English is the lingua franca of the world, and many people have studied it and can speak it quite well. But there is a world of difference between that and being able to write clear, correct, incisive English copy for a company website. Here is a real example (with the names changed to protect the innocent) of part of a travel-marketing text written by a non-native speaker to show what a professional edit can do.
The mission of Viaggi Immaginari is offering an unforgettable holiday pursuing standards of excellence. The synergy between Viaggi Immaginari and Incisive Travel was borne from the belief that to be able to grant a customer excellance, it is necessary to put together the specific expertise of more players, each being highly qualified in their own field. Incisive Travel is the brainchild of professional people who have a strong and long-standing experience at various levels in the tourism and marketing fields, who have decided to devote their efforts and professionalism in this new concept of tourism.
Viaggi Immaginari’s mission is to bring you an unforgettable holiday at the very highest standards.
We have joined forces with Incisive Travel, because we believe that, to offer a truly excellent experience, you need the specific know-how of several experts, each highly qualified in their respective fields.
Incisive Travel is the brainchild of professionals with long and extensive tourism and marketing experience at various levels who are putting their all into this new tourism concept.
So what’s the difference?
The edited text, as you can see, makes the same points but in fewer words. 21% fewer, to be precise. So it gets to the point faster and puts its message across that much more crisply and effectively, which is so important on the web, where people have shorter attention spans.
The “after” version also looks easier to read, because it is broken up into bite-sized pieces, meaning that you have more chance of your text actually being read.
Key phrases, like the names of the two companies, now appear on the left of the line, where (eye-tracking studies show) readers are more likely to notice them.
It also clears up some problems like “grant a customer excellance” (including obvious typo). The original writer probably looked up all the words in the dictionary to check that they had the correct meaning, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean that they will sound right when you put them together. A case of “non si dice”, as the Italians would say.
Then there are the mistakes due to direct transposition between the languages – in Italian, for example, you do say “an experience” (un’esperienza) to refer to a person’s collective past; but you don’t in English, where “an experience” is something that happens on a particular occasion.
And the word-choice error “borne” has been corrected (they meant “born”, but there is a snappier way to say it, as the edited text shows). It may seem a minor point, but if you let your potential customers think you’re careless with your writing, they’ll wonder whether your services are any good, either.
Finally, the revised version is fresher and more direct and engaging, using expressions like “you need” rather than the stuffy “it is necessary to”.
So, although you can write and publish your English text yourself, if you must, that may expose you to certain problems:
- The text may not reflect positively on your organisation’s image.
- The text may not get your message across very efficiently.
- It may not even be read at all.
- You could have saved your time and invested it more effectively on another task.
A professional editor who understands your sector and the challenges of writing in English (especially if it is not your native language) can make all the difference.