Communication Works

When UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown was in the news last year over a letter of condolence he'd written to a bereaved mother, I was reminded of some of the effects of poorly edited writing.  The mother, in a 9 November article in The Sun newspaper  had complained of Brown's "more than 20 mistakes" in a letter she had received from the Prime Minister after the death of her son, a soldier in Iraq.  She was distressed and offended by the letter's errors, and the well-intentioned Mr Brown endured public criticism for his "blundering" and "disrespect".  In the newspaper article, the mother urged the Prime Minister to "get someone to check" future letters to bereaved families.

 We all make mistakes in our writing, and at Communication Works we always recommend that you either edit your document meticulously yourself OR employ the services of an experienced copy-editor. (Before you see this blog entry, skilled writers will have looked over it for me.)

 Mr Brown's experience shows some of the consequences of unedited writing: hurt to the reader, embarrassment and possible career damage to the writer.  Another consequence can be that the author's intended message is missed or misinterpreted.  At the very least, a reader may feel irritation at the effort required to extract the writer's meaning, and be left with an impression that the writer regards the reader's time as less important than theirs.  If writers respect the reader they will take the time to ensure that the reader has a smooth reading experience.

 In addition, errors can lead to a loss of confidence in the writer.  If an engineer's report contains inappropriate punctuation, then has the writer also been careless with his/her calculations?  If a lawyer uses an inappropriate word, does he/she have sufficient insight to understand all the consequences of the words used in a new law?

 When we write, we know the messages we want to get across, and we can be blind to our not having clearly conveyed those ideas.  Fresh eyes are therefore invaluable: they can show us where we haven't sufficiently explained ourselves; they can notice errors that we have missed.   So, ask your colleagues to check your writing before you put it out there.  Better still, leave your colleagues to concentrate on the profession they've trained for and engage a copy-editor from Communication Works !


Written by Janet Bray



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