November 2020 – mistakes of 2020

As we approach the end of another year (and quite a year at that!) it is customary, perhaps, to review the year. In blogs towards the end of 2019, I did some personal reflection. This year I’ve had a look back at some of the errors I’ve spotted in texts.

This is not a name and shame exercise but rather an attempt to identify some of the things that fell through the cracks this year. These are from student essays, annual reports, business cards, books and so on. All were documents that had been checked before coming to me.

  • The business that left a digit off its phone number.
  • The organisation that put .co.uk when they meant .com in their email address.
  • The student that missed out the word ‘not’ which completely changed the nature of the sentence.
  • The helpful editor that used find-and-replace to change ‘ship’ to ‘boat’ and so the document spoke about their ‘relationboat’ and ‘friendboat’.
  • The financial report that changed the style of thousands from 1000 to 1,000. Whoever or whatever was used to make the change throughout the document didn’t think about references to years such as 2015 or 1996: they became 2,015 and 1,996.
  • The financial text that changed the order of questions but not the order of solutions.
  • The pension review that referred to Mr Smith throughout but then Mr Jones at the end.
  • The student that repeated a whole paragraph.
  • The company whose financial accounts didn’t add up.
  • The company that referred to revenues in their report that differed to those in their accounts.

Some of these are minor but some could have had a major impact on obtaining business, the essay score or the credibility of the organisation. It goes to show that errors easily creep in and can be just as easily missed.

Proofreading is not just about the spelling, punctuation and grammar of the text. It is also about the formatting, consistency and accuracy.

How long may those businesses first mentioned have gone on using the material that misquoted their contact details? How long could they have been losing out on business? It shows how investing in a professional proofreader could be cheaper in the long run!

So, if you’re busy with an essay, thesis, website, blog, report, business stationery or whatever written material you may be creating – why not consider my proofreading services?

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

October – the Power of Language

This is meant to be a monthly blog but in September I decided to take some time out, to try and recuperate a little from the whole C-thing (not Christmas…).

Something that has struck me in the last few months is the power of words, the power of language. The way we shape a sentence can imply a meaning. We may intend it, we may not.

Despite not being a copywriter, I have had some work putting together blogs. I have done some work for a cycling blog. Doing my research for this I noted the use of language in articles about traffic accidents, particularly how the choice of language could imply cause.

Think about the subtle differences here with these three articles linked below:

Bike collided with car.

Car collided with cyclist.

Car and bus collided.

Do the first two imply the first vehicle at fault? Does the third imply equal liability?

Is it deliberate? Is it an attempt by the writer to suggest blame?

Also note the second: “car” collides with “cyclist”. Not “driver collides with cyclist” or “car collides with bicycle”. Why is one form of transport (the car) referred to as an inanimate object and one as a person (cyclist)? Is it to avoid blaming the driver and if so does it imply the cyclist was at fault?

I am not trying to imply anything regarding liability or the thoughts of the reporter etc in these. I’m just trying to highlight how the subtleties of language can imply something or can make people infer things when there’s nothing to infer.

As a proofreader, I can help pick up on these unintended meanings in your text. It may be subtle, but a fresh pair of eyes may pick up on it and save potential embarrassment. If you want me to check your text then please contact me.

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

August 2020 – Top Tips

I’m hoping I won’t be putting myself out of business here but these are my five top tips when it comes to proofreading.

  1. Read it aloud – saying it out loud can really help. I find it helps focus on the words and the pace of the sentence, and provides you with a natural feel of the sentence. We often skim over words when reading in our head and the brain just fills in the gaps,  but when reading out loud we slow down. I have been reading my 8-year-old some of my favourite books and I’ve spotted typos that I haven’t before. The difference? I’m reading out loud.
  2. Read it tomorrow – take a break between writing it and reading it. Writing is a creative process. You put your thoughts down on paper. Proofreading is a different skill. In a previous blog, I discussed the differences between a copywriter and a proofreader. Many copywriters don’t like to proofread and vice versa so why would you want to jump from one to the other yourself, perhaps in the same sitting?
  3. Read it backwards – not like that… but start at the last page and work back. All too often we start at the first page, get tired working through it and so miss stuff at the end. If you always start checking at the start, you’ll always be tired when checking the last bit.
  4. Take breaks – proofread a few pages at a time. Do a bit, do something else and come back to it.
  5. Read it again. And then again. And perhaps, read it again.

Of course, you may not want to do all this. You may not have the time. So, that’s where I come in! I can be proofreading your document making use of these top tips while you are off getting other work done or doing whatever you’d rather be doing. Sounds good? Then contact me here.

 

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

 

July 2020 – When Should I Use a Proofreader?

Whenever you’re going to put something written into the public domain, or hand it over for assessment, it’s essential to make use of a proofreader.

But there’s more to it than that. There’s the timing.

Last month I commented on the frustrations of being asked to do copywriting rather than proofreading. Another frustrating aspect of the job is last-minute requests, such as a Friday evening request for a 30,000 word PhD thesis to be proofread over the weekend so it can submitted Monday morning.

It’s important to consider:

1) It takes time to proofread.

It’s not just reading: it’s reviewing the document as a whole – formatting, internal referencing etc. I find I look at each word individually, rather than read it. Proofreaders can work at 2,000 to 3,000 words per hour, but it varies depending on what service we’re providing, the type of text (eg fictional or technical) and the quality of the writing to start with. Also, we wouldn’t do a full 10,000-word document in one day, we’d do it in a few sittings to maintain concentration. So, ideally, we may want a whole week to review the document.

2) It takes time to review the issues we raise.

It’s unlikely your copy or thesis (or whatever) will be found to be error-free. You’ll need time to review it after proofreading, consider any comments made by the proofreader and make changes. Then, it may need another proofread to check for consistency!

So, going back to the original question: when should you use a proofreader?

As early as possible! Or at least, enquire as early as possible. Discuss what you want, what you need and by when. Budget for the time and cost. Can you send over your copy in chunks rather than leave it to be done all in one go? Make sure the agreed timescales allow time for you to review post-proofread.

Of course, you can always use a spellchecker (and many previous blogs have covered why you don’t want to), but remember:

  1. I can save you time reviewing the document – allowing you to work on other things while your copy is proofread.
  2. Think about how much a mistake would cost you in terms of reputation or re-printing.
  3. I can add value to your work – it’s not just finding errors but helping you refine the document.

If you want to have a no obligation chat about my services then please do get in touch.

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

June 2020 – No, I’m Not a Copywriter

Actually, the title is slightly false. I will do copywriting (or content creation as I tend to call it) but it isn’t my primary focus. However, I am often asked to create content; a frustrating number of referrals are along the lines of “I was told you’re a writer”.

The written word goes through a process: it gets written, edited and then checked. I usually come in at the end and do the check. That is proofreaders’ traditional territory. But most proofreaders will dabble in editing and writing; indeed, there is plenty of fluidity within the professions. This probably adds to the misunderstanding about the roles.

Previous blogs have covered proofreading, so I won’t spend ages on it, but proofreading is the final check before publication. There won’t be scope for major textual changes or re-workings: it should be the finished article. The proofread is simply to polish it all off, to ensure no errors have crept in. That said, some tidying-up can be done but potentially it will be quite limited. It may have been typeset already, meaning that any big changes would result in this having to be re-done. By the time the proofreader is looking at it, the content should be exactly how the author wants it. As the CIEP puts it:

“A proofreader looks for consistency in usage and presentation, and accuracy in text, images and layout, but cannot be responsible for the author’s or copyeditor’s work.”

Copyediting

Copyeditors get their hands on a document (the ‘copy’) once the author has written it but before it gets put into any finalised format by the typesetters. They will look for mistakes made by the author – spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc but also make structural changes, re-format, improve conciseness, even re-write if need be! Ultimately, they work with the author to ensure the author is saying what they want to say and saying it well. Put simply, copyeditors edit copy.

I’m sure you’re thinking there is an overlap between proofreading and copyediting. You would be right, and this is probably why the two roles get confused by the person-on-the-street.

This site has a nice diagram outlining the overlaps but also consider this quote:

“Copyeditors catch all the mistakes the author missed. Proofreaders catch all the mistakes the copyeditor missed.”

Copyeditors are human, just like authors. So we proofreaders are here to check for them.

The term proof-edit is growing in popularity, whereby the same person does the copyediting and proofreading. This can be quicker and save a bit of cash, but there are perils in checking one’s own work and errors can creep in during a proof-edit.

Copywriting

A copywriter will write copy. Copywriting is the process of creating content (and is nothing to do with copyright, although something a copywriter has written would be subject to copyright and the copyright would likely be held by the copywriter…) that will be edited and ultimately published. Of course, there is overlap here with copyediting. Authors may well edit their own work (I believe Oscar Wilde once agonised all morning over a comma) and they may well review things after the copyeditor has ripped it to shreds worked their magic on it.

Conclusion: each role is different and requires different skills. It is important to go to the right one at the right time. Put simply, if you need someone to check your material before it goes public – get a proofreader, ideally me. If you have written something and want it edited, get a copyeditor. If you want something written, get a copywriter.

 

 

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 2020 – why is proofreading important?

In previous blogs I have extolled the virtues in getting your work proofread. In February 2019 I outlined what proofreading was all about and common mistakes; in March 2019 I focused on some student pitfalls; in November 2019 I outlined style sheets; and in February I consolidated a lot of this into a blog as part of my preparations for a presentation to Southend Peers.

The value of proofreading is often overlooked by those outside publishing. When chatting to people about it, many say they proofread their own work or just rely on the spellchecker. As the blogs mentioned above outline, spellcheckers only go so far and it is harder to spot your own errors. Allowing a fresh pair of eyes to review your work could spot those errors that have crept in and remained undetected.

Also, consider how much of your time is taken up reviewing your own work? Are you rushing it? Do you have more pressing tasks to complete?

Engaging a professional proofreader frees up your time and could be cheaper for you in the long run. They can also keep your material up-to-date with modern styles. There’s been recent coverage of MS Word changing defaults regarding double spaces after a full stop (or period). Many years ago it was the norm to have a double space but the practice has died out in modern times. I have a friend who is a die-hard double-spacer, as his company’s website demonstrates.

I recently distributed the below leaflet on my social media. There’s a challenge to readers within. The interesting thing was those who highlighted what they believed to be mistakes but weren’t (at least, in my opinion, they weren’t and my opinion is final). It highlighted how styles change over time and how those who proofread themselves may be prone to “fall behind” (for example, once it was the norm to write the Duke of Clarence, now it is becoming the norm to write the duke of Clarence).

leaflet

So, proofreading is important and it is important to get a professional to help you. If you wanted someone to look at your finances, you’d go to an accountant. If you had a legal problem, a lawyer. If you want to market yourself, you’d go to a PR company or advertising agency. The same logic applies for your written material.

Any written material that may go public can be proofread: websites, blogs, reports, brochures… if you write it, I can read it.

As you look to market yourself and your business, as we start to get back to normal following Covid19, why not make sure you’re making a good impression?

If you want to have a chat about how I can help you then contact me! Think you don’t need a proofreader? Why not send me a sample of some recent text, say 500 to 1000 words, for me to review?

April 2020 – week 5 of lockdown

With the Easter school holiday over it was back to home schooling last week. Back to getting them to watch PE with Joe. Back in the day they joined in religiously; now it is a combination of watching and doing their own exercises… but it is something for them to wake up for and get them going before “school” opens.

Last week it became clear this was normality for a while. I spent some time considering what I did before lockdown: did I do it because I enjoyed it or was it habitual? What things will I be reluctant to pick up again? Some food for thought…

This week’s positives:

  1. I painted… it’s not finished but it is looking good.
  2. I’ve managed to break the email/SM habit a little.
  3. Home schooling is quite rewarding (mostly) and helps fill the time.
  4. I’ve considered reviving some interests I’ve let slip.
  5. I realised a lot of time “working” on the PC was just faffing and avoidance… (see (2)).

It seems the outbreak in the UK has peaked. We mustn’t be complacent but we are starting to come out the other end. Restrictions will have to remain in place but the seeds of seeing some normality may be starting to be sown.

I’ve decided that I’ve blogged enough about the lockdown. I’ve reflected sufficiently. Now I think it is best to look forward.

 

April 2020 – week 4 of lockdown

I felt the last week was when I started missing things.

The County Championship was meant to start, friendly and League Cup cricket at Old Southendian & Southchurch CC was meant to start. The regular trips to be a navvy/signaller/driver at the BMR had stopped and the start to its 10th anniversary running season postponed. These were the things that helped me relax and spend time with friends and family.

The “newly-found-free-time” was starting to be less of a novelty. It was becoming permanent. A new normal, perhaps.

What is definitely a new normal is WFH with everyone around.

Some business techniques have been adopted: the evening meal consists of going through the next day. Who has a meeting and when, what needs doing, who needs a PC etc. The day gets planned so that we all get work done, all get some “me” time and we have family time too.

We have more of an evening now no one is commuting and dinner is at a civilised time. But the blurring of the lines between work/home seem blurrier and there’s no option to go and work in the library or a “well known” coffee shop; no option to break the day up with the crossword in Utopia.

But, I’m determined to focus on the positives:

  1. I have had some pleasant bike rides with the children, making use of the quieter(*) roads to start their cycling proficiency training.
  1. The family has become a bit jigsaw crazy, but it’s something we’re doing together.
  2. The kids’ trampoline has paid for itself over and over.
  3. My 7yo and I have had some guitar jam sessions. He says I can join his band on bass.
  4. I dug out my oils and have tentatively started painting again.

(*) quieter, yes… but the cars seem to be driven faster and drivers more impatient and I really notice the car fumes.

April 2020 – week 3 of lockdown

A few moons ago, I mentioned in a blog about stresses of modern life and being constantly connected. But, one of the joys of modern life is perhaps how easy it is to keep in touch without being present. Certainly, we’ve had letters and the like for centuries but it’s nothing like being able to see the person you’re speaking to.

This has really hit home in the last few weeks with not being able to see family outside my household. Despite the lockdown, we could still gather for my daughter’s birthday and she was able to socialise with her close friends.

Other positives from the last week:

Now Lent is over I can have restorative drink… or two.

A neighbour made, from scratch, some rather excellent choux buns.

My brother and I have had regular games of chess via the internet, of mixed results.

I’ve had a few overs in the garden with the kids.

And so another week begins…

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

April 2020 – week 2 of lockdown

Last week I blogged about the impact of COVID-19. I set myself a little target of selecting five positives each week. This week’s are:

1. The children arranged a sleepover: my 7yo ‘slept’ in my 10yo’s room with all the usual sleepover activities. They seem to be taking this in their stride.

2. I have moved a few books from my ‘read’ pile to my ‘read’ pile.

3. Rested up a bit.

4. I got some stuff sorted in the garden.

5. The admiration and community support for our public services who are particularly overworked at this time.

In the UK, the peak of the outbreak is expected around Easter break. It seems we are as prepared as possible for the next few weeks, and it may well get worse before it improves, but perhaps soon we will see the glimmer of a light at the end of the tunnel.

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

April 2020 – it’s all gone viral

I had a number of things planned for my April blog. As spring started proper and various places/activities started up for the year, I was going to talk about some of my interests outside of work.

However, at the end of March, I spent a lot of my time crossing things out of my diary as that C-thing took hold. It all got a bit depressing. In addition, it seems I picked the wrong Lent to give up alcohol.

Luckily, I have some work that transferred from face-to-face to online and so have work to see me through the most likely lockdown period, however, the whole family has ended up at home and routines are shot to pieces. On top of everything else, I have become a part-time teacher. It has made for some interesting work periods…

However, I thought I would reflect weekly on the positives.

So, this week:

1. I’ve managed to get out on my bike once or twice.

2. The 10-year-old has learnt how to use the coffee maker.

3. We’ve had many family dinners, which wasn’t always possible when things were “normal”.

4. My bank balance is not going down.

5. The children are both very understanding of the situation and have been great in entertaining themselves when both parents have had to work.

And so we continue…

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

March 2020 – anyone for ghoti and tchoghs?

In my July blog, I did a potted history of English, describing some of the reasons why English can be troublesome. The influence of other languages has had a major impact on the modern language we know today, affecting things such as plurals and the breadth of its vocabulary.

Another change as English developed was that it stopped being phonetic. This is, in part, due to changes in pronunciation without a change in spelling: printing presses and the like cemented English spelling as it was in the 14th/15th centuries and there was the Great Vowel Shift.

A phonetic language is one in which the letters are always pronounced the same way. Finnish and Turkish are two examples of languages considered to be truly phonetic. The advantage with such languages is that when one comes across a word for the first time it can be straightforward to determine its pronunciation, thus learning the language is so much simpler.

But English isn’t phonetic. This means that the same letters can make different sounds depending where they are in the word. Native speakers don’t tend to notice this (*), it’s second nature, but it causes trouble for non-native speakers. To demonstrate this, consider the following:

ghoti and tchoghs

You may have figured out by the photo that this is fish and chips, but how can ghoti and tchoghs be pronounced the same way?

Well, let’s break it down.

Let’s start with ‘ghoti‘ – you’ve probably read it as ‘go-tee’, the ‘gh’ at the start perhaps being the same as in ‘ghost’. But…

  • GH – makes an ‘f’ sound, like in ‘rough’
  • O – makes an ‘i’ sound, like in ‘women’
  • TI – makes a ‘sh’ sound, like in ‘ration’.

And so, overall, ‘ghoti‘ (**) makes the same sounds as in ‘fish’. The key thing is that the letters make different sounds depending where they are in the word.

And tchoghs?

  • TCH – makes a ‘ch’ sound, like in ‘itch’
  • O – as above
  • GH – makes a ‘p’ sound like in ‘hiccough’ (this is often spelt as hiccup, these days).

So, it is all a bit of a mess. We soldier on though (***), with words such as Worcester, Leicester and lieutenant which are pronounced not as their spelling would suggest (wooster, lesster, left-tenant). Centuries of evolution of a language can be hard to overcome and whilst there are those who want to change spellings, many find the thought of doing so impractical. Indeed at the (then) SfEP conference last year, when such an idea was discussed, it seemed abhorrent.

It would seem most people will happily carry on, tolerating the inconsistencies of English. In many ways, the language reflects our history and so perhaps by removing those inconsistencies, we would be removing the history as well. In any event, it helps create work for us proofreaders… which keeps me well stocked with tchoghs.

(*) Have you ever noticed the letter ‘C’ is pronounced three ways in ‘Pacific Ocean’?

(**) ‘Ghoti‘ was used in a Batman (****) episode, combining it with the French for eggs: Ghoti Oeufs Caviar Company.

(***) Here the ‘gh’ isn’t an ‘f’, unlike in rough. I have a headache…

(****) Adam West has always been my favourite Batman, possibly because of this.

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

February 2020 – so, you think you don’t need a proofreader?

I recently gave a presentation to Southend Peers about my proofreading services, particularly around style sheets. My preparation for this made me consider again why organisations would want to make use of a proofreader.

Some industries, such as publishing, make use of a proofreader without thinking about it and, in previous blogs (February, March and Why is my blog proofread?), I have extolled the virtues of a proofreader to businesses. Indeed, I have a marketing campaign launching in Business Time in Essex along those lines this very month.

In today’s world there does seem to be an over-reliance on technology. Whilst technology is great, it can only do so much. At Christmas, I was given a book which I enjoyed and loathed in equal measure. This was because the author had self-published but had not engaged the use of a proofreader (at least I hope they hadn’t). There were typos throughout, inconsistencies in style and formatting issues. The most frustrating part was that the author was a professional writer and journalist.

The benefit of this was that it made good fodder for my presentation since a lot of the issues were around style – eg the book used both spellings of certain words, such as ‘recognize’ and ‘recognise’, even on the same page. It made me realise that while organisations may be very good at ensuring their written material is error-free, it may remain inconsistently presented, badly formatted or not in a format suitable for its audience. It is this area where a proofreader can really help an organisation.

A business, indeed anyone, only has one chance to make a first impression. So, let’s make that a good first impression.

If you want me to help, please get in touch.

Think you don’t need a proofreader? Why not send me a sample of some recent text, say 500 to 1000 words, for me to review?

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

December 2019

It is probably safe to say the C-word now, isn’t it?

I’ll try my best not to though, since it is Advent until the 25th December.

Yuletide seems to be a time of reflection. The new year is upon us and it is natural to look back over the year. Have we made use of the time effectively? Did we achieve our goals? What was good about the year? What was bad? What have we learnt?

As part of this, I’ve been reading my blogs from this year.

I started the year hoping to publish a monthly blog – which I have done (*) – as part of an increase in marketing. I certainly have managed that and learnt a few lessons.

Firstly, marketing is a constant thing. You can’t do it once and then leave it; you need to do it regularly to maintain a presence. And then there’s following up leads, dealing with queries etc. One needs to set aside time to do it.

Secondly, there is marketing and effective marketing. Some early advertising was probably to the wrong audience; and now I wonder whether advertising is actually the thing.

Thirdly, I have learnt people buy from people – and so I focus on networking and making connections rather than advertising generally. Part of this involved conference in September – which was a good experience and did create leads and work, so has paid for itself already.

Another lesson is that it is easy for your time to be filled up, with work, volunteering and so on. It all creeps up and steals time from family and yourself.

Whilst it is great to have the flexibility it is easy to let it take over. I have had periods where I have overloaded myself. So, an important reminder is that it is okay to say “no”. Salaried workers have time off – so can freelancers.

The last lesson – don’t check emails constantly. If it is urgent, they’ll phone.

Enough reflection – what about the future?

I’ll continue to plug away raising the profile of my business, develop and consolidate connections, but most importantly try to learn from 2019 and remember what I’ve mentioned above!

Of course, it is all easier said than done!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 

(*) ignoring the lack of August’s… everyone deserves a holiday, no?