10 small things that will make your document ready for an editor

editorial checklist


Let’s admit it, it’s a big step hiring an editor.

You’ve researched editors in your genre, you’ve sorted out your budget so it’s realistic and you have your manuscript in a Word document (or ten). After approaching a couple of professional editors you’ve found one you’d like to work with.

What next?

After an initial chat the editor will want to see your manuscript (or at least a few chapters) to assess it. This is how we determine how much work is actually needed, rather than how much work the client thinks is needed (hint: listen to your editor, they know how to make your manuscript work). By all means let your editor know what you want – no editor will force you to have a developmental edit if all you want is a proofread – but listen if they recommend that the manuscript isn’t ready for a final polish.

You may think the document you’ve been working on is ready to be sent, but is it? Is it really?

A few quick polishes will make sure that the editor will see your manuscript in a good light and you’re more likely to land the editor you want to work with.

editing and proofreading checklist


Here are ten small things that will make your document ready for an editor:

  1. Sort out your margins. It’s fairly standard to have one inch (2.54 cm) margins all round.
  2. Set your line spacing to double spaced (2.0). It may look too spaced out, but the aim here is to have your document as easy to read as possible. If your editor wants to print out pages to work on, the generous margins and line spacing will give them space to make any notes they need without having to squish them in.
  3. Ditch the fancy fonts. Ditch them. Use a standard 12pt font such as Times New Roman, Arial, Courier or Calibri. Yes, they can look boring, but the aim is to have a readable document. When you publish your book your designer will help you find a suitable font that takes into account subject, publication type and audience – until then just have a nice, clean readable file. No editor wants a manuscript sent to them in Comic Sans, or any other fancy font. I’ve had my share of these ‘fun’ documents, and believe me, you’ll just give your editor more work to get the document into a useable form, and you will be charged for it.

If you follow steps 1–3, this should get you to roughly 250 words per page, which is how many editors see a standard page. Setting your page out this way makes it easier to read, your editor won’t need to alter anything and it’s how many publishers prefer their manuscripts to be laid out.


  1. Add page numbers. This will make it easier for your editor to make comments and to track where they are in the edit. A simple number in the footer, bottom right, or in the header, top right, will suffice.
  2. Add a header which includes at least your name and the book title. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s good practice and can let your editor see exactly what they are working on at any time.
  3. Set out your document using Styles. It’s a fairly quick and painless way to make your document look professional. I’ve written out some instructions to guide you through the process. It’s not complicated and it will make your document setup easier to navigate if anything structural needs changing. Remember to make your paragraphs indented using Styles rather than using the tab key and don’t add any unnecessary returns.

    Do Not Copy watermark

    Remove watermarks – they show lack of trust

  4. Make sure there are no watermarks on your document. Trying to work on a document that has been watermarked is extremely difficult and totally unnecessary. If your editor gets a watermarked document the chances are they’ll return it for watermark removal, or they may even refuse to work on it at all. The relationship between author and editor is based on trust and if you show that you don’t trust your editorial professional they may decide the relationship won’t work. If you use a professional editor, who is a member of a professional organisation such as the SfEP, they are bound by the society’s professional code of conduct. A professional editor will never breach your copyright.
  5. Decide on a style guide. This could be something as simple as using oxforddictionaries.com as your preferred dictionary, to more complex decisions such as letting your editor know you prefer to use New Hart’s Rules as a basis for your style guide. Style guides are important to allow your editor to follow your preferences, so deciding on one at the beginning will save you both time. If you’re not sure, ask your editor for advice.
  6. Run the whole manuscript through a spell check. The final step before sending your document is to check your spelling.
  7. Read your manuscript through one last time to make sure everything is as you want it to be. Really read it, don’t just skim. Once your editor starts work, this is the document they will be using so a final check is essential.


If you follow these ten quick steps you’ll have a document that looks as good as it (hopefully) reads. A good presentation shows that you value all the work you’ve put into your manuscript and it will send the right signs to your editor.

Not sure how to carry out the changes? That’s OK, don’t fret – I wrote a blog post especially to help you with that.

Think I’m the right editor for you? Contact me and we can talk through your project.

Copy Editors Matter

newspaper editors

Yesterday copy editors on Twitter came out in solidarity with their colleagues in the New York Times.

The paper is reported to be shifting to be more reporter focussed and is cutting down on the number of copy editors in the team from over 100 to around 50. And expecting the same level of accuracy in its written material.

As you would expect there is outrage, upset and a whole load of copy editors soon to be out of jobs. At a time when you would expect that accuracy would be foremost in the minds of the media.

I don’t work there so can’t comment other than it seems to be the state of things to come.

To give them their due, the New York Times actually reported on the walk-out.

If you want to see the Twitter thread go and search for #whyeditors

newspaper editor

I’d like to say I was shocked when I heard about the restructuring, but I wasn’t. It seems to be the way things are going at the moment. We are living in a world that increasingly wants things NOW and to hell with factual accuracy, readability and good plain English.

Go online and you will find ‘news reports’ from a large variety of providers that have obviously been typed up quickly and posted without any kind of editing or proofreading. Words are missing, grammar, spelling and punctuation is woefully bad and accuracy gives way to the immediate gratification of the readers. It’s the same with printed matter.

Books, magazines, newspapers, company information … wherever you find shortcuts you will find errors. Errors that can be easily and quickly remedied by hiring a copy editor.

‘It’s ok, we’ve used Hemmingway, Grammarly, Word spell check, given it to our English teacher/friend/neighbour/dog to proofread’, they’ll say.

‘No-one notices/cares/has the time or money or the inclination’, they’ll mutter.

But you know what?

People do notice and do care, and those automated helpers will only take you so far.

Computers cannot take the place of a real human being, no matter what the tech bods will have you think.

Copy editors:

  • Catch bias
  • Catch blindspots
  • Catch politically incorrect language
  • Catch potential libel
  • Catch potential offensive language
  • Catch copyright problems
  • See what you wrote, not what you thought you wrote
  • See what the readers see, not what you see
  • See holes in your argument
  • See padding in your prose
  • Fix errors in grammar
  • Fix errors in punctuation
  • Fix errors in format
  • Fix errors in style
  • Fix errors in voice
  • Spot missing information
  • Spot mislabelled information
  • Spot wrong information
  • Find repetition
  • Find overused phrases
  • Find ambiguity
  • Check readability
  • Check facts
  • Check links
  • Uphold quality
  • Uphold credibility
  • Uphold standards
  • Are invisible
  • Are invaluable
  • Save your ass more times than you realise

So you see, while editors tend to remain invisible, once they are gone you will notice.

All those errors will creep in, the standard of material will hit rock bottom and your credibility and accuracy will suffer.

If you want to remain ahead of the game, stand out above the crowd and be seen as having a quality product you really cannot ignore the role of the copy editor and the value they bring to your business.

why editors matter


There’s been a lot of interest in this image, so I’ve made it available over on my Redbubble site.

Ten Reasons You Absolutely Must Network If You Are A Freelancer

networking, meeting, business


You must network.


Whether you’re a writer, an editor, a designer, a llama wrangler or any other type of freelancer you MUST network.


This is non-negotiable if you want to survive your freelancing years.

alpaca who isnt networking

ok, it’s an alpaca, not a llama, but it’s not networking and it looks sad.

I know, it’s a pain. You’d rather walk over hot coals than go to that networking event or join an online forum. Heaven forbid if you have to actually talk to anyone. I know, I sympathise, it can be the most awful thing in the world. But it must be done.

You know what? For years I didn’t network. Honestly, I sat in isolation not being able to get out to networking events in person and not taking advantage of online networking (ok, at the time there were few online networking places, but still I could have tried harder). I attended a few professional meetings, but stayed in the background. Do you know where my freelancing career went?

Nowhere. It went nowhere.

People, you NEED to network.

empty stadium, lonely freelancer

Here’s why:

  1. It builds relationships with your peers.

    Getting to know other freelancers in your business is good for everyone. Don’t see them as rivals, see them as friends. Soon you will have a network of likeminded souls who you can rely on to be there when you need them, and you can be there for them too. Share your failures and your successes, learn from those more experienced than yourself and help those with less experience. It’s all good.

  2. It builds relationships with potential customers.

    Get to know them and help them where you can. Go to networking events geared towards your ideal customer. Answer their questions, help them out and they’ll remember you for all the right reasons. Word of mouth is still king

  3. It builds business confidence.

    You can see where you are going right and you can get help if you’re going wrong. Use your local Business Gateway or regional business advisers, they often have talks and networking opportunities. Use your local Chamber of Commerce or the Federation of Small Businesses if you think they will be of use. It’s a great way to let yourself see just how good you actually are at your job. Freelancers don’t get the feedback that the employed do, networking can help fill that gap.

  4. It facilitates learning.

    Networking allows you to identify gaps in your professional knowledge and allows you to address them. Through networking you can spot the perfect development opportunities that may not be immediately obvious to the lone freelancer.

  5. It opens doors.

    It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It’s a cliché for a reason, and it’s as true today as it’s always been. Networking gets your name out there. You will get to know people who you feel confident passing work on to when you can’t fit it into your schedule, and know who to recommend for certain jobs out of your remit. In turn, others will get to know you and pass work to you, or recommend you to clients.

    wall of doors, choices

  6. It allows you to understand your business environment.

    With all the will in the world, it’s much, much harder to understand your working environment if you’re only used to the theory. You can train til you are blue in the face, but it’s only by actually ‘doing’ that you will become knowledgeable in your chosen field. Networking allows you gain understanding through talking to those more experienced than yourself. You can see how others tackle business, see what works and what doesn’t and put this into practice with more confidence.

  7. It allows you to spot opportunities.

    The smart freelancer can spot gaps in the market, see what’s needed or even find a whole new direction to go in. Effective networking can lead you down avenues you would never consider in isolated working.

  8. It builds your communication skills.

    Very few people start off as confident communicators, it’s something that’s learnt. The more you network the easier it gets. Pretty quickly you’ll find out what works for you and what doesn’t – and soon your communication skills will improve.

  9. It can help you break away from the monotony of your own four walls.

    There’s no getting away from it, networking in person can give you break. There’s nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of going somewhere new, to meet new people and learn new things. Networking can make you a more adaptable human being. So what if it takes you out of your comfort zone?

  10. It brings you new friends.

    This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of networking. Freelancing can be a lonely business, and you can be amazingly good at your job, but if you have no one to talk to about it, to chat with over coffee or meet up virtually with over forums and social media, you will feel isolated and deflated. Networking on an informal level can help form strong bonds and friendships that can last a lifetime.

power rangers, super group

Why be alone when you can be a freelancer with a network?

See? It may feel daunting. You may feel like a gatecrasher or an imposter to begin with. But you MUST network. It’s good for your business and it’s good for your soul.