More On Revising
Editing and proofreading fiddles with copy, revising recasts. One of our writers submitted a page with this paragraph. He is a fine writer but under deadline for this piece. I have more time as I am generally not doing original research and writing, rather, editing and revising material already written.
Here’s the troublesome paragraph:
“When you are in a difficult situation, you don’t want your lawyer to be inaccessible, unsympathetic, and only speaks in confusing legal jargon. You want legal service that’s not only effective but compassionate as well. That’s exactly the kind of service our clients get at Donovan and Reed.”
Can you count the negatives? 1) difficult 2) don’t. 3) inaccessible. 4) unsympathetic. 5) confusing. 6) not.
Writing for the public must be positive. In this setting, these everyday words and phrases conspire to present a negative image. Instead of saying what a client doesn’t want, let’s say what a client wants. And, perhaps most importantly, what the firm wants as well.
It took me an hour and at least ten revisions before I was happy with what you see below. This was abnormally long for a single paragraph, however, this was for a client’s home page. Home pages must be positive, copy has to move, and they cannot ramble. The rest of the page needed only minor editing.
Here’s my revision:
“You want a lawyer who is accessible, sympathetic, and plain speaking. You also want legal service that’s effective and compassionate. That’s what we want, too. And that’s exactly what we provide at Donovan & Reed.”
Details? I eliminated “When you are in a difficult situation” because the client is undoubtedly already in one. The negative language was then eliminated and the copy tightened.
As I alluded to previously, it was important to state that the law firm’s wishes were the same as the client. “We want that, too.” This invests or aligns the company with the client’s concerns. It’s not just the client desiring something, it is the business as well.
Some before and afters:
Many Canadian companies usually look at U.S. possibilities when they think of expanding their business internationally. Primarily, the American market has many reasons to offer which include a similar language, a common culture, geographical closeness, and an environment that’s conducive to business.
Many Canadian companies look at the United States when thinking of expanding their business internationally. The American market offers a common language, a similar culture, geographical closeness, and a conducive business environment.
This one’s tricky. It’s an opening paragraph and brevity is easily achieved, however, do you see a point of contention? I changed a “common culture” to a similar culture and a “similar language” to a common language.
I have two Canadian-English dictionaries but I’d say their English is quite close to American English, enough to say common, rather than similiar. The culture, on the other hand, seems different enough to say similar rather than common.
Here’s the real question: how do you incorporate French and Quebec in all of this? Without being wordy? Does the following work?
Many Canadian companies look at the United States when thinking of expanding their business internationally. The American market offers a common language, save French, a similar culture, geographical closeness, and a conducive business environment.
Hmm. You can’t forget the French language in Canada, not at all. I understand all government documents and websites are in both languages. It’s now just a struggle to keep from getting wordy.