There are many different reasons for writing a book. Executives who write books do so for multiple reasons. They may be artistic and need to share their wit and wisdom much like the poets, bards, and social activists of old. Executives, like entrepreneurs, often need books to accompany their speaking endeavors. Or, their corporation may have a culture in which the executives write out their business and leadership knowledge for internal training or to boost the company’s reputation with their target customers.
One thing that gets overlooked by many writers, included executives and corporate printing departments is the editing process. Many books and other publications get printed and distributed with errors that range from easily overlooked homophone confusion to sentences worded so strangely even the least discerning reader would cringe.
It is important that executives who write and publish books get their work edited well. Their expertise on a subject may get overlooked if their book is so poorly edited that people won’t read or buy it, thus defeating their purpose for writing altogether.
Excellence, If Not Perfection
I attended an event a number of months ago. They were offering free 15-minute focus sessions to help attendees narrow their audience. The man I met with asked what my overall message was to be. I told him it is the need to do everything with excellence. He said, “Excellence isn’t really possible, is it?” I asked him what he meant, and he quickly pointed out that even the most well-known publishers print books with errors or typos in them. I quickly refuted his assessment, pointing out that although perfection may not be possible, excellence certainly is. In fact, in Scripture we are told, “But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, and in all eagerness and in the love from us that is in you—make sure that you excel in this act of kindness too” (2 Corinthians 8:7, NET).
We are expected to excel, to do everything to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). The problem is that just like the man I spoke with we often confuse excellence and perfection. We may very well not achieve absolute perfection in anything, but we can strive to get as close to perfection as we can. We don’t want to be perfectionists and fall into self-condemnation if perfection is not achieved. But, we should take into account that if God has given us a task then He wants us to do it so well that those who are supposed to benefit from it will do so.
Don’t Accept Defeat
The attitude of defeat in the areas of editing and publishing is a trait I encounter all too often. It usually unfolds something like this:
Me: There are several typos on this. I would love to help you with it. Maybe it should be the first thing we work on.
Author: I know, but a dozen people have looked it over, including a teacher, a judge, and my assistant. So…”
What the writer is really saying is, “I have had several people read it and say it looks fine, so there isn’t any hope that one more person will catch everything, either.” The author has accepted defeat, deciding that since perfection cannot be reached, there is no need to strive for excellence.
The problem is that all those people who so kindly read something for their friends are not editors. That isn’t to say they can’t edit something, but they aren’t reading it with the same critical eye that an editor does. That is why editors exist, so they can focus on the minute details the more casual reader overlooks. Readers and helpful friends do not overlook typos out of carelessness, but because they are reading more for information and readability than for the purpose of spotting the simpler errors.
You don’t want to reach the point that you accept defeat. If you notice typos, keep checking your book until either there isn’t one, or at least check it until the mistakes are no longer obvious to you. If you notice them, you can be sure others will. And, you have just ruined your credibility because your potential clients and associates no longer see you as a person of excellence.
Your book is a form of communication, but you can’t reach others with your message if it is not edited with excellence. If your audience decides your message is not worth reading because of its sloppiness, you will certainly lose a lot of book sales, if not more profitable business. Furthermore, if your potential customers decide your error-filled book is an example of how poorly you will conduct business with them, the loss of business and profit will be even greater.
As an executive you have a responsibility to your company, your title, and your customers to have any published work properly edited by someone with an attitude of excellence.