Why every dream team needs an editor

Why you need an editor
In May this year, hundreds of journalists walked off the job at top newspapers around the country, including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review.

They were protesting Fairfax Media’s latest round of job cuts – 125 editorial positions were slashed from its metropolitan mastheads. While the strike created headline news, one headline went unnoticed… Until it was published, at least. During the week-long strike, The Sydney Morning Herald went to print with a page-one headline that read, embarrassingly, ‘Household debt a threat to ecomomy’.

A typo in bold type on one of the most respected papers in the country? It was possibly the best press the striking journos could have hoped for – published proof that their editorial skills were not disposable, but essential. It’s also a simple way to explain why you should consider hiring an editor or a proofreader to review your business material before publishing it, online or in print.

Even if you aced English at high school or routinely correct your best friend’s bad spelling, enlisting the help of an editor is a smart idea. Here’s a few reasons I reckon it’s worth the investment…

Quality control
Let’s start with the obvious, shall we? Employ an editor or a proofreader and you can expect that they’ll pick up the embarrassing typos, the repeated words and the misplaced apostrophes on your behalf. If you care about your brand and how it’s perceived, keeping the wording clean is essential (more on that below). And if you often find yourself getting confused about the rules of grammar, it’s a real relief to offload the finicky stuff to an expert.

Wordsmithery
The real value of working with an editor is allowing them to massage your ideas into shape. You might have a great blog post concept in your head, but struggle to get it out succinctly. Maybe you’re stumbling over one awkwardly long sentence in your ‘About’ page, or have lost your way with the flow of a press release. This, friends, is where an editor shines. They’re trained to smooth out the problems on the page, without losing your unique voice. Think of your editor as the fairy godmother who turns plain Jane copy into a sparkling Cinderella.

Perception
Sure, people will gloss over mistakes in your website copy or marketing material. They’ll see a typo, automatically correct it in their mind and keep on reading. But every time you let a little error slip through, it damages your brand. It looks sloppy and careless, which dilutes your message and lowers your value. Good, strong writing, on the other hand, is seamless. You don’t get props for it because when people read well-crafted copy, they don’t even notice it. Instead, they’re thinking about how great that product would be in their life, or how awesome that designer would be for their project.

Collaboration
If you enjoy the creative collaboration process, you’ll love working with a pro writer and editor. Just like in other creative fields, they’ll help you conceptualise your ideas. They’ll take the time to talk to you about your aims for the project, the style that best represents your business and what information you need to get across. Then they’ll work their magic before allowing you to give feedback, taking in your suggestions and tweaking the wording till they’ve nailed your vision. Meanwhile, you get to direct the whole show without the stress of trying to do it all yourself. Win-win.

I’ll be honest – I’d love to be part of your dream team. If you’re looking for help writing, editing or proofreading your business materials, get in touch here.

 
 

How to boss the blank page

How to boss the blank page - a guide to beating writer's block

Writer’s block. Just tapping out those words is enough to make my creativity recoil. If you’ve ever stared at a fresh Word document, the cursor blinking expectantly while you searched desperately for an opening sentence that didn’t make you nauseous, you’ll understand the true terror of a blank page. Here’s the techniques I use to show writer’s block who’s boss….

 

Write something

Ever heard of the saying, ‘like cures like’? It’s a good theory to explain why I turn to writing when I have writer’s block. Rather than agonising over my paralysing lack of inspiration, I grab a big, A4-sized notebook and brain dump for 30 minutes. I don’t worry about what I’m writing, I don’t read over it later, I just scribble down whatever thoughts are swimming through my mind at the time. For me, it seems to clear away the clutter to allow the juicy stuff to come on out. I picked up this technique from creativity bible The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, who recommends journalling longhand every day, first thing in the morning, to get stagnant thoughts flowing.

Move around

This tip might be an oldie, but it’s legit. A bunch of scientific research has shown that walking stimulates creativity and enhances problem-solving. So, if you’re stuck in front of your computer feeling totally lost for words, go get lost in real life. Take a long walk (or simply get up out of your seat – jumping and dancing are good, too) and let your mind wander. You might just score a lightbulb moment on the way.

Dress up

I love this advice Elizabeth Gilbert shares in her book Big Magic. She says that dressing up creates a sense of occasion that beckons brilliance to your desk. This one’s particularly poignant if, like me, you work from home and all too often find yourself schlepping around in whatever you picked up off the floor, matched back with cosy socks and a messy bun. You don’t have to put on a ball gown or a tux (unless you want to!), but try doing your hair or slipping on a frock that makes you feel happy. I miss the process of dressing for an office – choosing a fun outfit and doing my hair and makeup – so going through those motions can be enough to remind me that the work I do deserves my best self, both in appearance and performance.

Procrastinate

When all else fails, consider your block a chance to take a break. Sometimes words, like relationships, elude us when we’re chasing them too hard. If that’s the case, stop wasting time agonising over your blank page and play hard to get instead. Go bake a cake, clean your house, catch up on life admin or take yourself to your favourite café and flip through a magazine for an hour. When you’re least expecting it, the words you’ve been searching for will find you.

Tell me… How do you beat writer’s block?

 

 
 

10 rules for proofreading your own work

Proofreading your own work

Ever wondered why it’s so hard to spot mistakes in your own work? No, you don’t need glasses – your brain is wired to skip over errors. If quality control is important to you but you don’t have the budget for professional help, deploy these strategies before you hit print.

1 Run a spellcheck…

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but that squiggly red line is everything. It’s a great tool for picking up the stuff you often miss with the naked eye, like when you accidentally type the same word twice, or (heaven forbid!) use the wrong version of your/you’re. As a magazine subeditor, I was taught that best practice was to run a spellcheck over every document I worked on, and believe me when I say it has saved many a red face. If the program you’re using doesn’t have a spellcheck function, copy the text into Word and check it there.

2 … But don’t trust spellcheck

As useful as any spellcheck tool is, it’s no match for the human brain. Why? Spellcheck will flip out over unusual names and towns it’s unfamiliar with. Unless you play around with the dictionary settings, it’ll probably insist on US variations such as ‘cozy’ instead of ‘cosy’. If your mistake is spelled correctly (maybe you typed ‘you’ instead of ‘your’, for example), it won’t give you a heads up. And it doesn’t always understand the nuances of modern speech or context, so some of its grammatical suggestions can be way off. You have the power here – use it wisely.

3 Print it out

The innate problem with proofreading your own work is that the brain is too smart for its own good. It automatically corrects errors for you, such as doubled-up words or typos, so you don’t see them until you’ve paid a fortune in letterpress printing. Remember that meme a couple of years back that had everyone arguing about whether they were looking at a blue or white dress? Your brain was autocorrecting the image to make life easier for you, and it does the same thing with words. One of the tricks I use to override this system is to print out the document I’m working on. Just switching to a hard copy can bring overlooked errors to glaring light.

4 Read it out loud

You might feel weird reading your work aloud in an empty room (or to an audience!) but it’s a great way to catch mistakes. Speaking forces your brain to process each word rather than absorb a phrase in full, so you’re more likely to trip over a clunky sentence or a misplaced comma. It’ll help you better understand phrasing and it’s great for targeting overly long sentences.

5 Read each word individually

I like to do this when I’m proofreading something with few words, such as an ad, business card, magazine cover or poster. Look at each word separately, taking the time to really notice how it’s spelled. You might want to do this a few times. Alternatively, use a ruler to read through lengthy copy line by line (especially useful if you have a habit of skim reading).

6 Give it to a friend

Even the most talented writers understand the value of a second pair of eyes on their work. It’s hard to spot typos, but it’s even harder when you were the one to make them. If you have a friend who’s always giggling at the errors in your text messages, ask them to read over your material, especially if it’s a biggie like a wedding invite or job application. If you don’t have a word nerd in your inner circle, don’t stress – that’s exactly what professional proofreaders are for!

7 Leave it a day

If you have the luxury of time, closing the document and stepping away from it for a day will give you much-needed mental space. During the course of a day we overload our minds with visual information, making it tough for your brain to focus on fine details. Step away from the screen to give your inner proofreading system a reboot.

8 Check everything

I’ve heard horror stories about wedding invitations going out with the wrong date or the groom’s name spelled incorrectly. You wouldn’t think it was possible, but life can be cruel! If you want to avoid this nightmare, triple-check every important piece of information, even if you think you know it by heart. Dates, names, times, prices – you can’t be too careful.

9 Look at the big picture

Proofreading isn’t just about words – it’s about making sure your project makes sense visually, too. If you’re proofing a poster, social media tiles or an invite, for example, take a minute to check that design emphasis has been placed on the right words, that text hasn’t dropped off the page, and that it’s clear and easy to read.

10 Let it go

At some point, you have to send your precious work off into the world, flaws and all. Proofreading has a funny way of making you reluctant to let go, but it’s a trap – the more you tinker, the greater your chances of accidentally inserting an error! If you’ve ticked off these processes, reassure yourself that you’ve done your best, take a deep breath and put your awesome project out there.

No time to do the fine-tuning yourself? Drop me a line to find out how I can help professionally proofread or edit your projects.