Quick Fixes for Business Writing by Jim Taylor (Review)

An indispensable book on editing for the layperson that applies to more than just business editing–the cover does not do the content justice.

What drew me to the book

Jim Taylor, the author of Quick Fixes for Business Writing, was giving a workshop on his eight step editing process through the Editors Association of Canada (EAC). I wasn’t inclined to go until other editors (some with 30 years of experience) raved about previous workshops by Jim Taylor. I reconsidered, but ultimately couldn’t make it but there was mention of a book based on the workshop so I tracked that down at my local library.

My thoughts on the book

I have a confession to make: You know the person who judges a book by its cover? I have to admit that’s me. The cover of Quick Fixes for Business Writing has a very low-budget feel to it that would have put me off without the background that pushed me to check out the book in the first place. It’s also double-spaced (which seems an odd choice to me) and has neither a table of contents nor an index. The content, however, is great. So great that I actually ordered my own copy from the publisher (they only sell direct) for my reference library (that would be the bookcase next to my desk).

So why did I like this book?

It helped me get a handle on one of the toughest problems of editing, which is fixing a piece of writing without imposing your own style and voice onto it. This book’s subtitle is An Eight-Step Editing Process to Find and Correct Common Readability Problems and that’s what makes it valuable: It gives you a system to assess a particular writer’s most pressing editing needs as well as a system for pinpointing what types of things need changing and why. The why is important because as an edit becomes more invasive it becomes more noticeable to the writer (and many writers will question why you are rearranging or changing their words).

This book is written for the layperson, in particular the business manager who has to edit reports or other documents written by subordinates and co-workers. The eight steps move from least invasive (changes least likely to be noticed by an author) to most invasive (rewriting sentences and rearranging paragraphs). It is written in a straightforward and conversational way that guides you through what to do, how to do it and why to do it.

Although the focus of the book is editing business writing, the principles and steps can be adapted to other types of writing. If I’m faced with editing my own writing, I now pull the book off the shelf and start going through the eight steps. Having the steps prevents that paralysis phase of not knowing where to begin–especially with a long piece of writing.

About the book author

Jim Taylor can be found online at his blog.

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