One of my ongoing struggles is to explain why editing matters. Often I liken it to how carpet just looks better after it’s been vacuumed, but you don’t walk into your friend’s family room and immediately think, “Oh, how nice—they vaccumed for me!”
You don’t normally read an informative report that tells you exactly what you want to know clearly and think, “Oh, how great—they edited this just for me!”
But I read a small book called How to Self-Promote Without Being a Jerk; author Bruce Kasanoff writes in the chapter that cautions “Be perfect,” that most of the information we receive when we meet other people is composed of
…subtle clues: how the person stands, the tone of their voice, whether they look you in the eye, how they dress, etc.
The number and manner of your mistakes is another category of clues.
If you don’t buy the “impressions” argument, here’s another example of the value of copy editing on the other end of the spectrum, supplied by the New York Times in its article about theAffordable Care and Patient Protection Act challenge in the Supreme Court based on
four words — “established by the State” — buried deep within the 900-page law.
Or as Paul Krugman puts it, an “obvious typo” that may have serious repurcussions for hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Most typos aren’t that serious.
A big tip
Give your resume, executive report, or research paper a word-by-word read. Better yet, have someone else do it. Spending $5 a page for a solid copy edit for your master’s thesis makes more sense than spending your research time looking for grammatical errrors, especially if you’re not an English major.