When Content Knowledge Saves the Day

by Alison Lueders

I do apologize to those of you for whom bringing up the topic of “school” before Labor Day is heresy. But here in Florida – you know, the land of steamy temperatures and 17.5 foot long Burmese pythons that can eat your car, with you in it – yesterday was the first day of school. My daughter is off to high school for the first time. Ninth grade. At a really good public school. That she doesn’t want to attend.

As I listen to her dismay over the stepped-up workload, I remind her that, “It pays to know stuff.”

One reason I think that web editors are among the unsung heroes of the world is that they know stuff. Often an amazing breadth and depth of stuff that they bring to bear to make their clients look better than they otherwise would.

Case in point: last week, I edited the transcript of a recorded interview between a well-known business coach and a successful businessman. Along with fixing the “ums” and “ers”, I spotted some content errors that made me appreciate my business background anew.

In one case, the speaker was contrasting the relative price positions of two well-known retail brands. He misspoke at one point in such a way that he contradicted himself. And the transcriber dutifully transcribed exactly what he said.

This is no reflection on the speaker. Any hour-long, one-on-one interview is almost impossible to complete without something like that happening. And the transcriber did his or her job by faithfully recording the words. But for the transcript to make sense to readers and to be factually correct, it was important that the actual intent – not the spoken words – be restored. So with the client’s permission, that’s what I did. Because I understood both the business concept he was discussing and the particulars of his example, this content error was corrected early.

In the same interview, the speaker stressed the importance of gathering quantitative data from your customers about what they think of your offer. According to the transcript, he spoke of asking customers for “55 minutes” of their time to complete a survey. I don’t know whether he misspoke or the transcriber accidentally hit the “5” key twice. But I was pretty sure the speaker meant to say “5 minutes”, not 55. The point is, a web editor with content knowledge – in this case, how customer surveys in business are done – is more likely to recognize content errors. This was another case where, once brought to the client’s attention, the intent was restored.

As a web editor, do you spend more time focusing on the correctness of the content itself, or on cleaning up the content (e.g. typos, spelling, etc.) to make it presentable? Or is it something else entirely?

Happy “end of summer” to all!

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