Writing and editing are two very different skills. While I’ve written countless feature and news articles over the years, rich descriptive language doesn’t come easily to me. My real strength and passion is for editing other writers’ work. In fact, many of the most imaginative writers seem to have little or no regard for grammar, sentence structure or other language technicalities.
Even a prolific creative writer like Stephen King needs a good editor. In his classic “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”, King spends a fair amount of time promoting the importance of grammar and the brilliance of William Strunk’s classic writing guide “The Elements of Style”. He then goes on to describe his writing process: a first draft followed by one or more passes to reorganize and refine his original thoughts. Even so, as he describes it, his trusted editor still has a lot of work to do, massaging and shaping the story into its final printed form.
In my role as managing editor of corporate publications, I was often tasked with applying one “voice” to pieces written by many different people, presented as informational pieces with no author byline. Those pieces were usually interspersed with feature stories and editorials written by others inside or outside my organization. In some cases the subject matter expert was comfortable writing their own piece, which needed little editing. In other cases, the expert had little or no confidence in his or her writing skills and no desire to write.
Eventually, I learned to present reluctant writers with two alternatives: allow me to interview you and ghostwrite the article myself or list your thoughts in any format you’d like without worrying about paragraphs, sentence structure or grammar. The look of relief on people’s faces was very rewarding. They were usually proud of the end result and enjoyed sharing the articles with family and friends.
Even with years of experience, and my editing teacher’s words still ringing in my ears, (“You don’t have to know everything; just know when to look it up.”), I never tire of reading new ideas for organizing information into interesting, easy to read formats.
Here’s a great article that came across my screen today from one of my favorite sources: Hubspot Blogs. “10 Simple Edits That’ll Instantly Improve Any Piece of Writing” by Eddie Shleyner | @VeryGoodCopy.
Every business needs a good copyeditor. Contact me to discuss your one-time project or ongoing needs.