Tag Archives: editing


Chirpy FT regular Lucy Kellaway is always good value, and her article on BBC Online this week, about the relative unimportance of spelling mistakes and typos, was guaranteed to get a vociferous response from grammar zealots. I’ve some sympathy for her position, having already staked out my red lines around typographical fastidiousness, but the truth is that this lady has gone too far.

I, like Lucy, have made a great many howlers in my time. Indeed, “I, like Lucy,” may even be one of them. The reason these made it in front of my clients (and on at least one occasion, in print) was because I didn’t try hard enough to identify the faults and correct them. Like making sure there’s no hair in the sandwiches I make my kids every morning, it DOES matter. It matters because the act of writing is an intimate communication process between a writer and a reader. Failing to apply the highest possible care in delivering that content fundamentally disrespects the reader, and if you disrespect the reader then what was the point in sitting down to write your ditty in the first place?

I get a pile of spam email every day, most of which is funnelled into a spam folder that I rarely open. Spam is often the delivery mechanism for extremely damaging bugs and viruses, or the opening gambit for a ‘phishing scam’ where the email appears to be from your bank or business supplier but is in fact from a rather nasty character in Belarus called Vlad. Clicking on a link or opening an attachment could be a disaster. The information security industry makes billions of pounds a year developing technology to identify and stop the bad stuff reaching you; letting the good stuff pass through unfettered.

Telling the difference between a cybercriminal attack and a legitimate email is very simple, if you take the time to read for spelling, grammar, syntax, formatting and so on.

I’ve written about information security for over 10 years and seen a great many malicious email threats. Cybercriminals are doing astonishingly clever things with code that run rings around national intelligence agencies and anti-virus scientists. But never, in all that time, have I read a cybercriminal email that was sophisticated enough in its use of English to look as though it was written by the marketing/comms department of – say – a UK high street bank.

That’s a blatant crime if ever you saw one.


Being tired, emotional and at the end of your tether is a bad time to start writing. But when writer’s block strikes, the best way to overcome it is to splurge complete and unmitigated truth onto the page, marvel at its inappropriateness and then edit it into shape.

The following is a made-up example, albeit perilously reminiscent of something I needed to write many years ago under immense time pressure from a client who couldn’t be convinced otherwise. Having got it out of my system and whipped it into shape, the resulting edit made it into several top trade IT publications.



“It would make a good press release, yeah?” claims person promoted into a marketing position on the strength of their sales performance

DATELINE:   A jumped-up reseller of IT boxes purporting to be something to do with ‘managed services’ has sold a small quantity of said equipment to a construction company that the reseller claims has a loose connection with a really big building project on the other side of the world which its technology has, in fact, got nothing to do with.

“We’ve got something broadly the same as we used to have which let’s us do what we did before at a marginally improved cost,” said Bob Bloke, Head Curator of Technology Gubbins at Big Building Co. “If I could find it in my heart to say anything else of any consequence then I sincerely would.”

The reseller, who sells some technology you’ve heard of (but a good deal more of technology you haven’t), already has a number of customers of even less interest including a UK borough council you didn’t even know existed, and western Europe’s third largest exporter of grommet valves for civil and marine applications.

“The managed services paradigm is embracing new synergies as we transition toward a cataclysmic revolution in virtualised user-centric models for IT adoption, transformation and agility,” said the oiled and over moist Sales Manager. “I must dash, as I’ve left my Ford Probe at the Travelodge and it’s got all my cocaine in it.”