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3 Signs You’ve Gone Editorially Overboard and Need to Take a Chill Pill

Last week, we discussed four friendly tips on how to edit your business article or blog post. That piece gave the editorial advice to read over your copy before you publish it. Because analyzing each sentence or paragraph to make sure it says what you think it’s going to say keeps you looking good.

And who doesn’t want to look good?

It’s probably safe to say that every editor, business article writer or blogger does. Sometimes a bit too much though.

By that, I mean they do too much editing. And yes, there is such a thing.

Call it editorial obsession or perfectionism or OCD, but whatever the name you use, it can happen to anyone:

  • Academic writers working on their college application essays or maybe a master’s thesis

  • Business writers composing business articles or professional bloggers creating blog posts

  • Creative writers and non-fiction writers piecing together to-be-published manuscripts that will never actually be published if they don’t learn when to stop editing.

Now, fortunately, academic writers have deadlines. So do business writers, while professional bloggers have schedules they’d like to keep at the very least. At some point then, they have little choice but to press the publish button or shoot their copy over to the editorial department if they have one.

That’s a good thing. But it could be so much better if they knew when to quit on their own. They’d have a lot more time on their hands that way, plus perhaps a lot more sanity. So if any of this sounds familiar to you, here are some more friendly editorial tips to try out:

  1. If you’re spending more than two minutes obsessing over an obscure grammatical rule that nobody but grammar Nazis are going to care about, then it’s probably time to move on. (You might want to seek some professional help while you’re at it. I’m not kidding. Your life doesn’t have to be nearly this stressful.)

  2. If you’re fixated on perfectly proper grammar in general, it’s probably time to move on. This in no way, shape or form is meant to demean proper grammar. Knowing your verbs from your nouns, prepositions and conjunctions is very important. So is being able to identify run-on sentences and incomplete sentences. But it’s also important to understand the power of breaking grammatical rules every now and again for emphasis or effect or engagement. Constantly employing perfectly proper grammar isn’t an effective way to write. It isn’t an effective way to edit either. Or to spend your precious academic, business or creative time on.

  3. If you’re turning to the AP Stylebook guide every other vocabulary choice or punctuation placement, it’s probably time to move on. I found myself doing this the other day with the disputed word “onboard.” Is it “onboard” or “on board”? I used to know that back when I was working for an AP Stylebook guide-obsessed company. But for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the rule now off the top of my head. Should I look it up? Should I research it? What’s my log-in to the online version of the AP Stylebook guide? After several tense seconds, I came back to my editorial senses and remembered that, guess what? Nobody cares outside of the AP Stylebook guide writers and their acolytes, who really need to get a life anyway. I’m not trying to pick on the AP Stylebook guide in particular here. If you’re obsessing over any stringent set of editorial rules, you’ve gone too far.

Ultimately, there should be a healthy balance to any editing you do. You want to respect the power of good grammar, yes. Just don’t let it control you or your editorial process.



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