Writing and Editing

The power of editing

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I was reading a memoir by an Australian author a few weeks ago. I won't name and shame, because that would be unfair; especially as this was the most badly-edited book I'd read in a long time. Blimey, the punctuation was painful! Commas in the wrong places, colons and semi-colons inserted apparently at random because they're punctuation marks and deserve to be used. Every proper name (ie Christian name, name of town) was italicised every time it was used. By the time I crawled through Chapter Three I was in two minds: do I get the red pen out and do a proof on the book as I go, or do I write to the publishers expressing my frustration at trying to read something so unreadable? Both options would make me feel better and I opted for the latter. The publishers replied within a day, and I could feel their embarrassment jumping off the screen. The book had slipped through the system with minimal editing in an effort to get it printed. The author has now written a follow-up, which is being heavily edited (my heart goes out to the editor). The first book, which the publisher wished they'd pulped before too many copies got loose, is going to be reprinted next year after a heavy editing session. I offered my services there. The subject matter was one that really appealed to me and I'd have a ball turning it into readable English. Now when I bought that ill-fated book it was on the remaindered pile, despite only being published the year before. That's sad news for a local author with a good tale to tell. I suspect the poor writing style had something to do with the remaindering. Really, there is no excuse for not presenting a well-written document to the world, whether it's a memoir of your fantastic time living overseas for ten years, or a company newsletter with a casual feel. Casual doesn't mean sloppy, by the way. You can be friendly and casual and still conform to the rules of punctuation and grammar. This post is an example. It IS worth asking an editor to check your work. Isn't it better to have a second pair of eyes go over your work, make any necessary corrections - especially those little typos which may have slipped your notice after you've redrafted something many times - and leave you with a document that presents a professional image to your clients? I get numerous e-newsletters in my inbox every week; most are well-written and professional, some make me wince. The ideas are good but the grammar and punctuation isn't. Editing is a powerful tool that can make a massive difference to how people perceive you and your company. If in doubt, try it out! Mention this post and I'll give you an hours' worth of editing for free. Contact me if you're interested.

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