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16


Spring 2016


MY WORKING DAY


My Working Day “Scribes” for Hire


Lori Baxter and Hannah Comerford of The Scribe Source


Proofreading and editing were once professions largely consigned to the book-publishing industry. But with the ever-increasing volume—and value —of content across nearly every industry, the proofreader-for-hire is growing in demand. Here’s a look at how Lori Baxter, Owner of The Scribe Source, and Hannah Comerford, one of the team’s proofreaders, have responded to this need.


M


ost companies today are aware of the call to develop dynamic, quality


content to engage their audience. But it may not be as well known how a professional proofreader can contribute value to that process. Our goal as proofreaders and


editors is to remove obstacles between a client’s message and their audience’s comprehension of and engagement with that message. Inconsistencies and mistakes, even when minor, can distract readers and easily lead to disengagement, potentially undermining an entire content strategy.


back up to reread the text for a better understanding, or even worse, leave your site.


Our work every day consists of


removing “speed bumps” like these, increasing the likelihood that your message gets through and the audience cruises through to engagement.


Content of all shapes and sizes One of the things we love about our work is the variety of projects we see. On any given day, you might find us editing training materials, proofreading a digital magazine, developing website content, or reviewing K–12 science curriculum.


reader with an anecdote or practical example, or—perhaps most commonly—simplify for clarity. A lot of rewriting is done at this stage, either by the author or by us, if requested.


Copyediting (sometimes called line editing) is the middle stage of the process, when the details of a text are looked at carefully. Are name spellings, job titles, and URLs accurate and up-to-date? Are sources cited correctly? Grammar and punctuation used appropriately? Section headings formatted


It’s sometimes possible that, for whatever reason, a glaring mistake has gone unnoticed throughout the entire editing process until final proofing. We once proofread a 200-page corporate report that twice used the word “lavatory” in place of “laboratory.” None of the company’s internal editors caught the mistake, but I’m confident the executives whose names were attached to the report were glad we did!


For example, it might seem


unimportant that your website content switches from first-person to third-person pronouns when talking about the company. But the inconsistency will likely give the reader pause, even if subconsciously. If your content also alternates between discussing your “Extended Service Package” and your “Essential Service Package,” the reader may pause again, trying to guess if these descriptions are for the same package or two different ones. You now run the risk that, instead of responding to your call-to-action button, your audience will scroll


The people who hire us are just as


varied: PR and marketing professionals, training managers, web designers, business owners, and a score of other content producers who want to be sure the messages they’re distributing are as professional, accurate, and effective as they can be.


The difference between proofreading and editing Clients come to us at different stages of their project. Content editing (or developmental editing) is for early drafts of the text, where we might advise the author how he or she can strengthen an argument, engage the


consistently? This is where a lot of “speed bumps” are removed.


Proofreading is the final stage and should be completed after design and layout. In addition to checking for typos that may have snuck in during the production process, a proofreader checks for mistakes in headlines, image captions, page numbers (including page references throughout the text), and other elements that are not usually added until design and layout. 


What your proofreader will need to begin your project


Word count – Word count is more reliable than page count in determining cost and turnaround time.


Deadline – Factor in whether you’ll also want final changes rechecked after insertion into the layout.


Style guide of choice – Does your company or industry have a preferred style guide? Choices include Chicago Manual of Style (our top pick), AP Stylebook, APA, MLA, The Gregg Reference Manual, or perhaps your own internal guide developed over time.


File or hard copy of the proofs to be marked – While most content and line editing is done in Microsoft Word using the Track Changes tool, proofreading should be completed using the post-design proofs of your publication. This will likely mean a hard copy or a PDF file that incorporates Adobe’s Comment & Markup tools.


Our Favorite Grammar Nerds


Even the best proofreader gets stuck from time to time. Where do we turn when we’re stumped?


• Grammar Girl – Part of the Quick and Dirty Tips series, Mignon Fogarty offers down-to-earth advice on a multitude of grammar questions, often marked with quite a bit of humor.


• The Chicago Style Q&A – If a topic is not explicitly stated in The Chicago Manual of Style, it’s likely been asked of their editors at some point. We’ve even submitted our own questions and received prompt responses.


• Other Experts – If it’s an industry-specific term, we might seek out a well-respected source for an industry glossary or consult with friends, past colleagues, or even former professors with experience in a particular field.


Businesswritingblog.com – On matters of professional courtesy or formal business correspondence, this blog by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston is a great resource.


Looking for a place to connect with other professionals?


Check out the Editorial Freelancers Association at www.the-efa.org.


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