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Deciphering the Client Code, Part 1

Many of our managed clients provide very detailed instructions, and when editing, I’ve often had to send articles back for revision when the instructions were not followed closely. We never like to send articles back for revision because it delays the client receiving the article as well as you, the author, being paid for it. The principle holds true for any client, not just the managed clients, and making sure the instructions are followed is the first requirement to having an article accepted on the initial submission.

Hello authors! I'm Ben, Editorial Supervisor of Managed Clients. Many of our managed clients provide very detailed instructions, and when editing, I’ve often had to send articles back for revision when the instructions were not followed closely. We never like to send articles back for revision because it delays the client receiving the article as well as you, the author, being paid for it. The principle holds true for any client, not just the managed clients, and making sure the instructions are followed is the first requirement to having an article accepted on the initial submission.

The Importance of Instructions
As much of a role as grammar plays in writing content, following a client's instructions can make or break an article. Even articles that are grammatically flawless can be useless to the client if they do not meet the requirements laid out in the instructions. Giving clients exactly what is requested is the quickest way to receive positive client feedback, which could lead to future DirectOrders or TeamOrders from those clients.

By far, the most important thing when starting an order is reviewing the instructions carefully. If a client provides links or a style sheet, be sure to review those as well. Furthermore, understanding the terms a client is using, such as third-person formal, is essential.

First, Second and Third Person: What's the difference anyway?
One of the most overlooked requirements in instructions is the narrative mode, but it is often the most important since it determines the perspective of an article. Using first, second, or third person denotes the article’s voice. Submitting an article in the wrong voice quickly tells the client that you are not following the instructions, which often results in the client not being happy with your work. 

Writing in first person uses the personal pronouns "I" or "we" and their corresponding cases, such as "me," "us," and "our." Second person uses the pronouns "you" as well as "your" and "yours." It may also use imperative sentences in which the subject is an implied "you," for example, "Go to the store." Content written in third person may feature "he," she," "it" or "they" as pronouns along with their corresponding cases. However, any content completely free of first or second person phrasing will inherently be third person.

 Pronouns Used as a SubjectPronouns Used as an ObjectPossessive Pronouns
First PersonI, weme, usmy, mine, our, ours
Second Personyouyouyour, yours
Third Personhe, she, it, theyhim, her, it, themhis, her, hers, its, their, theirs

When specified, always follow the client's request for first-, second- or third-person. A client may specify using the terms third-person voice, second-person perspective, or third-person narrative. Voice, perspective and narrative are all referring to the same thing here. 

You may find a request that says "speak from the perspective of the client" as well. These articles can typically be written in first person using "we" or "our" and may mix in speaking to the reader using second person as well, for example, "You will find that our air conditioning services are the best in the business." or "Here at Bob's Burgers, you can sample our giant cheeseburger." 

Another request may ask to "speak to the reader." For these requests, using second person is often the best choice. Third person is the most common perspective used for formal, academic or technical writing, which makes it a good default style to use when the narrative mode is not specified. On the opposite end, first person is considered the least formal style, and it is best reserved for orders that specifically request it.

Formal vs. Informal
Often, after specifying first, second or third person, a client will ask for certain style and tone: formal or informal. A client may also use the term casual to indicate informal. An informal tone allows you to write more conversationally. This can include idioms, very common slang, and phrasing that may indicate personal relation or opinion to a subject. 

The specification of an informal or casual tone, however, does not indicate that sentences shouldn't be grammatically correct! For example, take the following two phrases: 

"We all went out. Just for some fun."

Here, the full message of the two thoughts would be easily understood by most readers. However, the casual phrase "Just for some fun." is actually a sentence fragment that doesn't contain a subject or a verb. The fragment could be rewritten several ways and be grammatically correct: 

"We all went out – just for some fun." (The dash effectively creates the pause.)
"We all went out, just for some fun." (nonessential phrasing)
"We all went out just for some fun." (essential phrasing)
"We all went out just to have some fun."
" Just for some fun, we all went out."

Formal writing is more direct and to the point — free of unnecessary phrasing or words. It is often used in academic and sophisticated business compositions. The phrasing can be more complex and is objective, showing no personal opinion. Some clients may request that formal writing contain minimal contractions and abbreviations as well.

Informal: Well, anybody could have told him so, but the building inspector now says the roof is falling apart.
Formal: The building inspector says the roof is falling apart, but that was obvious to everyone.
Informal: Of course, the best way get rid of pests, though, is to hire an exterminator.
Formal: The most effective way to be rid of pests is to hire an exterminator.

Many clients will request a certain voice and tone in the instructions as the two work in unison to provide the client's desired style for the content. Think of the style differences as a drama or comedy you watch on TV. A drama will be more serious and formal whereas the comedy is more light-hearted and informal. Additionally, a news anchor would most often report in third person while someone being interviewed, such as a football player or coach after a game, may speak from a first-person perspective. 

These are not the only instructions a client may have, however, so the process of giving the client what he or she wants is only beginning. Keep a watch out forDeciphering the Client Code, Part 2 where we'll discuss keywords, U.K. and Australian English, and dealing with instructions that seem too simple or overly complex.


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