Author: Janice

Yours sincerely! The challenges of a freelance editor

Thoughts from a punctuation pedant.

It’s now over a year since I went fully freelance as a proofreader / copy-editor, and I have learned so much in that time – things I would never have learned purely from research and planning: my EXPERIENCE of how I cope (or don’t cope!) without the structures I used to have imposed on me from schooldays, and later in working for big businesses.

It’s also been revealing to discover WHAT MY CLIENTS NEED FROM ME in my new guise as a freelance member of the grammar police!

On the plus side, I’m really enjoying:

  • waking up naturally without an alarm – bliss!
  • the freedom to switch my plans from Monday to “Anyday” if I’m called upon for “Nanny duties”Hammock
  • getting a seat on the train because it’s after rush hour when I travel into London for business or pleasure!
  • being able to work remotely (in a hammock even!)
  • and most of all – the work I’m doing because it’s fun! It’s what I love and do best!

But there is a cost for these:

  • sitting at my desk in my dressing gown makes me lazy … I’m still there past lunchtime without having had any exercise = yes, I’m gaining weight!
  • if I had assigned myself two days to complete a job, but I then prioritise family, my clients may not get their work done within the promised timeframe = stress for me!
  • I no longer have a season ticket for travel into London, whether for business or pleasure = I need to think about the cost if I want to go to business events
  • although I love the work I’m doing, I can unwittingly spend hours longer over the course of a day than I would have done at the 9 – 5, where the working hours are defined = family life can suffer


Hence, some reflection on the past year, and some commitments to self:

I no longer stay in my PJs: I “get ready for work” during the weekdays, so that my mind is in focus and I am prepared for whatever may happen – it might be a Skype call so I’d rather have my professional face on!

Now the summer has reached us at long last, I am going to fulfill a promise I made to myself, to go for a lunchtime walk every day, to keep supple and burn off some of those pounds!

Nanny-duties have to wait till the afternoons or the end of the week (unless it’s an emergency) and I stick to my task schedule as far as I can.

When social occasions or meet-ups with ex-colleagues are planned, I have to think carefully if I can combine the trip with a networking event or a trade show that is likely to benefit my business, and then I can legitimately add my fares to my business travel expenses.

About the business – putting things right

One of the misconceptions about what I do is that people think proofreading is the same as copy editing, and copy-editing is the same as copy-writing.

Uh-uh! Not the same at all!

Proofreading is the very least that needs to be done to a piece of writing – it needs to be checked for correct spelling and punctuation, and for correct basic grammar.

But to be true to myself, I can’t do JUST that!

I would be extremely unhappy to just return a book manuscript to an author having done no more than run it through a spell-check in Microsoft Word. In fact, probably the writer has already done that himself if he has taken notice of the red and green squiggly lines underneath his work.

There are even tools that point out where you have tapped the spacebar twice instead of once, or where you have written U.S.A. and then later USA, or where you have spelt a character’s name Michelle and then Michele, all tremendously useful.

But I do have to wear my copy-editor’s hat on top of the proofreader’s hat, as I will spot things that are not necessarily WRONG, but with a little tweaking, just make the writing NICER, or GENTLER ON THE EAR, or more RELEVANT.

Without intruding too far into the writer’s own words, I consider it the very least I should do to bring a draft to a more professional level, and this might include listening to the style or tone of the writing and ensuring it is consistent, and quite likely a little restructuring will be necessary to achieve that.



Some have made enquiries of me for copywriting. Now I don’t mean to say I can’t write, but copywriting means WRITING, not EDITING, (although that will be a skill a good copywriter has), and at the moment, I prefer to focus on perfecting content that’s already written.

While I have the technical skill to ensure someone’s writing is grammatically correct, I am not offering to write the CONTENT itself. Every topic has its experts – whether the subject is fishing, needlecraft, travel, baby-care, tropical plants, stand-up comedy, photography – I might have a little experience in some of those areas, but not enough to write the copy for an article or a publication.

Copywriters often have to be resourceful and do a fair amount of research into a topic they are unfamiliar with – so it might be worth writing your content yourself since you have the insider knowledge, and then having it checked over by a proofreader for the grammar side.

abc squareAsk me to write about being female, or about my last holiday, or about working for a corporate organisation and I will write reams and reams – in fact I’d have a lot of trouble trying to stay within the prescribed word count!

So, no, I have to make it clear that I am the one with the metaphorical red pen, who will cross out your mistakes and try to teach you how to get it right next time, so that maybe

YOU WILL NEED TO PAY ME FOR LESS TIME on the next manuscript I copy-edit for you!


So here’s what I’d like to know from you:

  • do you write newsletters or a blog?
  • if not, why not? not enough time? worried about your spelling and grammar?
  • would you read a newsletter with simple tips and tricks for getting punctuation right every time?
  • would you consider having a blog “ghost-written” for you?

Let me know in the “comments” below!


How to write a book and get it published

A different kind of post from me today, to tell you about my day at the Darling Buds of May Farm writer’s retreat.

You might remember a very lovely, gentle TV series starring David Jason and a very young Catherine Zeta-Jones, based on the stories by H.E.Bates about a Kentish farmer and his ever-growing family, the “deals” he struck (an early Del-boy character I think!) and the enviable fun and loving relationship the farmer Sidney Larkin had with his wife and children.

It was memorable for the setting in which the series was filmed, an old country farm complete with roses growing over the door, farm animals and geese wandering freely, a duckpond, and seemingly, forever summer. It certainly left an impression on me, and of course, launched Catherine Zeta-Jones to the fame she now enjoys.


Last week I had the opportunity to spend a glorious, hot, summer day at this very lovely venue myself, Buss Farm, near Ashford in Kent.  As well as a wonderful B&B, some of the outbuildings have been converted into workshop premises for training courses. On this occasion, I was learning how to write a book and publish it. As I work with writers who are keen to have their books edited and then see their books in print, I am often asked how to go about finding a publisher and I decided I needed to gather the information to help my clients do just that, rather than just wielding my red pen, proofreading their typos and spelling mistakes.

It would take me too long to tell you all about it – suffice to say it was an excellent day learning how easy it is to self-publish, and money well-spent.  Follow this link to all the courses available with the Internet Business School.

Not ready yet?

If you are not yet ready to publish, you will no doubt need a proofreader to fine tune your manuscript.  Contact me and we can talk about font and formatting, and if you wish, I can walk you through the whole process of getting your book out there on Amazon.

Which or that – does it matter?

I have a confession to make, I’m about to get found out. The painting that is hanging in my dining room, was not, in fact, painted by me. The one which is hanging crookedly in the lounge is the one I painted.

It’s out!  I’m owning up to something which I have kept secret all these years.

Who wants to know all about ME?

WAIT!  Before you switch to another site let me answer that : NOBODY! 

So what’s the point of this page? I’d love to know what might make you turn to Google and type the word “proofreader”.  What’s happened to make you suddenly stop and think “I need help!”

older lady

It’s all very well me telling you what led me to this career choice, and the things that make me want to get a red marker out every day and correct typos, but more to the point, how can I help YOU? What are the things that hold you back in your writing on a regular basis?  Would you like to see a regular newsletter with easy to remember tips about that wretched apostrophe, or why brackets are not called brackets at all?  Or why we sometimes say “brought” and sometimes say “bought” and why it’s important to know the difference?

Just respond in the comment box at the foot of the page and perhaps we can have a conversation!



Non-native Engrish smelling mistakes

Copy-editing for the non-native English speaker.

If English is not your mother tongue, you may be at a severe disadvantage when it comes to writing a proposal or a report, a CV or a blog, or publishing content for a website.

You have naturally had less experience with written English and so can benefit from proofreading and copy-editing services, especially from someone with translation experience.jigsaw

Since the internet has taken over the world, it is liberally peppered with huge examples of incorrect English. It is difficult enough for people with English as their first language to get everything right, so think how much more a non-native English speaker may need a proofreader to go over their translation with them!


Some examples of likely difficulties encountered by a non-native English writer:  

  • Some languages put the verb at the end of the sentence

While in English we would say: “I want to travel to London with my wife tomorrow”, a German speaker might translate it directly as:  “Tomorrow to London with my wife want I to travel”.

  • Mistakes with idiomatic expressions

“I’ll go with you as you’ve twisted my arm” doesn’t mean that you have been violently forced into doing something – it is more likely to mean gentle persuasion. But you wouldn’t attempt to re-organise it into something like “… you have twisted my wrist”.

“Starting from square one” has an unuttered but implied reference to the game of Snakes and Ladders. It would be nonsensical to try to re-shape the phrase with something such as “Moving on to square 2…” it doesn’t have the impact, and it’s just not something that is commonly said in English.

  • Language is evolving all the time, and what you learned a few years ago may have changed today

An example is in the use of the hyphen.

  • You may be unsure when it’s appropriate to “elide” words or letters

While it might be preferable in a report to say “it is”, in contrast on the web, which tries to speak the same language as its readers, you may find that “it’s” is perfectly acceptable.

But often, these are things that only a native English speaker, (and perhaps just as importantly, one with an “ear” for style and flow), will be able to determine.

A sensitive proofreader will be able to support your writing without undermining your creative and imaginative talents.  They recognise that you are writing about your passion, about what you know best, so just let the words flow onto your draft page. The gist is there, I will know what you are trying to say, and without tampering too much with the content and the important information you want to share, I can perfect your message so that it reaches your reader clearly in natural-sounding English – not a hint of a translation remaining.

I have the advantage of being able to speak a number of foreign languages, so will recognise when common language-hiccups have led you into a certain turn of phrase, and know how to undo it for you, and polish it to perfection!


Going it alone with technology when you are freelance

For two years I made careful plans to take the leap into becoming a freelance editor

But four months after that elated leap into the void, I realise I wasn’t prepared for something quite considerable.

freelanceAlthough they said “beware of the isolation factor”, I took that to mean missing out on talking and socialising with people in the office. Not me, I thought, I have plenty of friends and family nearby, I won’t get lonely.

The penny has now dropped.

You know that moment when

Punctuation: one great secret

When you’ve drafted an article, leave it for a couple of hours, or overnight before you continue or decide to publish it.

When you open up that draft article again, you will have “slept on it”;  the images in your mind will have developed, like photographs, the words you wrote about them will have dried on the paper, the file you created will have been safely saved.

punctuation, editing

Settle yourself down comfortably, where you won’t be disturbed, and breathe deeply. Then, slowly, begin to read. Out loud. Listen to yourself, hear the rhythm and beat of your sentences, notice when you pause to take another breath.


This is when you might start to notice your punctuation.

Where you take a new breath might just be where a comma could go, or if you already have a comma in that sentence, try out a

Copy-editing & proofreading – is it worth it?

Not every writer chooses to hire a professional proofreader for copy-editing.  But I’m not just talking to novelists or journalists:  I’m talking to website owners as well! 

The content of your website has every reason to be as accurate as a published book or hard copy magazine – it’s the window to your world and it really matters.  Reasons cited for not bothering to have work proofread are valid and varied:

“I can’t afford an editor.”

“True, I make a few mistakes, but not enough to need one.”

“That’s just my style, it’s the way I write.”

“I’m going for a casual, more talky style.”

“Nobody will notice – most people aren’t as picky as you.”


Probably the most common reason for hoping to do without an editor to copy-edit is

When grammar & smelling mistakes help not hinder

Why is there a deliberate typo in my heading?

Because most people read web pages in an F pattern – the first line needs something to GRAB your attention!

That’s why I think it works for me anyway – as a member of the punctuation and grammar police, typos jump out at me and ruin my reading pleasure!


But CLEVER typos can actually work for you!

The first time I saw this

The only baby in the whole world

Yesterday my daughter gave birth to the only baby in the whole world.

(A very large detour from the usual today, since punctuation is really not top of my concerns right now!)

We have just said hello to a healthy little girl weighing just under 9 pounds, blonde and perfect. Mother is doing fine, if exhausted after 3 days of very little sleep.

new baby

So what do I mean, “the only baby in the whole world”?

A quick search tells me that there have been 116,549,444

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