How to Rewrite Old Content and Make It New Again

How to Rewrite Old Content and Make It New Again

Some days, I find writing from scratch rather difficult. I can’t think of what I want to say. I outline a post, but then it doesn’t feel right, and I delete it. I finally get started on a topic, but halfway through I decide I don’t like what I’ve written, and I scrap the whole thing.

Some days, creating doesn’t come easy.

On those days, re-creating does.

You don’t always have to come up with something brand-new. Why not take something old and make it new again instead? Yes, you can rewrite old content, spare your brain, have some fun, improve your business… and your efforts will pay off handsomely.

You’ll get fresh results and new reactions from an old piece that’s long been forgotten.

Satisfying, that.

Choose any old page or post from your website or blog. No writing is ever perfect, and anything you write could always use improvement. Personally, I recommend going way back to your earlier days. You’ll find lots of garbage there you can work with.

I won’t deny it: the first few minutes of re-reading your old article will likely make you cringe. “I wrote that?! God, that’s terrible… I can’t believe I published this.” All its warts and faults will leap out at you.

Take a minute. Have your cringe-session. Yes, you wrote that. Yes, it’s terrible.

Then get over it. Move on.

You’ve grown in experience and skill levels since then. Use both, and look closer. Look past the misconstrued sentences and random babbling and grammatical errors. That old piece had good bones. The message was worthy. The idea was solid. It may not have been very well written, but it still has merit.

You can do something with this.

Set your emotions aside. Get objective about this. Imagine you never wrote this piece, and you’ve just been hired to make it better. What would you rework? How would you edit this? What needs improvement, and how would you go about making that change?

Here are a few suggestions of where you could start:

What’s the Mood?

Examine your text and determine if it conveys the right mood. Can you feel any emotion? Is that emotion right for the goal? Should the piece convey fear, or worry, or stress, or joy? Play it up – make sure readers feel something when they read this piece.

While you’re at it, switch out some words. Replace them with better ones that best represent the mood you’d like to convey. Use a thesaurus. Try “challenge” instead of “effort” or “endeavor” instead of “work”. Have fun, and enjoy yourself.

What’s the Style?

Was this piece supposed to be authoritative and firm? Or friendly and welcoming? Maybe you were aiming for hip and cool back when it was trendy, but now you realize that the language doesn’t sound very calm and confident after all.

Alter the style. Soften down a hard tone. Strengthen language that sounds weak to make it firm. Try shortening sentences to make them punchier or add length to them so you can smooth them out. Add adjectives for some color, or remove all the adverbs and see how that feels.

What’s the Structure?

Is there any structure to this piece? Do you have a headline? A hook? A good call to action? Bullet points? Is your piece overlong or too short? Are paragraphs chunky and fat, or do they need bulking up? Do ideas flow well from one to the next or go off on tangents that no one can follow?

For many writers, older work was often riffed off on a whim, so adding structure to the piece might bring it a new level of professionalism. Try a journalistic style of who, what, why, when, how, or look up copywriting formulas like AIDA and QUEST and use them in your piece.

What’s the Point?

A lot of old writing comes off as very fluffy and indulgent in today’s straightforward trends. Short, concise and to the point is the way to go, so examine your piece for fluff you can cut. Could you write the same meaning into a sentence only using fewer words? Probably.

Be merciless. Chop out unnecessary words, industry jargon, and repetitive sentences or redundant phrasing. Say one thing well in only so many words versus saying the same thing over and over in many different ways. See how much you can cut while retaining your core message.

What Would You Change?

You’ll definitely rework some pieces to the point that they’re world’s apart from the original, and it’s likely that most content will end up in this group. Improving old content doesn’t always mean it needs a full rewrite, though. Not every sentence has to change.

You’ll also find a few gems on your old content quest – the kind of work that’s pretty darned good to begin with. Maybe only a third needs a rewrite. Maybe just a few words need to be changed. Sometimes switching 3 words out of 50 makes all the difference.

Here’s a cool side benefit that happens when you rewrite your content: the more you rewrite, the better a writer you become. Rewriting old work hones your editing skills, and that only serves to make you a stronger writer who creates good work from the get-go.

When you create work from scratch, you’ll find that your sentences are already concise. You’ll choose better words for your content right away. And you’ll find yourself naturally infusing your content with the right emotion.

Now that’s what I call good re-writing.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.