NB: I wrote this post last year and titled it “More on Revising.” (internal link) I noticed tonight that it needed more work so I have revised this post on revising. Argh. Editing never ends.
More on Revising — Updated
Editing and proofreading fiddles with copy, revising recasts. A team member submitted a page with this paragraph. He is a fine writer but under deadline. 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.”
Did you catch all the negative sounding words? They are: 1) difficult 2) don’t 3) inaccessible 4) unsympathetic 5) confusing 6) not.
Public business writing must be positive. These everyday words and phrases together present a negative tone. Instead of saying what a customer doesn’t want, say what a customer does want. And, perhaps most importantly, what the company providing the service wants as well.
It took an hour and at least ten revisions before I was happy. This time 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 — no rambling!
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? Besides knocking out the negative words, I eliminated, “When you are in a difficult situation.” The customer is undoubtedly already in one if they are looking for a lawyer.
As I mentioned, it’s important to state that the law firm’s wishes are the same as the person seeking help. “We want that, too.” This invests or aligns the company with the potential customer’s concerns. It’s not just the customer desiring something, it’s the business as well.