How to Write Good: Using a Team Approach to Perfect Copy

Our teamwork is choreographed for your satisfaction.

Our teamwork is choreographed for your satisfaction.

My son sent me this list the other day and it made me laugh.

How to Write Good*

  • The passive voice is to be avoided.
  • Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  • It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  • Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  • Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
  • Avoid clichés like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
  • Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  • Avoid Alliteration. Always.
  • One should never generalize.
  • Be more or less specific.

It occurred to me that as a professional writer, I’m so thankful to have a team of exceptionally qualified editors and copyeditors who review my work.

At the Content Bureau, we approach every project as a team. As a client, you’ll interact with the lead writer (who also manages most projects), but behind the scenes is a group of highly specialized editors and copyeditors who make my work amazing:

Writer. Your main point of contact is the lead writer. The writer is also the project manager, interviewer, and scheduler. It’s the lead writer’s job to understand the scope of work, and ensure that the Content Bureau has the necessary resources on the project. Lead writers review all the source materials provided, then conduct any SME (subject matter expert) interviews. They’re the content experts, and they write the first drafts. Then, before you even see a draft, they’ll enlist the help of an…

Editor. Content Bureau editors ensure that the storyline is clear and persuasive, content is presented in the most logical order, and there are no holes in logic. For your message to come through loud and clear, your copy must be crisp, compelling, and concise. Editors also ensure that we’re using a variety of sentence structures and language—so the style of copy is as interesting as the subject—and they help to craft succinct, attention-generating headlines. They review footnotes and check references, ensuring they adhere to your style guide. In other words, they’re an absolutely critical part of our methodology! Editors deliver their inline edits back to the lead writer, who incorporates or rejects them before you see a first draft. You then review the draft, and work with the writer to finalize the copy. However, before you see the final asset, the writer turns to the…

Copyeditor. Our copyeditors are tasked with a project’s perfection. At this point, there’s no change to language—the copyeditor is rooting out typos and any grammar inconsistencies created throughout the content-development process. For projects that involve layout, our copyeditors take a pre- and post-layout pass to ensure that the final asset is perfectly polished.

At the Content Bureau, it takes a team to create perfect copy. In fact, I need to run this blog post by our editorial team now. We’ll see how it turns out.

Editorial note: Nice job, Ruth! Draft 2 is looking great. And a gentle heads-up: “Prepositions are not words to end sentences with” is not an actual rule, a fact that many of our readers have cottoned onto. And you also can split infinitives until the cows happily wander home—for that, too, is a myth. Stay tuned for the STYLE GUIDE THROWDOWN: CMS VS. AP.


*The set of rules was written by Frank L. Visco and originally published in the June 1986 issue of Writers’ Digest.

By Ruth Burk