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.

Do you need to like your editor or proofreader?



You’ve finished your book, completed your marketing material or are looking for some help with your PhD thesis. Now you’ve got to find an editor / proofreader / wordy wordsmith.

How to find an editor or proofreader

It’s a tough decision. First you have to find them. You can find an editor (let’s just call them editors so I don’t have to repeat myself all the time) in a variety of ways. You can find them through:

 word of mouth

 places like writers’ groups

social media

or you can actually go straight to society directories (such as the SfEP directory).

I’m sure there are other ways to find an editor. If you use a different way be sure to let me know in the comments below.

Finding an editor can be equally tough if you are not sure exactly what you want. Let’s face it, unless you’re an expert at something, you rarely know exactly what you want and will rely on expert guidance. Do you really know if you need an edit or a proofread? (Hint: unless you have your material completely finished and ready to go, it won’t be a proofread you’re after).


thinking businessman

click here to find out whether you need an editor or proofreader


How do you choose which editor to work with?

So, let’s imagine you’ve trawled through the available resources and have decided that there are one or two (or more) editors who fit your profile – they are qualified, knowledgeable in your area and fit your budget. (Hint: cheapest is rarely best).

How on earth do you choose which one to work with?

Do you choose the most qualified?

The cheapest?

The one nearest to where you live?

See? It’s a tough decision. One editor may offer incentives (price plans, bundles and packages, discounts), another may just offer one or two services, whereas another may be so highly qualified you think you’ll never be able to afford them or fit into their schedule. If you are a business, budget may be less of a problem but timescale may be – do you choose the one who can deal with you straight away or wait until the one you really think you could work with has an opening in their schedule?

Here’s a thought – how about also finding one you enjoy working with?

woman with computer

Do your homework and talk to editors

When it comes down to it, once you have your shortlist you could procrastinate until it’s too late to book any of your preferred choices. Remember, good editors usually get booked up pretty quickly and may only be able to fit you in at short notice if they have a project timeline slide.

You will have chosen your shortlist to criteria of some sort, but now is the time to see if you can actually work with them.

How many people actually do their homework when choosing who to work with? You could find that someone who fits your profile academically is a nightmare to work with. Come on, we’ve all had that brilliant colleague who has the personality of a robot, or the colleague who seems mediocre on paper but is a delight to work with.

is your colleague a robot

While qualifications are important, you also need to be able to feel comfortable with your editor.

This is why it is so important to start a dialogue with the editors you choose.

Talk to them.

Ok, email them. Whatever, but do talk to them.

Right at the outset, when you send that first enquiry, you need to talk about what you think you need, ask for their advice and see where you fit into their schedule.

How do you feel when you talk to them?  Gut instinct can work here, but do you feel comfortable with the conversation.

How will they work on your writing? Do your ideas and theirs mix well?

Do they seem to know what they’re talking about? They should, but do they communicate it well too?

Are they too technical? Would they mind explaining things or do you think they are used to working with more technical clients.


This may be a teensy bit controversial … but …

If you don’t feel comfortable with the level of communication you probably won’t feel comfortable with the editing process.

comfortable at home

So do you have to like your editor or proofreader?

You don’t have to LIKE your editor, but you do need to be COMFORTABLE working with them.

Some people prefer a more formal editor/client relationship.

Some people like a more informal set-up.

Now, don’t get me wrong, most professionals can work either way, becoming more formal when the occasion demands, or more conversational when it’s preferred. Hell, even I can scrub up and do the formal thing when needed.

Faberge: Imperial Jeweler to the Tsars exhibit

(c) etee, Flikr

But the working relationship, no matter what that might be, needs to be something you can live with. Sometimes hiring an editor is a one-off, but for many writers or businesses it becomes an ongoing relationship that can last a long time. Talking to your editor shouldn’t be a thing of dread, you should look forward to working with them and allowing them to help you hone your writing.

Will you both enjoy working together?

Here are three ways you can figure out if you’ll get on:

  1. Look at their websites.

Some editors have swanky websites, some don’t, but you should be able to get a bit of personality and information from their sites. It’s not the be-all and end-all of a working relationship, but it’s common sense to check them out.

You may gauge something of their working agendas, their specialities and affiliations. If someone highlights their academic work, they may not readily take on your work of high fiction.

You may also get a shock and find out your editor has green hair, and you have to ask yourself if you could work with such a non-conformist.

Sara Donaldson | copywriter | copyeditor | proofreader

Honestly, most of the time I forget it’s green

  1. Talk to your editorial choices.

Before making a firm decision ask them questions about how they’ll work with you, what level of editing they think you need, where you can fit into their schedule and timescale. You should, through conversation, be able to figure out whether you’ll be able to work together.

  1. Have a look at their work

Does their work seem to tie in with yours, or if not are they interested in your type of writing? Going by someone’s past work isn’t always an indicator of their future work. There may be good reasons that there’s little information on their website about the type of work they have done in the past. For example I have a portfolio, but it by no means shows all my past work – working with individuals and companies rather than traditional publishers can mean work won’t appear in a portfolio because of confidentiality issues.

confidential and confidentiality

If you can’t find any examples of their work online, bring it into the conversation. Ask if they’ve worked on your type of material, and if they haven’t ask if they are qualified to work on it. You may find that your editor hasn’t made it public knowledge, but they are dying to work on your type of project. And don’t be afraid to ask about qualifications, your editor won’t be offended.

So, do you need to like them?

In short, go with whatever feels the most comfortable.

You don’t need to LIKE your editor, but you need to take into account:

Are they qualified to do the job?

Do they work in a way that you’re comfortable with?

Can you talk to them properly?

Can you afford them?

Are your timeframes compatible?

If you can actually like your editor too it will make the whole process so much more enjoyable and you’ll look forward to working together.



If you think you could work with this green-haired editorial consultant, why not take a peek at my SfEP directory entry? Contact me and we can talk through your project.


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.