City Editors at 6AM City write a lot of content each day. Our hyperlocal coverage includes features on new restaurants, interviews with local movers and shakers, and civic and development stories.
A critical part of writing so much content each day is the practice of self-editing to ensure that we create the most publish-ready content possible (read: clear, factual, and impactful).
Here are eight tips and tricks to become a strong writer + self-editor.
Write like you’re talking to a friend
6AM City’s brand voice is conversational and informal. Wondering how to achieve this tone? Pretend you’re telling your story to a close friend or family member.
When chatting with friends, you’d likely opt for clear and actionable language over stuffy jargon. These word choices keep your content accessible to a wide range of readers.
Think in terms of “need to know”
This leads us to the next tip: prioritize the most need-to-know information. 6AM City newsletters are short and snappy, with lead stories taking up a maximum of 300 words. Carefully curating the “who, what, where, when, why” of our content keeps readers engaged.
That being said, all readers are different. To ensure that everyone can feel educated + informed after reading our stories, we lead with a strong local angle (why our city’s residents should care about this story in particular) and provide links to additional resources wherever possible. This way, our content is both brief and serviceable.
Read out loud
This is our favorite tip for making sure your writing is clear and concise. Once you have a solid draft in place, take a pause to read the story out loud to yourself. It might sound silly, but hearing your words aloud increases the chances of catching grammatical issues, awkward phrases, and other small issues your eyes might accidentally glaze over.
When writing on deadline, you might feel pressured to stay at your desk until the story is completed. Unfortunately, this doesn’t allow much space for creativity, which is a vital part of the writing process.
Instead, try to work in a few breaks during your writing time. Use these extra few minutes to go for a stroll around your block (fresh air will do wonders), call a friend, or do whatever activity gets you some space from the article.
You’ll find that more often than not, writer’s block can be cured by just giving your brain some room to ideate. This is how our City Editors think of the wittiest puns and sharpest intro grafs.
Kill your darlings
This is the hard part. As much as you love that anecdotal lede or clever pun in your story, journalistic editing requires tough love. We sometimes refer to this practice as “cutting with a sharp knife” — the gist is to eliminate any content that doesn’t add value to your story or serve your readers.
“When in doubt, keep it short. We tend to overcompensate by writing too much, and most often what we need to do is strike through some copy!” — Multi City Editor Sarah Leonhardt.
Don’t leave any questions unanswered
Leave some time in your day to go back and address any questions or sticking points that are left in your story. This can range from fact-checking names to confirming the projected timeline for a new development project.
The bottom line? If you’re confused about an element of your story, your readers will be too.
Switch up the visuals
There are visual cues that can trick your brain into seeing your writing with fresh eyes. If you’ve been writing in a standard Google or Word document all day, try printing a draft out and editing with pen on paper.
For editors who prefer to work in the digital space — read your content from the bottom up, or switch things up by zooming in on each sentence and editing them one at a time. By seeing things in a new way (literally), you’ll catch a lot of mistakes you might otherwise have missed.
Lean on a friend
Okay, this isn’t self-editing, but it’s an equally important process for editors at 6AM City — peer-editing.
Sharing your work with a fellow writer or editor will give you an entirely new perspective on your writing. You’ll likely walk away with helpful suggestions + edits to improve your content.
If you don’t have another writer to lean on, try asking your roommate or a family member to take a look. The more eyes you have on your story, the better it will be.