If you want to be a business leader, then brush up on your writing skills, says Paul Danos in a recent interview for a Forbes.com article. Danos, Dean of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, the longest-serving dean at a top U.S. business school, explains his belief as follows:
- In the age of new media, people don’t take the time to structure their thoughts into paragraphs and sentences for good communication.
- In business, people really stand out if they are articulate, if they can actually write sentences and can get them presented properly.
The message for the aspiring MBA business leader – brushing up on your writing skills – can make a real difference in how others perceive your work. The good news is there are ways to improve one’s writing. In a previous MyeEMBA article, I described how to use technology to unlearn bad writing behavior. In this article, I want to describe another approach: hire an editor to help improve your written work.
What editors do
Editors are trained professionals who carefully review a writer’s work to find issues relating to mistakes in grammar, style, spelling, tone, inconsistencies, readability, sentence structure, format, content and organization. More importantly for the MBA who wants to improve his or her writing skills, many editors make useful suggestions for addressing the issues found during the review.
Benefits of using a good editor
There are many benefits to using a professional editor. To me, the most relevant ones for MBAs include:
- Objective Feedback – No matter how many times writers review their own work, the results are seldom completely impartial. Editors are detached from the work, which helps them provide the objective feedback needed to make the work better.
- Quality Feedback – A good editor typically provides quality feedback that is useful for improving the document. In today’s work environment, readers notice and appreciate well-written and easy-to-read documents.
- Better-quality Work – Rewriting a document while considering the editor’s feedback usually results in a better-quality document. When the people that matter see the finished written work, they see a well-organized and well-written text that distinguishes the writer from his or her peers.
- Opportunity for Learning – An editor’s comments and suggestions provide an opportunity for learning, especially when the editor is willing to discuss the feedback. In a single document review, an editor may identify multiple occurrences of the same error, which suggests the need for the author’s doing remedial work targeted to that specific error. Self-remediation is part of the learning process.
Finding an editor
Professional editors are readily available. However, finding one who meets the specific needs of the aspiring MBA business leader can be a challenge. Some possibilities include:
- Referral – Ask a friend or coworker for a referral.
- Search the Internet – A search using “Manuscript Editing” or “Proofreading Services” will produce a large number of professional editors available for a fee. Editing service providers usually charge for their services by the hour, page, word or job.
- Use Elance.com or a similar service – When I need editing services, I use Elance-registered vendors. With Elance, I have payment protection, access to a vendor’s profile, often samples of previous work done (portfolio) and his or her reputation for the services provided. Elance providers are rated by their clients in six categories and this information is available to you.
Selecting an editor
Some MBAs will find editor selection an iterative process. However, the following criteria may be useful in reducing the number of editors one must engage before finding the right one.
- Experience – Generally, more experienced editors provide higher-quality feedback.
- Knowledge – Subject matter expertise relating to the document’s topic is nice to have; however, it is not necessary.
- Deadlines – Providing feedback within a defined timeline is a necessity.
- Feedback – Uses the MS Word Track Changes and Comment functions for feedback or a similar software application.
- Coach – Willing to discuss feedback and help develop writing skills.
It may not be appropriate or affordable to hire an editor for all written work. However, my experience in working with editors suggests that significant learning can occur by having an editor review two or three pages of written work every month or so. Moreover, using the same editor over time can result in a degree of competitiveness between the author and the editor. That is, the writer strives to write error free or at least not make the same mistakes repeatedly.
In today’s complex business world, a book or monograph can serve as the new business card. Accordingly, many people write modest-sized manuscripts to get their innovations exposed to the inhabitants of the C-suite, the most important executives in a corporation. Along with a resume, such a book can help you get your foot in the door of your choice. You can make your best impression by submitting your work to an editor.
I find working with the right editor a useful learning experience that is both positive and rewarding. Do you have experience working with an editor? Please share your thoughts by adding a comment below.
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