Q: What’s the difference between copyediting and proofreading?
A: Most people subscribe to this definition: “Improving” sentence or paragraph structure (for instance, making the copy less wordy, or more understandable or clear) is copyediting. Everything else – checking for typos, subject-verb agreement, dangling phrases, consistency, correctness of facts, etc. – is considered proofreading.
I see the lines muddied, because I do all of those things whenever I review copy. So, for the purpose of simplicity throughout this website, I use the term “editing” when I’m referring to both copyediting and proofreading.
Q: Can you give me time and cost estimates for editing my job?
A: I don’t fix-bid or quote hours for copyediting, because to price my services accurately, I must practically edit the entire job. Because everyone’s writing differs greatly, the time it takes me to edit also differs greatly. Too many variables exist to make an accurate calculation, and it’s not cost-effective for me to do it.
But I understand clients need an idea for budget purposes. In an effort to overcome this problem, I point people to the Krystal Kleen Karpet Kare example, and point out that it took me about 45 minutes to edit that page. This gives clients something to which they can compare their material, so they can develop their own rough estimates and make purchase decisions.
In most cases, new clients ask me to edit smaller jobs first, so they can deduce their own rough estimates for larger jobs. When they receive the marked-up copy, they review my suggestions and compare the cost of my services to the value derived from the increase in quality. If they think it was worth the investment, we continue doing business. If not, we don’t. Over time, my repeat customers realize they can trust me to work efficiently and honestly. These are the types of business relationships I want, which is why I work this way.
Q: What size jobs do you prefer?
A: I prefer smaller jobs (fewer than 20 pages). I have many clients who rely on my being able to turn a job around quickly. If I were to accept a larger one, which would tie me up for days perhaps, I would be denying my most loyal clients my time. Besides, I like “quick fixes”; they allow me to scratch things off my to-do list!
Q: How much notice do you need that a job is coming?
A: I ask each of my clients to contact me (via phone or email) at least three business days before a job will arrive on my desk. As I get to know you and your writing style better, that may change.
Q: How fast can you turn a job around?
A: That depends on many things.
I generally work on a first-come, first-served basis, but I also try to work within my clients’ deadlines; I accommodate as much as I can. If you’ve given me the luxury of a longer deadline, I may rush someone else’s job ahead of yours, as long as I can deliver both on time.
Many other variables also determine turnaround times: the length of the job, the number of facts or spellings I must verify, how well-written or poorly written the job is, etc. If I simply can’t return your job by the deadline you’ve requested, I’ll call you as early in the process as possible to inform you of that fact. At that time, we will decide whether I should proceed with the job.
A client example: For one of my longtime clients, I read a monthly, 12- to 16-page newsletter. He calls me about four days in advance to announce the drop-off date and time (usually 5 p.m.), and I turn the job around overnight. (Keep in mind that I am very familiar with the writer’s style and the company standards, and I have much of the company’s reference material at my location, including a connection to the company intranet.)
Q: How do you prefer to receive and read the copy – on screen, on paper, via email, via the Internet?
A: In these days of electronic everything and needing the job yesterday, most of my clients send me their jobs electronically: unformatted copy in a Word document or formatted copy in a PDF.
If you want me to edit website copy, you have two options: 1) send me via mail or courier all the printed pages, or 2) send me via email the URL to every web page you want edited. (Please don’t send me only the home page URL and ask me to find all the pages myself; websites can be like mazes, and I may miss a page or link.)
I always edit on paper, and I try to allow enough time to edit the job twice – once to look for details, and once to read for overall content – before returning it.
Q: How will I receive the job after it is edited?
A: After I mark up the hard copy, with a red pen and possibly highlighters, I can return the corrections to you in several ways:
- If the job is short or the corrections are few, I can call you and go over the changes on the phone.
- I can scan the marked-up pages and attach the scans to one or more emails.
- If the job is in Word, I can make the changes in Word using the Track Changes feature.
- If the job is in PDF format, I can make the changes in Adobe Acrobat.
- If needs be, there’s always the old-fashioned method of delivering the hard copy via courier (at your expense).
Q: How much do you charge, and how will I be billed?
A: My fee is $55 an hour plus expenses, such as delivery charges if I had to pay them initially. And I bill a minimum of one hour (so put small jobs together, if possible).
Soon after I get your job back to you, I’ll send an invoice – either by mail or electronically, whichever you prefer. Please note: You can accept my editing changes, or not – that choice is completely yours – but you will be expected to pay the invoice.
If your job is ongoing, you will receive invoices on a predetermined schedule.
Q: Do you read a job a second time – to make sure all changes were made correctly, or to ensure I didn’t miss one of your suggestions or make a subsequent mistake?
A: This is called “reading corrections,” which is an important step in a thorough editing process, so the answer is: Yes, I do.
After you make the changes I marked on the original, you would print the new version and send it to me. I would then compare it to the marked-up copy and make sure nothing was missed. If time allows, I will reread the job completely. (Reading corrections will also be billed per hour.)
In an ideal world, I would read the job until no more changes were needed – often more than twice. But in this world that moves so fast, clients don’t always have the time to let me edit the job even a second time – it’s all about cost vs. quality, and it’s completely your decision.
Q: What reference materials do you use?
A: My dictionary of choice is Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. The two style guides I use are The Associated Press Stylebook, and The Gregg Reference Manual. If you want me to follow a particular reference guide, please indicate that when you call to arrange for your job to be edited – you may or may not have to provide that resource. If it’s a resource with which I am not familiar, your job may take me a little longer.
Q: What is your take on the argument about changing punctuation on websites to “smart” characters?
A: Discussion continues between website developers and editors about the use of correct punctuation on websites.
Editors contend that quote marks are not inch marks, apostrophes are not foot marks, and dashes are not hyphens, and that the respective pairs cannot be interchanged.
Website developers argue that many older browsers/servers cannot interpret smart characters, like quote marks, and that it’s too much trouble to correct punctuation.
I prefer smart characters, but since no correct answer exists, I mark the copy as my customers prefer. Be sure to indicate your preference up front, so I can keep your decision consistent throughout your website.
Q: If I have grammar, punctuation or fact-verifying questions, may I contact you for answers?
A: I welcome questions – from clients and non-clients alike – and I do my best to find answers. If I believe finding the answer may monopolize my time, I will suggest other sources that may be able to help you. There is no charge for this service.