Sometimes I (jokingly) tell my business clients that they don’t really need to hire a professional editor. And they wouldn’t–as long as they did these six things:
- Declare a Designated Proofreader and Grand Poobah of Writing for your office. It can be you, but it’s even more effective if it’s someone else–especially if that someone is careful and likes to read. Make that person your document QA (quality assurance) specialist.
- Get a dictionary. I’d recommend Webster’s New World College Dictionary (Fourth Edition), the accepted standard throughout journalism. Get a discounted price on Amazon.com by buying the accompanying Roget’s A-Z Thesaurus at the same time.
- Get an Associated Press Stylebook. It provides logical, easy-to-look up rules for capitalization, abbreviation and more. It’s now available online and on phone applications, but keeping a printed copy in the office bookcase is a good idea.
- Get The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. This thin, breezily written volume resolves 99 percent of the grammar issues you’ll ever come across, plus the best advice on writing I’ve ever gotten: Omit needless words.
- Develop a style guide of your own. Just open a Word document and make entries when you think of it regarding how you want to spell and punctuate terms at your company. Be sure to list them alphabetically so they can be retrieved easily, and your company style guide will gradually evolve. Circulate it periodically, so everybody in the organization knows the rules.
- Don’t just guess–look it up! Use these tools whenever you prepare a document, and your writing will communicate better and look sharper. And don’t ever trust a computer program to perform an accurate spelling or grammar check.
Realize, of course, that while everybody in your organization may know that rules on grammar and style exist, only the Designated Proofreader and Grand Poobah of Writing will actually try to follow them and care when others do not. That’s why this person is so essential to your company’s internal and external communications.
If you don’t have one–or the time to do it right yourself–well, maybe you need an editor after all. Here’s one who can help you.