Brilliant Blogs

brilliant blogs for editors, proofreaders and freelancers

When you’re an independent consultant, freelancer, sole trader or lone wolf business person it’s very easy to get stuck in your ways. It’s also very easy to get bogged down with work, or the search for work, and forget that there’s a whole world out there that’s moving forward (or backwards if you watch the news).

You can keep up-to-date with courses and the like, but blogs and podcasts are a brilliant way to keep up with what’s going on in your business sector, without taking time out to attend a course every week.

As I’m insanely busy at the moment, so I thought I’d share my favourites with you.

Blogs for editors, proofreaders and writers:

SfEP Blog. The Society for Editors and Proofreaders is my ‘go to’ professional society, and not only does it have an informative and helpful website, it also has a blog too. It’s not just about editing and proofreading, all things publishing, freelancing and language are tackled in a friendly, inclusive way.

fountain pen, writing

The next four are probably going to sound like an SfEP advert, but honestly, I love these blogs.


John Espirian is a technical writer, editor and copywriter, and one of the directors of the SfEP (he’s the SfEP internet guy).  His blog gives brilliant advice and tips. Everything from the perfect size for your social media banners to taking the long-term approach to business is covered in bite-sized pieces and long-form articles.

Liz Jones is a predominately non-fiction editor, and also a member of the SfEP. Her blog covers editing, freelancing and writing, all with an honest outlook and a sense of humour. I often find myself nodding and going ‘yup, uh-huh, totally …’ when I read her blog.

Denise Cowle is one of the Scottish SfEP posse. There’s lots of loveliness here. I especially like her latest blog on the difference between a dash and a hyphen, perhaps it should be paired with my damned apostrophe article – like a fine wine and crackers. Her worry-free writing is a great series of articles, but you’ll also get a peek into an editor’s life. It’s definitely worth stopping by her blog.

Louise Harnby has her Proofreader’s Parlour – a blog for editors, proofreaders and writers. If you want amazing advice and fabulous freebies this is one for you. She has Q&A pieces, observational articles and long-form pieces on all things writerly. Her latest article is a very good look at narrative point of view by guest Sophie Playle.

blog in scrabble tiles

Blogs for business:

The next bunch of blogs I regularly visit are less editor/writer oriented, and are more businessy but never boring (I just don’t do boring).


Andrew and Pete are a couple of amazing content marketers. They look at a traditionally less-than-interesting business area and deliver it in a fun, modern way. If you want to know about content marketing head their way, you won’t regret it (but you may lose a few hours in their content).

The ProCopywriters blog is one I found when I joined the network. Aimed at copywriters (the hint is in the name) it covers all things needed by professional copywriters, but writers and business owners in general can learn a lot from it. There’s a great community vibe too.

One Hack Away From Wonder Woman by Lorrie Hartshorn is  the only podcast I have ever manage to listen to regularly. Twenty-one episodes of loveliness, wrapped up as baddass, no nonsense advice. I go back to these every now and then to remind myself of what’s important in business. It’s aimed at ‘freelance writers and creatives who want to cut the crap and win better work, better clients’.


Blogs from outside the UK:

Grammar Girl is the blog of Mignon Fogarty that deals with everything grammar. If you want quick and easy tips on grammar this is the website you need to bookmark. It’s American based, but don’t let that stop you if you’re based elsewhere, the articles included are invaluable.

An American Editor is packet full of observations from Rich and his contributing writers. Although, this has an American slant (again, the hint is in the name), this blog is great for all editors, especially newbies. He puts a no-nonsense approach to the business on his blog, and reminds us all that we ARE running a business and need to remember that.

Erin Brenner and Laura Poole have put together with quick lessons, information and observations on all things copyediting. Again more US based this is useful for UK editors too.


Blogs for your time out:

Finally two blogs that I try not to miss, that have nothing to do with work. We all need a little time out, and these are my favourite.

Claudia and Sue of Campari and Sofa have a lovely blog. Their tagline is ‘Life after fifty, one cocktail at a time’, but don’t let that put you off if you are not female, under 50 or don’t like cocktails. To be totally honest I can’t remember how I fell upon their blog so many years ago, but they are just wonderful. It’s a lifestyle blog that isn’t stupid or frivolous or patronising. They both lead interesting, honest lives and it comes through in their writing. If you love good food, check out their food and entertaining section.


And finally there’s Heide. If you want history, photography and nature, lose yourself for a while in her writing. Her photography is amazing, and like me she seems to have a love for interesting doors (don’t tell me you don’t notice the amazing architecture and doors in your neighbourhood?). Her latest ‘Louise Dillery: Eyewitness to history’ is a must-read. Honest, insightful and sometimes painfully raw, her blog is one everyone should subscribe to.



I’ll be taking a break for a couple of weeks now – conference calls. While I’m away tell me your favourite blogs and leave a comment below.

How To Set Styles In Microsoft Word

How to set styles in microsoft word

Ok, so you know how much I love Word’s styles feature.

It’s fabulous.

Not only does it allow you to change the look of a document on a whim, it can save you a whole heap of time.

And when you’re working on a large, bitty project it can save you a massive amount of time, especially if your client changes their mind at the last minute.

Styles come into their own, though, when you’re working for a client that works in a certain way, prefers a certain setup and they come back to you with more projects.

I’ve already touched upon how to work with styles in Word, but now I’m going to show you a little trick.

Those of you who know how this works can look away now, go make a cup of tea and do something more exciting instead.

For those of you who are thinking ‘what? there’s a trick?’ settle down and prepare to learn something that will change how you work with Word forever (or it might just give you an ‘ahaa’ moment).

Please remember, I work with Word 2007 (because I like it), so if you use a different version there may be slight differences. Overall you should be able to follow the tutorial OK.

Styles screenshot2

First I’m going to create some styles.

Let’s say …

Heading 1 in Book Antiqua size 16, underlined and bold in a nice snazzy purple

Heading 2 in a nice Cooper Black size 14, bold in a nice 70s orange (I do like this one but never get to use it)

Title in Adobe Garamond Pro size 16, centred with a blue underline and written in a hideous moss green colour

And we’ll leave Normal, normal. Mine’s Calibri size 11 in black. Nice and easy to read with no bells and whistles.

How to set styles screenshot A


Now you know how to create styles, because I showed you, and it’s very, very quick. But let’s say that you are working for a client who loves his snazzy purple and 1970s orange bubble writing.

You’ve created all your styles and he likes them. Even better, let’s say he told you what he wanted and you know you’ll probably lose the file that gives his preferences. Or you’ll write them down in your notebook of favourite things and promptly forget where you put it. I’m still looking for a notebook from a makeup masterclass last year – I know it’s in a stack of notebooks somewhere that’s not work related, but can I find it? …

stack of papers and notebooks


The easiest thing is to save your style set in Word, so you can access it whenever you need. It can sit there, nestled in amongst all the other style sets until you need it.

Here’s what you do.

Note: in the Styles section of the ribbon you’ll see the styles you’ve created.

Screenshot (123)_LI

1. Create your styles

You’ve already done this, but just in case you forget – create the styles you want for your client’s document.

Once you open a new document, Word will revert to its ‘normal’ generic styles, or the styles you have made by modifying these standard ones.

These styles you have just created are for this document only.

But you want to save your new styles so you can use them, without creating them all over again …


2. Save your style set

Go over to the Change Styles button and click on it (it’ll be highlighted when you hover your cursor over it).

styles screenshot 5


NOT the little down arrow in the bottom right corner of the Styles ribbon section.

styles screenshot6

Now click on Style Set.

Screenshot (131)

You’ll see a lot of options but head to the bottom and click on Save as Quick Style Set.

Screenshot (132)

All you have to do now is give your style set a name that you will remember and that won’t have you scratching your head in a year’s time when the client comes back to you with volume 2 of their life’s work. Let’s just call this one 70s Dude Style. You’ll save it as a Word template so you don’t have to do anything else, just click Save.

styles screenshot9

3. Use your shiny new style

You’ve now saved your style. So let’s see if it works.

Open up a new document and you’ll notice that Word’s generic styles are peeking at you from the ribbon.

styles in word boring screenshot

But we don’t want those, we want 70s Dude Style.

Click on Change Styles.

styles screenshot10

Then click on Style Set and look what’s there right at the top of the list! Don’t get too excited, it’s only on the top because it starts with a number, if you create other styles they’ll appear in alphabetical order.

styles screenshot11

Click on 70s Dude Style and you’ll see that in the Style ribbon there are now bright purple and orange headings.

styles screenshot12

So now you can add your own styles to Word and call on them whenever you need. It really does save time – and can also cut out the monotony of styling documents for each new job.


Note: Styles are fabulous, but when working with a client, publisher or typesetter, keep it simple. You can easily go overboard and make styles for everything, which can be helpful, but can be a headache if the client, publisher or typesetter use their own styles. Always ask if there is a preferred method of working, or a preferred style set – and if there is, ask the client to send a blank document, which uses their preferred style, then save that to your style sets instead.


How to Deal with Tracked Changes

How to deal with tracked changes

When you receive an edited file from your editor, your first thoughts might be quite overwhelming.

You’ve spent weeks, months or even years getting your document just right. Or so you thought.

You open up your Word document, and there in front of you is a sea of comments, deletions and additions. It’s enough to make a writer close down the computer and go do something less scary instead.

This is all perfectly normal. Even the best written document will have some changes noted.

But fear not, there’s a way to make the revision task easier – it just involves a few tweaks and a cup of tea (the tea is not essential, but everything is better with a cup of tea).

How to deal with tracked changes:


1. Don’t panic. Be prepared.

When you open up your document, be prepared for a lot of changes. Not every change will have been tracked, (for example, your editor is not likely to have allowed Word to track every deleted extra space, paragraph return or tab) but the more changes, the more cluttered your manuscript will look.


Take a deep breath, take it all in, then be prepared to knuckle down to the job in hand.


2. Change the tracked changes to your own preference.

If you are confident, you can change the tracked changes to look easier to your eye.

We all have a preferred way of working, so it’s perfectly fine to make the changes look the way you want them to. Whatever makes you more comfortable is always best.

When I work, my preferences are to have additions noted in blue, deletions in grey bubbles, format changes in red bubbles and comments in green bubbles. I feel that this allows the text to look less cluttered, and any additions and deletions easily be seen without fighting for space.


One of my documents would look like this:

How to deal with tracked changes 1

(it’s one of my very rough starts to a piece of writing for a short story, just ignore the content!)


If you want to change to your own preferences here’s how you do it. I use Word 2007 but your version should be similar.

  • First, go to the Review tab.
  • Make sure Track Changes is highlighted (if it isn’t click on it to allow your changes to be tracked).
  • Make sure the box shows ‘Final Showing Markup’ to allow you to actually see the changes.

tracked changes screenshot 2


Then, to change your preferences, click on the little down arrow on the bottom right of the Track Changes box and some options should appear, like this:

tracked changes 3


Click on ‘Change Tracking Options …’ and then you’ll see the following:

Screenshot (109)

Here you can alter how the tracked changes will appear. You can see my insertions are underlines in blue, deletions are strikethroughs in gray, and my formatting is coloured by author, which makes them red, etc. However, I’ve chosen to always show balloons, so the deletions, formatting and comments will appear in the right-hand side margin.

If you prefer to have deletions show in the text just click on ‘Only for comments/formatting’ in the Balloons section:

Screenshot (110)


Then perhaps change the colour to teal to allow you to easily see where deletions have occurred:

tracked changes screenshot 7


When you hit the OK button you’ll see your preferences have changed:

Screenshot (112)

OK, so now you should have your preferences changed and are ready to review your document.


3. Work through your document.

Once you’re comfortable with what you are seeing, work through the document in the way that feels best for you. You may want to work through it all in one sweep, or you might want to look at the comments first. If you want to do this you can show only certain changes to the document, for example, see only the changes or see only the comments.

Here you’ll see only the comments:

Click on the ‘Show Markup’ box and make sure only ‘Comments’ and ‘Markup Area Highlight’ are selected. The markup area isn’t mandatory, but I find it better if this area is coloured.

tracked changes screenshot 9


And here, by deselecting ‘Comments’ and selecting ‘Insertions and Deletions’, the comments disappear and the insertions and deletions are shown:

tracked changes screenshot 11


Work methodically through your document, but remember that your editor has good reasons for every change.

Don’t bother to accept everything as you go along (you can accept all at the end), but reject any changes that you have good reason to reject. Keep in mind that any rejections may alter the sentences around them and have a domino effect. To reject a change simply use the ‘Reject’ buttons at the top of the pane, or right-click on the area you want to reject.

Remember though, for example, if you reject the deletion of a capital letter, you will also have to reject the insertion of the lowercase letter!


Work through your manuscript, answer any questions or address any comments, and make sure you are happy with your document.

Usually you can now, if you want to, go back to your editor for one final look through. This is to allow them to make sure your changes are OK and all comments have been addressed. Make sure that YOUR changes have been tracked though so your editor can quickly see what has been changed. (Do make sure that this is how your editor works, and that the final look through is included in your package, some editors may charge extra for this).


4. Finalise your manuscript

Now, finally, when everything is acceptable, you can accept all changes. Go to the ‘Accept’ box in the reviewing pane and click on the little down arrow. Now you will see a few choices, just click on ‘Accept all changes in document’ and this will accept everything.

tracked changes screenshot 12


You now have a ‘clean’ document.

tracked changes screenshot 13


I hope this quick tutorial has been of some use to you.

Always remember, that while that first view of your edited document can be a shock, it means that you are on your way to producing a quality product. Be proud of your achievements, and look forward to the next step with confidence.