In author queries, write to an audience of one.

“Write to an audience of one.”

That is excellent advice. I picked it up here:

4 Tips to help you write with clarity and substance. (by Gregory Ciotti, marketing at Help Scout)

It’s funny, but I think I write to myself. Or, at least, a caricature of myself. Perhaps picturing someone else as my audience will bring in some unexpected freshness. There is one pitfall I see here: What if writers only wrote to their colleagues? Actually, that seems to be the norm with academic writers, and academic writing can be fraught with extraneous verbiage. To quote the shared blog post:

“Nothing drags down writing more than spreading good ideas over too many words.”

This describes one of the most common challenges I face in my copyediting work: How do I encourage an author to essentialize their ideas. I wonder whether I can apply the principles in the post to my author-editor communications. I think I can.

I like this straightforward graphic from the article that illustrates the painful, but highly necessary, process of revision. It is difficult to be brave enough to let go of ideas that are of good quality but that do not add anything meaningful to or contribute in other ways to the development of a larger piece. If it is too painful to delete, consider copying and pasting into an archive document of orphan phrases, ideas, or concepts. Phillip Lopate, considered one of the gurus of creative nonfiction (though that is a term he questions), has a file of such tidbits that he returns to on a regular basis to mine for new ideas.

Horizontal vs. Vertical writing

Write to an audience of one. Say what you mean simply, with vital words. I can commit to that. And, as a copy editor, I can commit to applying these principles to my author communications. My audience of one is the author, who has entrusted their work to me. I will strive to communicate my queries and comments simply, clearly, and with empathy.


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