“Hire good writers…they make things easy to understand.”
We like that quote from 37 Signals but having a good editor is equally important. Getting your ideas down is one thing. Organising them into clear, coherent, and compelling copy is quite another.
Knowing what to leave out is as important as knowing what to include.
As E B White said in The Elements of Style:
“The main thing I try to do is write as clearly as I can. I rewrite a good deal to make it clearer.”
Shaping, editing and polishing your business communications takes time because it takes thought.
As Nathaniel Hawthorne put it:
“Easy reading is damned hard writing.”
Make your life easier with our 7-steps to effective business editing:
- What’s the relevance? Who is your audience, why should they read your writing and how do you want them to feel at the end?
- Does it meet your objective? What results do you want and how will you measure them? Is it clear to your readers what action they should take?
- Look at the big picture. Before editing details, read the whole piece aloud. Check for structure, flow and tone of voice. Ensure the narrative makes sense: is it logical and does it fit with your brand.
- Look again – and think again. Is the content right for your audience – is it what they want to know? Are you telling them too much (a common mistake) or are you missing crucial information?
- Fight the flab. Cut clichés, clumsy phrasing, vague assertions and obscure or pretentious words. These don’t impress and may turn people off. Remember, short, simple words and crisp sentences tend to be more effective but vary your pace for interest.
- Edit for correctness. This is when you check the grammar, spelling and punctuation ruthlessly. Use your grammar and spell-checker but don’t rely on it, after all: “Money spilling and grimmer chequers see northern wring with these sentence.” Also check any hyperlinks to ensure they work.
- Proofread carefully. Don’t just read your copy on-screen; print it out and read it aloud. If possible, ask someone you trust to read it too. It should sound natural to a native English speaker. Check again for logic, flow, emphasis, tone, and, of course, errors.
Then post with confidence.
The beauty of an organised mind
“Good writing indicates an organised mind capable of arranging information systematically and helping (not making) other people understand things. It spills over into code, personal communications, instant messaging, and even such ideas as professionalism and reliability.”
– Dustin J. Mitchell, developer (from Signal vs. Noise)
Thank you for reading