We all feel differently about writing – for some of us it’s a pleasure to sit down and let the words flow, but for others it’s a painful process involving long periods of staring into space followed by muttering and frantic crossing out, perhaps even the odd expletive.
However you feel about writing, it may be a necessary part of your job. When writing for your clients, it’s vital that your message is compelling, consistent and, most of all, clear. Whether you’re a confident, nervous, reluctant or impatient writer, the chances are you’d benefit from having a proofreader or editor review what you’ve written.
So, what kind of writer are you?
Let’s have a look at four different types of writer – do you recognise yourself?
1 You’re a confident writer: the idea of somebody changing so much as a comma of your writing makes you shudder. You’ve been told you’re a good writer and you were always strong in English at school.
2 You’re a nervous writer: you get off to a good start, writing as you speak and letting the words flow onto the page, but you’re worried about making mistakes with punctuation, spelling and grammar. You waste time second-guessing yourself about what is and isn’t correct and agonise over hitting the ‘publish’ button.
3 You’re a reluctant writer: writing just isn’t your thing, and you spend so long trying to wrestle the words on the page that you lose all perspective and everything looks wrong.
4 You’re an impatient writer: you just want to get the damn thing out there and be done with it as quickly as possible, and hope that no one notices or minds that you’ve made mistakes.
For each one of these writers there are good reasons for taking the time to have your content copy-edited and/or proofread.
How can a proofreader or editor help with your writing?
1 If you are confident and writing from a position of knowledge or expertise, your readers (perhaps they are potential clients or customers) may be unfamiliar with the language or terminology you use. An editor will identify this and help you to explain, simplify or reword where necessary.
You can also just be too close to your work, and your familiarity with your writing can mean that you see what you want to, rather than what is actually there. This is how we can read and reread something several times until we are convinced it’s perfect, only for someone to pounce on a glaring error within seconds of looking at it. Never underestimate the benefit of having fresh eyes look at what you’ve written.
2 For those of you nervous about showing the world your writing, knowing that your copy will be professionally edited and proofread allows you to write naturally, the way you would speak, and leaves it to your editor to smooth your words into a clear message. They can tidy up your spelling, punctuation and grammar, get rid of redundancies or overused words and make sure you get your message across. All of this without deadening your writing and leaving it lifeless and bland.
3 A reluctant writer whose message gets tied in knots can benefit from an editor who can look at the text as a whole and assess where the writing needs to be tighter, where there is repetition or where the message is unclear or confusing. An editor is there on behalf of your reader – if it’s unclear to your editor, there’s a good chance your reader won’t get the message either. You may even prefer to just write down your key points for them to expand into a coherent piece, saving you even more time. This is where the roles of editor and copywriter can overlap, but you can find many professionals who will combine both services.
4 You’re impatient to share your message with the world, but can someone trust what you’re saying when your written work is inconsistent and contains errors? A poorly proofed report, brochure, blog post or website (or one that has not been proofed at all) will reflect badly on you and your company. Regardless of what you are saying, the reader will be distracted by errors and may even see a lack of attention to detail in your copy as evidence of sloppiness in other areas of your business. Professional proofreading eliminates errors to give your writing – and therefore your business – credibility.
Why would you need a professional proofreader or editor?
- You may feel that it’s enough to have a colleague or friend who looks over your content. But, are they always available when you need them? Are you confident in their ability to assess and improve your spelling, grammar, punctuation, layout, consistency and overall message? It may be more cost-effective to bring in an expert.
- You won’t have to ask friends and colleagues to take time out from their work to deal with yours – there’s only so much goodwill you can rely on, and eventually it just might run out.
- Knowing that your copy will be professionally reviewed saves you time. You can get your thoughts down on the page and then leave it for your editor to shape and polish, allowing you to spend your time on what you’re really good at.
- Aim higher than good enough. Using a copy-editor to shape your work, and a proofreader to polish it, makes sure that you give your readers a clear, error-free message. If you’re not sure which level of help you need, have a look at my article Do I need a proofreader or a copy-editor?
Don’t fit any of these definitions?
Of course, there is a fifth type of writer. You enjoy writing and are happy that you can produce clear, compelling text which is pretty error-free. You’re confident you can catch your errors yourself.
What type of writer are you? Did you recognise any of the traits I talked about? How do you make sure your writing is fit for the world to see? Do you use an awesome proofreader? Let me know in the comments!
Adapted from an article I wrote for the Glasgow Editor’s Network blog.