Editing is the art and craft of fine-tuning a piece of writing. An editor relies on tone, style, grammar, sentence structure and overall flow to deliver a clear message. For example, they whittle a 2,000-word behemoth article into a concise 450-word article. A good editor makes any writer shine.
On the other hand, a bad editor, or lack thereof, can lead readers astray.
Instead of being guided to a particular conclusion or idea, readers are left wondering, “What is really going on here?”
At least that was the case when Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella and executive vice president Stephen Elop posted public memos announcing the company’s new direction…and layoffs. The latest memo from Mr. Elop, which followed a more-than 3,000-word novella from Nadella, came in at a stifling 1,100-plus words. But he only describes the layoffs in one paragraph. 40 words. Two sentences.
Without getting into too many details, it’s clear that these Microsoft execs could have benefitted from the expertise of an editor. How could an international heavy hitter deliver news that they were trimming 14% of their workforce in a tiny, hidden section of a sprawling, near-rambling message?
Editors see it all the time. Good ones, and strong content specialists, know when enough is enough. A writer shouldn’t be faulted for his or her wordiness. However, editing adds clarity and simplicity to a piece. It also increases the likelihood of the article or memo being read. In the age of GIFs and YouTube, it’s hard for most average readers to scroll “below the fold” of a website to keep reading, let alone embark on a 10,000-word article.
As you prepare your next email, company (or worldwide) manifesto, blog or letter, consider the impact of your writing. Does it achieve the intended goals? Does it communicate the message succinctly with an appropriate tone? Are the sentences and structure clear? Could it be shorter? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re already thinking like an editor.
Save yourself or your company from the next PR disaster. Let your words pack a swift knockout punch instead of a Rocky-esque 15-round match.