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Lindsay Bell

Why Your Editor is Your Friend

By: Lindsay Bell | February 20, 2013 | 
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Today’s guest post is by Lindsay Bell.

Jason Konopinski is a funny guy.

He’s an even funnier guy when he uses words like ‘ding-danged,’ as he did in a recent Facebook post.

To quote: “Bloggers, for all that is good and holy, COPYEDIT YOUR DING-DANGED POSTS.”

While that status update sparked some great chatter around ‘writers – vs – authors’ and whether any monkey with a typewriter can publish a book these days, it boiled down to one undeniable fact: Writers – any writers – need editors.

Blame Your Brain

According to The National Geographic, our brains are hardwired to make sense of what we see, hear, smell, touch, and taste, and (this is important) it’s hardwired to fill in missing pieces with whatever our expectations suggest should be there. It’s evolution, baby. And it makes it very difficult to edit one’s own work.

As mentioned above, that’s why those ‘if you can read this {gobbledygook}…’ posts are so much fun. When you attempt to self-edit, your brain automatically relies on hundreds of thousands of years of wiring. Nine times out of 10 your brain will ‘see’ your grammar, spelling, or verbiage as correct, even if it isn’t. Your brain already knows what it’s looking for; it wrote it in the first place! D’uh.

It’s not that hard to counteract these unconscious brain corrections. One little trick I use is to read my work backwards, and from bottom to top. This is a great way to see spelling errors and the like, because your mind isn’t making sense of these seemingly random words. However, it doesn’t help you correct odd turns of phrase, or things such as punctuation errors.

Mistakes Cost Money

That said, there are many other reasons why a great editor is a treasure to have on standby.

MarketingProfs shared a fascinating tidbit from the UK. After a spelling error was corrected at tightsplease.co.uk, the online retailer’s revenue per visitor doubled. In this case, poorly written copy clearly registered, consciously or not, as the potential for shoddy business practices.

An experienced editor understands everything has a voice, and whether you’re writing for a brand, magazine, newspaper or corporate blog, he/she will a) know that voice intimately and b) ensure continuity of that voice.

This is extremely important as your most loyal customers/readers will be expecting consistent, quality content. They won’t appreciate The National Enquirer if they are expecting The New York Times.

What an Editor Brings to the Table

  • Editors watch out for the basics such as awkward run-on sentences, grammatical and spelling errors, and other run-of-the-mill writing issues. But they also look for the overall structure of the piece, such as flow and readability. You might have buried the lead, mixed metaphors, or your third paragraph might be more suitable as your opener. Yes, your work might be changed, and if you can’t deal with that you shouldn’t be writing.
  • They keep their eyes peeled for accuracy, fairness, redundancy, and taste. Your editor will either fact check your work, or ask you to provide links to quoted articles. Of course, your work should already have been checked and rechecked prior to submitting it to your editor. Pay special attention to people’s names and titles.
  • An editor’s goal is to protect the writer (you) and by extension, the project or organization. A good editor will read through the eyes of their audience, and will never assume the audience knows what you’re talking about. So, if you make a big, bold, sweeping statement, expect to be challenged on it and be prepared to back it up with statistics/proof. If you can’t back it up, it shouldn’t be published.

I understand people are human beings who make typos and other mistakes. I want people to have fun with language, inject life into their writing, or even break a few old-school grammar rules. Most of us, these days, write as we speak, and none of us speak like our fifth grade grammar workbooks. But still, it seems like these days, we are seeing more quantity over quality. And no matter the pace of the world we all live in today, quality still matters.

Lindsay Bell is the content director at Arment Dietrich, and works in Toronto. A former TV producer, she’s a strong advocate of three minutes or less of video content. She has a cool kid, a patient husband, two annoying cats, and the newly adopted Hank, a vizsla and foxhound mix, who arrives very soon! 

About Lindsay Bell


Lindsay Bell is the content director at Arment Dietrich, and works in Toronto. A former TV producer, she’s a strong advocate of three minutes or less of video content. She has a cool kid, a patient husband, two annoying cats, and Hank Dawge, a Vizsla/Foxhound/moose hybrid. Ok, maybe not moose.

116 comments
belllindsay
belllindsay

@RTRViews Thanks for the share Rick! :) cc @SpinSucks

belllindsay
belllindsay

@shonali Thanks for sending that out Shonali! :) Also, guest post soon...? You have my email! cc @ginidietrich

belllindsay
belllindsay

@chadjthiele Thanks for the share Chad! :) @ginidietrich @SpinSucks

belllindsay
belllindsay

@TonyZambito Cheers Tony, appreciate the share! @shonali @ginidietrich

belllindsay
belllindsay

@vedo Thanks for the RT Richie! :) cc @shonali @ginidietrich

joelaauto
joelaauto

@seanmcginnis @ginidietrich And, sadly, a vanishing breed :(

susansilver
susansilver

Lindsey, I really like what you said in point three. I do feel that editors are there to protect me as a writer. I get that I have problems. I don't think it makes me a terrible writer at all, errors happen.

 

 @AmyMccTobin has a point too. Blogs get rewarded for speed, consistency, and quantity of posts. A small business is not going to be able to afford someone to look over everything they write. 

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

I cannot proof my own work - my eye sees what I think should be there. With that being said, @susansilver and I have had this discussion repeatedly regarding blog posts.  What IF there is a typo?  We can't all have editors for our blogs... and sometimes we make mistakes. I think websites, prominent blogs like this one, business literature etc. should have higher stands.  The small business person blogging for their small audience may not be able to hire an editor.

belllindsay
belllindsay

@AlisonWordsmith Cheers Allison, thanks for the share! #proudNewBrunswickerhere :) cc @ginidietrich

belllindsay
belllindsay

@JuliaRosien Thanks for the share Julia! xo @ginidietrich

barrettrossie
barrettrossie

"But still, it seems like these days, we are seeing more quantity over quality. And no matter the pace of the world we all live in today, quality still matters."  @belllindsay , this can't be said enough.

 

Letting yourself ignore quality for reasons of convenience is a slippery slope. 

bdorman264
bdorman264

Can you get paid doing this? Maybe I want to be an editor when I grow up; I can read....most words at least........

 

I'm persnickety about typos, but some people don't like to be corrected all.the.time. That's when I break out the Kung Fu grip however........

belllindsay
belllindsay

@joeldon Thanks for the share Joel. :) @SpinSucks

belllindsay
belllindsay

@SuperbContent Thanks for the share! :)

ExtremelyAvg
ExtremelyAvg

Okay, I have to share one of the mistakes Erin found. It is sort of awesome.

 

"The Berlin unit's report should also be arriving by currier soon."  <The correct word is courier.

 

Currier is a word, but it means: a person who dresses and colors leather after it is tanned. Obviously, that was not what I intended. It was a simple spelling error. Now, my work is slightly better and I have a new word in my vocabulary that I'm just dying to use correctly.

 

Agnes said, "He was a fine lad and a skilled currier."

ThePaulSutton
ThePaulSutton

@belllindsay That reminds me, I need to come up with a topic, don't I?

chadjthiele
chadjthiele

@belllindsay You're welcome. Great post. I agree completely.

vedo
vedo

@belllindsay sure thing, it was a solid read. Have a great weekend. @shonali @ginidietrich

belllindsay
belllindsay

 @AmyMccTobin  @susansilver I think what I'm talking about here though is consistency - yes errors happen (I had some in this piece! LOL) - and that plays back to the "we are only human" part - but when there are consistent typos or larger grammatical errors I think that's a problem. Dare I say that it's even MORE important for SMBs as they are the ones scratching for clients/customers. They have to show reliability and quality - maybe more than your massive conglomerate with a bazillion brand fans. 

belllindsay
belllindsay

 @barrettrossie Don't you find Barrett that there are more and more posts and articles that read like they're just being pumped out of a factory...?? I do. 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@jasonkonopinski It wasn't your link, though, and I only had 140 characters!

belllindsay
belllindsay

 @bdorman264 People have been correcting me here like little gramar nazis. LOL I'm so proud. :)

belllindsay
belllindsay

 @ExtremelyAvg I miss things like that in other people's writing at times too Brian. The brain reads it as a properly spelled word - and if it sounds the same, well....although that did make me laugh out loud. ;) 

belllindsay
belllindsay

@ThePaulSutton Yes please! :D Booking March right now.

ThePaulSutton
ThePaulSutton

@belllindsay later would be better. Some time around 20th to 25th ish would be perfect

belllindsay
belllindsay

@ThePaulSutton Mid month work for you?