GrammarPhile Blog

A Question for the Ages: Style or Clarity (Part 2)

Posted by Sara Richmond   Feb 25, 2021 7:30:00 AM

Bad-sign-2-22-21I assume when the author wrote the summary, he’d already finished the book content. Ripe with excitement, in a flurry of dopamine, he bashed out the synopsis on his keyboard, saved it with a flourish, then ate a donut to celebrate.

Despite this jovial possibility (or perhaps because of it), I cringed as I perused the outline on the back cover. There were twenty-five errors at first glance. I felt like I had happened upon a naked mannequin in a clothing store and wanted to fashion a quick cover-up for its embarrassing predicament.

Make no mistake, the author didn’t lack education or experience, as evidenced by his various academic degrees, business savvy, and multi-industry knowledge, including this self-published book on stock market investing. It was full of useful, well-founded information. The fly (flaw) in his soup:

He had not used an editor.

There are benefits to such self-reliance. Independent people are generally go-getters. They don’t wait around for things to happen; they make things happen. They are motivated, efficient, sharp-minded, and successful.

But self-reliance comes at a price, a potentially widespread one. Such people often form their opinions in a vacuum. Without intimate relationships, they lack the fulfillment of camaraderie. They slowly become victims to their own ignorance and lack of balanced perspective. They don’t realize what they don’t know, or they dare to believe no one can offer them more than they offer themselves. They hit the brick wall of their finite skill and knowledge.

What is true for the aforementioned author is true for all of us. We have different strengths. There is no downside to that fact when we exist as a community, lending help and mutual service, as necessary. We need each other. There is no deficit in that admission or loss of credibility in the seeking for assistance. Even heads of state have speech writers.

Allowing others to lend muscle to our strength, build support for our success, and gently provide us with the knowledge and guidance we lack gives us more than help, it gives us clarity.

Clarity is apropos nomenclature for our standard proofreading service. It encapsulates the purpose and the approach. Our proofreading service provides precision in execution and diction, accuracy in grammar (including punctuation), and consistency in typography.

Although I disclosed the ability to distinguish between a person’s lack of mastery of written language (in the author’s case, recurrent capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and formatting errors) and their IQ and/or expertise, the average person may not exert that much graciousness or temperance. Cases in point:

  • If you see a yard sign advertising a roofing company that reads, “Licensed, Bonded, Full Insurace,” do you assume they are proficient roofers and geniuses? Or are you just a teensy bit afraid that if they let such a stark mistake slide, they may also nail your shingles catawampus?
  • Consider your immediate reaction when a writer, in an attempt to bolster his credibility, quotes a billionaire in the following manner: “Jeff Bezoz capitalized on this same principle to make a bajillion dollars!” It might be laughter or very round eyes; either way, it’s distinctly not positive.
  • You pass a billboard while driving to work that reads, “All beer is not created equal.” Are you champing (yes, champing, not chomping) at the bit to buy “all beer” that is not as good as, perhaps, other beer? Are you confused by the sentence? Are you angry at the sentence? Have the brewers completely lost you simply because of awkward sentence structure?

Roofing companies truly know how to remove, replace, and repair roofs. We respect that. That stock market expert would race circles around anyone trying to edge into day trading. The beverage company that actually produces only one kind of beer would knock your homemade moonshine out of the running every day of the week. There’s no real problem with the product/service or skill/experience.

The issue isn’t even marketing, per se. They all realize the power of the written word to engage potential clientele, endorse their products, and highlight key consumer motivations: safety, security, financial stability, social mobility, and pleasure, to name a few.

The only thing standing in the way is clarity, a well-crafted message unimpeded by errors.

If you want to make people laugh, or astonish them, or cause them to roll their eyes in disbelief, let us help you do so for the right reasons: Your message has hit home, and your audience has bought in.

If, by some odd chance, you do want to anger, disgust, or confuse people, we freely admit we have no “muddled,” “tasteless,” or “fury-producing” proofreading or copyediting services. These were suggested during an all-hands meeting in the throes of 2020, in what we quickly realized was pandemic-induced hysteria. We quietly let them slide into the trash bin, lit the meeting minutes on fire, and ate cupcakes, not in celebration, but an attempt to console ourselves for our temporary insanity. It worked, sort of.

We regret any inconvenience—and the fact that we even entertained those ideas—and hope you understand why we cannot, in good conscience, offer them now or ever.

Wondering about the difference between our clarity proofreading and style copyediting services? See A Question for the Ages: Style or Clarity (Part 1) and our Services page.


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Topics: proofreading, clarity proofreading, style copyediting

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