Editing for Speakers—Part II

You May Think You’re Not a Speaker . . .

Are you a speaker? You may say you’re not, but I think telling someone about your business can be a mini-speech; I point that out because this post is about editing for speakers.

Maybe some of you don’t know how you can benefit from using an editor. Perhaps you’re thinking the editor will rewrite your speech, changing your style, turning it into something that just doesn’t sound like you.

That’s not good!

It’s Your Speech.

An editor should leave your speech your speech—so when you deliver it, it’s clearly yours.

What an Editor Can Do for You.

What can an editor do for you? For starters, correct the basics, such as grammar and clarity. Here’s an example of a lack of clarity: speaking often is stress inducing. Does speaking induce stress often? Or does frequent speaking induce stress? Can’t tell. Some more basics: spelling and punctuation; even though your listeners can’t see those, I’d correct them, because you may want to post your speech online, include it in a book you’re writing, and use parts of it in a visual presentation.

But editors do a lot more than those basics. They should note it if your style seems to not fit your target audience. For example, you may use idioms, like “fixin’ to” and “finding your feet.” If your target audience is a formal group, that wording should be changed. But when it’s appropriate to speak or write that way, go ahead and use idioms; that’s like adding spices to your cooking. Your communication style is one of the things that sets you apart from others; therefore, it’s vital that you—not your editor—come across in your writing and speaking.

An editor can point out language that might exclude part of your audience, in case that’s not what you want to do. Here’s one example: I could say, “As speakers, we all know what I mean by ‘language that excludes.’” That’s a double whammy: that statement excludes those who do not consider themselves to be speakers, and the “we all know what I mean” part excludes those who might not understand the phrase “language that excludes.”

An editor should ensure your speech doesn’t have holes. I heard a speech about Halloween costumes in which the speaker brought the wigs he’d worn over five Halloweens, with photos of himself dressed up as famous women. The speaker was fun; he was entertaining—but I was distracted: why had he dressed as women so often? Did it start as a college dare? A sale on wigs? I really wanted to know, and that dogged me throughout his talk.

Another things your editor can do is make sure your speech follows through on its hooks—even its suggestions of hooks. One speaker said something like, “What if you won a drawing today for a free consultation with my company; would you find the time for that?” I got all excited, “Oh, excellent! Surely he’ll give that away or he wouldn’t have mentioned it! I want to win that!” And the speech went on . . . and then ended . . . with no further mention of any freebie. Sigh. I know he hadn’t promised anything, but I was disappointed, and I lost a bit of faith in that speaker, from a business standpoint.

Those are some ways an editor can help.

What’s Your Part in the Speaker-Editor Relationship?

You write the speech and get an idea of what type of editing you want; you can check out my post on copyediting.

And go shopping! If you can, shop for an editor before you need one. Spend a little time doing research by looking at editing samples online. First check out the before-and-after samples on editor Audrey Dorsch’s site; they show a good bit of rewriting and restructuring. Then, for comparison, see the samples on this site. My samples show very little rewriting; I prefer doing that kind of editing. When you talk with prospective editors, pay attention to how you two communicate—communication is a huge part of the speaker-editor interaction, and if it doesn’t go well, that can bode ill for a future relationship. So look around and find an editor who is your ally and with whom you communicate easily.

Happy shopping!