Editing FAQ

1. What do you edit?
2. How do I know you’ll do what I want?
3. Can’t I edit and proofread my own material?
4. How much do you charge, and how do I pay?
5. How important are proper spelling and grammar?
6. I have another question.

1. What do you edit?

I edit and proofread reports, essays, articles, books, short stories, websites, CVs, theses, dissertations, letters, presentations, brochures, newsletters, advertising copy, and more. If you’re not sure whether I’ll edit something, please get in touch.

Most documents I receive are in Microsoft Word format, where I use the “Track Changes” feature for transparency. Other options are possible.

2. How do I know you’ll do what I want?

Before I start working on your text, you can specify what you want. Be as clear or vague as you like, and between us we’ll decide what the text needs. I adapt to requests and requirements: some clients want a basic proofread, others a thorough edit. If you’re not sure, I can edit a short sample for free and we’ll take it from there.

3. Can’t I edit and proofread my own material?

Yes, but you’ll miss what an experienced third party would notice. When editing our own text, it’s difficult to attain full or even satisfactory perspective. As Joseph M. Williams said:

When we read our own stuff, all we’re doing is reminding ourselves of what we wanted it to mean when we wrote it. That means that we are our own worst editors. We are constitutionally incapacitated from looking at our own writing the way others will read it.

Nor can you trust automated grammar- and spell-checking programs – they’re notoriously unreliable and no substitute for experienced human judgement.

4. How much do you charge, and how do I pay?

That depends on the text, since every project is different. I can give you a quote after seeing your text (or an excerpt plus word count). You can pay by cheque, cash, bank transfer, or PayPal. Normally I ask for payment or part-payment in advance, but arrangements may be more relaxed with regular clients.

5. How important are proper spelling and grammar?

I think they’re invaluable, but not everyone seems to agree! Proper spelling and grammar testify not only to the writer’s command of the language, but also to their professionalism, attention to detail, and respect for their clients, associates, and readers. This is reinforced by other virtues of effective prose, such as clarity, consistency, an appropriate tone, and an engaging style.

In his classic book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, sociologist Erving Goffman writes about the importance we attach to proper presentation. He notes specifically how misprints can lead to a publication being “humorously discredited”, and describes the impression of reality we present as “a delicate, fragile thing that can be shattered by very minor mishaps”.

Research confirms this. IBM found that well-edited pages do 30% better than unedited pages. In a Royal Mail survey in 2005, 74% of people said they would not trust a business that used poor spelling or grammar. A more recent study had similar results. Neglecting to have your work edited is a costly oversight, and the problem isn’t limited to business.

Mistakes happen easily, but readers notice them and judge your work accordingly. Your reputation depends in part on the quality of your communication, yet a 2013 survey found that most CVs have typos. Clear, error-free writing makes a positive, lasting impression, whereas careless writing is quickly dismissed – or remembered for all the wrong reasons.

6. I have another question.

I’d love to hear it.