My favorite editing advice: “Tell me something I don’t already know!”

Tell_Me_Something_I_Don't_KnowA good editor is worth his or her weight in Pinot Noir.

I can critique my own writing to a point.  I never submit a first draft to a client.  That’s kind of obvious, I guess.  Depending on budget and timing, I usually go through the draft half a dozen times, testing each sentence for worthiness, and making sure the story follows a logical flow.  I always, always, always remove at  least 25% of the original content, no matter how wonderful it may seem at the time.  Long sentences are chopped in half, or sometimes in thirds, so that readers don’t become bored with the same cadence. Over. And over. And over.  And  I try to eliminate as much marketing-eze as possible, which means culling out words such as “ optimize, maximize, and economize.”

But there reaches a point where one becomes sick at the sight of reading their own narrative, and outside help is needed to move it along.  My colleague Paul is a great editor, blunt and constructive at the same time. One of his favorite editing comments is “Tell me something I don’t already know.”   Which is asking a lot because he has worked in tech marketing for quite a while.

Eliminating the obvious is so easy. When somebody else points it out, that is.

Simple writing is great.  Simple thinking is not. For example, telling people how tight the market is, how they need to cut costs, how their time is so valuable, how they need to focus on their core business, etc. etc. etc, — goes without saying. Anybody who has worked in a job for a month or more learns these basic truths.  So why say it!

Finding a unique angle has become harder in a saturated Internet where new truths are discovered, absorbed and consigned to the bin of common knowledge on a daily basis.  Recently I was researching the widespread acceptance of mobile technology for eCommerce for an infographic. Typing in “mobile technology and eCommerce” brought up pages and pages of non-commercial results in Google.  But finding the hidden gems in these links took time. Everybody knows that mobile technology and eCommerce are converging, so tell me something I don’t already know.   And after spending a good bit of time mining these results, I found an interesting thread involving local searching and shopping conversions that became theme of the infographic.  Did you know that 78% of local mobile searches end up in an offline purchase?

 I didn’t think so.


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