Is it Profitable to Get Your Writing Edited?

As an editor, it’s the eternal question. Indeed, it’s the million dollar (I couldn’t resist) question for us to answer. It’s no secret that those of us in the editing world believe that good grammar—indeed, good spelling, syntax, writing style, anything that comes under the header of “well written text”—is crucial for any writer, but we can’t prove why it’s important enough that you should hire an editor.

It’s incredibly hard to support the claim “you should hire an editor because your text will be much better for it. That will mean you will achieve [insertyourgoalhere] to faster / easier / to a greater extent” with concrete facts or evidence.

 

can you provide concrete evidence that an editor's services are valuable?

On some level, many people—you included, probably—recognize that it’s important not to have too many typos, and to string words together in an order that makes some sort of sense.¹ We all know that grammar is important, and many people who write (and by “write” we mean anything, be that a book, a blog, a sales page, or something else) will say that tone and writing “style” are crucial, too.

But what’s it hurt if things aren’t perfect? Why do you want an editor—nay, need an editor? Will it sell more books for you? Will it get your website more conversions, thus earning you more money? Will it get you a greater number of rabidly loyal readers, who will buy your products and tell their friends and neighbors, so that Betty, Bob, and Gertrude down the street also buy your products?

Well … yes.

No?

Maybe!

Probably.

That’s the thing. It’s very hard to quantify in hard, useful numbers just how much value hiring an editor will have for a person or company. It’s a question I’d like to answer for you. It’s one that I can’t answer today, at least not with those useful numbers, but I will keep looking for a way.

In the meantime, I’m not the only one trying to answer the question. Alex Birkett, over at ConversionXL, posted a superb article about the effect of poor grammar (and other writing gremlins) on sales. In his article, he’s cited evidence from various companies that have conducted a variety of tests (including a company that sells tights, which corrected the simple misspelling of “tihgts” on their homepage and saw their conversions jump by 80 percent).

I thoroughly, thoroughly recommend reading the article in full. To get your brain into full-on food-for-thought mode, here are a few morsels from Alex’s article:

“Charles Duncombe … says an analysis of website figures shows a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half.”

“Typos and other grammatical errors are an example of earned credibility². They are either immediately recognized and turn off readers, or they are subtle and slowly damage credibility throughout copy.”

Finally, in the social media realm, it seems spelling errors are one of the largest mistakes a brand can make. A London-based digital communications agency surveyed 1,003 U.K. web users last July, and found that close to half of the overall respondents – 42.5 percent – would be most influenced by spelling or grammar blunders.”

Give the whole article a read for yourself.

Personally, as an editor who has also worked in internet marketing and conversion rate optimization (persuading people to buy things on the Internet), my opinion is that clarity is the most important thing in writing. It is so easy, especially in text, for miscommunication to take place. Miscommunication causes confusion. Confused people don’t buy, don’t get hooked on your characters and plot, or don’t do whatever it is you want them to do.

What is clarity in writing? That’s a topic for a whole other blog post, but one thing seems obvious: incorrect grammar, spelling, and punctuation does not make for clear writing. Editors, therefore, can really help de-confusify (I call first dibs on coining that phrase)—particularly if they also have experience in marketing—and so they can help your writing achieve your aims.

As an aside but along similar lines, I strongly believe it’s also very important to aim to write with a tone and style that suits your audience. Logically speaking, that means that you might need to decide if your tone and style require you to be a little flexible with the rules of writing, and how much so, and whether that’s okay for you. If you’re going to do this, it’s a good idea to think about exactly what that custom style is in your, and your audience’s, case. Again, an editor can help you craft your text to a specific style or tone.

All that said, there are times when you may want to loosen the reins a little and not worry about a few basic mistakes creeping in to your writing. I’m particularly thinking about social media posts—tweets, Facebook messages—because a few mistakes can make you seem a genuine person in a virtual sea full of faceless pages and “personal” profiles. (And I mean a few, and I mean mistakes to be “you’ve been less careful”; I don’t mean that you’ve spent 30 minutes meticulously engineering 140 characters of pure gobbledigook because it might be endearing. It won’t be. It will be unreadable.)

That said, if you’re trying to provide a professional service—be that selling things, creating books with an intricate internal world, consulting, or whatever—then your customers want to know you’re trustworthy and professional. How do they determine that? Humans use hundreds, perhaps thousands, of tiny signals to try to figure that out. In print, quality writing is definitely one of them. For example, if you were applying for a new job, would you be comfortable sending in a CV that had spelling mistakes?

No?

It’s because you’re aware that the person evaluating your CV, the CV that you’ve probably spent hours combing for errors, is using those same subconscious cues. The same thing applies to writing in any context.

Food for thought.

 

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Also, of course, if you’ve been thinking you need or want an editor, please don’t hesitate to contact me and we’ll chat about how I can help you!


¹I would like to point out at this point that I am very aware how ironic it would be for an editor to harp on about how important correct grammar and spelling is, and for their blog posts to then contain errors. I have, like anyone writing something of their own work, done my best to ensure there are no errors; I have even run it past several friends and asked them to apply their shiniest and finest toothed combs. But this is why, professionally, I edit other peoples’ writing: it is easier to find someone else’s mistakes than it is your own. (Click here to go back up.)

²If you’re wondering what “earned credibility” is, it’s as simple as it sounds. It’s credibility you “earn” from your readers partially by being, well, competent. Alex’s article explains it as well. (Click here to go back up.)

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