An Ode in Praise of My Beloved Editor

 

An Ode in Praise of My Beloved Editor

There was a time the words would not come

My plot stalled, characters withered, setting faded

I called on you, my beloved editor

To analyze, amend, advise

You deconstructed my jumbled ramblings

Reconstructed coherent sentences, paragraphs, ideas

Crisis averted by your brilliant, sharp mind,

Your finesse in helping me past imposter syndrome

 

There was a time the text was a disaster

Run-on sentences, dangling participles, mis-used semi-colons

I again called on you, my beloved editor

To repair, replace, refine

You red inked passive voice, scare quotes, misplaced modifiers

Added commas, fixed spelling, and corrected tense

Crisis averted by your acuity, attention to detail

Your skill in seeing my story through the missteps

 

There was a time a publisher bought my manuscript!

No title page, table of contents, chapter titles

I called on you one last time, my beloved editor

To prepare, polish, package

You formatted headings, margins, page numbers,

Removed Comic Sans, indented paragraphs, double spaced lines

Crisis averted by your mastery of submission guidelines

Your prowess in coaching me over the finish line

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Eighteen Secrets to Becoming an Influential Business Writer

Does it really matter if you can write great emails or compelling company reports? After all, it’s more important to make sure your message gets out, right? Wrong. Unless your business writing convinces people to act, you might as well save yourself time and get someone else to take care of your written communications. Becoming an influential business writer is about more than simply sending your message out to all of your contacts.

Strong writing skills position you as an expert (after all, how can people recognize you as an expert if you can’t communicate your ideas effectively), set you apart from average business writers, eliminate confusion by introducing clarity to your writing, and win you business.

Influential business writing

If you don’t feel like your writing skills are strong, don’t give up – business writing is a skill that can be learned like any other skill.

Here are 18 easy tips you can implement today. If you don’t see something here, feel free to add it to the comments section so we can all benefit.

Becoming an influential business writer

Know your objectives and audience. Before you can decide how to write any business communication, you need to know why you are writing it and who you are writing it for. It sounds obvious, but too much business writing is vague because these elements aren’t decided on before writing. And, when you decide these things at the beginning, it’s much easier to get the tone and language right.

Begin at the end. Remember essay writing in high school where you slowly led your reader to your conclusion? Lose that habit quickly for business writing. You only have a few seconds to capture your reader’s attention, so get to the point in the first two sentences.

Use a conversational, personal tone. How are you going to build a relationship with people if you write in an overly formal tone? Trust me, we’ve all gotten enough of that in high school and university – we don’t need to be bombarded with formal writing. Write for humans, not robots and write as if you were speaking to a friend. Only a few situations require a formal tone.

Write for your readers. Like it or not, this isn’t about you. Unless you’re writing to tell someone of a milestone you’ve reached, then your business writing should be about your readers. Knowing your audience will help you write for them.

Use real-world examples. One of the best ways to influence your readers is to give them examples. Influential business writers use storytelling techniques to convince readers of their message. Stories connect readers on a human level and help them see how something they’ve read can apply in their own lives.Write for people, not robots

Skip the jargon. I bet some of you use industry jargon or buzzwords and don’t even realize it. Here are a few examples: bring to the table, push the envelope, actionable, ideation, streamline, pain point. What’s wrong with them? Nothing, except that they are often tired phrases and words that annoy your readers. Jargon makes it clear that you are an insider and your reader is an outsider – not a good way to build relationships.

Use the active voice. This is so important that I’ll say it again – use active rather than passive voice. If you’re not sure why think about the words themselves: do you run a passive or active business? Action moves your business forward in the same way that active voice moves your writing forward, while passive voice obfuscates and often omits critical information. As much as possible, tell your readers who is doing what in a clear way.

Watch your nouns and verbs. Much like active voice, your word choices can also propel your prose forward or cause it to stall. Rely on strong verbs and nouns rather than adverbs and adjectives. That doesn’t mean you should get ride of descriptive words but incorporate them judiciously.

Follow conventional grammar and punctuation rules. Okay, there are times when I ignore the rules. So, let’s modify this tip and say it’s important to know the rules so you know when it’s okay to break them. For the most part, following conventions makes your writing easier to understand and keeps readers on your side. There’s no need to sound like a stuffy professor, but don’t make silly mistakes that annoy your reader.

Facts over opinion. Business writing should be filled with facts rather than personal opinion. Of course, if you’re positioning yourself as an expert and can back your opinion up with facts, then do so. But don’t think that it’s sufficient to tell readers they should believe you simply because you say something. Give them concrete reasons to agree with you.

Shorter is better. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been bored to tears more than once by business documents that aren’t focused. When writing any business document, don’t go off on tangents that detract from your message and can be annoying. You know what it’s like when Uncle Joe starts a “quick story” and 30 minutes later has started three new stories without finishing the first one. Don’t do that to your readers.

Use an outline. Yes, outlines work. If Uncle Joe used an outline, he wouldn’t go off on tangents so easily. Even a short email can benefit from an outline scratched onto scrap paper so you remember all your points, only cover what is necessary and get the structure right.

Be concise. Filler words are the bane of editors. Here’s some you’ve probably seen and may even use yourself: in my opinion, in other words, to be clear, in conclusion, in fact, to be honest, on this date. The list is almost endless. One of the most time-consuming parts of editing many of the manuscripts I work on is eliminating filler words. They’re marshmallows: full of air, but with no substance. Get rid of every word and phrase in your draft that doesn’t have a purpose. Your readers will thank you.Influential Business Writing

Say it once. In line with being concise, don’t repeat the same concept with different words. If you’ve written clearly, give your readers the benefit of the doubt – they will get your message without you repeating it. Now, a summary or conclusion is the obvious exception to the rule. And, if something is really important, then repeat it in a way that makes the reader take notice like I did for the tip about passive voice. That’s not filler, that’s emphasis.

Be honest and transparent. Dishonest business writing can come across like sleazy ad copy from the Mad Men era. Readers can usually sense when you aren’t being honest, and you don’t want to cause your readers to question you and your business. If you’re honest about business challenges, they will appreciate that and trust that you take care of problems.

Build trust. It’s difficult to be an influential business writer if your readers don’t trust you. Word choice, active voice, writing for your readers and honesty and transparency all help build a sense of trust.

Look for layered meanings. This is a challenging tip, but well worth the effort. Hidden meanings, negative connotations and cultural stereotypes can expose your perspective even when you don’t want that. Hidden meanings are most often found in word choices, so carefully think about each word you include.

Include a clear call to action. We most often think of calls to action for marketing materials. But incorporate them into everyday business writing when appropriate. Clear calls to action help you become an influential business writer because they generate action, which should be the goal of the majority of your business writing. If you decide on your objective at the beginning of the writing process, you’ll find it easy to include a call to action because you already know what steps you want the reader to take.

Each of these tips will take some practice to incorporate into your daily writing. There’s no need to do everything at once – begin with a few things that you feel you need to work on the most. Then slowly add the others until they become habit. Over time you’ll master the art of becoming an influential business writer.

Your Turn

Something missing from this list? Add it in the comments. And if you have any questions, let me know.

If you’re struggling with the technical aspects of writing, here are a couple of my favourite resources.

  1. Grammar Girl: Mignon Fogarty is the guru of grammar. Check out her site for great tips
  2. Purdue OWL: This is a great resource for learning about tone, language, grammar and more

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Canadian Women in Business [Infographic]

This infographic, Canadian Women in Business, is meant to complement my recent post called “What Does it Take to be an Empowered Businesswoman?

As more women choose to open their own businesses, their influence is growing. While many Canadian women in business face barriers such as financing and family obligations, they continue to build on their strengths and diversify the Canadian economy while providing important services for all Canadians. Check out some facts and figures here.

Canadian Women in Business

 

Sources: Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada and TD Economics Special Report

 

 

 

 

 

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What Does it Mean to be an Empowered Businesswoman? 

Being an empowered businesswoman can mean many things. Here’s a few we often hear: being authentic and willing to chase your dreams, fighting for what you want, being bold and creative, and empowering other women. Women business owners in Canada are becoming a powerful force – if you’re interested in some statistics, check out my infographic called “Canadian Women in Business.

We hear the phrases so often that we tend to gloss over them rather than think about what they mean on a practical level.

Empowered Businesswoman

Be Authentic and True to Yourself

When I grew up, women sought guidance and permission from the men in their lives about big decisions. Starting a business? Sorry, little lady, that’s beyond a women’s capabilities. Why aren’t you thinking about marriage and children?

Being authentic and true to yourself means never asking permission. It means setting a course that is best for you. Yes, we have obligations that influence the decisions we make. But, authenticity means finding ways to integrate those obligations into our business goals, not to stop working towards those goals.

Chase your Dreams

I don’t know about you, but I see this idea everywhere. Some days I get annoyed because yet someone else who doesn’t know me is telling me to go after what I really want. Life isn’t always that easy, is it?

But maybe the point isn’t about how easy our dreams are to achieve. Nobody says they’re easy – at least, I hope nobody says that. The point is that we can’t wait for our dreams to find us. To truly be an empowered businesswoman, you have to find ways to achieve your goals. That may mean starting your business dream on paper years before you’ll be able to accomplish it.

Why bother planning so far in advance? Because your business dream likely won’t be a sprint. It will take time and planning and the sooner you start the sooner you reach your goals. Besides, seeing your dream written out can be a powerful incentive to take daily steps towards it.

Fight for What you Want

In line with chasing your dreams, you may need to fight hard to realize them. But that is part of being an empowered businesswoman. When you take control of your life and go after what you want you will eventually get there.

Sometimes the obstacles can seem overwhelming. And as women, it often feels like we have to fight harder to get to the same place as men. We’ve all been in that situation where we simply don’t see a way forward. Well, part of fighting for what you want is reaching out to those who can help you. That’s not taking the easy way out, that’s navigating around obstacles. And really, if there is an easier way, why wouldn’t you take it?

Empowered businesswomanBe Bold and Creative

Women can tap into their intuition if they learn to trust themselves. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve come to realize that my ‘gut feeling’ is often right and I’m learning to trust it. Yes, I  examine why I feel a certain way to make sure my decisions are best for me in the long run. But my first instinct is usually correct.

Using your instincts and creativity allows you to be bold and do the unexpected. Just because others do it one way, doesn’t mean you have to follow. Make your own rules. An empowered businesswoman is willing to look for options and new ways to achieve her goals.

Empower Other Women

Being an empowered businesswoman means you have the strength to help empower other women. I’m part of two grassroots initiatives that are women-centric and I’ve seen first-hand that women who work together become an unstoppable force. I’ve seen women with no resources other than their own willpower create incredible change in their communities. And more women are doing the same in the business world. Being generous with your time and expertise creates a network of strong women that you can draw on when you need to and builds your own capacity as an empowered woman.

***

So how do you actually implement this? Because, in the end, we still need to take action to make change. Here are a few ideas – I’m sure you’ll have more and I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

Plan

I’ll go back almost to the beginning of this post. Become an empowered businesswoman by creating a plan. Dream big and don’t be discouraged by the size of your dream. I’m going to go against conventional advice and tell you to forget about SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-based). What are your really big business dreams – the ones that seem out of reach. Take an hour and write about what that looks like. Don’t censor yourself – this is not the place to worry about what you think you can’t do.

Now spend some time thinking and writing about the large steps you need to take to get to your big dream. Again, don’t worry about goals that you can accomplish today. These are 5-, 10- or 15-year steps towards the big goal.

Keep your writing and go back to it regularly. This is your lodestone.

Okay, now it’s time to come back down to earth. You know where you are today and now you know what your 5-year goal is. Break those 5 years into 1-year increments. You’re still looking at this with a macro lens, so don’t get bogged down in the details. Regardless of where you are in your business, list the major things you will do over the next 5 years such as business and communications plans, funding, marketing, expanding your current store, or opening new locations. You may be in a position to do these things more quickly – if so, shorten your 5-year plan. Just make sure you are realistic about the time and resources you can commit.

Now you need to set up your SMART goals. What are you going to do in the next year, how will you measure your progress, are your goals achievable and realistic, and have you set firm deadlines for meeting them? Every month, review your goals for the current year and decide which goals to meet that month.

As you reach your goals and continually move towards your big dream, you’ll build momentum. And if you stumble, you’ll always have your lodestone to help you get to the next step.

Empowered businesswomanCreate a Powerful Network

I said that to be true to yourself you need to follow your instincts and not ask permission to make big decisions. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a one-woman show. Allies, whether family, friends, or business associates, are your biggest resource.

A good way to create a network is to begin with friends and acquaintances who have similar interests. Meet regularly to get advice and support each other.

But one of the best ways to create a network of people that you can exchange knowledge and ideas with is to actually go out and meet them. Now, I’m not a big fan of networking because I always feel awkward when I meet new people. But I also come away from networking events feeling more confident because of the people I meet. If you aren’t comfortable networking, check out this post about networking tips from my friend and colleague Tracey Anderson.

Live Out Loud

I know this phrase is quickly becoming a cliché, but I really think it applies here. An empowered businesswoman isn’t afraid to be herself. Yes, your business may require you to censor your social media posts, but that doesn’t mean you need to deny who you are.

One of the things I strive for in writing for businesses is to help business owners use their authentic voice. If you are naturally humorous, snarky, strong, or shy then don’t hide that. Be you.

I am my business, so if someone isn’t comfortable working with me based on my social media presence or political views (which I save for a personal account), then I may lose them as a customer. But that is likely better for me than working with someone who thinks I should change.

So, whether you do your own writing or hire someone to write for you, don’t hide your true self in your communications. Whether you’re writing a blog, a business report, or a social media post be honest about who you are and how your business works – you’ll feel better and your customers will appreciate your honesty.

Your Turn

What does being an empowered businesswoman mean to you and how do you practice it in your daily life?

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The Ultimate Guide to Contributed Articles for your Business

Get your brand noticed

It can be difficult to get your brand noticed

Do you constantly look for ways to get your brand noticed and talked about, but feel like you keep running into a brick wall? You may be missing out on a perfect opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and leadership to your audience – contributed articles.

Contributed articles are magazine articles written by companies that present a vendor-neutral perspective on subjects your audience wants to learn more about. While often omitted from communications strategies, they should be used to support your overall communications objectives.

Why write contributed articles instead of sit for a journalist interview? Think about the last time a journalist approached your company about your latest invention or cutting-edge business culture. Likely never if you’re a smaller company. What is your return on investment for press releases? Probably very low, although they are excellent marketing tools in some situations. For most companies, it is almost impossible to get noticed in magazines.

Contributed articles take a lot of work, but they help establish you and your company’s credibility. And, you get to control the content rather than rely on a journalist to understand the nuances of your position.

Ready to get started on contributed articles? Read on for the ultimate guide of best practices, how to generate topic ideas, how to increase the reach of your article, pitfalls to avoid, and the process of pitching and writing contributed articles.

Best Practices

Contributed Articles

Best practices for contributed articles

From choosing your topic to understanding editorial guidelines, there are several things you can do to give your article the best chance at being published.

  1. Avoid self-promotion. Never, ever, ever use contributed articles for self-promotion. First, most publishers won’t even consider overly promotional pieces. Second, using contributed articles for promotion makes the writing about you, not your readers or your potential customers.
  2. Keep the article vendor neutral. Publishers want pieces that appeal to a wide audience. By keeping your piece vendor neutral, you fulfill the publisher’s need for good content that they can publish.
  3. Know the purpose of the article. I write a short statement at the beginning of every article. It won’t get published, but helps me focus. For example, “This blog post will inform business owners about best practices for writing contributed articles.” This quick sentence helps you write a focused article that keeps your intended audience in mind.
  4. Allow your passion for your subject to come through. Hopefully, you’ve chosen a topic you care about. If so, then don’t hide that passion from your readers. Let them know how excited you are about your solutions, inventions, and stories.
  5. Express your opinion. Vendor-neutral does not mean that you don’t have an opinion about your topic. Keep in mind that you aren’t writing an essay, but your opinion informs your writing and you don’t need to hide it. Just don’t pontificate!
  6. Be honest. We hear a lot about authenticity in marketing. It applies for contributed articles as well. Readers can sense when you don’t believe what you write. Always be honest and share openly.
  7. Use plain English. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’ve fallen into industry-speak. Depending on your audience, some jargon is fine, but keep it to a minimum. The last thing you want is for your editor to reject your piece because it was written for too narrow an audience.
  8. Use a conversational tone. Write your article as if you’re having a conversation with a friend who isn’t in the same industry. This technique helps minimize jargon and makes your language more approachable – there’s no need for formal writing in contributed articles.
  9. Get to the point immediately. Don’t spend 4 paragraphs hemming and hawing your way to the point of the article. You have mere seconds to hook your reader, so convince them to keep reading in the first sentence.
  10. Don’t lead with data. Building on point #9, throwing data at your reader in the first sentences is not the way to hook them. Save that for later.
  11. Use data. Just because you shouldn’t lead with it, doesn’t mean data isn’t important. Data in the form of stories, metrics and statistics lend credence to your argument.
  12. Go where your audience is. This seems obvious, but it’s easy to forget that our intended audience may not read the same publications we do. Learn what they read and target those publications.
  13. Follow editorial guidelines. Many publications have editorial or submission guidelines that tell you about the topics they publish, their audience, article length, photos or graphics and more. Following the guidelines gives the publisher one less reason to reject your article. If you can’t find the guidelines on their website, ask the publisher or editor – they will usually send you the information you need.
  14. Use the editorial calendar. Editorial calendars show the themes in each issue for the coming year. You can usually find them in the marketing section of a publication’s website. They are great for choosing topics and making sure you pitch your ideas early enough in the process to get included in issues about specific themes.
  15. Edit and proofread. Do not assume the magazine’s editor will take care of this. It’s up to you to edit your own work or hire someone to do it for you. This makes you look good to the publisher and makes it more likely that your article will be published.
  16. Never, ever, ever criticize the competition. Besides making you look petty, criticizing your competition is yet another way to make the article about you, not about your readers.

Generating Topics

Contributed Articles

There are plenty of places to find ideas

You can submit almost any type of article or topic if you find the right publication. The trick is to keep the articles vendor neutral while subtly promoting your services. Here are a few tips for generating ideas.

  1. Monitor the market. Keep track of industry news and developments, especially among your direct competitors. Mine the information for article ideas.
  2. Listen to your customers. If you have a blog with comments enabled, your customers can give you ideas for topics. What questions are they asking that can apply to your industry? What are their pain points? What problems do they have that nobody seems to have a solution for? These are all excellent starting points for contributed articles.
  3. Use your executive expertise. Rather than try to overtly sell your cutting-edge business culture, talk about the problem you saw, what led you to make changes, how you came up with a solution, and how your business has benefited.
  4. Write problem and solution articles. If you know your audience, you should know the problems they face. Outline services or products that your business provides to solve those problems. This is a subtle way to promote your business without using promotional tactics. Case studies are an excellent format for this type of article.
  5. Write about lessons learned. Generally, we hate talking about our mistakes. But lessons learned from mistakes make excellent contributed articles. Be open about the challenges your business faces and how you address those challenges. Rather than show vulnerability, you show a willingness to learn from mistakes and move forward.
  6. Express your opinion. Your opinion on current industry topics can provide valuable insights for others in your industry. Conferences are an excellent place to pick up on industry news that you can write about.
  7. Give actionable advice. Some publications accept lists, but check the guidelines. Lists and tips can be a great way to give practical advice that readers can act on.
  8. Provide dos and don’ts. As with lists and tips, these type of articles give excellent guidance for readers on best practices and pitfalls to avoid.
  9. Discuss industry changes. Technology and new approaches bring changes to most industries. Articles about coping or adjusting to those changes are valuable tools for readers.
  10. Offer industry predictions. If you’re an industry leader, you may be aware of upcoming changes that will affect your business. Articles about predictions and ways to prepare for potential industry changes demonstrate your industry leadership.
  11. Write about industry challenges. Each industry has unique challenges that businesses may not want to talk about. An honest article about those challenges and tips for minimizing their impact can help readers.
Contributed Articles

Get the most out of your contributed article

Get More from your Contributed Articles

Once your article is published, make the most of it. Don’t let it languish on the shelf.

  1. Find multiple outlets. You can rewrite your original article for several audiences. For example, let’s say you’ve written about your latest technical innovation. You decide that your primary audience is executives, so you write a piece about the problem you saw, why you decided to use resources to solve the problem, and the return on investment. Then you rewrite the piece for a technical audience that also outlines the problem but focuses on the technical aspects of the solution. Finally, you rewrite the article for customers by outlining the problem and how the solution benefits them. Then you pitch your articles to three different publications.
  2. Rework for new formats. Once your story is published, the magazine has certain publication rights. Even if you can’t republish the article for a set period of time, you can rework and use the content. Post related key ideas on Slideshare, create an infographic for your blog, videos for your YouTube channel, a podcast for your website, and social media content. If the published article is available online link to it within your website, social media accounts, social media bios, videos, slide decks, and infographics.
  3. Use the bio wisely. Most publications allow you to create a short bio for your work. The bio is where the time and effort of creating contributed articles leads back to your business. Include relevant business information as well as a link to your company website.

Caveats

  1. Publish quality content. This should go without saying, but if you don’t publish quality content, you’re wasting your time and money. Poorly written articles should get rejected at the submission phase, but if they manage to get through the process, they can do more harm to your brand than good.
  2. Do your own writing. One of the services I offer is ghostwriting. However, I would strongly advise any client not to hire a ghostwriter for contributed articles. First and foremost, you are using articles to establish credibility and leadership – that will disappear if readers find out that your name shouldn’t be in the byline. Second, most publishers take a dim view of the wrong name in a byline – their credibility is also at stake.
  3. Hire an editor. So, what if you know you aren’t a great writer, but I’ve convinced you to try contributed articles? Simply hire an editor. Write your article in draft form and pass it on for editing. Alternatively, you could record your article and get it transcribed for editing. This way, your editor polishes your prose and the article is still yours.

How to Pitch and Write Contributed Articles

Now that we’ve gone through some best practices, here’s a few tips for pitching and writing your article.

Pitch your Idea

Before you write the article, you need to pitch it to a publication. If you’ve followed step #28, you’ll be able to pitch several versions of your article at once. If you don’t have time to do these steps, hire a contract writer or get someone with knowledge of pitching within your organization to do this work. It can be time-consuming and, sometimes, discouraging. But it pays off when your article is published.

  1. Choose your topic carefully. Do not write about a subject. Focus on a topic and make sure everything in your article supports your topic. When you sit down to think about your topic, you might come up with several excellent ideas. Choose one and put the rest into a file for your next article.
  2. Choose your audience. Deciding on your audience and topic can happen simultaneously. But it is important to understand who you are writing for (remember, this is never about you!) because that will shape the language and content you include.
  3. Decide which publication to pitch to. Once you know your topic and audience, you’ll have a better idea about which publication to pitch your idea to. Trade and industry magazines, both print and online, are often ideal outlets for contributed articles.
  4. Write and Send your Pitch. Pitching contributed articles is a whole other subject matter – I’ll write a post on it in the near future. What’s important is to pitch directly to the publications’ editor (it can take some work to find the editor, but it’s worth the effort), tell the editor what your proposed story is about, why their readers will find it useful or newsworthy, the general points you will make, and why you are the best person to write the article. Keep the pitch short and put it in the body of your email.

Write your Article

Don’t be surprised if your first pitch isn’t accepted. It’s impossible to predict exactly what editors will need and when they’ll need it. But if your idea is good, you’ll find the right publication for it. At that point, you need to actually write the article. When an editor commissions you to write an article, they often make changes to your pitch so the piece will fit their editorial needs. Follow those changes carefully. If you also follow the best practices listed above, your article will be a success. And, the more contributed articles you write, the easier the process becomes. I’ll publish a post on best business writing practices in the coming weeks.

Now it’s time to put this information to good use and write some contributed articles. Start by thinking about ideas, audiences, and business magazine outlets. If you’re really unsure of how to start, book a consultation with a writer like me who can help you make these initial decisions and guide you through the pitch and article writing phases.

Your Turn

Is there anything I missed in this guide? Let me know in the comments so we can all benefit.

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How Does a Professional Copyeditor Work With You?

It can be difficult for writers to give their manuscript to a professional copyeditor. You’ve often spent months finishing your work and sending it to a stranger can seem foolhardy. I thought it might help put your mind at rest if I tell you my process for each professional copyediting project.

Consultation

I never begin a new project without consultation with the writer. For some projects, such as grants or short articles, I usually only need a little information in an email – for example, what you are trying to achieve with the piece, who the audience will be, or whether you are following a style guide.

Other projects, such as manuscripts, require more consultation. I’ve been working with one client for over a year because his large manuscript required a structural edit. Before he hired me, we met for over an hour and talked about his needs and my cost estimates. We’ve met twice since then. When I’m in the same city as such a client, I’d rather meet face-to-face at least once so I can get a feel for your voice and so you can get to know me. After all, you’re trusting me with a valuable document. When face-to-face meetings aren’t possible, a Skype or phone call work just as well. The goal is for you to learn how I work and for me to learn about you and your project.

Structural Read

Before I begin editing, I quickly read short articles from the perspective of your audience. At this point, I make notes about structure and questions that come up as I read.

I handle the first reading of long manuscripts much differently. I first read the Table of Contents and the Introductory chapter. Next, I read the first and last pages of each chapter to get a feel for the direction or your argument. I then read the conclusion. Throughout the process, I take quick notes that remind me of points to consider in the next reading.

Copyediting

The second reading is where I do the bulk of the editing. For short pieces, this takes little time and is generally the final edit.

Manuscripts can take many hours to edit. I first address any structural issues I noticed in my initial reading. If you’ve only hired me for copyediting, then I simply make notes of the issues or questions and send them on to you – I don’t include suggestions in the manuscript.

The next step depends on the level of copy editing you’ve hired me to do. For all stages of editing, I read for consistency in spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. I also make sure no pages are missing, footnotes are numbered consecutively, and your references are consistent.

If you want a light copyedit, I correct grammar and syntax but don’t comment on wordiness or awkwardly phrased sentences. However, a heavy copyedit includes rewriting sentences to improve their flow or make them more concise. I’ll write a future post about what to expect from the various levels of editing.

Final Steps

At this point, I return the manuscript to you with suggestions and queries. Look for a video tutorial on my website in the near future that shows you how to handle a marked manuscript. Once you incorporate my suggestions, you need to decide whether the manuscript needs another round of editing.

The choice to get further editing depends on two things: your budget and the number of changes in the first edit. If your original manuscript was fairly clean, you likely won’t require a second edit. However, if you make significant changes, it may be in your best interest to hire an editor for a light copyedit prior to sending your manuscript to your agent or publisher.

 

Every copyeditor has their own process. Before committing to professional copyediting, talk to prospective editors and make sure they are the best fit for you. After all, you must hire someone you trust to look after your manuscript. If you’re wondering about the editing principles I follow, check out this post.

Your Turn

If you have any questions or comments about copyediting, ask them in the comments section.

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Have you Considered Hiring a Freelance Writer for Your Business? You should   

How many times have you had a great idea, but let it go because you didn’t have the time to get it on paper? Or you have leadership lessons that would help others, but you aren’t comfortable writing. Maybe you need a company blog, but you don’t need a full-time writer on staff. The solution to each of these scenarios may be to hire a freelance writer. Here’s five reasons an outside writer can work for your business.

  1. Time: You’re a busy executive, thought leader or entrepreneur and know you must constantly produce new material for a content-hungry audience. You may have the ability to write compelling content, but unless writing is a way to relax during a busy day, your time is likely better spent running your business. This is especially true for writing a timely book, which can take months to finish – time that you can’t afford to take away from your work. Even a short e-book is a labour intensive process. If you simply don’t have the time to write, a freelance writer may be the perfect solution.
  1. Research and fact-checking: One of the biggest parts of most writing projects is research and fact-checking. Research can be as simple as pulling out company records, but it can also involve long hours in newspaper vaults and archives. Even a personal memoir requires research to provide context for your story. Hiring an outsider who doesn’t have any biases about the subject may produce surprising results during the research stage and save you a lot of tedious work.
  1. Efficiency: Freelancers are professional writers who spend their days writing; they tend to be good at it. They know how to efficiently research topics and conduct short, focused interviews that capture critical points quickly. They reach out to your content experts for clarification and deliver finished products – whether blog posts or a company history – with a minimum interruption to your business.
  1. Good writing is challenging: You may be a leader in your field, but that doesn’t always translate to writing. Writing relies strictly on words – body language, facial expressions and changes in voice cannot moderate your language. A professional writer carefully chooses words to convey your meaning accurately. And writing compelling content is harder than it looks. You may have been taught to fill your prose with beautiful descriptions and strings of adjectives worthy of a grade 10 English essay. Yet, content that keeps eyes on the page is simple, direct and clear. A professional writer keeps your message from disappearing in convoluted prose.
  1. Document formats: There are almost as many types of documents as there are ideas to put in them. You may be an excellent speechwriter, but not know how to write or format a business proposal, a white paper or a compelling magazine article. Yes, you can learn how to do these things, but doesn’t it make more sense to pay someone else to write documents you don’t have experience in?

 

So, next time you have a great idea or need a report written, explore your options and consider hiring a freelance writer who will make your life easier and deliver insightful content whenever you need it.

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6 Editing Principles That Shape How I Work

Can you imagine sending your manuscript off to an editor only to have them mangle it? I don’t know about you, but I’d be fuming if that ever happened to me.

What is an editor’s job? It’s certainly not to rewrite your manuscript. But how far should suggestion and rewrites go?

That depends a lot on the project itself. If you hire someone for a structural edit, be prepared for large changes. But that doesn’t give your editor the right to ignore your voice and write a new manuscript. Here are six editing principles I follow that help me find a good balance between polishing your writing and maintaining your authentic voice.

  1. This isn’t my manuscript. First and foremost, this is your writing. Depending on the level of editing, I may rewrite sentences or point out wordy passages. But I should never do that at the expense of your work and message.
  2. Readers should never know I’ve been part of a project. Even when I suggest rewrites, they should always be in your voice. In most instances, I use the same words and sentence structure you use. The resulting edits flow seamlessly into your writing.
  3. My ego has no place in your manuscript. I’m always proud of my editing jobs. I love seeing a manuscript evolve into a piece that is ready to publish. But enjoying my work does not mean that my ego has any place in your manuscript.
  4. The core of my job is communication. Unless I communicate regularly with you during a project, we aren’t likely to have a successful collaboration. At the same time, I need to carefully ensure that you communicate effectively with your audience. I always keep the multiple layers of communication in mind when working on manuscripts.
  5. The copyeditor/writer relationship is not adversarial. My job is not to “fix” your manuscript. It’s to help you convey your message as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Hiring a copyeditor does not mean you are a bad writer – it means you care enough about your finished manuscript to have a fresh set of eyes review it.
  6. Confidentiality. Your work and our discussions are between us.

Your Turn

These editing principles help me put my clients first. What qualities do you think are important for a copyeditor? Feel free to add your suggestions to the comments.

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3 Automated Self-Editing Tools Every Writer Should Know

The simple truth is that every writer needs a copyeditor. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of things you can do to improve your manuscript before you hire an editor. Here are three automated self-editing tools that will save you time and effort.

When I copyedit any document, I automate as many processes as possible. If you’re working in Microsoft Word, automation is as easy as having a few tricks up your sleeve. If you share this with your writer friends, they’ll love you for it.

Auto Replace

One of my favorite tools is the Auto Replace function in Word. Technically, you do this while writing, but it can save you a lot of effort once you get to the editing stage, so I’m including it here. You have to access it from the back end of Word, but it’s worth the effort.

Let’s say you’re writing about marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk. Personally, I wouldn’t want to spell his last name out a hundred times, especially since it would be easy to make a mistake. Why not let Word do the work for you? Here’s how it works.

1. Click the File tab, which takes you to Word’s Backstage. Choose Options – the last item on the menu.

2. Select the Proofing Tab then AutoCorrect Options from the top of the menu.

AutoCorect

3. In the Replace Text as You Type section, choose an easy to remember shortcut for Vaynerchuk – I chose his initials, ‘gv’. Then type his full name into the next box.

Auto Replace

4. Click Add and Okay until you get back to your document.

Now, any time you type ‘gv’, Word automatically replaces it with ‘Vaynerchuk’.

This tool saves me a lot of time and means I don’t have to carefully check the spelling of words or names I frequently use. Self-editing becomes just a little bit easier.

Find and Replace

This is one of the first tools I use when I begin a new editing project. Find and replace saves me hours of work. Maybe you’ve used the word ‘indigenous’ throughout your document. Later, you decide to follow emerging guidelines to capitalize the word. You could painstakingly comb through your manuscript, or you could let Word do the work for you.

1. The shortcut to access Find and Replace is the F5 key. Choose the Replace tab. In the Find What box, type ‘indigenous’. In the Replace With box, type ‘Indigenous’.

Find and Replace

2. Next, click the More button and a new menu comes up – these filters help you refine your search. Turn on Match Case and Find Whole Words only.

More Options

3. Click Replace All – within a few seconds Word finished what could take you hours and gives you a report on how many times the original word was replaced.

This tool can be used for many common problems such as double spaces at the end of sentences, especially if you use the wildcard filter.

Readability Statistics

A quick analysis of your document can give you many insights into what you should focus on when editing. Word’s spell and grammar check can do much more than simply point out possible errors. I use it to get an idea of the readability level of the writing.

The readability level you want to achieve is highly dependent on your audience. Website content and blog posts should generally be written at a grade 7 or 8 reading level. When I edited technical manuals for trades students, they were written at a grade 10 reading level, whereas senior level academic texts will have a much higher readability grade. Word’s Readability Statistics gives you a reading level based on the Flesch-Kincaid scale.

1. To begin, make sure you’ve told Word that you want readability statistics. Click the File tab, select Options (from the bottom of the menu) and go to Proofing. Check the readability statistics box. Click OK and return to your document. Once you’ve turned the statistics on, you won’t need to repeat this step in future documents.

2. To access the statistics, run a Spelling and Grammar check on your document. Go through all of Word’s suggestions and decide which to implement and which to ignore. Once Word has gone through your document, it provides your Readability Statistics.

Readability Statistics
 

I use this information to decide whether I should rewrite for readability. For example, if the summary showed a reading level of grade 9, I would reduce the number of sentences per paragraph and the words per sentence because it’s a blog post. Long, complex sentences are not scannable so don’t make good blog copy, whereas too many short paragraphs and sentences can be difficult to read in a non-fiction book. This data gives me important insights into whether or not I need to restructure my sentences and paragraphs.

These self-editing tools can save you a lot of time and frustration. If you learn to automate as much editing as possible, you’ll find self-editing a much easier process.

Your Turn

What are your favorite self-editing tools? Please share them in the comments so we can all learn from your experience.

 

 

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