The crucial role of editing and revising copy

Editing an English language document

  The golden rule that says to write is to rewrite is often overlooked. Writing copy is one thing, but to finish the job it will need to be completely reworked; it’s the most important part of the process.

So says author Andrew Kevin Walker, best known as the screenwriter of the US hit Seven (1995).

The fact is all professional writing requires this. From Shakespeare to JK Rowling, any high quality piece of writing would have gone through an invariably rigorous review and editing process.

Copy is checked for precision, clarity, conciseness, intelligibility, coherence and respect for rules of spelling and grammar.

A thorough review and editing process not only improves quality and readability, but also makes the end-product easier to monetise, with the opposite also holding true.

It’s actually impossible for a professional writer to produce content that won’t be improved with third party editing support.

Editing in action

The following bit of text illustrates this well. It’s the first paragraph of the introductory Editor’s Note of a published English-language architecture magazine. Unfortunately, it was neither written nor edited by native English speakers, leading to various errors.

   Going under (1)

Shovel to dirt (2), we head underground to dig up some of the latest innovations in subterranean construction. (3) We offer information (4) on The Lowline, an underground park set to open in N.Y.C. (5), and expand (6) on international (7) projects taking place in Pushing the Boundaries of Underground Construction.

The errors

  1. going under means to go bust.
  2. No need for all the references to digging, shovelling, dirt, etc … reader knows subject is about underground construction because headline says so.
  3. New paragraph needed for clarity.
  4. offer information is more appropriate for something a tourist office does.
  5. No need for full stops between N, Y, C … also reader will know that NYC is New York, the city, unless reference is made in copy to elsewhere in the state of New York.
  6. No need for expand — it’s obvious
  7. international implies a single project happening in more than one country.

   Going underground

Issue #19 sees us heading underground to report on some of the latest innovations in subterranean construction.

We cover The Lowline, an underground park set to open in New York, as well as other projects around the globe in Pushing the Boundaries of Underground Construction.

Pitfalls of online translation tools

Close-up of computer keyboard

For translations, time-saving shortcuts such as free online tools tend to only lead to a mediocre output.

They read badly, invariably contain inaccuracies and give a poor impression.

Moreover, internet robots will often classify online translations as spam.

Automated translations don’t always make sense and could be viewed as spam. More importantly, a poor or artificial-sounding translation can harm your site’s perception.

Lastly, just like any other type of written content, translated text also needs to read well and be engaging. Online translation tools almost never tick this essential box.

Example: 10 words to translate, 6 errors

Une tasse de café
On aime le bon café, serré façon expresso à l’italienne.

Translation suggested by the translation tool

We like good coffee, tight espresso way to Italian.

The errors

  1. We like good coffee — some people do indeed like bad coffee, but what’s needed here is nice and not good.
  2. This translation requires reference to a cup of coffee.
  3. The verb to do is needed to add emphasis.
  4. A tight espresso … as opposed to a loose one? In English, no distinction is made between types of espressos.
  5. It’s not way to Italian, but Italian-style.
  6. The whole sentence needs to be reformulated to maintain the meaning of the original.

Correct translation

We do like a nice cup of coffee — espresso-style just like in Italy.

Advertising startup style

Members of a startup discuss a new project
A first experience of free-of-charge services can be much more effective than an advert

What’s great about startups is their out-of-the-box thinking.

Listen to many CEOs of major firms and sooner or later you’ll hear them discuss how within their own companies they try to nurture — and most importantly maintain — this highly creative mindset.

From experience, they know that it’s when resources are scarce — and for startups, this is often cash — an innate aspect of the human condition kicks in and somehow we come up with the goods.

One innovative startup approach to the need to secure all of the benefits of much needed advertising is to offer a potential long-term customer a first experience of services free-of-charge.

This strategy is similar to advertising except:

  • — the target audience is made up of a single prospect
  • — payment for the advertising is with time rather than cash

Some might say that advertising to just one prospect is crazy, as is working for free. But the fact is that even though Adwords and Facebook campaigns have the potential of reaching millions, their actual conversion rate is often miniscule.

However, if the offer of a services free-of-charge in the first instance is correctly targeted, here the conversion rate can reach 50-75%.

Furthermore, if the service delivery was good not only are the chances very good that this will become repeat business, but almost as important the entire process will have a highly positive reputational impact.

Indeed, it is how startups are spoken of and the values their are seen to be associated with that can make or break their new business.

A high quality product with excellent, proactive customer service and simply being pleasant to work with — if a startup just focuses on these, the chances are very good that long-term sales will take care of themselves.

For more information about an English content writing or translation requirement, please get in touch for more information.