Over my career in communications, I’ve been edited by the best of them. And by the worst of them. Indeed, I’m sure someone is chiding me right now for using a sentence fragment in this paragraph. Oh well.
(Yes, I am being a smart-aleck.)
But the reality is, my writing needs an edit. Yours does, too. No matter how accomplished a communicator you might be, the right set of fresh eyes will help ensure your writing is accurate and effective for your target audience. That’s why most of the time I welcome a constructive edit.
Having said that, I’ll point out an accompanying risk. A fresh and informed perspective is one thing; however, a lot of well-meaning editing spirals into that bane of effective communication, “writing by committee.”
Some organizations believe that having more people review a document will ensure a better document. This logic almost always fails. What might begin as a relatively crisp, accurate, targeted message is transformed into a confusing morass of meaningless phrases commonly called “corporate speak.” Such jargon-laden, vapid prose not only fails to accomplish its goal—to share important information with an audience—but it may have the opposite effect, causing the audience to misunderstand or mistrust the messenger.
Writing by committee is not the only source of corporate speak. Some of it arises from writers who are either too lazy or too discouraged after years of having their good stuff hacked up like Lizzie Borden’s parents. Much of it comes from the expectation of those whom the writer must satisfy; sadly, many business professionals have yet to find a five-syllable word they don’t like, and they are all too eager to add it if the writer won’t.
Unfortunately, this is a burden professional communicators will continue to bear. It remains our responsibility to stay true to the tenets of effective writing. Keep doing it well, keep demonstrating its value to your editors (good and bad), and—perhaps hardest of all—keep an open mind and heart when an editor tinkers with your baby.