Their, there or they’re? Comma or no comma? Upper case or lower case? Writing…and grammar…and editing…oh my!
Following grammar rules and proofreading copy for accuracy is a daunting task for even the most confident of writers. So much so that for less confident writers, it can prevent them from ever getting started.
Case in point, a good friend of mine had been wanting to write a blog ─ she’s in the sports industry and wanted to share her “behind the scenes” experiences with her fan base. But every time she sat down to write a post, she got caught up in all the technicalities of writing, would get frustrated and abandon her draft before she could get her story told.
What my friend needed was to forget about all the rights and wrongs of writing and just put pen to paper. But, she was too worried about how to “fix” her copy once it was done.
Sound familiar? It’s a common problem with writers. After a while, many give up, giving excuses like “I can’t write,” or “I’m not a good enough (or strong enough) writer.”
The truth is, they usually can write – and really well (my friend certainly could), they just need help editing. Behind every great writer is a great editor. Someone with a good understanding of style and grammar and who has an eagle eye to spot discrepancies.
For my friend, that person was me. Once I realized what her hold up was to writing her blog, I offered to look through a few of her posts, clean them up for her and help her get her blog launched. A year later, her blog is up and running, and her readers can’t wait to read what she’ll post next! All it took was her to be brave enough to let me help her.
Yes, I said brave enough.
Writing is a very personal process, and it can be scary to open up your thoughts, your words, your works to someone to “edit.” Meaning someone is going to go in and mark up your copy in all the places you have errors.
Believe me, as a writer, the worst feeling in the world is getting a copy document back that’s all marked up in red tracking marks. But after I let those moments of panic subside, I realize that those tracking marks are there to make my thoughts, my words, my works stronger, better and more readable. My readers appreciate each and every one of those errors my editor fixed for me.
Here’s a great example: Early in my PR career, I was asked to write an article about one of my client’s customers who had equipment and crews working on the Crazy Horse Memorial. I researched and wrote…and researched and wrote…and researched and wrote. Finally, my masterpiece was done ─ a 2,000-word labor of love about that very special mountain craving in South Dakota.
Uh oh! Did you catch my typo? Read my last sentence again. I’ll give you a clue: Mountains don’t have cravings. But, they do have carvings. Seriously, I wrote the amazing article (or at least, I thought it was amazing), and every single reference to the Crazy Horse Memorial I wrote craving, not carving. Every. Single. Reference.
Thank goodness for my agency’s copy editor, who after she got over her fit of giggles over my (repeated) typo, kindly helped me fix my article so it could be finalized and off to an industry magazine for publishing.
Two decades later, and that typo still haunts me because even though I’m a seasoned writer, I cannot function without an editor. And every time I get cocky and think I don’t need someone to proof my stuff, I remind myself of how easily it is to type craving instead of carving, and spell check and autocorrect never ever once in all 2,000 words I typed told me I was wrong.
Today, nothing I write goes out without at least one (usually more) person proofing it for me. And thank goodness for that, because my editors have caught some pretty crazy mistakes that I would have been super embarrassed to be made public.
So, what’s the point of all my rambling? It’s that no matter what kind of writer you are ─ a casual blogger or someone who writes books for a living ─ don’t go it alone. Find someone who is willing to read your copy and give you honest feedback about how to make it stronger, better and more readable. You’ll learn so much, and your readers will appreciate the results.
Need someone to edit your work, but don’t know who to ask? Todd and I are a phone call (or email) away. Get in touch, and we’ll be glad to help!