There are so many reasons why anything published on the web, or anywhere really, needs a second set of eyes, and preferably a trained set as well. This is apart from the fact that any writer falls in love with his or her own words, and can’t always see that something might be wrong with them. (Remember, all parents think their child is the most adorable creature ever, even if they’re the only ones on the planet who do!)
Sometimes the written piece sounds so “natural” that the writer thinks it’s perfectly fine. Yet what’s really going on is that a person writes the way he or she talks — and the spoken word is almost always much more casual, and even full of slang and grammatical errors, than the proper written word.
A good editor can point out language that might “date” the piece and make it obsolete in just a few months. An editor may gently say, “This word doesn’t mean what you think it does, and that word is what you really want.” And the editor may recognize when the language doesn’t achieve the tone it’s meant to portray, and can suggest alternative ways of doing that.
All of this is apart from an editor’s attention to spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
But when thinking about making the right word choice, you can’t find a better illustration than the Declaration of Independence. To learn how the alteration of one word in that document might have changed history, have a look at the Writing for Digital blog, and the entry, A Fourth of July lesson in the value of editors.
The writer not only talks about the difference the right word made in one of America’s founding documents, but then goes on to explain some research done by IBM. It examined how properly edited web pages affected visitors’ desire to interact and respond, compared to visitors to unedited pages. You may be astonished at the results.
Businesses often feel that as long as they’ve got a good spell check and rudimentary grammar program somewhere, they don’t need editors. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. If you want your information to get out there and really engage people, a good editor should not be your last resort — but your first!
(* Thanks so much to my friend and my own sometime editor, Patricia Washburn, for posting the link to that Fourth of July post.)