Embarrassing spelling and grammar mistakes happen, especially in our current world where quick and responsive texts, chats and email rule our work world. Like it or not, error-free spelling and grammar still matter professionally.
Editing your writing is necessary for upholding a solid professional image, whether you are a student, working professional or volunteer.
As a professional editor and proofreader, I do not look out for every detailed mistake or even spelling error from clients or friends. However, I will not purchase a new service or product from anyone who does not have a clean website or marketing materials. And as my past coworkers can attest, I do not hire anyone who has any mistakes on a resume.
Yes, writing skills still matter beyond high school English classes.
Just because in today’s world, we write more texts, shorter emails, articles with shorter paragraphs, more visuals, and white space, this does not mean that we can shortcut grammar and spelling.
Why Do I Need Editing?
There are several reasons why everyone needs editing. Primarily, bad grammar and misspelling make you look unprofessional. But you do not have to be in a full-time work position to reap the benefits of good grammar and spelling.
Would you date someone with a lovely picture, but their writing skills were in the tank? I would flat out flunk a course in college if I had one assignment turned in with any punctuation, grammar or misspelling. The bottom line is that editing matters for a positive self-image.
Some of the fallout from bad grammar, incorrect punctuation and misspelling include:
- Lower ratings with Google. Google ranks content lower if there are a lot of spelling and grammar errors.
- People will not take you seriously. Businesses appear less legitimate when the company puts out materials with basic correct grammar, punctuation and spelling errors.
- Authors will receive bad reviews for their books. Bad reviews not only discourage repeat business but also do not encourage new readers. Bad reviews are especially harmful if the author is writing a book series.
Nothing is Too Small for Editing
In our daily lives, we mainly communicate in short text forms. Emails and texts dominate our hectic lives. So now, business editors like myself often get hired to stay on to assist in editing short-form writing when needed.
Although I have traditional author clients, half of my business relies on business clients who need on-demand writing and editing for marketing materials, web content, social media, and staff profiles. Even editing an online dating profile editing is critical.
Real Life Editing
Even if you do not have a lot of grammar and spelling mistakes, the editing process can change mundane words into impactful and professional statements. Here is part of a business client’s work I recently completed. A one-page letter was sent by this person who was just hired by a new company to solicit new clients.
It has been awhile since we last connected, but I wanted to share some exciting information with you and see how we can help each other.
First, I wanted to share that I have joined the team at _____________. It is great to be able to bring a full business offering, along with best practices, to retailers in the US which do amazing things. I would love to share more about how we have helped a number of great organizations.
Second, I wanted to share my contact information with you in case you may need to connect, whether you are or will be actively engaged in exploring alternatives to your existing ___ system, or want to discuss the advances associated with our people-centric solution approach. I would also ask that you keep me in mind if you work with or think of an organization which may also be looking for a new ___ system. With ___ I am excited to help by empowering retailers to bring all aspects of their business into one easy-to-use, easy-to-implement and dynamic, cloud-based platform, so they can focus on their mission.
Please share a best time for a brief conversation and I will accommodate. If I don’t hear from you within the week, I will reach out to see what we can get on out calendars. Thank you in advance for your consideration.
I have exciting news to share since we last connected. I hope you will join me in supporting my new venture.
First, I joined ____, the leading ___ provider to US retailers.
______ allows me to build successful changes and positively impact great US organizations by implementing ____ offerings and best practices.
Next, I’ve included my updated contact information below so we can connect about how _____ creates meaningful changes in an organization. I am excited to share how _____ products can empower your organization, whether you want to explore alternatives to your existing ___system or learn the advances associated with our people-centric solution approach.
In the Improved version, I changed the overall tone from casual to confident. In the last paragraph, I directly ask for the meeting. Lastly, I made the text more concise catering to people’s limited time to reading solicitation material.
I was so excited about this project because even though I was not editing and not fixing grammar and spelling errors, this letter was critical for this person in their future career with their new employer. It did not cost this person too much money to outsource the editing and be proud of his professional appearance to existing and prospective clients.
How to Improve Your Editing Skills
When I became a professional proofreader and editor, I second-guessed everything I knew about grammar and editing. When I am on the hook to fix every grammar error quickly and without looking it up, I became less confident in my editing and proofreading skills.
Everyone needs a reality check, even professional editors. English grammar and usage can be confusing.
Here are some quick tips to improve your editing skills.
Take a grammar refresher course.
Online school is not just for COVID-19 isolation. YouTube is my go-to source for great grammar lessons. I even like watching elementary school-age-specific videos to make it fun and easy. Plus, there is no sentence diagramming in these videos.
Learn on the go with podcasts
If you cannot sit still for an online video, podcasts that teach short grammar lessons are a great option to improve upon the English skills you already know.
- Mignon Fogarty’s “Grammar Girl.” Although Fogarty’s voice is robotic, her “quick and dirty tips” work well to keep you updated on grammar rules that matter today. She covers current topics such as the difference between “dose” and “dosage” when talking about COVID-19 vaccines, and seasonal tips around holidays.
- 6 Minute Grammar This podcast is issued by the BBC, so be aware that there are nuances between American and British English usage. It is not just spelling differences, such as “flavor” versus “flavor” that vary, but different grammar rules apply occasionally. For example, prepositions are often used differently and the rules around verb agreement with collective nouns.
I use stylebooks and dictionaries daily. I have the most popular stylebooks and reference materials on my desk to quickly lookup grammar and punctuation rules that I don’t use every day. I also know that these books are reliable sources instead of searching the Internet for answers to a small question that may not be accurate.
A few grammar books I recommend are:
- “Dreyer’s English” by Benjamin Dreyer. This book focuses on professional editors, but Dreyer uses so much humor and work experience in the text you will not get bored learning grammar and spelling. I was pleasantly surprised when I read about the color fuchsia in the chapter “Notes on Easily Misspelled Words.” I am completely confused why this word comes up frequently in my writing, and no matter how many times I run into the word, I cannot spell it correctly. Dreyer states, “Commonly misspelled “Fuchsia,” a dishonor to the botanist Leonhard Fuchs after whom the flower (and color) are named.”
- “To Comma or Not to Comma” by Arlene Miller
- ·“The English Grammar Workbook for Adults“ by Michael DiGiacomo
Use Online Services
Editing software saves me loads of time fixing minor errors. It also improves my writing by highlighting mistakes I make multiple times (fuchsia). It also cuts billable time for clients since I can focus my effort on more significant issues within a text and not get bogged down with specific rules such as consistent apostrophe style or en dashes.
Editing software is critical to use in your writing, even if the text is only a few sentences. I have two editing software programs plugged into my MS Word for revisions.
I also have a paid subscription to Grammarly and added on to my email. Grammarly is also available as a plug-in on texts. Grammarly got to be a little too much for me to handle on my texts, especially since I have the Spanish keyboard installed as well.
Some editing software programs to consider are:
- Spelling and grammar check built into MS Word
- Grammarly (free version is nice, and the paid service is fantastic; however, it does have a word count limit)
- PerfectIt (limited capabilities for Mac users)
- ReadableProwriting Aid
- After the Deadline (available on WordPress)
Other online sites and applications I recommend but are specific to words are the Merriam-Webster dictionary and the Urban Dictionary. Please note that the Urban Dictionary can be explicit and should be used only with a particular type of writing. I mainly use these two dictionaries for reference only.
Some of the tricks I use to make sure my writing is clean and polished include:
- Write your content one day, and then proofread the next.
Go ahead and get all of your creative thoughts on paper, and then take a break. You will often be surprised at how differently you look at your writing after time away from it.
- Read out loud.
You will find more mistakes you missed through your editing by reading the writing one more time out loud before you publish it.
- Read backward.
If accuracy is critical, reading backward forces you to look at each word for accuracy.
- Phone a friend or family member.
Usually, there is one person you know and trust their grammar, spelling, and punctuation skills. They can answer your questions quickly and for free. Plus, you not only have made them feel helpful, but you were able to catch up with them for a bit.
- Create a checklist.
I have an editing checklist that ensures I have not missed a step. This checklist can be personable to you, or you can find multiple templates online.
There are many editing checklists geared towards elementary-aged students, but I find these to be a fun and easy way to get through the editing process. My editing checklist is light-hearted and includes the step, “run spell check, run spell check again, and running spell check again.”
- Hire a Virtual Assistant.
A Virtual Assistant is not the chatbox you see pop up on many websites asking if you need assistance. A Virtual Assistant is an actual person you hire that works remotely, primarily used to help with administrative tasks. You can contract Virtual Assistants for specific projects such as editing or as a full-time position. You can also post your specific editing job online at Fiver or Upwork. I offer my services through both websites.
- Give yourself grace.
The English language is confusing and complex, and even the experts second guess themselves on grammar rules on occasion. Editing is essential, but don’t stress about it.
- Hire a professional.
Have you always struggled with grammar, spelling and punctuation? If you have good editing skills, have you considered how the rules have changed or that you may not have learned all of the rules? There is also the possibility that you don’t have a fresh mind to edit clearly and quickly.
I recently reviewed a book where the author used an exclamation point twice on every page. Not everything in this book was critical. I lost focus reading the book entirely. The book’s message was completely lost because I was too focused on finding another exclamation point. I will definitely want to edit this author’s next book, but I won’t be buying or reading the next book anytime soon.
Besides exclamation points, there are several grammar rules in the English language that are confusing. Hiring a grammar expert relieves you of stress and the time to learn grammar rules. Often, professionals update grammar rules regularly.
As a professional editor, I am always learning the specific craft of editing. I use industry-standard style guidelines for published pieces.
For example, did you know that it’s standard to write out numbers one through nine, but every number above that uses numerals? Do you want to spend your time learning these things? If you do great, you can join my club, but a professional editor can fix these errors quickly and painlessly.
Again, it doesn’t have to be a novel, even a quick fix such as an important email can be outsourced to a professional editor.
Contact me to learn how I can take editing off your plate, whether you are a business, student or author. Clean and polished writing is critical to a professional image, and I want to help you achieve that goal.