Author Archives: Philippa Willitts

British freelance writer and proofreader.

Tattoo proofreading: preventing disasters before they happen!

Tattoos can be beautiful, glorious representations of art or complex emotions, carefully applied to our skin by specialists who take pride in their art.

They can also be drunken mistakes carved out after midnight in Ibiza, leading to embarrassment and cover-ups at a later date.

If you are planning a new tattoo and it will involve text, let me help you to make sure you don’t get anything disastrous inked into your skin permanently. Let me check the spelling, the punctuation, and the word order to ensure you go into the artist’s studio equipped to be given the perfect inking.

Find out more about tattoo proofreading and how much it costs (virtually nothing, actually!) here. Prevention is better than a cure. Or, in this case, prevention is better than laser treatment or a big black cover-up that’s usually a panther.

New proofreading services listed on the website

I spend so much of my life creating content for other people’s websites that I frequently neglect my own. Weeds start to grow and I put post and page ideas on a list that is ignored for weeks and months on end. Then, one day, I get myself together and remind myself that this little corner of the interwebs is my connection to you.

The whole point is to let you know that there are problems I can solve, and when I write about them here, you become aware that you can get help with this stuff.

Basically, I’m one of those people who spots typos on menus and rages when apostrophes are added to grocers’ signs and the sides of lorries when they’re not supposed to be there. I’m not quite Lynne Truss, who stood outside a cinema with an apostrophe on a stick to correct a film title, but I’m not far off.

This is why I’m the perfect proofreader for you. I spot the stuff other people miss and, because I enjoy proofreading so much, I don’t see it as an unfortunate add-on that I have to do to subsidise writing; my enthusiasm comes across in the quality of the work that I return to you, and my prices are affordable and competitive.

If you are interested in having any work proofread, whether it’s a three-word tattoo or a 100,000-word novel, drop me a line and we can talk about what you need.

Something interesting…

After all the fun we had making the A Little Bird Told Me podcast, when Lorrie then went on maternity leave, I felt a podcast-shaped hole in my life. So I set up Freelance Confidence where you can find podcast episodes, blog posts and an email newsletter with top freelancing advice.

But after choosing to take a medium- to long-term break from the Freelance Confidence podcast, I decided that if I could find a niche that was not at all work related, it could function nicely as a side-hobby and hopefully I would associate it more with fun again.

So I thought about what I look for in a great podcast (for I have a serious podcast habit!) and decided I preferred interview formats to solo shows, and that my main criteria was that a podcast, its topic or its guests and host should be interesting.

It was that complicated. And it was that simple.

So, the Interesting People Podcast was born. I have had the time of my life interviewing people who have pushed themselves to pursue immense achievements, and others who have daily lives that are fascinating for others to hear about.

And, if you’re interesting, apply to be on the show! Other guests have said it was a great experience, so listen to a few episodes and fill in the form to apply.

Bad attitudes do not cause disability any more than good attitudes guarantee health

This article was originally published on The Independent in August 2012

An ‘inspirational’ photo has been making its way around Twitter and Facebook. The photograph is of Oscar Pistorius, a disabled athlete, running with a small, disabled girl. The caption, “The only disability in life is a bad attitude”, is a quote from Scott Hamilton, a former figure skater who is also a cancer survivor. There are others, too, in the same vein, including one of a small child walking with prosthetic legs and the caption, “Your excuse is invalid”.

For many disabled people, myself included, this kind of inspiration porn is tiresome at best, and damaging at worst. Using a snapshot of disabled people as a tool to convey a message to, primarily, non-disabled people, involves playing on stereotypes and assumptions. It removes a person’s humanity and individuality in order to present them in a way that will goad a non-disabled person to buck up their ideas. It does not matter who the people in these photographs are, as long as their representation is enough to guilt non-disabled people into action.

Their use of prosthetics is the only thing about them that is of interest in these images, and it automatically turns them into some kind of superhero. Along with the captions, the implication is supposed to be, “Wow, they have a great attitude!”.

It is a massive assumption. The photographs are of disabled people doing things, that is all. And yet a seemingly endless stream of non-disabled people find them profound enough to repost on their own social network feeds. While this kind of ‘cripspiration’ might, at first glance, appear to be harmless it actually does nothing at all to advance the cause of disabled people. We do not exist to be living, breathing models of inspiration and presenting us in this way is objectifying and reductive.

What’s more, as long as non-disabled people can happily dismiss disability as a matter of attitude, they then have no need to start tackling the real causes of disability such as inaccessibility and discrimination.

That disabled woman who complained because she couldn’t attend your inaccessible meeting? She’s just got a bad attitude! A good attitude would presumably have magicked up a ramp and large-print leaflets.

The world is a very inaccessible place. There are structural barriers to disabled people’s participation, such as steps and a lack of accessible toilets, as well as troubling and deep-rooted attitudinal barriers which cause employers to refuse to hire a person with mental health problems, or commenters to slate the otherwise-national-treasure Tanni Grey-Thompson when she dares to complain that she had to crawl off a train because appropriate systems were not in place to allow her to travel with dignity.

Stating that the only disability in life is a bad attitude also puts the blame on disabled people for their predicament.

When I fell down the stairs a few days ago I misguidedly tried to work out which failing body part had caused the tumble when, presumably, I should have been adjusting my attitude instead: a much more effective way to prevent further falls.

For people with mental health problems, the ‘bad attitude’ meme is a particularly galling piece of inspiration porn. Already well accustomed to being told to pull themselves together and get a grip, their friends and family resharing this image reinforces the narrative of blaming the sufferer.

There is often a lot of self-blame inherent within mental ill-health already, it tends to be part and parcel of many diagnosed disorders. Adding guilt via images of young children running in prosthetics is not going to be the final step in curing somebody’s madness, it is much more likely to reinforce their self-blame and negative internal dialogue.

The message sent out by the “only disability in life is a bad attitude” quote is one which also fits in very well with the Government’s ’scrounger’ rhetoric around disabled people, reinforcing the idea that we are not trying hard enough. This is what has allowed them to bring in such draconian and devastating changes to the welfare system, and equating disability with a bad attitude is what allows such abuses to continue.

Telling people who are bedbound that they could work if they tried harder, and telling those with severe mental health difficulties that they have been allowed to languish on benefits for too long, all equate to the same thing: you have a bad attitude. You could be cancer-free if your approach to life didn’t stink; your bipolar disorder is because of your inability to look at the best in a situation; and that amputated limb would have grown back if you weren’t such a pessimist. Now get a job.

Bad attitudes do not cause disability any more than good attitudes guarantee health, and what may appear to be a harmless, if patronising message is actually judgemental and damaging. Until disabled people have all the same rights that non-disabled people do, it is wrong to assume that this kind of objectification can ever be benign.

 

Fixing the Mistakes Made by Hiring Cheap Writers

euro-870757_640I’ve lost count of the number of times somebody has approached me about my writing services. They complain that they hired somebody to do this work already but, well, it was awful and now they need someone to fix it or to start again from scratch.

Invariably, they paid that person around $5 for 500 – 1,000 words and the content they show me is an unmitigated disaster.

So, they hire me. I do the work they need, and they pay me. They’ve paid out twice for writers when, if they’d only bitten the bullet and paid fair fees in the first place, they would have saved themselves both money and time, all the while reducing their stress levels as an added bonus.

Those of us who charge higher rates do so because we are confident that the additional training and experience we have gained over years of full-time freelancing make the extra £££s worth paying. We’ve navigated our way around many different types and formats of writing, and we’ve negotiated the most weird and wonderful content requirements with a range of clients.

So if you pay cheap writers on Fiverr for an SEO-optimised article, you will get 500 words that do, indeed, contain your target keywords. But – most frequently – you won’t get much more than that. How on earth can they really take the time to research your topic if they have a matter of minutes to write your blog posts (they need to submit a large number of posts per hour / day to get a decent amount of pay to go home with)? How can they possibly proofread your work when they have 30 more articles to write today? How can any of those articles have the unique, special touch you are so keen to display in your content?

I feel confident in the fees I charge because I know I deliver great value to businesses and editors who are looking for insightful, unique, well-informed and engaging work. The effect this will have on a business’s customer engagement cannot be overestimated.

This is why punctuation is important

An unfortunate video from BBC News demonstrates the importance of full stops.

Need a proofreader?

I Get 30 Press Releases a Day. Here’s How to Get Me to Open Yours…

30 press releases a day

As a writer, I do a combination of commercial content creation and journalism.

As part of the commercial work, I write press releases for businesses that want to gain some press attention. As a journalist, I get an inbox full of unsolicited, mostly terrible press releases from PR companies and brands.

I open maybe 10% of the press releases I receive, and I follow up on maybe 10% of those… so, if you are hoping to attract a journalist’s attention, what do you need to know to be part of that 1%?

Press release dos and don’ts: what this journalist needs you to know

  1. Do have a good subject line. This is probably the most important factor in whether a journo will hit ‘open’ or hit ‘archive’. It must intrigue the reader so they need to know more, and contain a useful indication of what the release is about.
  2. Don’t put the subject line in all caps. It makes it stand out, but for all the wrong reasons.
  3. Do tailor who you send the PR to. I write about SEO and social media, health and disability, and women’s issues. Fascinating as your news about garden implements or a new restaurant might be, it’s not relevant to what I write about and I won’t get it into the papers for you.
  4. Don’t share the content as an attachment. As you have seen, the chances of getting your email opened at all are pretty slim. If you’ve got that elusive open, don’t make us click on risky attachments to find out what you want us to know. Include the text within the body of the email.
  5. Do follow the format of a traditional press release. A good press release tells me what it’s about in the first sentence and then gradually expands on it as it goes on. Don’t make me read three paragraphs before I know what you’re promoting.
  6. Don’t go on and on and on. I got a press release from a famous self-help guy that totalled about 4,000 words. Much of the text was incomprehensible and it felt more like a poorly written, overly long blog post than a press release. Sum everything up in a couple of paragraphs, with links to more information at the end to provide extra background details or theory. Choose each word carefully and don’t go on any longer than you really need to.
  7. Do proofread the press release before sending it. Receiving a PR that’s peppered with errors looks unprofessional and mistakes will be caught by eagle-eyed journos who will not be impressed. I’ve seen many a discussion on Twitter after a handful of journalists received the same press release, with the same mistakes, at the same time. That’s most definitely the wrong kind of attention.
  8. Don’t send a press release for the sake of it. Don’t bore journalists by sending out releases when you’ve hired a new sales guy, had a staff day out or got a new Facebook Page; we won’t believe you have anything newsworthy, even when you do.
  9. Do back up your claims. If you’re the number one product for x, or the highest ranking seller for y, show me how I can verify that that is true. Many PRs are full of exaggerated information that we just can’t put into a newspaper without qualification.
  10. Don’t forget to include quotes from relevant members of staff within your organisation or experts outside of it. This makes our life a lot easier and gives us a good place to start.
  11. Do personalise your approach. Use my name. Definitely don’t use ‘Dear Sir’.
  12. Don’t use jargon without explaining it. You might know what your industry’s specific terms mean, but I may not. Expecting me to do homework just to understand your PR means it’s likely to fall between the cracks. I just don’t have time!
  13. Do reply to questions. It’s amazing how many companies take the time to send out press releases then ignore responses. I’m definitely not going to cover something if I can’t get a decent response to a simple query.
  14. Don’t be late. If you want a story covered on Tuesday, it’s unreasonable to send your media release that morning. Use embargoes to make it clear that you don’t want coverage until a particular date, giving journalists time to research and write stories about your news.

 

Speaking on Podcasts About Disability Issues

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In recent weeks, I have appeared on two disability-related radio shows.

Firstly, I spoke on Contact, a Canadian radio show, about an article I wrote on the weird phenomenon of non-disabled people telling disabled people we’d be better off dead.

Then, last week, I appeared on the Disability Now podcast, The Download, with four other disability rights activists. We talked about the upcoming General Election and what the parties have to offer disabled voters; we talked about accessible housing; and we talked about the representation of disabled people on TV.

I thoroughly enjoyed both of these experience. My podcast experience with A Little Bird Told Me gave me confidence, and my knowledge of disability issues and current affairs meant I felt happy talking on all the subjects that arose.

 

5 Common Mistakes This Proofreader Sees on CVs and Resumes

5 Common Mistakes This Proofreader

When applying for a job, it is vital to make a good impression. Most openings have many applicants, so you need to stand out from the crowd.

I proofread a lot of CVs, resumes and covering letters and, because I have hired staff, I also know what employers want to see. Here are some top tips to make sure your job applications stand out for the right reasons!

  1. Avoid spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors. It is really hard to proofread your own work – your brain reads what it thinks you wrote, rather than what you actually wrote. Having somebody else (e.g. me!!) proofread your work can help to make sure you don’t send out your job application documents with any embarrassing typos.
  2. Think about the length of your documents and, where possible, shrink them down. Prospective employers don’t have the time or the inclination to scan eight pages of your work experience, however fascinating it may be.
  3. Make your application specific to the post. This can be difficult when you are applying for lots of jobs, but being too general can lead employers to believe that you are not specialised enough for a position. If you are applying for jobs in different industries, have two or three CVs prepared so that you can send the most suitable one in each case.
  4. Show, don’t tell. If you want to demonstrate that you have great leadership skills, talk about an occasion when you led a team successfully. Just saying ‘I have great leadership skills’ doesn’t tell the employer very much at all.
  5. Avoid big blocks of text. Breaking up the information on your CV with bullet points, headings and white space makes it much easier to digest.

Above all, be yourself, and share your best self.

If you need help with CV or job application proofreading, please get in touch. I would be happy to help.

Create a New WordPress User Account for your Freelancers

How to Add a New User in WordPress

 

When I create content for clients, I offer to provide that content to them in the way that suits them best. Sometimes, that is a Microsoft Word or Open Office file or a Google Doc, and other times I add the content directly to their website’s CMS; this is usually WordPress, but sometimes it’s Movable Type, Blogger or something else.

On WordPress in particular, it is betrer for the client to create a new user account for me than it is to just give me their login details. Specifically, this is a good practice for the client’s own security.

Recently, I was doing some work for a client who was not very confident with the tech side of things, so I made this video to demonstrate how to go about adding a new user to WordPress. This comes up a lot, so I figured it made sense to share it here, on the website, too.

This post originally appeared on my tech, SEO and social media writing site.