PR Next

Monthly eZine for PR Professionals

Why you shouldn’t do your own Editing

Posted by prnext on June 16, 2009


By Richa Seth

The last time you wrote a press release; didn’t it make you mad when – after checks and double-checks – someone pointed out the error you should’ve spotted before you printed 50 of the bleeding thing?

This happens most of the time to me, after drafting the release and re-checking it more than twice I send it to my senior colleague for approval. This is when I feel disgusted about myself, when my boss points our silly mistakes that could have been easily avoided. Sometimes I feel he suffers from some kind of reverse dyslexia, where mistakes come out of the document and dance in front of him.

By this time if you have started agreeing with me, then let me take this opportunity to introduce you to the world of ‘Neuro Autocorrect’, where your brain fixes your mistakes so you don’t see them. Here’s how it happens, why it happens, but more important, what you can do about it.

Poor reflections

First off, you probably agree that publishing poorly edited copy (or copy that hasn’t been edited at all) reflects extremely badly on the organization which is responsible for it. How many times have you seen a mistake in the newspaper, an ad, an annual report, a sales letter or on the back of a bus?

Your expertise

Secondly, you might or will also agree that your clients and customers should feel a) that they’re getting value for money and b) that you know exactly what you’re doing – otherwise you wouldn’t be writing stuff and you certainly wouldn’t be taking the time to check it. You’d be having a cappuccino instead.

Neuro Autocorrect

But the unfortunate reality is that your closeness to your writing tends to blind you to its flaws – and sometimes, to autocorrect it. The UK-based Society for Editors and Proofreaders explains the phenomenon: “You hold the whole text in your mind, and you’ve developed its ideas in sequence right to its conclusion. You can’t now put yourself in the reader’s place by somehow ‘unknowing’ any of this.”

The cold, fresh eye

In short, you know what you meant to write, so your eyes just fill in the gaps, miss the typos, etc. No matter how many times you check it, your brain interprets what it wants or expects to read, not what is actually there. So while you may have all of the skills to deal with the editorial functions, you lack the cold, fresh eye that a copy editor can bring to your work, and this is what leads to mistakes creeping in.

You’re too close

A copy editor is also sufficiently detached from the writing process to spot the mistakes and inconsistencies that distract the reader. After all, when we’re too close to things, we don’t see them clearly – which can be interesting in our personal lives but is hazardous for the editing process.

The solution?

You may not have the relevant editorial skills. This isn’t a failure on your part  no doubt it is your job to be able to clarify meaning; eliminate unnecessary jargon; polish language by editing which should be done for grammar, usage, spelling, punctuation and other mechanics of style; or check for consistency of internal structure. But there are wonderful nerds sitting free in your office, go to them and request them to check the copy for you, ofcourse in the meantime you can make coffee for them. Believe me they will do it willingly and do it well. That’s the first step, once you have got an external help, please read the copy aloud to yourself and see if that makes sense to you finally. If yes, press the send button.

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