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Love Thy Reader

September 19, 2011

According to Donald Miller, a writer should write to his readers as though he loved them, as though he cared deeply about how his words will affect their lives.

Unfortunately, writing a book or an article is not as simple as writing a letter to a loved one. Loved ones — precisely because they know each other well — share a language. It’s not just terms of endearment; it’s a whole lexicon and grammar that together attribute emotions to the written word in a way that reflects the individuals’ experiences together.

Except for columnists with devoted audiences (how we envy those writers!), authors do not have the luxury of sharing an intimate language with their readers. The writer has to forge an intimate relationship out of the space between the anonymous reader’s eyes and the page. In this task, proper word usage and standardized grammar are an author’s bread and butter — they create the space for intimacy to grow.

But threatening to imperil that intimacy are wordy sentences, improper punctuation, awkward turns of phrase, misspelled words, and so forth. They distract the reader from the content and hurt the author’s chance of building an intimate relationship. Keen attention to detail might protect the writer from these dangers. Yet an obsession with detail might also distract him from the content of the relationship he hopes to build with readers.

This is where I, as a copy editor, can really aid the author’s task. I take what the author writes — the content — and fine-tune the delivery. That way, the author can focus on formulating the ideas and rely on me to clean up any technical blunders.

Academic writing is particularly tricky for the author. The readers, usually fellow scholars and often superiors, rely on specific writing and citation styles that suit their particular fields (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.). Any deviation from the preferred style can be seen as unprofessional, even disrespectful of the field. With this kind of pressure, it’s not surprising that most academic writing is pretty dry! All too often, the pressure to conform to a style overpowers the author’s passion and Donald Miller’s advice, “Love your reader,” becomes an unreachable goal.

Use a copy editor and let your passion shine through!

Copyediting - Feel the Love!

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From → Writing Style

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