Are you too much of an expert to write about your topic?
Experts are usually the last people who should finalise any piece of writing about what they’re experts at, unless the target readership consists of experts too.
What an expert thinks is easy for a 12-year-old to understand is often beyond the 12-year-olds’ parents’ comprehension. And there is another danger to clear thinking if you, or someone closely involved, knows the subject matter backwards; familiarity breeds contempt. Because you’re used to dealing with the subject matter every day, it’s very easy to overlook things that may seem trivial to you, but are very important to your readers.
I fell victim to that one when I gave my very first video scriptwriting workshop years ago, and I was showing someone the best way to write a piece of narration. The workshoppee said, “but why is it better to do it this way?”
Reality checks are critical
I only just stopped myself in time, from saying “because it’s better, that’s why.” I knew it was better that way, but I couldn’t articulate why it was better. I just did it that way by instinct. It was only after I’d gathered my thoughts for a minute or two that I could explain it properly to the workshoppee. Yet it was important to her, and to her learning process.
This is where a good editor’s skills can be really helpful, by performing a reality check on your writing and by putting him or herself in the readers’ shoes and telling you honestly if you’re writing at too high a level, or too low, for the readership you’re aiming at. It’s always easier for someone who is one step removed from a writing project to pick up on issues like this.
So no matter how irritating you find your editor’s criticisms (and I know how it feels on both sides of that fence, being both an author and an editor) do listen to them, and remember that their intentions are entirely honourable!
(Adapted from “How To Write Winning Non-fiction” by Suzan St Maur: click here.)
Now, make sure you write expertly:
“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well
“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write
“Business Writing Made Easy“…everything you need to know about writing for business in English