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It isn’t personal

May 29, 2016

Editing is not personal.

Let that sink in a moment.

If you work in public relations or marketing communications, you are consistently churning out content. Your words. For review. By others.

It can be a humbling experience. At the risk of dating myself, I’ll share that earlier in my career, I had the boss with the red pen. We would print out writing projects – press releases, contributed articles, what have you – and the boss would take his red pen to them.

I took it personally, at first. But these are my words, my ideas, my thoughts, I argued indignantly. But it wasn’t personal. And by accepting that, I was able to learn.

The critiques were focused on driving home the main messages and the best way to do that. Yes, I received stylistic edits, because “that’s how we do it at this firm,” and “that’s how the boss prefers it.’

I (think I) learned pretty quickly. Active voice is better t400px-Inverted_pyramid_2.svghan passive. Follow AP-style rules first, agency rules second. Make sure you are driving home and delivering proof points for the main message/objective of the piece. Follow the inverted pyramid style.

Once I got it well enough, I helped the others – interns and entry level staff – work through their challenges, in an effort to minimize the red pen on their review submissions.

These were lessons in humility but also about not taking things personally. I’ve only just drawn the connection from ‘editing is not personal’ to don’t take things personally. I could have saved myself a lot of anguish if I had connected those dots sooner.

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