GrammarPhile Blog

A Question for the Ages: Style or Clarity (Part 1)

Posted by Sara Richmond   Feb 11, 2021 7:30:00 AM

Sometimes you sit in front of your stone tablet, chisel and hammer in hand, and the inspiration pterodactyl fails to pass by your cave. You hem and haw, you stew and soup, you moan and whine for caveman-1460898_640the muse. Nothing happens. Deadlines are deadlines, Triassic Period or otherwise, so you knock out the report in spite of your mental doldrums. And by that, I mean you chisel a few hundred half-hearted words, read them, and fling the tablet out your window in disgust. Except, you have no window and tablets are expensive and single use, all of which effectively ruin your tantrum. It’s back to square one, also known as “writing hopscotch purgatory.”

Eventually, you sit back on your callused heels and wipe the dust off the last letter, sigh, eat a hearty meal of cactus and hardboiled ornithopod, and call it a night.

The next morning, you rejoice in the recollection: The blasted report is done, and based on your effort, it’s a ringer. You grab the tablet, bounce out to your favorite rock, and bask in the morning glow as you read through your masterpiece, expecting to be dazzled by your writing acumen and talent.

It’s gibberish.

You are prone to love everything you create for the sake of your ego, but this is undeniable trash, the kind you want to light on fire and erase from your memory for the sake of continued mental health. You exert the greatest of cognitive dissonance, turn up your nose, and priggishly tell yourself it’s not your fault—it’s the subject’s. It’s not a lack in your writing craft—it’s the constraints of an obscene deadline. It’s not a deficit in your creativity or research ability—it’s the blasted stupid words and the not-making-of-sense and why can’t this just be easier for the love of Pete and all his relatives.

You need a hug…and some help.

While we can’t promise the former (through no lack of compassion or disdain for hugs, but issues more along the lines of legal constraints), we are eager to dispense the latter. Though our examples frequently meander the territory of the melodramatic, we can all relate to irksome writer’s block, stressful time constraints, tired brains, or even, simply, strengths in other areas besides succinct, effective writing. There’s no shame in any of that, even if those things do make you feel like a Neanderthal.

Your writing needs a makeover—a style job. This is a one-two punch combining everything we do for standard jobs (also called “clarity” jobs, in which we check spelling, grammar, punctuation, and typography) and a thorough cleanup of your writing, like an expert wax and polish. If your writing were a car, we’d want you to see your face in it once we’re done; we want the writing to shine.

This is more than proofreading; it’s copyediting. According to Webster’s dictionary, copyediting is…we’re kidding. We wouldn’t do that to you. We want you to fully relish the next ten to twenty wedding receptions you go to, so we’ll keep the stale definition speeches to a minimum (none). Copyediting is proofreading on steroids, caffeine, and sugar. Don’t read too much into that; like every flippant analogy, it breaks down the longer you stare at it and disgusts you with its nonsensical fragility.

We work with questions like these in mind:

  • What is the writer’s purpose, tone, and style?
  • Does every sentence support and serve the aforementioned?
  • Is the information presented in a logical manner?
  • Does the diction suit the subject matter?
  • Are any portions repetitive or dry?
  • Which parts are clear, consistent, and succinct, and which are muddled or difficult to follow?
  • How can we make the writing sing* so that it’s not only easy to read but also compelling and enjoyable?

Copyediting isn’t always needed, and we’ll address the flip side of the proofing coin in our next blog installment. But for the times when you’re paranoid out of your mind that you’ve run amok, or you’re unsure if your writing makes a lick a sense, or you’re absolutely certain you have no idea what you’re doing and hysteria has set in, give us a holler. If you’re the silent type, masking the fear and holding the raging madness within, you may also contact us for an equally superb style job.

We’ll take care of everything in a jiffy, except for the hug. May we suggest yelling out of your car window as you drive around town until someone acquiesces? It might work…and no, we do not include posting bail money in our services.



*We can’t promise your writing will burst out in song. We only refer to the rhythm, fluidity, and pleasure of a finely tuned** document.

**We don’t actually tune your document since there are no strings or implements to do so.***

***They say good things come in threes. Or is that bad things? Let’s assume the first, since we don’t even know who “they” are.




Topics: proofreading, clarity proofreading, style copyediting, copyediting

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