Who* Are You Kidding?

I’ll respond to the headline with another question — “Are you just kidding yourself?”

If you think your writing works as well as you imagine it does to boost your business or your favorite cause, then maybe you are kidding yourself.

By the time we reach adulthood, with school and perhaps even a graduate degree behind us, most of us think we know how to write a letter, article, website or brochure copy, or perhaps even some remarks for a business lunch (or our kid’s wedding reception) quite well enough.

How many of us wonder if we should consider asking for professional writing or editing help with that thing we need to draft — whether it’s text for a revised website, a sales pitch or a letter to the editor on an issue of deep concern?

As a writer/editor, I’ll answer the question on the basis of my own experience: DAMNED FEW people think about asking for professional help.

That’s right, most people are complacent about, if not downright oblivious to, the professional appearance, clarity and effectiveness — or lack thereof — of the stuff they write. “I’m a pretty good writer.” “I’ve been writing our stuff for years; of course I write well — or certainly well enough.”

A graphic designer friend says she routinely warns clients that she lacks the writing/editing skills needed to be confident that the written content they’ve submitted to her is strong enough to complement the design she’s created. But when she suggests that they ask an editor to review the writing before it’s printed or electronically posted, they usually say “the content is OK; go ahead and print.”

Whether a written product looks clearly unprofessional or simply fails to engage or persuade its intended audience, the result is a disappointing return on an investment of time and energy.

So here’s what I tell friends, colleagues and potential clients who may wonder if they should ask for my help. The cost of a professional writer/editor’s assistance will more than pay for itself by:

  1. Strengthening the clarity and impact of your messages.
  2. Helping ensure that your content is read, absorbed and acted upon because it’s engaging — not discarded half-read because it’s flat and dull.
  3. Making your writing an investment in your brand.
  4. Helping you avoid embarrassing yourself — and failing to get the business you want — with content whose grammatical and spelling mistakes, typos, verbosity and inadvertent ambiguities could be seen as signs of a more generalized sloppiness and carelessness. “If this letter/website/promotional writing looks so slipshod, how can I trust the quality of this company’s work?”
  5. Conveying to clients and prospects the message that “the professionalism of our written work reflects the value we place on quality in everything we do.” Such an attitude makes your brand shine. Think about the difference in the quality of the ads you see for Mercedes and those for Jimmy’s Used Cars.

Finally:

  • Your own writing or your staff’s may not convey your messages as clearly, powerfully and memorably as something drafted or edited by a professional.
  • Professional writing/editing is not as expensive as you think. Would you allow your design, printing, photography or videography to be done by part-timers or amateurs?
  • If you don’t get a professional’s help, the money you save might be less than what you leave on the table.
  • Before-and-after examples can show the value of professional editing. If you want to see before-and-after examples of Pen-for-Rent’s editing, check out this link.
  • And if you wonder what clients and colleagues think of the value Pen-for-Rent brings to their writing, here’s another link.

***

* OK, to be grammatically correct, the headline should ask “Whom Are You Kidding?” But really, who talks like that?

4 replies
  1. Paul Swengler
    Paul Swengler says:

    Howard,

    A simple memo of support. I ran a now defunct publishing company for about 13 years, The Law Book Store. Everything was sent to an editor.

    Regardless of my personal writing and editing skills, I still keep the Chicago Manual of Style handy. This is a personal choice, rather than NYT book of style. Also a dictionary, Black’s Law Dictionary handy. Too few people use references in their writing.

    For the record, thank you for clarifying occasional conundrums in challenging grammatic usage.

    For others and those who would consider Howard: Howard gets 5 stars for writing skills! Highly rated and skilled in word smithing. I would trust him to edit any of my work(s).

    Reply
    • Howard Daniel
      Howard Daniel says:

      Thank you, Paul. What a “vote of confidence”! Greatly appreciated. It’s always been a pleasure working with you, going all the way back to The Law Book Store.

      Reply

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