I found a great quote on LinkedIn this week.
Content strategist Melanie Seibert commented on a post about writing: ‘To be a good writer, you have to be a good critical thinker. (Greek word for “word” is “logos,” the basis of our word “logic.”) That type of clarity of thought is not as common as we sometimes expect, so it gives your team and product a huge advantage!’
I’m a sucker for positive comments about writers, but it did strike a chord. Being a good writer (or editor) is about so much more than spelling and grammar. It’s about getting to the core of what you are trying to say.
This week, I’ve been copy editing a series of articles written by an academic for a humanitarian NGO. Both those fields come with their own set of jargon, so it was quite a challenge.
I had to think critically about various things:
- Is this academic jargon, and does it need to be explained/replaced for the audience (people working in the humanitarian sector)?
- Is this humanitarian jargon, and is it widely understood in the sector?
- How do I help the readers navigate a long article when reading online?
- Are the subheadings too abstract and academic? Is the meaning immediately obvious? Do they make sense for readers or search engines?
- Can I improve the structure or signposting?
- How do I make this clearer while respecting the fact it’s written in the first person by a named author?
I love these sort of puzzles, and I love reaching an end result that’s more easily accessible than what I started with.
In other news
- I’m also working on a project to review and rewrite a website for a university administrative department. The content review checklist includes the line: ‘Check that no Latin abbreviations have been used.’ Only in Oxford!
- On Thursday, I went to see Viv Albertine talk at the magnificently named Walthamstow Rock’n’Roll Book Club. She said that she’d never written anything before her first memoir Clothes, Music, Boys, but brought to it the knowledge she’d gained as a musician: about structure, rhythm and melody. It brings a new perspective to the careers advice about ‘transferable skills’.