I’ve spent the bulk of my professional career in an editorial role. Every day, I get out my proverbial red pen to correct spelling, grammar, syntax, and any number of things that there aren’t words for. I do this for professional freelance writers that I’ve commissioned work from. I do this for columnists who write regularly to share their thoughts and expertise. I do this for marketing agencies who spend more time thinking about analytics than quality content. I’ve done this for book authors and even other editors. The list goes on and on. And here’s a little secret… Every writer needs an editor.
Even the best of the best… and that’s probably not you.
I work with a lot of subject matter experts. They know their stuff, but they aren’t always good writers. Some of them are “good enough” writers, and by giving a little snip here or there, I turn their OK prose into something people will actually want to read. Some of them have no idea how to structure an article, how to cite sources, or identify a run-on sentences when it bites them on the nose. It doesn’t matter how much valuable information you can stuff into a piece of content if no one can make it all the way through your text.
But it’s not just “non-writers” who need a little help. I often encounter marketers who write in the passive voice or don’t know the style conventions most of us adhere to. Many of them are so locked into their marketing-speak that they can’t help but stuff their content full of jargon and “exciting offers!” They often need an outside eye to help bring them back to reality.
And no matter who they are, every single writer or client I’ve ever worked with benefits from me reading over their content, asking questions, telling them to dig deeper, or add a link to a study. They all benefit from having a proofreader to point out their missing punctuation, typos, and copy/paste blunders.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone makes mistakes. Even editors and proofreaders make mistakes. When I used to work at a book publisher I had stacks of free books on my desk. I’d read them during my long daily commute, and I’d often find errors in the text. When I’d get to my computer I’d look in our system to see who the copyeditor was on the project and make a mental note. (I never actually pointed out the mistakes because we’re all human and it’s inevitable than in a book with 50,000 words or more in it, something will get missed.) But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do everything you can to minimizes mistakes. At best, a typo here or there will make you look like you lack attention to detail. At worst, lack luster content will make you seem unprofessional and like you don’t know what you’re doing.
So before you send out your next white paper to prospective clients, or blast that email to your mailing list, make sure someone with an editorial eye has looked it over.