We here at Editorial Emergency are big fans of the TV series "Law & Order" and its many spin-offs. All right, "big fans" might be an understatement. We've watched hundreds of episodes – so many, in fact, that we often joke that we're fully qualified to solve crimes and practice law.
It's a ludicrous notion, of course. But a great many marketing messages, e-zines, press releases and other solicitations we receive seem to follow a similar logic: "Who needs writers and editors? I know how to write."
Alas, being functionally literate and being trained in the editorial arts are two vastly different things.
"Oh, my partner handles all the writing. She was class valedictorian."The yawning chasm between the two often resembles the difference between going to law school and watching legal dramas on TV.
You'd scarcely undertake your own defense in a trial without legal training. Opposing counsel would, to put the matter delicately, clean your clock. Lacking a legal background, a sane person hires an attorney.
While the consequences of writing your own materials without professional assistance may not be as dire as those that attend practicing law without a license, you're still taking a risk. And when what's at risk is how seriously people take your message, is this really where you want to cut corners?
Even so, an alarming number of people are like the entrepreneur who, when asked about the mangled prose and glaring errors on her very nice-looking website, said, "Oh, my partner handles all the writing. She was class valedictorian."
Politeness forbade inquiring why the class valedictorian hadn't fixed all those errors yet. But one shudders to imagine other aspects of a business being handled so blithely. "Oh, my neighbor does all our bookkeeping – he got good grades in math."
If you want to lay down the law in your marketing materials, it's best to bring in the experts.
In the world of business communication, editorially based offenses are considered especially heinous. In Los Angeles, the dedicated writer-editors who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad called Editorial Emergency. These are their stories.