My Services: Proofreading

            Editing is a vital part of the publication process. There are many types of editing, and their definitions can vary depending on the editor. Over the last few weeks, I have been sharing the editing services that I offer and explaining my processes. Today, we’ll be discussing proofreading.

What Is It?

            Proofreading is your last line of defense before you publish your manuscript. It is for reviewing page proofs to find any stubborn typos that survived the editing process. It also looks at format and design to make sure that everything looks right and is easy to read. As the last editing step, proofreading is by far the most detailed.

Who Is It For?

            Because proofreading is the last check before publication, it is for authors who are ready to publish their work. There should be no need to alter the text or make significant changes to your manuscript. The way the manuscript looks when proofreading is done is the way it should look after publication.

What Is the Process?

            When proofreading, I start by looking at grammar, punctuation, and spelling to make sure there are no persisting typos. Afterward, I check that the manuscript has adhered to its style guide or house style. Because this is usually the last time the manuscript will be edited, I begin proofreading during my first reading. I don’t want to become overly familiar with the text.

            Once I am done with these checks, I turn my attention to more particular items. I check images, lists, headings, page numbers, and table of contents to make sure that nothing is missing and that all are formatted correctly. Bullet points should be parallel, headings should be formatted the same, and the design should not be pulling the reader’s attention away from the text. There are hundreds of small details that can have a big affect on your manuscript and, therefore, need to be perfect.

            My last check is for quotations and references. These are hot spots for trouble that deserve special attention, which is why I take special care to ensure accuracy and completeness. Proofreading doesn’t usually include fact-checking, but I do some if I believe it is needed. After I am done checking everything, I will read the proofs one last time to make sure that it looks good and to finalize all my edits.


            Proofreading is the point at which you can iron out the final details of your manuscript. How your manuscript will look once it is published is decided at this stage. I try to help you with making all your final changes by thoroughly checking your manuscript’s text, style, and design.

My Services: Copy Editing

            What type of editing you choose for your manuscript depends on who the editor is and what your editing goals are. I have been sharing what types of editing I offer, how I define them, and what my process looks like. So far, we have discussed developmental and line editing. This week, we will talk about what copy editing is and who can benefit from it.

What Is It?

            When most people picture editing, they are thinking about copy editing. Copy editing is about correcting grammar, spelling, and other typos. Not everyone realizes that copy editing goes beyond mechanics to include writing style. A copy editor checks that the author or publisher’s writing style is applied consistently throughout the manuscript. This editing process is all about reviewing the details.

Who Is It For?

            Copy editing comes toward the end of the publication process. At this point, you should have developed the manuscript’s structure and reworded the text. All the significant changes have already been made, and you are ready to polish your manuscript. Essentially, if you are ready to publish your book but want to make sure you have a clean manuscript, copy editing is what you need.

What Is the Process?

            I work from a checklist but adjust depending on what your manuscript needs. My first reading of your manuscript will usually tell me enough to know how I need to adapt. I then start with running spell check and editing software (with the client’s permission). From there, I will move on to checking grammar, punctuation, and spelling. After I have reviewed all of the language mechanics, I move on to style. Here, I look for such things as proper word usage, good sentence length, and consistency in applying style rules.

            My next step is to fact-check if the client wishes (although I spot check a manuscript if I see a red flag). I also check readability. Vague wording can hide problems with facts. After I finish working through my checklist, I will read the manuscript one last time. This is to ensure that I have caught everything and that my changes make sense.


            Copy editing is more focused on the details than other types of editing are. It is about providing you with clean copy that is ready for publication. The details of your manuscript are just as important as the big picture. Copy editing can polish those details so that they present your ideas well.

My Services: Developmental Editing

            Editing is so much more than correcting grammar and punctuation. It has a much broader focus. Every editor has their definition of what editing is. During these next few blog posts, I’ll be giving more detailed descriptions of the types of editing I offer. I will explain what each type of editing is, who it is ideal for, and what my process is. Today, we will take a closer look at developmental editing.

What Is It?

            Developmental editing is about strengthening a manuscript’s structure and content. The “bones” of the manuscript, such as plot, setting, flow, and tone, are all important in this editing process. Although I might suggest corrections for grammar and spelling, it is not my first priority during a developmental edit. This process is about giving your manuscript a solid foundation for presenting your ideas.

Who Is It for?

            Developmental editing is heavy-handed, which makes it ideal for rough drafts or unfinished projects that are in trouble. It is also helpful for authors who are starting out and still learning their craft. It can even be good for a few chapters to help the author gauge what developmental stage their manuscript is at.

What Is the Process?

            I have a checklist I follow with each edit. Before I edit anything, I always take the time to read it. I want to know what I’m getting into before I rearrange things. Afterward, I take care of housekeeping items such as spellcheck and removing extra spaces. I will usually customize my checklist to include any problems that caught my attention during the first reading.

            The first things I focus on are titles and headings. They need to be engaging enough to catch your reader’s attention while informing the reader about what is coming in the text. The next focus is the introduction and conclusion. Both paragraphs are usually strong because authors spend the most time perfecting them. I make sure that the paragraphs are engaging for readers, plainly state (or restate) the point, and fit together cohesively.

            Next, I look at the structure of the manuscript. I make sure that the ideas in the introduction are carried throughout the manuscript. They need to be expanded logically in the text. As I move through the manuscript, I look for plot holes, inconsistencies, poor descriptions, inaccuracies, and ill-timed pacing. I want the content to have value for both you and your reader. You should feel that your content is expressing your ideas clearly; and the reader should find your manuscript intriguing and easy to understand.

            My next concern is logic and flow. These aspects overlap with structure because they are related. I look for good transitions between paragraphs and logical flow through the manuscript. The text isn’t the only focus in this part. It is also important that extra content, such as charts or images, tie into the surrounding text and add value to the manuscript.

            I always take special care to look at dialogue. It needs to flow like a natural conversation and make sense to the reader. If the dialogue is forced, the reader won’t believe it and will be turned off from the story. Depending on your manuscript’s setting, the dialogue also needs to fit within the location and time. It is a critical part of building your manuscript’s world.

            My next concern is the tone and voice. The tone will let your manuscript make the right impression on your readers. I make sure that the tone is appropriate and stays consistent. For voice, I ensure that your manuscript has more active voice than passive so that it will exude confidence and authority.

            Finally, I will look at clarity and accuracy. I put these elements last because they are so important. These two are imperative for every type of writing, which makes it important for me to address any existing issues with them. Above all else, the reader needs to clearly understand the manuscript and trust that the information is accurate. With all my projects, I do one final read-through to make sure I haven’t introduced new errors into the manuscript while I was making significant changes.


            What you get from an editing process depends on who the editor is and what type of editing they are doing. I view developmental editing as a process that helps authors create a well-structured manuscript out of their rough drafts. Developmental editing looks at all the important elements of writing to ensure that they will support the content of your work and successfully share your ideas with your readers.

Apostrophes Explained

            Writers seem to become more frustrated and confused by apostrophes than any other punctuation mark. Apostrophes are an important part of English, which makes correct usage imperative. Instead of guessing at where an apostrophe should go, you can confidently use this punctuation by remembering their three main functions.

Function #1: Possession

            The first function, and most common, is creating the possessive form of words. Writers show possession by either adding an apostrophe or an apostrophe with an s to a word. Which one you choose depends on who is doing the possessing. If you have a singular noun, you need to add the apostrophe with an s. An example is “Tom’s books.” If you have a plural noun, you need to add only an apostrophe. An example of this is “the boys’ books.”

There are two exceptions to this rule. The first applies to singular words that end with an s, such as James. You could write them with just an apostrophe, but for the sake of clarity, several style guides recommend that you use the apostrophe with an s. In my writing, I decide case-by-case. I’m more old school in my preferences for punctuation, which means I often use only an apostrophe. I will sometimes add the s if I think it necessary for clarity’s sake. For example, you can write either “James’ book” or “James’s book.” Unless you are following a style guide, you should choose whichever you prefer and stay with it.

The second exception involves plural words that are formed without an s, such as children or mice. These words are treated like they are singular and receive an apostrophe with an s. The best way to remember this is that if it doesn’t already have an s, you will need to add one to make it possessive.

Function #2: Contractions

            The second function of apostrophes is creating contractions. English-speakers are adept at contracting their words and omitting letters when they speak. To replicate that in writing, apostrophes indicate places where the writer omitted letters. For contractions, the apostrophe will often go towards the end of the word. So, for instance, “I don’t have that book.” The apostrophe indicates that “do not” has been contracted into one word with the o removed.

Apostrophes can also indicate the omission of letters elsewhere in a word. For example, “That cake is lookin’ good.” The apostrophe takes the place of the omitted g. In these situations, the apostrophe goes wherever you omitted letters.

Contractions and other omissions can be useful to make writing have the same natural flow of speech. However, you want to keep track of how many contractions you are using. Too many can change the tone of your writing and make it hard to read.

Function #3: Plurals

            The final function of apostrophes is a lot less common than the other two and much more controversial. An apostrophe can be used occasionally to create a plural. This most often happens with numbers, letters, and symbols.

Depending on which style guide you consult, the advice will differ greatly. One rule everyone seems to agree on is how to create the plural form of lowercase letters. When talking about letters, you should use the apostrophe with an s. For example, “You forgot to dot your i’s.” Without the apostrophe, the sentence would not make sense because there would be little indication that it is a letter and not a word.

With abbreviations, capital letters, and numbers, advice becomes more varied. You can add the apostrophe with an s to create the plural. They would look like this: MRI’s, I’s, 1800’s. You can also go without the apostrophe, which seems to be the more popular way. In that case, those same words would look like this: MRIs, Is, 1800s.

Which form you choose will depend heavily on meaning and clarity, as you can see from the example. If you aren’t careful, a reader might misinterpret your plurals as indicating possession, or as a different word than you intended. If you must use a style guide, reference which version the guide prefers. Otherwise, I suggest choosing one form and staying with it.


            If you can remember these three functions and how to apply them, you will have no problems with apostrophes. The application of apostrophes relies on the sentence’s meaning and structure. If you follow the simple rules and remember the importance of clarity, you will know where an apostrophe is necessary without hesitation. As with all parts of writing, don’t be afraid to look it up. It is always better to check rather than depend on memory.

The Value of Distance in Editing

            You come across times when you need to self-edit your writing every day. It’s inevitable. Self-editing might not sound like anything to worry about, but it has hidden difficulties. The greatest obstacle is how easily you can miss a mistake because your brain knows your writing too well. There is a solution that can help you edit your work successfully. The answer is distance.

Why Distance Is Necessary

            You might be having a hard time imagining how distance can be valuable to you with your writing. As the author of your words, you know them better than anyone else. That knowledge is a natural outcome, but it can be detrimental to your editing. As an editor, you know your work too well, which can cause you to miss mistakes that another person might see. Distance from your writing makes it fresh to your mind again.

How to Create Distance

            There are a few ways you can create distance between you and your work. The first way is to put actual distance between you and the draft. Walk away from your writing for a time and focus on something else. The more time you can take away from your work, the better. I try to let a day go by without looking at my writing before I begin editing. When I do go back, I’m usually horrified by the number of mistakes in my draft. The distance helps me see what I couldn’t before. You don’t have to take a whole day away from your writing for the distance to benefit your editing. Any amount of time is helpful, but I would recommend at least taking thirty minutes away from your writing before you begin to edit it.

            Another way to create distance is by altering the original so that the writing appears new to your brain. Disguising your draft is possible by changing fonts, font size, color, and spacing. I use eleven-point Lucida Sans Unicode in black single-spaced when I write. When I edit, I change the type to fourteen-point Courier New in light blue double-spaced. The changes are enough to make the article look completely different. Printing your work out and editing it manually with proofreader marks is also an option. I have not tried editing physical copy, though, because I write too much to make that a cost-effective option.


            When self-editing your work, distance is your friend. Put time and space between you and your writing so that you can approach the editing process with a fresh perspective. You can also create distance by changing the appearance of the draft so that it looks like a new work. Self-editing might be a tricky process, but it doesn’t have to be impossible if you take preventative steps.

How to Choose a Topic That Interests Your Audience

            Several weeks ago, I wrote on my old blog site about how to balance your writer’s voice with your audience’s interests[1]. You know you need to capture the attention of your readers so that they will read your writing and understand your point. Now, you need to determine what interests them. Everyone has their process for coming up with a topic for their articles or posts. I’ll be sharing three ways you can use to choose a topic that your audience will love.

            The first way is the simplest. Your publication will likely have parameters for you to follow. Those guidelines will narrow your choices for topics a great deal. Even if you are writing as a freelancer or business owner, you should already have a target audience in mind. Parameters give you a general idea of what your audience, including your publication, expects. You can take those expectations and incorporate them into your work through both topic choice and writing style.

            A second way you can determine what will interest your audience is by considering demographical information. Think about what qualities your target audience has. Their location, their age, and any other demographical details can give you clues of what your target audience cares about. The industry your writing for will give you a general idea of what to expect. There is also plenty of research online that you can use for statistics that will give you a gist of what topics your audience cares about. My only warning is to be careful of stereotypes. You want to base your writing on facts, not false perceptions. Make sure that the sources you use are credible and don’t let demographical information be the only basis for your topics.

            A final way you can determine what topics will interest your audience is by asking questions that put you in their position. If you were the audience, what would you want to read? What kind of problems might you have that need to be solved? For example, let’s say you are writing an article for first-time owners of chihuahua puppies. What would you want to know if you were a first-time owner? You would want to know all the basics about a puppy’s care, of course, but you would also need to know breed-specific information. I wish I knew how much a short-haired chihuahua sheds before I got one! By including this information in your article, you will be supplying your audience with important answers to problems they have right now and ones they don’t even know they have yet.

            As the author, you need your writing to appeal to your audience. The best way to do that is to choose topics that offer them useful information and answers to their questions. By following publication guidelines, completing thorough research about your audience, and placing yourself in their position; you can identify what will capture your audience’s attention.

[1] You can find the first article here: