I’ve previously shared my 4-step editing process; today let’s examine one of those steps: micro-editing, which focuses on the sentence level.
Typically, it deals with the “technical” aspects of the article, such as sentence structure, style, usage, spelling, grammar, and punctuation. For now we’ll set aside spelling, punctuation, and grammar, and look at seven other aspects of micro-editing:
1. Strive for clarity.
Does the reader understand what you are trying to say? No matter whom you write for, your audience will appreciate clear, concise language. Keep the writing lean and focused.
As Strunk and White say, “Make every word tell.”
2. Write compactly.
As writers, editors, and PR professionals, we must fight for readers’ attention. One way is to be brief. Omit needless words. Write in the active voice. Eliminate tepid modifiers, such as “really” and “very.”
In the words of Mark Twain: “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
3. Write simply.
Don’t use a complex word when a simple one will do. Unfamiliar or complex terms stifle comprehension and slow readers down. Readers may even skip terms they don’t understand, hoping to find their meaning in the rest of the sentence.
A lifelong scholar, James Michener developed a large vocabulary. “But I never had a desire to display it,” he said. “Good writing consists of trying to use ordinary words to achieve extraordinary results.”
4. Avoid meaningless terms.
Avoid meaningless terms such as “state of the art” or “leading-edge.” Ditch jargon. Cut clichés and buzzwords.
In the words of C.S Lewis: “Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”
5. Use strong verbs.
The verb powers the sentence. Choose clear, active verbs instead of throwaways such as utilize, implement, leverage, and disseminate.
As Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications, says: “Powerful verbs will carry a lot of work for you in your sentence. They create an image, they create a visual, and they put people right where you want them in your story or press release.”
6. Use active voice.
Keep it simple—subject, verb, object. Passive voice is longer, less conversational, and drains the energy from your sentences.
Many writers use passive voice when they don’t want the reader to know who is performing the action. For example, they may write, “Rates were raised,” instead of, “We raised rates.” What they don’t realize is that readers see through this ploy. They recognize content that is purposefully vague.
George Orwell espoused this idea in the 1940s, when he advised, “Never use the passive where you can use the active.”
7. Watch your word choice.
The English language is full of confusing word combinations. Here are some that I correct frequently:
As you edit, keep in mind Stephen King’s words from On Writing: “To write is human, to edit is divine.”
Raganreaders, have you any micro-editing tips to share?
Laura Hale Brockway is a medical writer and editor from Austin, Texas. She is also the author of the writing/editing/random thoughts blog, impertinentremarks.com.
the best revenge is to be successful- my dad
Public relations is like owning stock—it’s a long-term investment.
Despite what some clients expect, big media hits that come a week into a PR campaign are few and far between. A steady drip of media hits is more realistic and better in the long-run.
I know from being a journalist, and now as a PR practitioner, that pitching a story rarely gets immediate results, but keeping a client front and center typically pays off over time.
Sure, every client wants to be featured on “Ellen” or the “Today” show, but the ones that expect it are those with whom you need to proceed with caution or need to educate about public relations.
The world of public relations is changing as the lines between marketing and PR continue to blur, but there remain some guidelines about pitching and managing client expectations.
Here are a few:
• Big traditional media outlets are more difficult to get hits in, no matter how strong the news angle. Airtime, media space, and the number of journalists are shrinking, and so is the public’s attention span.
• Hits in traditional print media are becoming a rarity. As an alternative, focus on online or community news organizations and bloggers, or take the pitch straight to the consumer via social media.
• Local television is still a good option, but try to time the pitch right. For instance, avoid a conflict with NFL game day.
• Nothing replaces good stories and strong news hooks. These items are still the gold standard, and while it is harder to gain media interest, having this foundation will make it that much easier.
• Substance outweighs style. This means a pitch must be backed up with facts and not just a great lead and sound bites.
• Think outside of the traditional pitch. For instance, use a video news release or create an infographic to tell the story.
The biggest misconception that a client can have about PR is that it’s merely about getting media coverage. That’s just one part of an overall strategy that covers reputation management, communication strategy, and branding. That’s a long-term investment, not the equivalent of public relations day-trading.
RELATED: 10 things you never say to a client
Gil Rudawsky is a former reporter and editor. He heads up the crisis communication/issues management practice at GroundFloor Media in Denver. Read his blog or contact him at email@example.com.