Tipsheet: Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

when you read a book or newspaper article, do you think that the
writer got it "perfect" on the very first draft? Or do you think that
an editor (or two) may have made a few changes, prior to publication? Yet when
we write a memo, report, or presentation outline, we are so rushed that we
write, send, and every so often, regret it.

For most people, editing is a skill learned in grade school, and
rarely does the skill move beyond this level. Thankfully, with a few simple
guidelines we can self-edit, and with practice, get many of the benefits of a
professional editor. After you have completed your first draft, put it aside for
a period of time, and then begin the editing process:

  • Edit for word choice and flow: have you chosen the most
    effective words, and do the sentences flow easily when spoken aloud?
  • Edit for facts: are you certain that your writing is
    factually correct? Are you correctly quoting (and attributing) others?
  • Edit from different perspectives: who are the different
    people (or groups) who will read what you write? How might they interpret
    what is written? (And is this the interpretation that you want?)
  • Edit for clarity: Watch out for jargon, wasteful words, and
    concepts that get in the way of your main idea.
  • Edit for logic and consistency: does what you say follow a
    logical flow, and is it internally consistent?
  • Edit for spelling and grammar: the spelling and grammar
    checker within your word-processor still can miss things: read your work
    thoroughly yourself. Double-check the spelling of any names.

Particularly for blog writers, the simplicity of posting ideas
sometimes means that editing is conveniently forgotten. Unfortunately, when this
happens, your poor communication skills are open for all to see, forever: your
clients, colleagues, recruiters – everybody.

This week’s action item: Some editing is better than
none. Improve the effectiveness of your writing – and others’ perceptions of you
– by being an editor, not just a writer. At the minimum, review each of your
emails and blog postings, before you press "send"; the more you edit,
the quicker the editor you will become.

Bonus point: Did you catch the editing error in this
post? (In the 4th bullet, after the colon, the word Watch is capitalized. For consistency, it shouldn’t be.)

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Randall Craig

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Randall Craig has founded several successful start-ups, held a long-time position at a “big-four” consulting firm, and was an executive at an American public company. He currently serves as the 108 ideaspace CEO and chief strategist. Randall has been advising on digital strategy since 1994: he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail’s GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations.

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