Can You Give Editing Advice Without Colleagues Hating You for It?
17 July, 2019
People resent being corrected. No matter how big or small the problem is, no one likes to feel scolded. You may be the office editorial expert, but your co-workers won’t welcome unsolicited instruction on how to use software they’ve been using for years; and they certainly don’t want to hear that words they’ve used their whole lives are offensive to company stakeholders. It’s not just that it questions their competence; there’s status and self-image too: Who are you to be slapping their wrists?
So how can you raise the standard of writing in your organization if people don’t want to hear about it? Or should you even concern yourself with raising standards? Isn’t it your job to fix mistakes? So why try to stop your colleagues from making them?
What Is the Role of the Editor at a Company?
You’re not just a mistake-fixing machine. You’re paid to ensure the quality and effectiveness of the text your company produces. However, you probably can’t edit every single document in the organization personally. And even if you can, a good way to improve the final document is to make sure text comes to you in better condition.
Which means that to do your job as an editor well, you need to be an educator. You don’t just tidy up other people’s missteps; you help them learn not to make the same missteps over and over again. Are they mishandling the company branding? Using terms that may offend some readers? Using overly technical terms – or misusing them? If you can get colleagues to do better, you can improve your efficiency and results.
Educating Colleagues Isn’t Easy
But how do you do it? You’re busy enough with your own editing work. You probably don’t have the time to go around telling people how to do things better. Which means that they’ll keep doing things wrong and you’ll keep having to spend time fixing them and so not have time to tell them – it’s a vicious circle.
And anyway, as already mentioned, your co-workers will probably resent being corrected by you. In theory, you could overcome that by presenting yourself as a humble servant making suggestions: “Perhaps, sir, you would prefer to phrase it this way? I’ve heard that can be effective.” However, that’s damaging too. You have an important role in the company, and taking an uncertain-sounding approach all the time will undermine your authority and work against upholding the standards.
The good news is that there is a solution to all of this: Use software – an electronic assistant – to help teach your colleagues.
People Respond Differently to Software
There’s no risk of your co-workers losing status when dealing with software. It’s not going to rat them out, side-eye them in the coffee room, or compete with them for salary increases. In fact, they’re in control of it: they switch it on and off at will. So it can help them learn without making them feel defensive.
Of course, your colleagues already have the grammar and spelling checkers in Word. But generic tools can never handle the specifics of your organization. Imagine if you could give your colleagues a custom tool developed to spot exactly the mistakes you want to keep them on alert for. The ideal software solution would be easy for them to run and would prompt them to pay attention where they differ from your style guide, all while letting them feel in control. That ideal software is PerfectIt.
You may already use PerfectIt for your own editing work. But did you know that you can customize it to enforce the rules of your style manual? It’s easy to do. In fact, you can customize it for exactly the mistakes you’ve been trying to get your colleagues to stop making. And you can build in messages specifically for those mistakes. Your colleagues may not like hearing about errors when it’s pointed out by a person, but they’ll respond differently when they hear about them through software.
Here’s how you can use PerfectIt to teach your colleagues and raise the standard of writing at your organization.
Raising Writing Standards with Software You Customize for Your Colleagues
You can learn to customize PerfectIt with our series of free video tutorials. Customizing PerfectIt for your colleagues is exactly the same as customizing for yourself. However, you need to keep in mind that most colleagues don’t have your level of language experience. So don’t overload them. If you pile too many checks on, they’ll just tune them out – or stop running the checks altogether. There are some things that are better left to you, especially at first.
Here are some of the most important areas to focus on:
- How often do people in your organization misspell, or mis-capitalize, or mis-punctuate your company name and branding? Or even worse, how often do they get a client’s name wrong? You can build in all the mistakes they make so it will point them to the approved style.
- PerfectIt also checks all the preferred variations you set in your style sheet. Stick to clear rules that colleagues will understand (e.g. US versus UK English). Don’t set it to flag every instance of effect versus affect. The occasional instances where someone gets that wrong are better left to your skilled editorial hand.
- Ethnic sensitivity. You can set specific preferred variants in your house style – for instance, American Indian or Aboriginal or First Nations? African-American or African American or Black? PerfectIt lets you build in a note to authors so they understand the use of each term without feeling lectured on sensitive subjects.
- Gender sensitivity. There are terms that many people use by reflex that are more gender-specific or gender-tendentious than they need be. Policeman or stewardess? How about police officer or flight attendant? PerfectIt can help people stay conscious of these kinds of things and make thoughtful choices.
- Technical terms. In some areas of work, terms like subject, patient, respondent, and informant get used often. But are they being used appropriately? A computer can’t decide this. But it can flag the terms so that subject-matter experts do an additional review of terms that make a significant difference.
- Named sections. Some people like to refer to Chapter Five when your house style calls for chapter 5. PerfectIt won’t force them to stop doing it, but it can keep asking them – and maybe disrupt their reflex.
- Internal references. If a document has a lot of tables or figures, sometimes they get moved around or renumbered – and sometimes the references to them don’t get updated. The document will say “see Table 3” when it’s now Table 4. PerfectIt can be there to humbly inquire as to whether they definitely intended to refer to that table and not another one.
The Worry-Free Way to Give Editorial Advice
You can’t be everywhere, and even if you could, your colleagues wouldn’t want you to. But your electronic assistant, PerfectIt, can be on everyone’s computer armed with your style guide, and your colleagues will be happy to have it. It’s a quick, non-threatening check that can improve every document in the company.
You can use PerfectIt to educate your co-workers. The more they use it, the more they learn the company standards. Their writing will improve, which means you can spend your time more effectively. And you can build in more and more details over time, so that everyone just keeps getting better and better – which means the company’s published material will keep improving, and since you’re responsible for assuring its quality, you’ll be more and more effective at your job.
If you’re already using PerfectIt, check out our videos on how to customize it, and tell your manager how much time and money it will save while delivering real global improvements. If you’re not using it yet, click to start a free trial.