Editing your writing gives you the confidence that your work actually achieves its purpose.
When you write, it can be easy to become so immersed in the process that you lose sight of your readers. After all, you write for your readers, you have something you want to tell them. So it makes good sense to edit your writing before you publish it so that you can be confident that you have effectively communicated your message.
Your documents provide your readers (who are your potential customers) with the same experience that retailers give their shoppers when they walk into their store. Attractive displays, easy-to-negotiate passageways, obvious customer service points tell shoppers that this is a great place to shop: well structured, formatted and edited documents tell your readers just as much about you and the services or goods you offer.
So, just what are the benefits to both you and your readers when you take the time to edit?
Readers’ perception of your expertise, credibility and professionalism will be affected by the quality of your writing. It may not be ‘fair’, but people do make judgements based on their first impression of meeting you. And often, that introduction is through your writing. An edited document that is clear and free of mistakes sends the message that you have a professional attitude to your work. A carelessly written or edited document suggests that you may be equally careless with your product or service.
Mistake-free spelling, grammar, and punctuation say that you’ve taken care. Just as a shopper is more likely to bypass an untidy store in favour of an attractive, tidy one, so your readers prefer to read something that you’ve obviously taken care to check for spelling, punctuation and grammar. When you lose a reader because of the errors in your writing, you’ve probably lost a customer as well.
A well-structured and formatted document tells your readers that you’ve considered how best to express your message in a reader-friendly way. With so many demands on your readers’ time these days, an easy-to-read document is less likely to be put in the ‘too hard’ basket. Well-structured writing flows easily in a logical way. For example, using headings highlights the structure and allows readers to quickly skim or to read in detail – to decide what parts are important to them. A clearly expressed call to action tells your readers what you want them to do. Reviewing structure and format is just as important as checking spelling, grammar and punctuation. You can be confident that your message is being communicated.
How your words sit on the page tells you readers that you have considered them and ways to make it easy for them to read what you have to say. Elements you might consider include the use of headings, colour and paragraph spacing, margin widths, choice of font typeface and size, use of illustrations and lists. Review for all the visual aspects of your writing, and make reading a pleasurable experience. Readers who have enjoyed your reading will probably choose your business rather than that of a competitor who doesn’t take as much care with their writing.
Avoid the wastage and cost of reprinting, and the embarrassment when someone points out a ‘typo’. Very few business writers can afford the time, effort and expense of reprinting, especially when the task has been outsourced. And it takes time to change an electronic document – of course, you could ignore it and suffer the possible consequence of readers lowering their perception of your credibility. A review by an editor, a trusted colleague or ‘outsider’ can greatly decrease those possibilities.
To help you edit your writing, prepare a style sheet where you note all the elements that you need to use consistently: font choices; heading, paragraph and list format; colour description; captions for tables and figures; spelling of tricky words; abbreviations and acronyms; anything else that is important to present consistently.
Take the time to edit before you publish – your readers will thank you. And you will reap the rewards.