How to Raise the Profile of Editing in Your Company
22 May, 2020
You’re more important to your company than you know.
You’re also more important to your company than the rest of your company knows.
Which is a bit of a problem.
And a big part of it is how you – and others – see your role in the company.
Is Your Editorial Team the Invisible Maintenance Crew?
If you work in an editorial department in a consultancy, bank, agency or firm, you’re probably in a reactive role. You’re like the ground crew for an airline: People bring in planes (documents) for you to get ready for flight (publication). Sometimes there are significant problems that need to be fixed; the rest of the time it’s just a matter of tightening things up, going over checklists, making sure it’s all up to standard. You’re a process that gets passed through and then forgotten.
So you spend all day in the hangar (your corner of the office). If no one brings you anything, you occupy yourself with basic all-around maintenance and updating your manuals. You have a detailed style manual that you’ve put together over the years and it’s your bible. You live for it, but no one else really cares about it. They all leave you to your job. If you do it smoothly, everything is fine. If something goes wrong, it’s all your fault. Congratulations on being the worst kind of invisible.
The truth is that what you do is far beyond basic maintenance. You’re handling words, which are the life’s blood of your company. Most businesses can’t exist without words, lots of them, and well-made ones at that. It would be like having an airline where no one actually flew an airplane.
You’re not the ground crew. Your job is more important. It’s time to step up and claim your stripes.
Should the Editors Be Instructors?
If writing is like flying, then the editors might be like flight instructors, right? You know what’s effective, and it’s your job to make sure people do it well. So you can be proactive in training them.
But how does that actually work out? If you set up a session to acquaint everyone with your 40-page style manual (or your detailed guidelines and suggestions for clear, effective writing), how does that go over? You might get people to show up if you order the better sort of doughnuts, but can you make them care?
Bad writing can cause big problems, but people rarely die from it (except of embarrassment).
But it’s OK. You’re not a flying instructor, and training people in your style manual will not change the profile of editing in your organization.
Editors Are (and Should Be) Text Engineers
Editors in your company should not be seen as ground crew or as flight instructors. You’re the aeronautical engineers. You set the designs and processes. And you can improve them, too.
Why are airplanes so much more efficient than they used to be? It’s because aeronautical engineers iterate and improve. And in no small part because their designers have computers to help them with the details.
The same is true for editing. You already use MS Word to accomplish tasks that take longer on paper. And you may already use tools like PerfectIt to help you edit faster and better. But what you probably didn’t realize is that you can use these tools to lift the quality of your colleagues’ writing.
Just as an engineer knows their airplane better than anyone else, you know writing at your organization. You know where it goes right and where people make mistakes. Even better, you’ve already written it down. That style manual that your colleagues don’t care about is packed full of wisdom perfectly designed for your organization. Here’s how you turn that from a manual few people touch into an essential system that everyone uses.
Improve Every Document (Even the Ones You Don’t Edit)
You can program large parts of your company style manual into PerfectIt – and then implement and oversee its use throughout the company so that the authors get things right as they’re writing. Everyone who handles text in your company can run their document through it and see what little mechanical fixes to make. In other words, they can do a lot of their own pre-flight checklist. And whereas you could never personally edit every piece of writing that your colleagues produce, now you know that every document can have the benefit of your guidance. Here are some examples:
- Italicization – Are you dealing with taxonomic names of bacteria or animals, or any other thing that has an italicization requirement? You can build in all the ones that come up with any frequency, and update as necessary – automatically propagated to the whole company.
- Capitalization – Which terms are brand names and which are generic terms? You can specify them all, and update the list regularly as new ones appear.
- Branding – It’s not just the capitalization. It’s the spelling, the spacing, the punctuation (or lack thereof). You can put in all the common mistakes and PerfectIt will flag them automatically.
- Terms to avoid – PerfectIt can also help with sensitivity reading. If there are particular terms that will demean or offend some people, you can make sure they’re flagged. You can even flag every word the president of your company just hates for some reason – and also the ones the managers use too darn much. PerfectIt won’t change or remove them; it’ll just point them out.
Now when your colleagues use inappropriate language or forget to write the company’s name properly, it’s because they didn’t take the two minutes to follow the guide you’ve built into their software. Instead of being invisible and still getting the blame, you’re highly visible and the recognized authority!
An Engineer’s Job Is Never Done
Does this make it sound like software is taking over your editing? The opposite is true. You’re the one who’s setting and maintaining the standards. And like any engineer, it’s your job to iterate on and improve them. You’re updating them all the time.
And it’s not as if this changes the need for editing. Branding and sensitivity is just the pre-flight work. The most important part of the edit is still take-off and landing. You are still editing the same documents as before. You can focus on tone, and flow, and structure (and now you’ll have more time to do those things right). You’re freed from having to spend all your time and mental energy on the exact placement of rivets in the wing. Now you can make sure the flight goes smoothly.
Take PerfectIt for a Test Flight
If you don’t have PerfectIt yet, start with just a single license or a license for the editing team. It’s inexpensive and will get fast approval when you mention how much time it saves. Then start building in your style manual so you can show the higher-ups how much more efficient it will make the workflow.
PerfectIt gives you the power to spread your style manual and writing advice throughout the company. It gives your department the importance that a team dedicated to good writing deserves. Click to buy now.