If you have a blog for your law practice, you probably spend some time drafting, revising and editing what goes on it.
You might even pay someone to do this for you.
Bad move, says one blogging expert. Posts should be informal, accessible and unscripted. Think friendly chat, not law review abstract.
“Law firms regularly ask me who should edit their lawyer’s blogs,” writes Kevin O’Keefe. “My answer is no one. A blog represents the unedited voice of a person.”
O’Keefe says it is okay to have someone proofread your work for typos, misspellings, split infinitives and such – in other words, copy-editing. Beyond that: hands off.
“The substance of a post, like the words in a face to face conversation, ought not be edited.”
I’m not so sure.
The Curse of the Unedited Voice
Sure, I get the conversational part. A blog is not a monologue, lecture or essay. The best ones engage the reader and encourage dialogue.
And so for personal blogs, posts that are challenging, provocative – even outrageous – are fine because they spark lively discussion.
But professional blogs are a different matter. Especially in a profession governed by strict rules of ethics. A spark can ignite a flame, and the one who gets burned might well be you.
Then there is the matter of the Unedited Voice. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t always trust mine. It can be devious. Even dangerous. It tends to crawl down from the cerebral closet, pop out of my mouth and cause trouble at the worst possible times.
“Why in the world would you say such a thing,” my wife asks as we drive home from a social gathering where I blurted out a candid but unflattering assessment of the host’s necktie.
“Don’t blame me,” I say. “Blame my Unedited Voice.”
Loose Tongues and Fast Fingers
Apparently I am not alone.
Google the phrase “brain mouth filter” and you will find tales of woe from people whose lips – and fingers – move faster than their brains:
- “I am having a lot of trouble stopping what goes through my head from coming out of my mouth. Sometimes it works out okay, because what I think is hilarious to some, or I have a good point. But it’s not a good thing when I am angry.”
- “When I’m irritable, I say things I don’t mean and make a fool of myself.”
- “I have been fired from two jobs for outbursts. Sometimes whenever I get really nervous or stressed, I have verbal outbursts. It usually includes some profane words mixed in, and I am always ashamed afterwards.”
As one commentator puts it: “[W]e often find ourselves ‘in the moment’ and being ‘in the moment’ can often lead to us saying or writing things that maybe we should have thought through a bit more. So here is a great question to ask yourself: ‘Is what I am about to say or write really worth it?’”
Measure Twice, Cut Once
The solution seems simple enough: think before speaking. Self-edit before hitting the send button. Let the blogpost sit awhile.
Where O’Keefe draws the line is calling in an outsider to help edit the post.
But I often find it useful to have someone do just that. Not for every post, naturally. But some of them. Certainly the ones that tackle complex or controversial subjects.
I ask my editors to point out anything they find unclear, offensive or just plain dumb. I don’t have to accept their suggestions. I can always stick with my original draft. But I have learned it is usually wise to give their suggestions great weight.
I must confess to a certain bias here. I was a journalism major in college, and I worked in radio and print journalism for almost 20 years. For about half of that time I was an editor. For the other half I was the one being edited.
Here are some things I learned from working both sides of the editorial fence:
- A good editor rarely hurts and usually helps.
- A great editor can turn a writer’s words into music.
- The best writers are sometimes the worst editors.
- The goal of editing is not to erase or replace the writer’s voice but to sharpen and strengthen it.
- Writers of nonfiction who stubbornly resist outside editing should switch to fiction where they can write whatever – and however – they please.
Remember: your blogposts are a reflection of you and your practice. Don’t you want that reflection to be clear, compelling and concise? Not to mention factually correct.
So sure, let it flow. Just don’t get so enthralled by the awesomeness of your writing that you overlook some little thing that might come back to bite you big-time. A good editor can make sure that doesn’t happen.
Do You Edit Your Blogs?
Do you have you blog? Who writes and edits the posts?
Please share your experiences. Let’s learn from each other.
- Unleash Culture http://unleashculture.com/having-no-filter-between-your-brainmouth-or-brainkeyboard-and-the-effect-on-your-leadership/
- Psych Central http://forums.psychcentral.com/bipolar/337110-brain-mouth-filter.html
- Real Lawyers Have Blogs http://kevin.lexblog.com/2014/07/19/82686/
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.