Archive for the ‘Proofing’ Category

Proofreading and editing isn’t that hard…you’d think. Still, I manage to stay in business because I have a secret. Now I’m sharing it with you. I’m a Sydney proofreader who’s been in business for almost 20 years. I still have many of my original clients (which makes me very happy).

Before we start, I want you to begin to think differently about the chore of proofreading. You think it’s all about finding mistakes, right?

Wrong. It’s more about patterns.

Take a look at this graphic below:







What’s the first thing that pops into your head? What do you notice?

Me? I look at that and groan. It’s all wrong! The four-sided figures aren’t all the same size or the same shape and they’re on different planes. That image makes me feel a little bit sick.

I am pleased that they’re all the same colour.

So what was your reaction? If you groaned, too, you’ll make a brilliant proofreader.

You see the ‘wrongness’ of the grouping.

However, if your first reaction was, “They’re all blue” or “They’re all four-sided” then you’ll do OK as well. You’ve seen a pattern.

(If your first reaction was ‘Rubbish logo’, then you’re probably a graphic designer and you can stop reading now.)

What doesn’t fit the pattern?

When you proof copy, you’re looking for words or symbols that don’t fit – the word ‘color’ amongst pages of ‘colour’, the em rule or hyphen instead of universal en rules. (One of my favourite clients hates me because I change her incorrectly placed hyphens to ens. She thinks it’s pointless. I disagree. The mixture of hyphens and ens where there should be all ens…well, it’s disturbing to a reader.)

Most of us ‘see’ things that don’t fit but allow our brain to override that part that’s saying, “Isn’t something wrong here?”

When you proofread, your first step should be to ‘look without looking’ so your brain can register what doesn’t fit.

General proofreading tips

Once you have a sense of the wrongness or rightness, make a list of everything you’re checking. This could be: client’s name, phone number and address; product names; offer (all 15% not 18%); or page numbers and links.

If you must do your own proofreading, then read each word syllable by syllable. You’ll be amazed at what you find.

Better still, give your copy to a colleague or an experienced proofreader (like me) and give yourself a second chance.

Finally, read through your corrected copy once more to make sure it all makes sense.

So what are your tricks? Can you read your own copy…or do you give it up as a bad job and hand it over to a fresh pair of eyes?



Read Full Post »

How a brand warrior feels

How a brand warrior feels

Be grateful I’m not calling myself a ‘brand guru’. I’m not, and don’t profess to be.    However, I wear my ‘brand warrior’ hat with pride.

Where did this brand thing start?

In the early days of proofreading, my biggest client was Microsoft. The marketing manager hired me to get consistency across all channels: print advertising, digital, sales brochures, case studies, white papers and anything else they had going. Much of the copy came straight from the USA and part of my job was to make it more Australian in tone and spelling.

My second-biggest client was Adobe (mainly digital, via MercerBell) and then came American Express (sales letters, print advertising and in-house training manuals), MasterCard (MercerBell again) and Telstra, to name a few.

All of the above brands are rigorous about protecting their trademark, especially on their products. I spent time getting to know the brands and trademarks as soon as I started working on their product or service.

So where does ‘brand warrior’ come into the picture?
I’ve been working on the Microsoft brand (not with the same comprehensive brief as when I started) for longer than have most of the product managers. If there’s a dispute about a trademark use, I’m often the go-to person. Although I don’t work for some of the brands any more, I am still working on their behalf. If I’m proofing, for example, a piece of copy for a client and the copy mentions ‘an excel spreadsheet’, I’ll change it to the correct “Microsoft® Office Excel® spreadsheet’. Same goes for ‘your flash file’. That gets upgraded to ‘Adobe® Flash® file’.

Why bother?
By doing this, I’m not only helping clients and former clients protect their brands, but also, I’m making sure that my current client doesn’t get reprimanded for incorrect use of a product or brand name. I don’t get paid by Microsoft or Adobe but, in my mind, all my clients are once and future clients so I need them to be successful. Part of that is helping them to protect their brand, product or service.

My diligence also shows my current client that I’m serious about brand values and they can trust me with their own brand.

How do you manage brands? Are you still loyal to past clients? I’d love to hear how you manage.

If you’d like me to make sure that your brand is presented in the way it’s supposed to be, please contact me.

Read Full Post »

As a copywriter, proofreader and editor, I tend to have a dictionary by my side when I’m writing or doing other work for clients. I’m not infallible and there are some words in our English language that can trip you up often. Here’s my list:

Double letters

Accommodation: How many times do we see ‘accomodation’? Makes my blood run cold.
Millennium: ‘ll’ AND ‘nn’
Personnel: ‘nn’

S, not c

Consensus: Usually, I have to correct this after I’ve typed ‘concensus’. I’m getting better…
Supersede: As above

How you spell it, not how you say it.

Barbecue: Not barbeque, despite ‘Barbeques Galore’
Repertoire: Not ‘repetoire’
Separate: Not ‘seperate’
Subpoena: Try filling in a crossword clue with ‘supoena’ and you’ll never forget this one.

Weird and wonderful

Desiccate: Not ‘dessicate’, although we so want to use the ‘ss’.
Limousine: Not, as I see often, ‘limuosine’
Pronunciation: Not ‘pronounciation’
Memento: ‘Momento’ is Italian, it means something different – and we’re writing in English.
Weird: If you write ‘wierd’, it will look weird.

What words are on your watch list?

Read Full Post »

The year was 1994 and it was a Saturday morning. I was happily reading the weekend papers and had skipped to the weekend magazine. A major airline had a double-page spread that read:

Left-hand page: [airline] flies to [xx] destintions in [xx] countries. (26 pt)

Right-hand page: [Country’s] favourite airline. (110 pt)

I couldn’t believe my eyes, and I had a friend who worked on that particular account.

The following Monday, I called him to confirm that the agency still had the airline account.
Him: “Yes, we do.”
Me: “Maybe not for much longer. Have you seen the weekend magazine ad?”

My friend said that the art director had come to him about this ad, saying it didn’t look right. He saw immediately that the tag line was missing the possessive apostrophe…but everyone, including the client, missed the ‘a’ in ‘destinations’.

On the strength of that pick-up, I got an introduction to the head of direct marketing. (I wrote letters…this is back in the days before email…to all the senior agency people who worked on that account but only the DM manager got in touch.)

We decided that, as I didn’t have formal experience, the agency would give me a trial. My first job was to proof all three frequent flyer brochures, check for typos and that we had all our Bronze, Silver and Gold references in the right brochure. Luckily for me, there were several errors so the art director and the copywriter understood that I could be useful and not a threat.

The rest, as they say, is history. I can trace every job I’ve ever had to that first engagement. As people changed agencies, or formed their own, they’d take me along. The DM manager left to form his own agency, as did the art director. Those agencies win awards regularly and I still work for them both occasionally.

What happened to the airline account and the agency? Well, not too long afterwards, the agency lost the account, along with three other major accounts, and then imploded. It was taken over by an international agency and limps along. Today I checked their website, only to see “gloriously purile” as a tag line for one client. Another ad is a direct copy of an ad created for a similar client by the agency for which I worked back in the 1980s.

A good proofreader does so much more than pick up a typo or three. As a proofreader, I regard myself more as a quality controller. When I proofread a document, I work with my editor hat on as well. Not only do I look for the obvious, but also, I check all the links, check spellings of personal and company names and make sure that everything makes sense. With my brand warrior hat, I make sure we use the appropriate trademarks (particularly important for major brands such as Microsoft, MasterCard and Adobe, all of whom I’ve worked for in the past). With my copywriting hat on, I optimise copy for search engines and offer alternative copy if I think it’s warranted.

The arrogance of the agency with the airline account led to their downfall. I’m not saying I could have stopped the rot, just that the lack of interest in my services was indicative of their lack of understanding of quality control.

How did you get your first proofreading or editing job? Do you still have relationships with colleagues from back then?

Read Full Post »

Your trusty proofreader is still in holiday mode but I thought I’d share some mixed-up sets of words that you may hear, or see, often.

  1. In the throws [throes]: This was in a major newspaper. I guess they can’t afford editors any more.
  2. Please be more pacific [specific]: This is a classic but I don’t see it very often in copy. You’re more likely to hear it.
  3. Predominately [predominantly]: This is another one that pays the mortgage.
  4. Tenents [tenets]: This one has surfaced a few times recently. I can only assume that the writer learned the word aurally, not visually…and has bad hearing.
  5. Brought/bought: It surprises me still when I read, for example, ‘She bought her friend to the party’ or ‘I brought a new folder yesterday’.
  6. Horde/hoard: It can be quite funny when these get mixed up.
  7. Foregone/forgone: Oldies but goodies. I admit that I have to stop and think most times I come across these. My little mantra is: ‘Fore is before.’
  8. Slither/sliver: I can’t count how many times I hear people say, for example: “I’ll just have a tiny slither of cake.” Snakes slither; what they want is a sliver.
  9. Miniscule [minuscule]: I understand how this error happens. Small = ‘mini’. However, the word derives from the Latin, ‘minus’, or less, rather than from ‘minimum’ meaning smallest or least.

And just for fun: found by the eagle-eyed Aysha, who should be doing my job but I’m pretty sure hers pays better.

Proofreader news.com.au

Proofreader needed: Gatecash?

I was hoping to get to 10 sets of mixed up words but I can’t think of any others. Can you? Let me know and I can get to double digits.

Read Full Post »

I’m sitting at my laptop on Saturday morning wondering whether or not I should refuse a potential client.

‘Why?’ I hear you ask. Well, it’s like this.

Understand your business
A few days ago, this potential client contacted me for help with her new business. When I asked for further information (such as ‘What do you need me to write for you? An A4 2-page flyer? Presentation?’), she was unable to specify exactly what she wanted.

A couple of phone calls later, I got worried. This potential client appears to have little or no knowledge of her market, no real business plan and, even after a 20-minute discussion, was unable to specify what she wants me to do. We’ve gone through the creative brief, and I’ve explained the information I need to estimate the job, but still I’m none the wiser.

‘I can get it cheaper’
Then it came to rates. I quoted my rate – very reasonable considering my experience and knowledge – and a rough estimate of the cost (around $250, based on a guess as to the actual job and how long it’s going to take me) and heard:

‘I didn’t expect it to be so much. I can get it cheaper from overseas.’

The conversation continued something like this:

Me: ‘Yes, you could. If you’re not really sure what you want, then it’s probably a better idea for you to get your work done through one of the freelance sites.’

Client: ‘Yes, but I want my job done professionally. I’m not going to get that from someone in India who charges $1 an hour.’

Me: ‘Yes, but even if you don’t get what you expected, you haven’t committed to too much money.’

Freelance writers
A colleague recommended me to this client so I don’t want to lose her. At the end of the call, I went online to check out the work of some freelance copywriters on Elance and guru. It was a gratifying exercise for me: so many typos, grammatical errors and just plain bad layouts.

One of the Australian contingent advertises himself thus: ‘I’m wondering if your able to imagine the difference this will make…’

Another: Let me right your copy. And yet another: Quality Copywriting Services Gauranteed

Hmmm…maybe not.

Use a professional Australian copywriter
A professional copywriter:

  • Is on the other end of the phone (or Skype) and easily contactable by email.
  • Will have a detailed discussion with you to tease out elements of your business that perhaps you hadn’t considered.
  • Has usually worked on your kind of product or service before.
  • Can help you with marketing tips, advice on markets to target and SEO.
  • Has knowledge of relevant Australian laws; for example: Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth), Therapeutic Goods Act. (This knowledge could save you thousands in legal fees and fines. I update my knowledge of both Privacy and CCA acts with formal training every two years so I’m aware of current legislation and amendments.)
  • Understands the local market and conditions.

Where to from here?
If you want a stay-at-home mum or semi-literate neuro-linguistic-programming ‘expert’ to handle your business, then head for the freelance sites. If you’d prefer that your copy is targeted, is appropriate for the local market, won’t cost you a bomb in legal fees, and uses the tone of voice that you feel suits your business personality, then give me (or another professional copywriter) a call.

Have you used a freelance writer from one of the freelance sites? What was your experience?

Read Full Post »

Some weeks go by and my clients all disappoint me by being so clever; I don’t feel needed.

This week was better than usual and I was able to prove my worth. See my top 10 proofreading catches below.

  1. ‘Pubic’ instead of ‘public’. (Seriously, I suspected that this was one of those gaffes that rarely occur in real life…and then I found an example twice in a week. One of the documents was going directly to a senior government minister, and the error was in the opening paragraph. Lucky.)
  2. ‘Peak’ instead of ‘pique’. From someone who’s more aurally inclined.
  3. ‘Optimises’ when we needed ‘epitomises’. Not common but this isn’t the first time I’ve picked up this one this month.
  4. ‘Predominately’ rather than ‘predominantly’. This one is so common, I do a search for it before I start reading through the entire copy deck.
  5. ‘Per say’ instead of ‘per se’. Not used that often so it’s understandable that someone who’s only ever heard the phrase wouldn’t know how to spell it. I have the benefit of four years of Latin so I shouldn’t be too smug.
  6. ‘Brought’ instead of ‘bought’.
  7. ‘Conjour’ instead of ‘conjure’. No idea…really. Maybe they’re writing with a French accent.
  8. ‘Tenants’ instead of ‘tenets’. This may have been a spell-checking error so that client gets the benefit of the doubt.
  9. ‘Compliment’ rather than ‘complement’. This is one of those words that pays my mortgage. Very few writers, even when they know the difference, get this one right. I love finding this error…it’s like an old friend.
  10. ‘Premise’ instead of ‘premises’ “…because it’s only one business”. That client received a photocopy of the dictionary definition (and she still insisted on keeping ‘premise’). It’s sad because I can’t put that piece of writing and proofreading in my portfolio.

Well, that’s all for this week. Do you have any words that you trip over regularly?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »