Good to Great: A Case Study in Rewriting

by Elaine Bennett

I’ve always said my ideal clients are smart enough to know great writing when they read it, but just too busy to do it themselves. One such client came to me a couple of years ago to polish up a commencement speech he’d written. While a polish would have been fine, I saw the potential for the speech to do more. In the end he told me I “helped turn a sleeper speech into a great speech.”

Joe Benincasa, President and CEO of The Actors Fund, found me through a mutual friend. Perhaps he asked her to read the speech, or maybe he expressed some doubts about it; in any case, she suggested that he contact me.

He’d chosen an interesting theme—collaboration is essential to success—and mixed in a good dose of humor and humility. An excellent start. I took the building blocks of his thoughts and rearranged them, elaborating on his theme. I added some non-sports analogies, since not everyone cares about basketball—or even baseball, if you can imagine that. And I expanded his call to action.

Later, he was kind enough to give me permission to release a side-by-side comparison of his draft and mine: “Absolutely. You have my permission (and eternal gratitude).”

Read the comparison of the two speeches here.