Category Archives: About Proofreading

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.

This is why punctuation is important

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

Need a proofreader?

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.

Sometimes you just need to hear something nice

I read Show Your Work by Austin Kleon a few months ago but, despite my best intentions, I keep forgetting to actually show my work. I set up a Pinterest board for the purpose but it’s sparse, to say the least.

So today, as I was designing a flyer for my proofreading services, I remembered the concept and decided to show my work on Twitter.

I was really pleased, then, to get the following tweets from a former proofreading client in response.

I really like proofreading. I know a lot of freelance writers do it just because it’s an extra skill they can offer, but they don’t really value it much. However, I thoroughly enjoy having the opportunity to fix things and improve somebody’s chances, so it’s absolutely lovely when I hear back from clients that what I did could have made a difference.

 

Podcast Episode 19: How to Proofread Your Own Work

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As a freelance writer, there are times when it is impractical or unrealistic to hire an external proofreader to check through everything you write. A full work of fiction or an entire book will, without question, require a professional proofreader and editor, but for 500 word articles or 700 word blog posts we need to be able to check and double-check our own writing to make sure that everything we submit is perfect.

In this solo episode, I discuss numerous tactics that can make this process much, much easier.

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Show Notes

Armando Iannucci: Comedy Writing Tips

Transcript

How to proof-read your own work

Hello and welcome to episode 19 of A Little Bird Told Me, the freelance writing podcast that talks about the highs, the lows and the no-nos of successful self-employment.

proofreading...

proofreading… (Photo credit: monsterpants)

Tune in every week to get news, views, opinions, tips and tricks about freelance writing, and find us online at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com. If you go to that website, you can subscribe to the podcast by RSS feed, on iTunes or on Stitcher Smart Radio. And if you do that, you’ll be the first to hear when we have a new episode out. On that page, you can also find links to our Facebook page, and also to my own social media feeds and websites, and those of my co-host Lorrie. Although, speaking of my co-host Lorrie, she’s not here today as this is a solo episode. So you’re with me, Philippa Willitts, and I’m going to be talking about proof-reading your own work.

Now, if you do an extended piece of wiritng, be it a novel, a set of short stories, a book length non-fiction text or any considerable piece of work, then don’t even try and be your own proof-reader. It’s not realistic – nobody can successfully proof-read their own work when it’s a long, decent-sized text. You need a proof-reader, and an editor, and there’s no avoiding that.

However, when you’re a freelance writer, often a lot of what you do is smaller pieces of work for clients such as articles, press releases, website copy – there are a lot of different options that it’s just not realistic to expect to hire an external proof-reader for. If you’ve written 500 words as a news story for a client, sending it off to be proof-read, then getting it back, isn’t common practice.

But, proof-reading your own work, you still face some of the same problems with smaller pieces of work as you do with longer ones – it is really hard to look at your own work with fresh eyes, and that’s absolutely necessary if you’re going to proof-read successfully. A lot of freelance writers are also proof-readers as well – I am, and I know Lorrie is too – so it might seem strange to dedicate an episode to it when we already know how to do it. But when you’re doing it on your own writing rather than on someone else’s, you really do fae some different issues. When you read your own work, you’re familiar with it, so it’s easy to skip over words and phrases without even knowing you’re doing it. It might evem be that you think you’re reading it, but you’re actually remembering it and what’s in your head is what you remember writing, which was, of course, perfect! It’s only when you look at it with fresh eyes that you realise there’s an extra comma and, for some reason, you’ve capitalised a word in the middle of a sentence.

The Importance of Proofreading

The Importance of Proofreading (Photo credit: spaceninja)

The place to start is with the spell-check in your word processor. Now, these are notoriously unreliable and they’re certainly not something you should rely on entirely. They don’t spot homophones, they don’t spot typos that are still words but not the word you intended. However, there’s no denying that looking over your work and spotting one of those red wiggly underlines can help you to see errors that you’ve made. It’s a place to start, but it’s far from the end, So, once you’ve written it, it’s important to remember that, in order to proof-read properly, writing and proof-reading are entirely different mind-sets. If you’re still writing, you can’t proof-read at the same time, and you won’t be able to proof-read properly until you’ve finished writing. Because, when you’re writing, you’re in a creative mind-set. Even if it’s non-fiction – it doesn’t have to be fiction to require creative thinking, because you’re thinking about how to word something, how to structure it, and all that kind of thing. When you’re proof-reading, you have to really zone in on the specifics. In order to do that, proof-reading and writing have to be separate events.

And, ideally, you’ll leave a long gap between writing and proof-reading – the longer the time it is since you wrote it, the likelier you are to be able to spot errors. The best scenario would be to finish a piece of work on Monday and proof-read it on Friday – you’d probably have written a lot of things in the meantime, and proof-reading it would be a lot easier than trying to do it straight after writing.

But, especially if you’re a commercial freelancer, you don’t often have the luxury of that amount of time, or being able to write something so early when you have a lot of deadlines. So, if you can proof-read it 24 hours after writing it, that’s great. But, even if you can write it in the morning and proof-read it in the afternoon, that’s still better than stopping writing and starting proof-reading instantly. You have to refocus your mind – it’s a very different skill, so separating writing and proof-reading as best as you can will only help.

Proofreading advert needs proofreading

Proofreading advert needs proofreading (Photo credit: engineroomblog)

And then you need to take as many steps as you can to view your work with fresh eyes. One really effective way to do this will be to read your work out loud. This has various benefits for your work, and the first is that it tells you if what you’ve written scans properly. Something that looks ok on the page – when you read it out loud, you might realise that you’ve got your tenses wrong, or that a certain word doesn’t really fit, or that you’ve repeated a word, or even that you’ve just got an impossibly long sentence. There are some mistakes that are easier to spot when you hear them than when you see them. And reading your work out loud is obviously a great way to do this – some people even get someone else to read their work out loud. The other main benefit of reading your work aloud is that it slows you down.

Your out-loud reading will almost certainly be slower than your…I was going to say “mind-reading” but it’s not that! Than your ‘internal’ reading in your mind. So, it helps you to not skip words and phrases that you might have overlooked if you were just reading on a screen.

Another important tip is to proof-read for one kind of error at a time. You want to spot grammar mistakes, punctuation mistakes, and spelling mistakes. But looking for all three at the same time can distract you and mean that you miss things, so do at least three different scans of your text. The first one might be for grammar, so you go through very closely looking specifically for grammatical mistakes. Your next might be for punctuation. Some people even, if they know they have a particular problem with commas, they might do a specific read-through for commas. But yes, punctuation: did you use that colon correctly? Did you put that full stop inside or outside of the quotation marks? Then, finally, the spelling read-through. Check you’ve used the right there, they’re or their, or whether you’ve got here and hear mixed up.

Another really good tip for proof-reading your spelling is to read the text backwards! This way, you won’t miss things in an overall phrase or get distracted by reading the story rather than the words. So, go through your text backwards, and you’ll look at each word individually, out of context, and spot things you might not have seen otherwise.

To view your work with fresh eyes is the best way to get into the proof-reading mind-set. One very simple technique is to simply print it out. You’re viewing it differently than on the screen that you might have been staring at for four hours, so arm yourself with a red pen. You’d be surprised at what you spot in a print-out that you don’t see on the screen. One technique I use all the time is to change the font, and sometimes the font size.

It’s amazing how small steps like that can help you view your work differently. If you’ve spent a long time on a piece of writing, your eyes are so familiar with what it looks like that they skip over words and phrases. When you change the font, there might be fewer words on a line or more lines in a paragraph, and this helps your brain to start again, rather than reading what you think you wrote. Because that’s the key – we write for a living; we write a lot and sometimes what ends up on the screen is what we think we wrote, rather than what we actually did write.

If you come across a mistake, and you correct it, go back and re-read that sentence to check it still makes sense. Sometimes, you’ll make a correction, but then leave in the word you meant to remove or add an extra word a few words early, so when you do make a correction, start again with that paragraph and double check that you’ve corrected what you think you’ve corrected. It can be quite hard for some writers when they proof-read properly to spot the mistakes they’ve made – it can be disconcerting to see you’ve made a number of mistakes in a piece of work they thought was perfect only an hour earlier. But the fact is it’s normal to make mistakes. We might be paid for this, but we’re only human – it’s what proof-reading is for and it’s why we offer it as a service to other people. We know it’s really important and we know that someone can take loads of care with a piece of work but that errors will still slip in. The important thing is to catch it, spot it, correct it and submit as good a piece of work as you can.

OK, so now it’s time for the Little Bird Recommendation. My recommendation this week is a YouTube video – an interview with a guy you might have heard of, called Armando Ianucci. I first became aware of him a few years ago when he used to do comedy panel shows on Radio 4. Anyway, this YouTube video is just three or four minutes of tips on comedy writing. Comedy writing isn’t something that either Lorrie or myself really specialise in, so it’s interesting to get an insight into how that all works. So, if you go to the shownotes at http://alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com, you can find a link there to this recommendation.

So, that’s the end of episode 19, and I hope you’ve got some good tips there about proof-reading your own work, and that this will help you to avoid sending something off to a client with a big fat typo in the middle of it, or a semi-colon in the wrong place, or any other freelance writer deadly sins. Thank you so much for listening, and we’ll see you next time.


An Open Letter to @Joe_Eastwood

I saw the call via your Twitter account for proofreaders and followed the link to find out more. I found that you are looking for people to proofread 50,000 words in a week, in exchange for an advance copy of the book.

I can also see, with a quick amazon search that you are not giving away your other books for free, so if you are earning from them, it is only reasonable that you pay others for any work they do for you.

My usual proofreading rate is £8 per 1,000 words. If you wanted 50,000 words in a week I would also have to add a rush fee, but even ignoring that, the fee I would request for 50,000 words is £400. Now, unless a copy of your upcoming (unedited) book is worth £400, then you can see that carrying out this work for you is a really unfair deal. Even if it was worth that, I have bills and rent and can’t pay those with other people’s ebooks.

In the A Little Bird Told Me podcast, my co-host and I dedicated an episode to being asked to work for free, in which we discussed how being asked to work for free is not only disrespectful to our time and energy, but it also really devalues the skills we have built up over years.

I suspect you would find it insulting to be asked to write 50,000 words for free in a week. To give over all your work time, and more, to a large project for somebody else for which your renumeration would be an unedited eBook.

I don’t doubt that someone or other will come forward and offer to do this for you. However, please do consider the impact it has on professional writers and proofreaders. Is what you are doing really fair? Are you going to share the profits with the proofreaders that come forward? If you can’t pay them upfront, it seems the least you can do, yet you do not seem to be offering this.

£400 is a lot of money, and 50,000 words is a lot of proofreading. I can’t afford to do this as a favour to you, and nor should anybody else. If you want a quality proofreader, you have to actually pay for them. If, instead, you want the work of someone who is happy to do a rushed, half-hearted job just so they can see your precious words ahead of time, then don’t expect perfection, or even accuracy.

It is time to seriously consider paying people to carry out work for you. It will benefit your work considerably, and value the work of the professionals around you. You’re not a non-profit organisation – if you are happy to receive money for your work, you should be happy to pay those who contribute to your success.