How to get the most out of your writing consultant

7 February 2020

If you’re pushed for time or you want to give your report or flyer a professional polish, contracting a writing expert is a wise investment. Qualifications, experience and expertise fluctuate wildly between writers and editors, so it’s important to take the time to get the right match.

1. Check capability

Writers and editors are not required to have a licence or accreditation to provide a service. Some do have qualifications and certifications, such as a degree in writing, journalism or editing. Others have more general degrees such as a Bachelor of Arts with majors in English literature or history. Others have no qualifications at all and do not have a sound grasp of English grammar.

Even impressive qualifications and experience can be misleading. For example, a retired high school English teacher might have a love of words, but this is not a guarantee he or she can write or edit a fact sheet. A journalist may be able to write an interesting article on a current event but not able to translate a government or technical report into plain English.

It’s wise to view examples of past projects that are similar to yours, as well as check testimonials. At Concise Writing Consultancy, we also prepare a short sample edit from the proposed project.

2. Ask for a detailed proposal

Ensure the proposal outlines the writer or editor’s role in the project, including a scope of works. We usually prepare the scope of works after viewing the original draft to be edited and/or a discussion with the project owner.

Hourly rates can vary significantly between writers and editors, but simply knowing the hourly rate doesn’t tell you whether you are receiving value for money. Not only does quality of writing and editing vary enormously, the time it takes to complete the work also varies. For example, what takes one writer three hours might take another writer, five hours.

At Concise Writing Consultancy, we charge a set rate per 1,000 words on a sliding scale, depending on the complexity of the project. For editing projects, the calculation is based on the number of words our client provides (original draft). For writing projects, the fee is calculated on the final word count.

3. Understand the process

Most of our writing and editing projects at Concise Writing Consultancy involve two drafts, occasionally three. The first draft takes the longest to prepare. Although we submit it as a first draft, we have probably been over it five or six times. The first draft will often contain queries for the subject matter expert or project owner.

Once you have reviewed the first draft, made your changes and responded to the editor’s queries or comments, we recommend you return the draft to them for a second draft. Although you may believe you can prepare the second and subsequent drafts yourself, you may inadvertently change the style, tone or flow of the communication, or insert a grammatical error.

Writing and editing is an iterative process with each person in the team contributing their expertise and building on each draft. The client (subject matter expert) guides the writer or editor on matters of content and fact. The writer or editor is the communication expert and provides guidance on writing style, tone and grammar.

4. Negotiate a realistic deadline

External writers and editors will have other jobs on their books and are continually juggling deadlines. It’s wise to contact your chosen writer or editor in advance and check their lead times and availability. This is particularly important for projects like annual reports where you may have a fixed deadline. 

Don’t underestimate how long the writer or editor will need to turn a job around. At Concise Writing Consultancy we are focused on quality, as rushing a job could compromise the integrity of the work potentially damage your, as well as our own, reputation. For example, editing a two-page letter or writing a 400-word blog might only take a couple of hours or so, but we will refine the copy several times over a 24 to 48-hour period. This space between each refinement is a critical part of the writing and editing process.

5. Brief the editor or writer

The more accurately you brief the writer or editor before they begin work, the better the result will be. At a minimum, let your writer or editor know:

  1. The purpose of the communication and the result you wish to achieve.
  2. Important characteristics of your audience, including how responsive to the communication they are likely to be.

Discuss the desired style and tone for each communication (e.g. friendly or formal, demanding or conciliatory). Don’t forget to provide the writer or editor with a copy of your organisation’s writing style guide, if you have one.

If you have never worked with a writer or editor before, you’ll be in for a treat. Concise Writing Consultancy has been working with corporate and government clients since 1995. Typical projects include annual reports, fact sheets, blogs, articles, procedures and information websites. 

When you use our service you will have peace of mind that your writing will be clear and concise to meet international plain English writing standards. We will smooth out your rough draft and ensure it is free from grammatical errors. Not only will this give you a more professional, high-quality document, you will have more time to work on other tasks.

For help with your next report or other communication, contact Concise Writing Consultancy on 02 9238 6638 today.

 

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