In this day and age, professionals are starting to value the importance of a work-from-home lifestyle that revolves around technology and it’s capacity to stay connected from anywhere at any time. Having the opportunity to avoid time-wasters such as rush hour traffic or long commute hours gives individuals the freedom to use their newly gained time not only for doing the activities they enjoy but also for picking up an extra source of income. [Read more…]
We all make mistakes and typos, but that’s what proofreading is for, right? There’s also Word – or whatever software you use to create documents – which has spell check built in. However, we know quite well how Word misses a lot of mistakes, especially when it comes to more complicated syntax. Also, Word is useless if you’re typing on your browser.
That’s why I was really interested when the guys at Grammarly got in touch to share their new web app, which does what Word does, but more effectively and more efficiently. In fact, Grammarly is supposed to find and correct up to 10 times more mistakes than the conventional word processor. Of course, I had to give the app a try! [Read more…]
Proofreading is an inherent part of me. Whenever I write something, I have to proofread it. It’s a habit, and since I am a creature of habit, proofreading is a given.
That doesn’t mean that I find it an easy task, though, and it may be the same for some of you.
For one, it is a well-known fact that going over your own work with the intent of finding mistakes does not always yield good results. You’re biased. Your eyes tend to gloss over mistakes. Typos – misspellings, misplaced punctuation marks, etc. – can easily be overlooked.
Your eyes’ condition may be another factor. What can you expect if you’ve been looking at the computer screen for hours working on that article? Of course your eyes are tired! Of course, you can make mistakes while proofreading.
How can we make proofreading an easier task?
Here are two simple things to do.
1. Take a break before proofreading.
Sure, there’s no stopping that first immediate proofreading if you are compelled to do that, but why not leave your work untouched for 15 or so minutes while you take a break? If it’s late, and you’re not under pressure, you can even leave it overnight and proofread in the morning. A fresh set of eyes – your own – will work better.
2. Change your font.
We all have our preferred fonts. Some of our clients may have their required fonts. But that’s not what this is about. It’s about changing your font solely for the purpose of proofreading. Some fonts are more readable than others, and if you use a highly readable font when proofreading, your task becomes easier. Additionally, any change in font will actually make it easier for you to spot mistakes as what you see on the screen is different from what you saw the whole time you wrote.
One last thing: go up one or two font sizes for proofreading.
What are your tricks to make proofreading easier?
We talk a lot about the importance of being professional, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t make some gaffes once in a while. I don’t think I’m alone, either. Plenty of freelance writers have unprofessional and even embarrassing moments. I’ll bet even some highly paid best sellers did a few things that don’t make them very proud. While they’re usually inadvertent errors, it doesn’t make them any less embarrassing.
Can you relate to any of these?
My Top 10 Most Embarrassing Freelance Writing Moments
10. Pretending I knew how to do something I couldn’t
Several years ago, I was offered a very lucrative deal – to create a couple of ebooks. My client asked me if this was something I could handle and I said, “of course.” The truth is, I didn’t know a thing about writing or formatting ebooks. After sending in the first few chapters my client asked me if I really had ebook experience. When I confessed that I didn’t he said he still would have offered me the ghost writing part of the project, but he would have hired out the formatting part. I admitted I didn’t want to lose the gig and we laughed. I ghostwrote several ebooks for this client but never had to format a single one.
Lesson learned: Honesty is always the best policy, especially with established clients.
9. Not proofreading the blog
Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t send me a letter complaining about my lack of proofreading on this blog. I tend to write in a hurry and post without going over my work. I know blogs are supposed to be less formal and we’re supposed to write the way we talk and all, but freelance writers want their freelance writing bloggers to take care with their blog posts. Eventually, I’ll hire an editor to handle that sort of thing, but until then I’ll try my best not to post and run.
Lesson learned: Proofread the damn blog already.
8. Didn’t change the info on a form letter
When I first began freelancing, I naively had a one size fits all, cookie cutter cover letter. I sent the same pitch to the different editors and potential clients. You can imagine how well that went over.
Wait for it, it gets better.
A couple of times I also forgot to change some of the info on the form letter. For example, I used the wrong editor’s name or didn’t name the correct publication or website. One editor called me on it and I was mortified.
Lesson learned: The obvious lesson is to proofread the cover letter. However, during my conversation with the above-referenced editor, she hinted at the importance of creating a pitch tailored to each individual market. It was an important lesson for sure.
7. Got sick before a speaking engagement
A few years ago I was invited to speak at a conference and some members of the FWJ community were in attendance. It was my first ever speaking engagement and I was overtaken by a case of nerves. I spent the hour before my talk in the stall of the rest room losing what little food I managed to eat that day. People came and went and commented about the woman in the stall. Some hinted at a night of drinking the night before. I felt awful, not only because of my nervous stomach but because I was embarrassed. Some of the people who saw me in the ladies room even attended my session, and one nicely offered me a breath mint. The talk went fine, but knowing people knew I was upchucking right before, or that I could lose what was left in my stomach at any minute, didn’t make it any better.
Lesson learned: No lesson here, sorry. I still get attacked with nerves before speaking but fortunately it’s not as bad. I have to no hard and fast lesson for potential speakers and that picturing people in their underwear thing never worked for me.
6. Didn’t take the time to read the guidelines before querying
You know how I talk about how important it is to read all the instructions and guidelines before querying or applying for a gig? I learned that lesson the hard way. I remember once applying for a job I felt was perfect for me. It was on a personal finance topic at a time when I was the go to person for these types of topics. When I received a thanks but no thanks letter, I swallowed my pride and asked the editor for feedback. She said she enjoyed my writing samples and thought I showed promised but I didn’t give her what she asked for. There were specific instructions and I didn’t follow them.
Lesson learned: Follow instructions. Also? Don’t be afraid to request feedback. Editorial feedback is valuable and every writer needs it to succeed.
5. Posted the wrong post on the wrong blog
Several years ago I blogged for about a dozen different clients. This meant twelve different dashboards and log ins and every now and then I got a little confused. Once or twice I even posted the wrong blog post to the wrong blog. While I usually figured it out pretty quick, I wasn’t quick enough for the feeds.
Lesson learned: Kind of obvious, but I’ll put it out there anyway. Pay attention to what you’re doing, proofread, don’t mix up clients, etc., etc., and etc., again.
4. Sent the wrong email to the wrong person
I hate that gmail thing that suggests addresses as you type. For example, once I was contacting someone with a very common name and sent the email to someone else with the same first name. The email was detailing a possible collaboration and the recipient was so excited I contacted her. Telling her the note was sent in error was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.
Lesson learned: Don’t let gmail suggest email addresses… OK… and that proofreading thing too.
3. Didn’t proofread a query or cover letter
There was a time I felt freelancing was a race – a race to get to clients first before the competition. Remember the cookie cutter cover letters? In addition to those, I sent out some hastily put together cover letters. Once or twice after not hearing back about a particular gig, I reread my cover letters and found a typo or two.I don’t think I need to tell you I’m the worst proofreader possible. That doesn’t fly without potential clients, however. They want to know I’m going to take care with their projects and turn in clean work each time.
Lesson learned: Proofread, proofread, proofread.
2. Queried the wrong editor
I remember the first time I queried a wedding publication. I went to the library and looked up several wedding markets in the Writer’s Market. I didn’t have a laptop at the time and jotted the details down on paper. When I came home I sent out what I thought was a killer query. The problem? I sent the query to the right magazine but addressed it to the editor of a rival publication. The good-natured editor sent me a note back asking if I meant to query her publication. I apologized. (I do that a lot apparently.)
Incidentally that editor rejected my query because they were about to publish something similar, but I did land a successful assignment with their online edition a month later.
Lesson learned: Stuff happens. Own up to it, apologize and do your best to salvage the relationship.
1. Sent in the wrong draft
I always keep two drafts of my projects – one on an external hard drive or flash and one on my laptop’s hard drive. This way if something happens, I’m covered. My most embarrassing freelance writing moment happened when I landed an assignment I really wanted. I worked hard on this one. It was my highest paying gig yet at the time and I wanted to continue working with this client. So what happens? You guessed it, I sent the wrong draft – an unfinished work in progress. The good news is that I caught it before my client and sent the right draft before he could wonder what I was smoking.
Lesson learned: Read before sending, and, also, if saving two drafts always save the most current copy to both places at the same time.
Thanks to my brother in law Mark for turning me on to this video. Though it’s talking about proofreading term papers, I think it’s appropriate to freelance writers.