You need your freelance writing to be professional so that clients pay you well. This means your words read well and contain no major grammar, punctuation, or spelling errors.
Freelance writers with poor copy editing skills either don’t make much money or they don’t make any money at all.
1. Improve Your Writing Skills
The better you write, the less editing you’ll need. Review rules of grammar, punctuation, and style frequently so that you are constantly upgrading your writing chops. Even 15 minutes a week makes a big difference over the long run.
See the books I recommend over on my Success Resources page.
2. Use the Spell Checker
Microsoft Word and other major word processing programs have a spell checker. Use it, but use it wisely. Some words have multiple acceptable spellings, and some spell checkers can flag certain variations as incorrect even though they aren’t.
And don’t rely on the spell checker to catch all of your misspelled words. For example, if you type “wit” instead of “with,” the spell checker will zoom right past it.
3. Use the Grammar Checker
Word and other programs and services will also check your grammar, but overall grammar checkers are more problematic than spell checkers. I’ve found that they frequently make erroneous suggestions, so examine every suggestion carefully. However, despite their limitations, they will catch important mistakes.
4. Copy Edit Your Own Writing
Get good at editing your own writing. Don’t expect others to correct your mistakes. Here are 5 tips:
- Be consistent with formatting.
- Be consistent with how you apply spelling options, and also grammar and usage rules.
- Use a standard reference guide such as the Chicago Style Manual.
- Do the final edit on a printout of your manuscript rather than on the computer, unless you are truly comfortable reading and editing words on the screen.
- Read your writing out loud. Not only will this help you catch errors, it will also improve your writing style.
5. Hire a Freelance Copy Editor
If necessary, hire a professional. Here are some resources:
- Editorial Freelancers Association
- American Copy Editors Society
- Editors’ Association of Canada
- Websites of individual editors, like Jessica Vineyard and Tom Mangan
- Recommendations from other writers
- English departments of local universities
- Local writer’s groups
- Writer’s Digest classifieds section
- Elance.com and similar sites (Caution: check references thoroughly. Quality can vary dramatically on these sites.)
6. Exchange with Other Writers
If you have a high level of copy editing skill, approach other writers with similar skills and set up an exchange system: you edit their manuscripts and they edit yours. I did this several times with my brother Eric Soares and it worked very well.
1. Devote time every week, even if it’s just 15 minutes, to improving your knowledge of grammar, punctuation, and style.
2. Create a list of fellow writers with whom you could potentially exchange manuscripts. Start with writer’s groups in your local area. You can also find writers through blogs, LinkedIn, online communities, and other venues.
3. See more advice on editing here and here.
4. Decide whether or not you should edit as you write.
How confident are you in your copy editing skills? Any suggestions to add? Do you ever hire a professional?