Last Friday, I had lunch with a friend who manages the relationships between one of our clients and an important group of industry analysts. He described a key challenge he’s facing this way: “All of these guys are smart, but not all of them can write. How can you tell them without hurting the relationship? Can you help?”
It’s a delicate subject. Telling someone who needs help writing can be like telling your boss that her teeth are adorned with bits of spinach. In touchy situations like this, you know that you should mention the problem, but summoning the nerve to do so is an effort. Who knows how that person will react?
One way to approach the subject is by sharing how best editorial practices contribute to world-class content deliverables. Here at TDA, we follow a disciplined workflow that starts with crisp, high-level direction before we proceed with hands-on editorial services that run the gamut of content shaping and development, peer read-behinds, copy editing, fact-checking, and proofreading.
In addition, writing and editing are different professions here at TDA. Writers write. Editors edit. Different skill sets, different qualifications, different personalities.
Expert editing makes good writing even better. Besides working closely with our own writers, TDA editors routinely coach client authors who are renowned engineers, executives, marketers, or scientists. The experience usually helps these folks understand and appreciate how our edit support services complement their writing efforts.
After you share editorial best practices, you can more easily mention that talent matters. Many brilliant thinkers just aren’t cut out to be writers. Some of us who do have the writer’s knack often don’t have the time or focus to devote to the authoring task. But it’s a job that can be easily outsourced to those who do.
As I told my friend, there is no shame in hiring dedicated writers to help, especially when communicating important but complex ideas. So, yes, you can inform people that they don’t write well—without injuring professional relationships. And if you follow the points above, you’ll probably find it easier to do than telling people they have spinach in their teeth.