weed out any inaccurate information or exaggeration in the article. Ensure that all sources are referenced.

  • Ctrl X

Finally, it’s time to cut short the story and eliminate any unnecessary details. This step is the hardest because when you get to it, every detail seems important. Yet you must decide what you can fit in that ad space, so you prioritize some information and erase the rest.

Re-read the piece, 2 to 3 times, and you are done.”

The 10 Steps In The Content Editing Process

Before we begin, make sure you pencil in time for content editing in your content workflow so you don't gloss over it.

Now, follow this checklist for a well-oiled content editing process:

1. Read content without making any changes

Begin with reading content from start to end to understand what’s written and what needs work.

Jumping into editing right away doesn’t give you an idea of what’s covered in the later parts of the written content. Read first, edit second.

2. Study the structure for flow

Ask yourself:

  • Does the argument follow a logical structure?
  • Does each point build on top of one another to give readers thorough context and grow their knowledge on the topic step-by-step?

It’s also important you review the copy to see if moving sections can help improve understanding.

If you start drafts with outlines though, you can effectively reduce revisions on content structure.

3. Review sentences for clarity

Check sentence structure (syntax) and their voice. Active voice sentences offer far more clarity than sentences written in passive voice.

Writing in the active voice also takes up fewer words and is more direct, which helps improve content readability.

4. Check content authority

Start fact-checking in this step.

Make sure the data shared is not only correct but also fresh. If the content features experts, double-check they’re an authority on the topic.

5. Optimize for SEO

Check keyword density (the number of times the main keyword is used), where keywords are used, and how they’re used. Ideally, they should flow naturally.

Add any missing internal links and make sure external links are directed to high-authority sites. While you’re at it, review anchor texts for both types of links.

For all the images and screenshots in the draft, add or review alt text and captions for making content accessible, an essential aspect of SEO optimizing it.

6. Format for readability

There’s a lot of work you can do in this step. For example:

  • Replace difficult words with simpler ones.
  • Break long, hard-to-understand sentences into short ones.
  • Remove fluff words from the content for a crispier draft.
  • Make sure your headings and subheadings are short and direct.
  • Create numbered or bulleted lists of steps and key takeaways in the copy.
  • Bold key takeaways so readers skim-reading content can leave with solid takeaways.

💡 Pro tip: Add Hemingway Editor to your editing tools stash. The web app gives content a readability score and helps you improve it by highlighting passive voice use and hard-to-read sentences.

7. Write an effective headline

This is key for prompting readers to consume your content.

Ideally, ask writers to share a few headline variations so you can pick the most compelling one.

Or, get to work yourself and write down at least 25 headlines using these headline formulas to get to the best one.

Also, review the introduction. Does it push readers to continue reading without being needlessly wordy? Does it convey the gist of the piece – accurately summarising what readers can expect from the content?

8. Ensure it aligns with your brand voice

Now analyze the content for its tone of voice.  

Look at the word choice and tone to see if and how you can tweak them to align with your brand.

This shouldn’t take long if you’ve already documented your brand voice guidelines and shared them with the writer.

Need to know: Write a style guide for different content types you create in GatherContent. Then, share links to the style guide, brand voice, and other documents in the brief. This way, the content collaboration tool can serve as a central repository for all content and guidelines you create.
Create style guides and brief templates in GatherContent to collaborate on content creation.
GatherContent allows you to create style guides, brand voice guideline documents, and all other content in one place so it serves as a central library for all resources.

9. Give feedback to the writer

If you’ve any major changes for the writer to make or suggestions to improve the content, provide feedback now.

If you only had to make small changes, say, changing the headline formatting from title case to your standard sentence case, leave a comment informing the writer. This way, they can make a note of not repeating the same mistake in future drafts.

Need to know: Share feedback in comments using GatherContent to collaborate with writers on the same document as the draft. You can also tag writers so they get an email notifying them of what they need to do.
Share feedback with writers by commenting on the draft in GatherContent.
GatherContent lets you work with writers on the same document, allowing you to share feedback using comments.

💡 Learn more: How to provide feedback on content

Now pass on the draft to the copy editor so they can catch typos, grammar errors, and ensure the writing follows your style guide.

If you don’t have a copy editor on your team, take on these three tasks now.

10. Give it one final read

Lastly, review edits the writer makes.

Then, start proofreading one last time to ensure everything’s in place and you’ve checked off all the pointers in your editing checklist.

💡 Remember: Creating quality content isn’t a content writer’s job alone. Professional editing can improve each piece of content, helping it rank and offer better value to readers.

What are you waiting for? Try GatherContent for free to improve your content editing process today.


Content editing makes sure your draft is well-written, SEO-optimised, and consistent with your brand voice.

Ready to learn the ins and outs of the content editing process?

Dig into this guide as we walk you through:

  • What content editing is
  • How it differs from other types of editing
  • The content editing frameworks that experts use
  • 10 steps for editing drafts to make them more readable and rank-worthy.

What is Content Editing?

Content editing, also known as developmental editing, is the editing process that reviews content for its flow, readability, and ease of understanding.

It’s here that you edit the draft to lift it to a publishable standard – making sure it reflects your brand voice and is factually correct. To add, it involves SEO-optimizing content.

Why Content Editing Is Important?

Content editing is an essential part of the editing process as it polishes content to ensure it's on-brand and optimized for readers and the search engine.

Here’s a rundown of the importance of content editing as it helps ensure content is:

  • Consistent in terms of the voice used.
  • Optimized for SEO so it stands a chance to rank.
  • Easy to read so it encourages readers to consume it in the first place.
  • Structured well and has a smooth flow so as to provide a good reading experience.
  • Provides accurate information to help you earn readers' trust and position your business as the authority on the topic.

The Difference Between Content Editing And Copy Editing

Where content editing involves standing back and looking at a draft to scrutinize and polish it for its flow and cohesiveness, copy editing reviews it line by line for spelling, capitalization, grammar, and punctuation mistakes.

Copy editing or line editing also involves fine-tuning content for your target audience by making regional differences to it. For example, it ensures the entire draft is written in British English or American English depending on who your audience is.

It also corrects word choices according to the target audience. For instance, the word “cuppa” better resonates with a British audience than an American one.

Finally, copy editing ensures the content follows your style guide. For example, using the em dash without spacing on either side. Again, this helps create consistent content.

Need to know: Share notes on style and more using embedded guidelines in GatherContent so writers have them front and centre as they draft content.
Embed guidelines in your brief template in GatherContent
GatherContent helps you provide embedded instructions on writing better content in the briefs you create in the content editing platform.

Put simply, content editing sees the big picture for improving a draft’s flow and readability. On the other hand, copy editing puts content under a microscope for catching grammar and spelling errors.

Content Editing Prioritisation Framework From SMEs

The question now is: how do experts prioritize editing content?

Here’s a summary of the content editing prioritization framework that two experts follow

1. Editor-in-chief Billy Chan

Billy's editing prioritization framework: Review flow, subheadings, grammar, and headline

As Editor-in-Chief at DroneLast, Billy Chan prioritizes the following steps as part of their content editing process:

  • The flow of the article, i.e. the structure and the sequence of paragraphs. “If the structure is unclear or important points are missing, I give the author detailed feedback and ask him or her to revise the article," Chan writes.
  • The article’s subheadings. Chan explains why: “Online readers generally skim the subheadings to find the information they are looking for. So the subheadings are important to really engage the readers.
  • Grammar of the text and typos. "I use Grammarly and InstaText for this process.”
  • Headline. “Last but not least, I spend at least 15 minutes polishing the headline with CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to make it SEO-friendly and appealing to the audience at the same time. A good headline trumps everything in the article,” concludes Chan.

2. Editor-in-chief Susan Melony

Susan's editing prioritization framework: Grammar check, review 4Ws and 1H, fish for the hook, fact check, and prune

Next, Susan Melony, the Editor-in-Chief of Product Diggers, explains their framework as a content editor – shared word for word below:

  • “Basic Grammar Check

Before I even begin reading, I run the written piece through a basic spell-check and grammar software. I use Grammarly for that. This eliminates any minor and basic mistakes that the article might have and helps you in initial proofreading.

  • 4 W’s and 1H

Then I skim-read the article for the basic 4 W’s and 1H: What? Why? Where? How? When? After highlighting the answers to these basic questions, I move on to the rest of the story. But first, I ensure that all these questions have been answered in the first few sentences.

  • Fishing for the Hook

It is important for the story to have a ‘wow factor’ that interests the reader. So it is important to identify whether the right hook has been chosen by the writer. This hook should be strategically placed at the beginning of the story to interest the reader in reading further.

  • Fact check

Cross-check at least two references, Google any facts and figures, and make sure to weed out any inaccurate information or exaggeration in the article. Ensure that all sources are referenced.

  • Ctrl X

Finally, it’s time to cut short the story and eliminate any unnecessary details. This step is the hardest because when you get to it, every detail seems important. Yet you must decide what you can fit in that ad space, so you prioritize some information and erase the rest.

Re-read the piece, 2 to 3 times, and you are done.”

The 10 Steps In The Content Editing Process

Before we begin, make sure you pencil in time for content editing in your content workflow so you don't gloss over it.

Now, follow this checklist for a well-oiled content editing process:

1. Read content without making any changes

Begin with reading content from start to end to understand what’s written and what needs work.

Jumping into editing right away doesn’t give you an idea of what’s covered in the later parts of the written content. Read first, edit second.

2. Study the structure for flow

Ask yourself:

  • Does the argument follow a logical structure?
  • Does each point build on top of one another to give readers thorough context and grow their knowledge on the topic step-by-step?

It’s also important you review the copy to see if moving sections can help improve understanding.

If you start drafts with outlines though, you can effectively reduce revisions on content structure.

3. Review sentences for clarity

Check sentence structure (syntax) and their voice. Active voice sentences offer far more clarity than sentences written in passive voice.

Writing in the active voice also takes up fewer words and is more direct, which helps improve content readability.

4. Check content authority

Start fact-checking in this step.

Make sure the data shared is not only correct but also fresh. If the content features experts, double-check they’re an authority on the topic.

5. Optimize for SEO

Check keyword density (the number of times the main keyword is used), where keywords are used, and how they’re used. Ideally, they should flow naturally.

Add any missing internal links and make sure external links are directed to high-authority sites. While you’re at it, review anchor texts for both types of links.

For all the images and screenshots in the draft, add or review alt text and captions for making content accessible, an essential aspect of SEO optimizing it.

6. Format for readability

There’s a lot of work you can do in this step. For example:

  • Replace difficult words with simpler ones.
  • Break long, hard-to-understand sentences into short ones.
  • Remove fluff words from the content for a crispier draft.
  • Make sure your headings and subheadings are short and direct.
  • Create numbered or bulleted lists of steps and key takeaways in the copy.
  • Bold key takeaways so readers skim-reading content can leave with solid takeaways.

💡 Pro tip: Add Hemingway Editor to your editing tools stash. The web app gives content a readability score and helps you improve it by highlighting passive voice use and hard-to-read sentences.

7. Write an effective headline

This is key for prompting readers to consume your content.

Ideally, ask writers to share a few headline variations so you can pick the most compelling one.

Or, get to work yourself and write down at least 25 headlines using these headline formulas to get to the best one.

Also, review the introduction. Does it push readers to continue reading without being needlessly wordy? Does it convey the gist of the piece – accurately summarising what readers can expect from the content?

8. Ensure it aligns with your brand voice

Now analyze the content for its tone of voice.  

Look at the word choice and tone to see if and how you can tweak them to align with your brand.

This shouldn’t take long if you’ve already documented your brand voice guidelines and shared them with the writer.

Need to know: Write a style guide for different content types you create in GatherContent. Then, share links to the style guide, brand voice, and other documents in the brief. This way, the content collaboration tool can serve as a central repository for all content and guidelines you create.
Create style guides and brief templates in GatherContent to collaborate on content creation.
GatherContent allows you to create style guides, brand voice guideline documents, and all other content in one place so it serves as a central library for all resources.

9. Give feedback to the writer

If you’ve any major changes for the writer to make or suggestions to improve the content, provide feedback now.

If you only had to make small changes, say, changing the headline formatting from title case to your standard sentence case, leave a comment informing the writer. This way, they can make a note of not repeating the same mistake in future drafts.

Need to know: Share feedback in comments using GatherContent to collaborate with writers on the same document as the draft. You can also tag writers so they get an email notifying them of what they need to do.
Share feedback with writers by commenting on the draft in GatherContent.
GatherContent lets you work with writers on the same document, allowing you to share feedback using comments.

💡 Learn more: How to provide feedback on content

Now pass on the draft to the copy editor so they can catch typos, grammar errors, and ensure the writing follows your style guide.

If you don’t have a copy editor on your team, take on these three tasks now.

10. Give it one final read

Lastly, review edits the writer makes.

Then, start proofreading one last time to ensure everything’s in place and you’ve checked off all the pointers in your editing checklist.

💡 Remember: Creating quality content isn’t a content writer’s job alone. Professional editing can improve each piece of content, helping it rank and offer better value to readers.

What are you waiting for? Try GatherContent for free to improve your content editing process today.


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About the author

Masooma Memon

Masooma Memon is a pizza-loving freelance writer for SaaS. When she’s not writing actionable blog posts or checking off tasks from her to-do list, she has her head buried in a fantasy novel or business book. Connect with her on Twitter.

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