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Writing to Communicate – The Purpose of Editors
by Deborah Greenspan
Authors have many reasons for writing. They write to tell their stories; they write to explain their opinions; they write for fame and fortune (though few make it that far). Writers put words on paper to tell people who they are, to leave a legacy for their childen, to share the wisdom they’ve gained in years of living.
Authors can write on any topic. As a publisher, I’ve looked at books on child abuse and books challenging Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. People write on everything there is, from ants to giants, from microbes to galaxies, from fiction to photography. There are no limits on the number of topics available to writers to explore and study.
So what makes a writer a writer? It’s not the subject matter or the specific purpose of the writing. I believe that writers do have one thing in common, though, no matter what their topics. With the exception of some poets who believe that making the meaning obscure is the mark of good poetry, every writer has a desire to communicate something important: thoughts, ideas, stories, feelings, experiences, knowledge, wisdom, whatever. If the key to every writer is this need to communicate, then writing to communicate means writing so that your reader can understand you.
While you may also be writing because you have a great idea and want to see it realized, this is a secondary goal. The first goal is to communicate, and in writing to communicate, you must put your ideas in terms that your readers can understand. This brings us to a subject that few people appreciate fully: grammar. Writing to communicate requires a mastery of grammar. If you can’t say it well, succinctly, in the correct tense, using exactly the right words, clearly making your point and not some other point, then although your readers may start out with you, they may not finish the journey. How can they understand your ideas if these ideas can be misconstrued due to faulty grammatical constructions?
Writing to communicate requires clarity. The tools for creating clarity are words and the grammatical rules that allow us to put words together, so that everyone understands. When we are writing to communicate, words and grammar are all we’ve got. It’s true that you can always use an editor to clean up your text, and a good editor will usually be able to infer correct meanings. The easier you make it for her, the more likely that your text will actually say what you want to say to your reader. Writing to communicate takes work, but even if you’re not the most proficient writer of English, a talented editor can save you. Be careful though. There are a lot of self-styled editors all over the internet who are not very good at editing. If nothing else, Breezeway Books provides a free and expert editing assessment that can give you something to go on when trying to tell one editor from another.