Hiring a Copy Editor: Hacks to Save You $$ (at least with me)

So, look at you! You’re officially a blogger / author / writer! However you label yourself, you’re writing for others to see.

How did that happen? Why are you doing it?

You want to share your passion for something with the world.

You want to help others learn valuable lessons.

Friends and colleagues keep telling you that you should be writing / blogging.

So, you decide to try it out, scared but excited. You write 700 or 800 words and send them out into the cold, hard world that’s full of trolls, some of whom are quick to point out goofs in your piece. In public. So everyone can see.

You goofed right in the title!

You used the wrong your/you’re!

You used the wrong it’s/its!

You left out three words in the second paragraph!

And on and on it goes.

Given enough pain, you might quit writing altogether, which would be a shame. You still have great ideas, so, what to do?

Someone suggests hiring a copy editor to polish your writing — to look at your words, punctuation, sentence structure, spacing, formatting — to make sure you’re presenting your best self.

But copy editors, like most others, don’t work for free. We do charge $$ to help writers. And you’re not sure how it all works, right?

So, let’s clear that part up here.

My fee is based 100% on time. I have an hourly rate for long stuff and a per-piece rate for typical blog posts, up to about 800 words.

Some copy editors charge by the number of words when working on long pieces (typically 2,000 or more words), but I cannot possibly know how much time YOUR piece will take just based on the number of words you write.

If there are lots of errors, it will clearly take me more time to read, correct, and reread to make sure I find everything than if I only find a very few errors.

If those 5,000 words should be really only 2,500 words, it’ll take time for us (yup, you and me, kid) to figure out which ones go and which ones stay. And why.

Having said that, there are some easy ways you can prepare your draft for my eyes, which will save you money.

  1. Know who your audience is. Use words and terms your readers will likely understand, especially if you’re writing any sort of industry-specific or technical piece. Outsiders may read the first paragraph and move on to the next article if yours is just a mystery to them. (If I don’t recognize a word as being one in common usage, I’ll challenge it.)
  2. Use whatever grammar checker comes with your writing program. While not one of them is perfect, they’re still pretty good at catching obvious (to them) goofs, which will cut down on what I have to do manually. And although spellcheck isn’t perfect either (it does NOT help with homophones–see #3, below), it does know whether the word you’ve used is spelled correctly. If it “flags” a word for any reason, do take the time to check it out.
  3. Use the search function to check on homophones like affect/effect, it’s/its, you’re/your, to/too/two — whatever words you often mistype. Ask the search function to find them one by one, and look carefully to see if you’ve used the right one. Then do it with the other one in the pair (or triplet, like they’re/there/their and to/too/two). And if you sometimes use the word public, search for pubic, which is a perfectly good word but probably not the one you meant, to make sure it’s not hiding out somewhere (always check for the word you DON’T want in those circumstances).
  4. Look at any different sections, and check to see if the headers for each are the same type of sentence, the same font, the same bolding or non-bolding, the same whatever. Start each with the same type of word for smooth reading: If the first one starts with a verb, the subsequent ones should, too.
  5. Check all the spacing. There is only supposed to be one space between sentences, between words, and after a colon that introduces a list within a sentence. Yes. ONE. Not two, three, or four. There should be white space between paragraphs, one line of nothing to rest the reader’s eyes and to signal a new paragraph.
  6. Check your use of bolding, italics, or underlining. Have you been consistent? Have you used way too many capital letters? Too much bold? All that may draw a reader’s eyes and mind away from your ideas.
  7. Be sure you have closed all punctuation marks that come in pairs: parentheses, quotation marks, brackets[ ], and braces { }. Sometimes we don’t close them, or we do but in the wrong place.
  8. Make sure the apostrophes and quotation marks are the same style. A mix of straight and curly marks will look very odd. I don’t know why some writing programs mix them, but I do know it happens.
  9. Reread carefully if you’ve changed anything!

These are all mechanical things that you can look for and correct yourself. If I do it, you’ll pay more.

So, what exactly will I be left with?

Your words. Your thoughts. The connections you make. The order of your sections, paragraphs, and sentences. The segues between the paragraphs. The flow of information: Is there a beginning, a middle, and an end? The sense of your piece: Does it make sense to anyone besides you? Did you wrap up your thought(s) in the last sentence or paragraph?

Are your visuals compelling? Are they necessary? Right/wrong size? Do the links you included actually work (yes, I DO check those). Are your citations correct? Are the proper nouns correctly spelled (I do check any I’m not familiar with)?

Punctuation: apostrophes, commas, colons, dashes, hyphens, quotation marks, and any other random ones you might have used. I look to see if you have followed the basic rules (I absolutely DO push hard for the Oxford comma), and if you haven’t — can you get away with it? What will the likely impact be for most readers, either way?

You will always know what I suggest for changes because I work in Word (much preferred), and I send my clients both the red marked-up copy (so they can learn) and the black good-to-go copy they can use immediately if they agree with my changes.

All this may sound simple, but it isn’t. Copy editors work hard to both respect and preserve an author’s “voice” and still deliver a well-written piece. I know when a rule can be broken (because I know what the rules are and how they function) and when the rule is necessary for clarity.

Of course, I’m always open to conversations about a client’s ideas, because at the end of the day, it’s not my project. It’s my client’s.

Remember
My only goal is to help my clients look and sound as smart
as they are.

If you’re not sure about hiring a copy editor, send me one page of anything you’ve written. I’m happy to look at any ONE page for free. No $$.