Unclear writing harms your message and may make communication with your readers difficult. Recently, one of our lead editors was asked to edit a blog post that targeted an audience of existing and potential customers that included the following sentence:
Usually, this is being handled with very small teams, sometimes just two or three people.
In analyzing this sentence, our editor was able to see that “sometimes just two or three people” could be a repetition or could be a refinement of the concept of “very small teams”. Are all “very small teams” under four people? Are there cases when a reader could consider a team of 40 people a “very small team”?
These are the types of questions we ask ourselves when we edit your documents. What did we know?
We knew this was a marketing communications blog for business-to-business transactions where the average project costs over $100,000. We knew that this document would cross the virtual desk of both native English speakers and non-native English speakers, but that most readers would be non-native English speakers. Then we considered the authentic voice of the writer and the target voice of the company for which the writer was composing. The first edit looked like this:
Usually very small teams handle this, sometimes just two or three people.
Grammatically, there is nothing wrong with this sentence. However, the editor worried that the placement of the appositive clause, “sometimes just two or three people,” could be misunderstood to define “this.” Clearly, further reworking was required to ensure that all readers, both native English speakers and non-native English speakers, could understand the sentence.
In the end, what our editor decided was to make this recommendation:
Usually very small teams, sometimes just two or three people, handle this.
What did the editing accomplish?
First, and probably most importantly, we made the edited sentence active rather than passive. Readers engage more with activity than passivity.
Second, we decreased the number of words. Blog guides will tell you that there is a limit as to how much time a reader will engage with your post. You have to keep it brief, but not too brief. The usual recommendation is that blog posts should be about 1500 words to be considered useful and to keep your reader engaged until the end.
Let’s take a look at another sentence that we refined.
They are actually looking for very specific solutions: solutions that put their customers into the center and – for instance – provide just the right information dashboards for solid and efficient decision-making, thus improving their customer service.
On its face, there’s nothing wrong with that sentence. It is grammatically and lexically correct, but it has punctuation and a method of expression that may cloud its point or make it inaccessible to the over 75% of readers who are non-native English speakers. Take a look at how our editor cleaned that up:
They are actually looking for very specific solutions that put their customers at the center and, for example, provide just the right information dashboards for solid and efficient decision-making that helps to improve their customer service.
That wasn’t a big change, was it? Examine how the more complicated punctuation was simplified. In addition, our editor removed a word better left to academic and scientific writing (“thus”) to make the sentence more accessible for readers of English at every level.
This is the job for our editors all day, every day. We take your already good writing and help refine it to make it great. We keep your audience in mind and we help you make your writing accessible and engaging. As an added bonus, we have fun doing it.
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