Sunday, June 30th, 2013
Q) Why do we see so many mistakes in web copy?
Ans. The pages were never checked by a proof reader.
Writing is only half the story behind good copy.
The writer remembers what he thought he was typing so everything you write needs to be proofread by someone else.
All writing has errors until a proof reader has been through it. Proofreading is what turns writing into good web copy.
Because a writer only ever reads what he thinks he has written, never what is there on the page.
1. What is Proofreading?
Proofreading means different things to different people. Technically, it means flagging up minor errors in a document that has been previously edited.
2. Proofreading or Editing?
Many clients use these two terms interchangeably.
Proofreading is a final check of a finished, previously edited document.
Line editing means that the editor will check for verb/subject agreement, plural/singular confusion and will make minor edits that do not affect the overall flow of the work
Editing involves making major changes in the article; paragraphs may be rearranged, sub-headings reworked for added punch, sentences reworded for extra clarity and facts are checked.
3. What Does Your Client Want You to Do?
Your client is paying you, so what he wants is the important thing here, rather than a label.
You need to make sure that you understand what he wants before you quote for the job.
What most clients want you to do is to fix the article they send you. This means that you have to do major editing, line editing and proofreading.
Never quote for a “proofreading” job without seeing the work in question. If the article needs major revision then tell the client that and give them examples if necessary.
You may be competing with others for the work and your bid may well be higher if they are quoting for proofreading and you are quoting for editing. This is why you need to spell out to the client what you think needs to be done and to give a realistic time scale.
4. Does your client want to see each correction you have made?
Some clients want to see the corrections and changes you have made. Some want you to suggest changes and some just want you to fix any problems.
Talk to the client about what they want when you are quoting for the work. In many ways it is quicker to fix problems than it is to suggest improvements and to show every correction or change that you make.
In an ideal world you would have a lawyer draw up a contract for your client to sign. In reality most proofreading is done on a less formal basis, where payments are made on completion of the work. Advance payments are rare, so you are taking a risk when you take on a new client.
It is best to develop trust between you and the client over a series of small jobs. This reduces your exposure to the risk of non-payment.
Proofreading and editing require at least as much concentration as writing. You are the final step, whereas the writer knows that his work will be going to a proof reader.
6. MS Word
Microsoft Word is the preferred program that most clients will use and expect you to be familiar with. You need to have good expertise in using MS Word, including Review Mode, Tables and Page Layout.
Word is much more than a typing program, even though that is its most common use. Rather, it is an extremely powerful word-processing and editing tool that you must know how to use to the full.
You can use online dictionaries or paper ones, but you will find words that you are unfamiliar with. Online dictionary sites allow you to find US, Canadian or UK spellings easily so you can tailor your work to the client’s requirements.
Sometimes your work will mean correcting articles that do not read well because of too much repetition of one word or phrase. Most of these you will be able to fix without referring to a thesaurus, but you will need one for those blank moments when your brain just will not give you what you need.
9. Internet connection
We take it for granted, but without a broadband Internet connection you have no job if all your clients are sending you work via email. You may need to pay more for a connection that is faster or has the extra bandwidth you will require to handle large files. Reliability is essential and you should have a backup solution ready for the days your primary ISP lets you down.
10. Check the Language Settings
Sometimes the article may have been written by someone in the Philippines, Poland or South Africa. It will have the default language visible in the bar at the bottom left of the screen. Change this to the client’s default language. This will help you to find spelling errors in US English if you are a UK writer and vice versa.
Much of the work you are sent will be fully justified, the work will line up neatly at the left and right sides of the page. It is very difficult to edit work like this and you should reformat it so it is left aligned. This will stop the text jumping around as you edit it.
12. Font size
Change the font size to one you can work with easily on your screen.
We all have our favorite fonts. For proofreading change the font to the one that allows you to find mistakes most easily. Start by trying Times New Roman, Arial and Calibri and work through other fonts until you find one you like.
Every writer has their MS Word set up differently. Some writers will be using earlier versions of Word that have no spaces set up by default after each paragraph. These writers often add an extra line manually, which you need to remove.
Learn how to change the line and paragraph spacings in the version of Word that you are using.
15. Initial Reading – No changes
This is just to get a feel for the article and to allow you to hold the whole piece in your mind.
16. Second Reading – Paragraphs
Most writers use long paragraphs that work on paper but not in web copy. You will need to add extra paragraph breaks so you and the final users can read it easily on the screen.
17. Third Reading – Obvious spelling and grammar errors
This is where you start correcting errors. Start with the gross errors that leap off the page at you. Use the blue, green and red underline error flagging features that MS Word has to help you.
18. Fourth Reading – Nitty Gritty
You have now fixed all the major errors that interrupt the flow of your reading and you can make smaller improvements at this stage.
19. Fifth Reading – And Again
You will not find all errors on the first detailed look through. Read it again, looking for ways you can clarify the meaning and improve the flow.
20. Sixth Reading – Ask Someone Else
Your reputation depends on finding every error. A second opinion is invaluable.
21. Seventh Reading – Putting it All Together
Read the article through again taking into account what your second reader told you. Make any further edits that are required.
22. Final Reading – Come Back Later
You really need to come back two days later for the final reading. There should be no changes necessary at this stage. If you do make changes then come back and read it again later.
Change the font to the one your client specified.
24. Font size
Change the font size to the one specified by your client
If your client wants the article fully justified then change it from the left-aligned formatting you have been using
26. Document Format
Convert the format to the one specified by your client, Doc, DocX, PDF, RTF, etc.
27. First job
If this is your first job for a client then you have a nerve wracking few days until you are paid. Once you are paid then ask for a testimonial that you can use on your website.
28. Payment methods
PayPal is the preferred method because it is so easy, but PayPal fees take a large slice out of your payment. For larger payments ask to be paid by bank transfer. There will still be fees but ones that are much more reasonable.
You now have a client who is happy with your work and you can expect more editing work from that client in the future.
Remember, clients just want articles fixed. They are not hung up on the differences between proofreading and editing, so you cannot be either.