Let me start by saying that it is always better to have an independent set of eyes read your copy before you publish it. And it should be someone who, as a friend of mine would say, is willing to tell you your fly is open.
When should you have an outside editor review your copy? Always. OK, when it is an important document for the business, a grant proposal, the quarterly and annual reports, sales brochures and letters, and alike; or when you are finishing your novel, before heading to the publisher or your dissertation before you submit it to the review committee.
It is especially important if your English is not your primary language and you are marketing to an American audience. Even if English is your primary language but you are not familiar with American Business English, you should have a native speaking American look over the letter or marketing material.
For example, I received a solicitation from an India publishing house last week wanting to covert one of my written books to an e-book. I believe that the writer’s English is his second or third language. He wrote:
“I read your post and If you are looking for converting print books into ebooks. We have above 8 years experience in this industry and take books and get them into the necessary formats to be used on the variety of ereader devices.”
I noted the spelling and syntax errors immediately.
However, when a second set of eyes may not be in the cards – or the budget – self-editing is something we can do with some degree of success, but mistakes still slip through the proverbial cracks. My last posting made such had such an error. And I should know better.
Here are some suggestions on how to self-edit your business copy…
- Run a spell and grammar check. But don’t solely rely on the computer to find all of the errors. It may not tell if you meant to write “who” or “whom,” but it will point out the major errors you may have made. Additionally, you do not have to agree with the computer’s spelling or grammatical “correction” if you believe it is wrong. For example, my word processing program occasionally misidentifies a singular noun of a sentence as plural and “corrects” the verbs accordingly.
- Put the copy away for an hour if not a full day. Why? Because you will forget exactly what you wrote and your “eyes” will see some of the smaller errors.
- Read the copy out loud. This is where you will find the smallest spelling errors or problems in the syntax. Remember, you write differently than you speak, but the text should read smoothly.
- Have your AP and Strunk and White style manuals on your desk. As well as the style manual for the organization you are writing for and refer to them often. The local paper I write for has a style manual for names and organizations in my small city in the middle of Middle America. Make sure you have names and organizations properly spelled and identified.
- Have a dictionary and thesaurus on your desk as well. I am a fan of the old fashion paper dictionary and thesaurus. Though your word processing program may have a good dictionary and thesaurus built in, but you may find a different word to enhance your writings.
Even so, if you think the paper, presentation or brochure is finalized, even if you are a competent writer, have a new set of eyes read your work for that final once over before you send it to print.
David is an award winning freelance editor, copywriter and speaker. InkandVoice Communication provides Business and Political Communication Editing, Copywriting, Consulting and Coaching. If you have any questions or would like a free consultation, please contact us at Info@InkandVoice.com.