7 Things All Business Writers Should Check Before Submitting

Photo of a woman putting pen to paper and writing something in her living room; there is also a laptop computer in the photo. She is smiling.
Always think: active voice. (Photo: Antonio Guillem)

Stick a fork in it. It’s done. Finished. Ready to send.

Hmm… Well, you might want to hold off on popping the cork on that champagne. Really, you want your business writing to be as good as it can be—so what’s the hurt in checking it one last time?

I’d recommend running through this quick checklist:

1. Did You Repeat Yourself?

How many times did you use the same word? Use your word processor’s built-in functions to see if you’ve inadvertently (you’d never do it on purpose, would you?) used a standout word repetitiously.

2. Kick Passive Writing to the Curb

Use an active voice in your writing to make it lively and concise. (Yes, that means fewer words, which may not be profitable for you if you’re being paid by the word. You’ll need to struggle with that one by yourself.)

Not sure if your writing is active or passive? Nobody has done a better job of explaining it than The Elements of Style (1918), also known as Strunk & White. This book should be on every writer’s shelf.

3. Don’t Forget the Details

Is there anything general that can be specific? Details help your writing become real to the reader. So, were they flowers—or deep-red roses?

4. Ask Another Person to Read It

Sharing your writing with someone you can trust might help you find something you’ve missed. Let’s repeat a key word: trust. This should be someone from whom you would gladly receive constructive criticism.

5. Take a Break; You’ve Earned It

Rest before revision—and then again before submitting. You may find that a break of a few days is necessary to give you enough distance from your writing in order to revisit it with objectivity.

6. Check Spelling and Grammar

There aren’t any green squiggles or red lines anywhere in the document, so it’s error-free, right? Ha ha, don’t be so sure!

Read it over—and if you don’t feel too silly about it, actually read it aloud. That shouldn’t feel too awkward, by the way; a writing style that closely resembles your speaking style is the optimal use of both modes of communication.

Oh, and by the way, those squiggles and red lines will often lead you down a wrong road. The truth is, no software will ever be as accurate as the trained eyes of a skilled copy editor.

7. Back It Up

Of course you know the golden rule: Save your work constantly.

But that may not always be enough. Your computer’s hard drive may crash one day. Are you prepared?

Get an external hard drive, or consider keeping a copy of your writing on a cloud storage service such as Dropbox. When you sign up for the service (it’s free unless you need to back up huge amounts of data), you download an icon to your computer that functions like another drive, but one you can use from other computers as well. This has the added benefit of allowing you to work on the same document from other computers.

Let’s Work Together

Need help with proofreading or copy editing your business writing? Contact Super Copy Editors now for a quick quote.

Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Hi, I'm Dave Baker, founder and copy chief of Super Copy Editors. I have more than two decades of professional proofreading and copy editing experience, including work for The Nation magazine, The New York Times, and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, where I shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes after Hurricane Katrina. Today, I have put together a hand-picked team of copy editors, and we especially love working with ad agencies, marketing departments, and education companies to make their text as polished as possible. Learn more here.

4 Comments

  1. Rachel
    October 9, 2012

    Absolutely love this article. More than the content – the presentation. Looking forward to working with you.

    Reply
    1. David Deleon Baker
      October 9, 2012

      Hi Rachel, I’m looking forward to learning more about your project.

      Reply
  2. Cathy Miller
    October 19, 2012

    Love these tips, Dave-simple – just like I like it. 🙂 ♥ your flower/rose example.

    Reply
    1. David Deleon Baker
      October 19, 2012

      Thank you, Cathy.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

photo of a collection of style guides and books on advertising, marketing, and education