As I was editing a short ebook (14 pages) on the topic of healing (biofeedback, energy release, and vitamins), a great insight hit me. Enthusiasm and confidence matter more to a buying public than scientific accuracy.
This healer’s ebook was not clearly related to a video course that I was watching: Chandler Bolt’s Self-Publishing School. But both of the author-speakers were talking about a topic that they had researched; they had spent time on their subjects, and as goofy as some of the gimmicks were, they worked.
That’s what drives Academics crazy about Business Enthusiasts. The BEs can whip a crowd into a buying frenzy while the As are still frowning and trying to punch in logarithms into their laptops, or numbers into their pocket calculators. (That also works for grade point average, too – the A’s work for the BE’s who got C’s in college, and so on.)
Warning: Enthusiasm Isn’t Everything (or a Quick Fix)
Problems do happen when a small business owner tries to coast on an endless wave of enthusiasm, because sometimes you need that analyst to tell you about potential pitfalls in your new wonderful idea. However, just aiming for data-driven perfection does not draw in people who want to harness the power of change. Just because it’s accurate to count your steps via Fitbit, it’s not nearly as energizing as having a competition with a friend to race around the block. When you’re sweating and grinning like a wacko because you’ve just won the Ultimate Dash Around the Block, it’s far more fun than clicking a button and saying in a dry clinical tone, “Ah yes, I have now reached my personal goal of 5,243 steps today.”
I could say that each approach works for certain people, and there’s no judgment here – but really, I think that the dry clinical tone only works in a dry clinical environment of double-blind tests funded by very persnickety government contractors. It does not work in the realm of personal achievement, where fun is more important than data.
Enthusiasm as Fuel
Watching Chandler Bolt don an orange hat and say, “Cowboy Up!” was not the pinnacle AHA moment of my life. I’m not going to go away and develop a Cowboy Up line of clothing and have Instagram shots of me in a cowboy hat everywhere I go. (I will probably have a cup of coffee in my hand, though, and any cowboy worth his salt would surely appreciate that nod in the rangemasters’ direction.)
But in watching the video, one thing was clear: Chandler Bolt is quite animated about his topic. He’s got enthusiasm. He doesn’t care if he looks goofy on a screen, because people who don’t want to get enthused about anything don’t have to sign up to figure out ways to publish their books. (Only a small segment of the population really wants a very dry, clinical topic; most people want a little entertainment factor as they learn.)
Editing for Your Audience
While I do editing, I’m not a technical editor who cares about the n-dash/M-dash divide (although I do care about the Oxford comma). My goal is to polish prose until your audience understands your message.
If that means dangling prepositions, let them dangle. If your voice requires many rhetorical questions, I’m not going to turn them all into full sentences with real periods or semi-colons, although more than three in a long paragraph means that something has to change. Why? Because authors can’t have everything their own way.
No, I don’t really mean that. As an editor, it’s my job to apply a certain level of criticism and fish-eye to an author’s work. An example of fish-eye would be one of those Black Molly or large goldfish with the buggy, bulbous eyes. Remember when your Mom would give you The Eye when you told her some taradiddle (yes, WordPress, that’s a word meaning ‘petty lie’) about how your invisible sibling ate the cookie and then smeared crumbs all over your face? That’s the fish-eye.
For some real fun, look at the Calvin & Hobbes strip with Calvin’s Dad giving him the ‘evil eye‘. That’s the pinnacle!
Anyway, I digress. The world of content editing revolves around usable words and communication, so the goal is not to make the English as perfect as possible; the goal is to make sure your intended readers don’t have any roadblocks while reading your work. I remove boulders from the path of understanding; I fling tree branches of bad syntax to the side of the road, so they rot as they should. Do these parables make sense?
Get Help Flinging Boulders
Sometimes, particularly large boulders need to be removed with friends. That’s why I love editing ebooks and blogposts written by people who have learned English as a second or third language; they don’t use raggedy, well-used explanations or hype-y business speak that tries to turn an analyst into a football coach. “In the end zone” or “quarterbacking” (or even “strategize”) does not say anything to an academic audience, except that you slept through the all-important lecture on How Not to Inflate Your Language.
In the end, Solomon said it best: “Get wisdom. Get understanding.” Also, get help when trying to overcome communication barriers, because you can’t do it all yourself. (Okay, so Solomon didn’t say that in so many words, but he did go on about the importance of friends and community; you’d have to ask a Theology Analyst to see if my estimation is correct. Because now I’m off to write about a different topic!)