Writing & Editing Grab Bag

Here are a few items on the theme of writing, editing, and content rights that have caught my attention lately…

TOP OF THIS LIST: Any fool can learn to write for an audience, e-editor, Nov. 29, 2004. I’ve worked on a lot of style guide projects, and this article nails precisely a key point which is wholly omitted in most conventional in-house style guides: The first duty of the author is to write for the audience. A skilled editor is needed to handle the rest. Editing (real editing, not just proofreading) is not optional! It’s a mistake, usually, to expect most writers to be their own editors.

Excerpt: “Producing business text to suit a particular audience is a thoroughly misunderstood process. Getting the content right for the reader is the responsibility of the author. And in 99 cases out of 100, that is exactly where the limits of the author’s responsibility should be set. Presenting that content to the reader in its most accessible and striking form – honouring every nuance, but striking out every windy cliché and cavalier contradiction – is the other half of the exercise. That depends on editorial skill and judgement, and on the editor having the humility and stamina to check all those names, facts, details and dates the author couldn’t be bothered to question.”

Also, don’t miss e-editor’s Dec. 9, 2004 followup article. Excerpt: “Even after the skilled e-editor has done his or her worst, cutting and polishing like some dedicated craftsman in an Antwerp diamond house, the shorter, clearer, stronger piece that emerges should still have something of the author in it.”

Read the rest of this list…

  1. Please, Please, Please Write Informative Headlines, by Steffen Fjærvik, Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits, Jan. 21. He’s talking about news story headlines, but this can apply to any kind of headlines published online. Excerpt: “What do I do with headlines like ‘Dramatic change’ (which turned out to be about a change in the government’s attitude toward immigrants) or ‘An unfinished story’ (this deals with the U.S. inauguration). And these are just a couple of random picks from a Norwegian feed I read last night. Both those headlines belong in a newspaper or on a website, where there is room for a picture and a blurb. They have no place in my RSS reader. Or in my mobile phone’s WAP reader. Because I can’t even make up my mind if I’m interested.”
  2. Write in the Language of Your Readers, by Nick Usborne, Jan. 3. Short and two the point. Shows the power of a well-chosen example. Also from Usborne: Include Relevant Keywords in Your Text Links, Jan. 10. Why click here links suck. This is a good complement to my February 2004 article, Link Text Tips
  3. Writing Optimized Press Releases for Search Engines, Room 2Blog, Jan. 18. Excellent, practical advice. If you liked my series Online Media Outreach series, this article is a good complement. Plus a succinct but brilliant point: “Search engines are media.” Yes! I’ll be writing on that theme later…
  4. Freelance Writing Success. This online resource offers advice collected by Nick Usborne. It’s a must-read for any freelance writing profressional. It’s geared mostly toward marketing/PR writing rather than journalism, but it’s good advice across the board. Recommended article: Press Releases Transformed from So-So to Sizzling, by Marcia Yudkin
  5. Let’s talk turkey. We’re here for the money. So is everyone else we work with, from the boardroom to the basement., e-editor, Oct. 17, 2004. A clear explanation about what all professional writers and editors can learn from advertising copywriting.
  6. Memorandum of Law on the Name, published in USA the Republic. On Jan. 25 I posted an audio show in which I railed against legalese. One aspect of legalese writing which particularly annoys me is rampant unnecessary capitalization, especially of names. This article dissects that practice and demonstrates in about 50 different ways that there’s no legal basis for it. So don’t do it!
  7. Eschew, Evade, and/or Eradicate Legalese. Excellent, specific advice on using plain language from Prof. Eugene Volokh, UCLA Law School.