Don’t be a Voice Bandit – How to Edit Professional Writing

Writing

Writing is not easy.  Whether a person is attempting to write a full-length novel, a short essay, or a blog, it takes thought and effort.  Many years ago, a writer was credited with stating that writing is easy.I just sit at my typewriter until beads of blood form on my forehead.”  Writing is so difficult, that one author famously committed death by suicide after his book was rejected by numerous publishers, only to be posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the work.

An author’s work is imbued with the passion and spirit of dedication and commitment, as well as the desire to share information, or to take the reader to a new level of awareness, either through fact, fiction, or both.  One can easily understand that this work holds a deeply intimate connection with its creator.  It is the writer’s offspring.

An editor needs to share this profoundly proximate connection with the author’s creation.   An editor needs to pause, and selflessly take various considerations into account prior to reaching for the “red pen,” or the delete key. 

While fact-checking, grammar, and sentence structure are important, it is also important to preserve the author’s “voice.”  When a person writes, the reader should experience the piece as if it is being read to them by the author.  Even if there is no way of knowing what the author sounds like in person, there is always a style that the editor must strive to preserve.  As one can imagine, this is no easy task.

In cybersecurity, there are ample opportunities for an editor to make every author sound exactly alike.  After all, they are all speaking about the same thing, so why not aim for uniformity of style?  The simplest answer of course is that the world would be incredibly boring if all subjects of a particular type were written the same way.

An author’s voice is not established in a single paragraph.  It is developed over the course of a piece.  However, various idiosyncrasies may appear that establish the author’s unique persona.  For example, it would be convenient to mute every instance of an author’s voice who ends declarative sentences with the phrase “for sure”, or begins a subsequent thought with “to be sure.” However, doing so would dilute not only an author’s style but possibly, the gravity of the message.

For example, the statement “To be sure, effective security awareness training can mean the difference between a protected staff, and a breach,” is very different than the factually accurate, but somewhat bland “Effective security awareness training can mean the difference between a protected staff, and a breach.”  

Sometimes, correct language can rob both the reader and the author of vital breath.

Don’t be a Voice Bandit – How to Edit Professional Writing

Bob Covello

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