Editing and Proofreading

Harvey believed that every document we produced must error free and high quality.  In the days of the typewriter, that was no mean feat.  We did not even have white-out on our letters or published reports.  Everybody in the firm supported that position. 

Harvey got us all to be believers.  In order to achieve that level of quality, Harvey got the firm to institute a procedure where every document that went out the door had two editors and two proof readers.  I have yet to figure how Harvey got us to accept this procedure but one thing he did was model this behavior.  He had a game he would play with  proofreaders.  He would give the reader a quarter for every error that was found.  

The bigger challenge was to get two editors to review your document.  The editor’s job was to make sure the document delivered its intended message in a clear manner.  The difficulty with this process was that most of us attached our ego to our creations and find the feedback difficult to accept.  However we got to the point that we looked forward to getting our documents back with red marks all over it.  To get the firm to get to that level was really a challenge.  For us we fervently believed in this concept.   We achieve something really special.  It was a standard procedure that nobody questioned.  His point was that the only visible thing the remains when we leave the client was our documents.  Thus quality of our documents was evidence of the quality of our work.  I think this fact is like Tom Peters saying in “In search of Excellence”, people judge how well an airline maintains their engines by the cleanliness of the flip down trays. 

I must also mention the downside of this search for perfection discouraged me from doing much writing earlier in my career.  I have now decided that passing on my experiences and learning is more important than the prose being perfect.

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