Helping You To Help Yourself: Five Ways To Save You Money

jar of money

When you hire an editor, did you know that there are certain steps you can take that will help them (for example, cutting out small tasks, which add up), and that in return will help you by cutting your bill?

One of the things that we tend to be aware of, as freelancers, is the fact that people can sometimes find our services expensive. I’m not going to apologise for earning a living. What is expensive for one person is reasonable for another, and it is usually the case that you get what you pay for, however, everyone likes to make savings when they can.

By making sure your manuscript is ‘editor ready’ you can cut down on your costs and still have a great product at the end of it.

Why, you may ask, am I highlighting this when it will cut down on my income? Easy … we all like to concentrate on the interesting aspects of a job – by you cutting down on the stuff that is easily remedied at the start, I have more time to get down to the nitty-gritty of editing, which is what I am essentially being paid for.

writing, editing, corrections

Before you send your work to be edited, make sure it is the best it can be. Check it over, does it look right? Does it read right? Reading it out loud will highlight mistakes that you thought you’d caught. Above all try to make your work consistent, put it through a spellchecker and don’t send it off the minute you are finished. Take your time and go back after a few days to re-read it – fresh eyes work better when you are close to a document.

When you think your manuscript is finally ready to be sent to your editor there are a few more things you can do. Here are five steps that will tidy up your work, and save you money:

Strip out double spaces after full stops – unless your style guide requires it, in the UK we use single spacing. Leaving double spaces in can add quite a lot of time to your editor’s workload as they go through the document to remove them.

Ellipses – these are those tricky little dots that show the omission of words in a text, or a trailed off sentence ( … ). When you have finished your manuscript, go through and notice all the times when you’ve used three full stops instead of a real ellipsis. Take out those full stops and insert the ellipsis symbol – in Word you get to it by Insert > Symbol > Special Characters. This will make your writing nice and neat with the correct formatting. And if you’ve used two, four or more stops … take ‘em out.

Tabs and paragraph returns – if you use tabs for anything other than their main purpose, take them out (especially when they are used to indent paragraphs). If you are using tabs to indent the first line of a paragraph it’s much neater to use Styles to do this. However, if you aren’t sure what to do, find Styles scary and use Word, go to Page Layout > Paragraph (you may need to press the little arrow in the corner of the Paragraph tab to get to the main options) > Indentation > Special … then select First Line. This will indent the first line of every paragraph for you. You have no idea how long it takes to go through a full-sized manuscript and manually strip out all the tabs!

Next click on the ¶ button in Word (in the Home tab) which will allow you to see the hidden formatting symbols in your document. Now go through and see where the paragraph returns are, you’ll see these as ¶ for a hard return and ↵ for a soft return (hard returns should show the end of a paragraph, whereas soft returns show a line break). Both are useful if used correctly, but both can be a nightmare when tidying up a document.

When working in Word you shouldn’t see returns at the end of each line, only at the end of a paragraph; the margins in Word allow the text to flow onto the next line. When tabs and returns are used it can be a hark back to the good old days of clunky typewriters and early word processors – remember when we had to hit the old carriage return to get us onto the next line, and use tabs to indent the paragraph? No, ok, I’m just showing my age!

Well, if you go through your document and strip out all the extra tabs and paragraph returns you will have saved your editor a big job.

old typewriter

Decide on your spelling – do you like to use –ize endings, or –ise? Will you analyze or analyse your text? Now, analyze is the American spelling but there are plenty of other words that have this variation in spelling. If you can decide on how you want to spell certain words, we don’t have to decide for you. But remember to be consistent.

Hyphens or dashes – now, hyphens and dashes are used differently in the UK and the US, but let’s say for now we are concentrating on UK usage. A very simple explanation is that when you have a dash between numbers, say 1 and 100, you use an en rule (dash), not a hyphen. It also replaces the word ‘to’ in ranges, for example Paris–Berlin.

An en dash is longer than a hyphen and looks like this:  1–100

A hyphen on the other hand looks like this: 1-100

We also use en rules as a standard dash – for when you want to make a point in your writing – instead of brackets. See what I did there? And remember there is a space before and after your dash.


So there we have five simple tasks that you can do before you ask an editor for a quote. Simply by tidying up your manuscript yourself you can cut back on the time the editor will have to take on the tasks, and your estimate will reflect this.

You tidy up your writing before submission, we can concentrate on editing.

What’s not to love?

14 Comments on “Helping You To Help Yourself: Five Ways To Save You Money

  1. Lovely! Yes, a faster edit is a cheaper edit. Folks do get intimidated by Word’s Styles, though. Ah, the tabs I’ve destroyed in my time…

    • Nope, not at all. Just remember to save frequently too! All the editors I know would love to see a nice clean document that they can start work on 🙂

    • It’s a good habit to get into.
      I am UK based, but will take on American clients with the understanding that I am not a native American English speaker, and will work closely with the author over any Americanisms in the text.

  2. Great tips, yes to all of these! The ‘Find > Replace’ function is a gift for tasks like instantly stripping out double (or triple, or quadruple!) spaces quickly without missing any.

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