The Pen is Mightier than the Sword!

Posts tagged ‘writing’

Re-using Your Own Content

I had a situation recently re: re-using content I had written for a client as a freelance/contract writer. I had written and submitted an article for them as part of the contract. Never got any feedback from them as to whether they accepted/rejected it. Then they ended the contract for their own business reasons. About a month later, I decided to re-use the article for a content site. The client got wind of it and requested a refund for the time I’d billed them for writing/submitting the article for their contract. Long story short – it was my bad. At the time, I didn’t realize I was making such  grave error. After some research, I decided to refund their payment – mainly because I wanted to retain ownership of the rights to publish the content.

Lesson learned.

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Proofreading Your Work

Whether it’s your own work or someone else’s, proofreading requires a certain keen eye for detail. Below is an article I came across from my own files that I wanted to share. It is from a site called “Wordwide Freelance Writer” and this was included in an email I received as a subscriber to their newsletter on/around 1/2013. There was no direct link to the article which is why I’m including the full article here.

How to Proofread Your Own Writing: Five Proven Strategies

by Amanda Laughtland

If only the world were a magical place where you could produce an error-free final product on your first draft of an essay, report, letter, article, or other writing task! In reality, it’s useful to know some techniques that can make it easier to proofread your own work.

Proofreading should take place after you’ve already completed editing the content of your piece. When you start proofreading, you’re at the point where you already feel that your writing expresses your ideas, includes enough evidence and examples, and has a clear sense of organization and structure.

I’ve been teaching writing since 2004 (and tutoring for many years before that), and here are five tips I’ve seen writers at all levels use to help them find and fix errors in their writing.

1. Slow down. A lot of mistakes slip by because writers don’t slow down enough to notice small, sentence-level details. Look at every sentence, every word, and every punctuation mark.

2. Read aloud. If you haven’t tried this before, you might be amazed at how many errors you’ll catch just by reading your work out loud. For some reason, it can be easier to “hear” errors that you couldn’t “see.” Also, reading aloud will help you find places where the wording sounds awkward.

Sometimes people feel shy about reading out loud, but I know from personal experience that it’s worth the effort; I find lots of errors in my own writing with this technique. If you feel uncomfortable, wait until nobody’s home, or just close your door and pretend to be on the phone.

If you prefer, you can also work with a partner for this technique: ask a friend or family member to read your work aloud while you listen and make notes about necessary corrections.

3. Print out your work. We get used to reading on screens, but studies show that we don’t read as closely when reading from a screen as from a printed page. Also, it’s helpful to look at your work from a new perspective rather than just scrolling through the same document over and over.

I learned a tip from novelist and nonfiction writer Skye Moody that it also helps to print out your work in a different font than you’ve been using as you edit on your document on your computer. Seeing the words in a different font can give you that little bit of distance you need to see your writing in a new way, and errors might jump out more readily.

4. Try reading from bottom to top. After you’ve already proofread your work in the conventional way, from beginning to end, give your document a read-through where you start at the end and read back to the beginning, focusing on just one sentence at a time.

When you read your work from beginning to end, you can get caught up in the flow of the content and just breeze through it, not noticing the spelling, grammar, and punctuation of each individual sentence. Reading from end to beginning can help give you the sentence-level focus you need to find and fix errors.

5. Review grammar and punctuation rules as needed. Has it been years since you thought about the rules for using commas? There are lots of great online resources to help you brush up your skills.

My two favorite sets of easy-to-use informational sheets and practice exercises are from the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University, and the Guide to Grammar and Writing provided by Capital Community College in Hartford.

After working through these five tips, you may also want to ask someone else to have a look at your work; we all have stubborn errors we don’t notice ourselves but which someone else might notice right away. If you proofread your own work at least a couple of times before sharing it, hopefully you can significantly reduce the workload for your friend, family member, or colleague who has volunteered to take a look at your writing.

About the Author

Amanda Laughtland is a writer who teaches English at the college level. She is the editor and publisher of Teeny Tiny Press, a small publisher of books and zines. She also publishes interviews with authors, artists, performers, entrepreneurs, and other creative professionals on her blog, With Five Questions.

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Written versus Spoken Words

Whether or not you realize it, Writing and Speaking require different skills. A writer can craft a document with the expectation that it will be READ, not spoken out loud (unless they are a speechwriter). A speaker’s expectation is that they will be talking to a live audience and that the audience will not have written material to follow along.

Writing and Speaking are two distinct categories of communication. In my opinion and based on my experience as a writer, they certainly are not one and the same. Writers may also be speakers or write for those who are speakers. But mostly they stick to their craft – writing. Speakers might also write their own material, but generally writing is not their primary area of expertise (which explains why speech writers will always have a job).

Crucial Differences

Aside from the expertise of the writer versus the speaker, a crucial difference in my mind is the method of delivery: written word or spoken word. The written word can be read and understood by nearly anyone with a basic understanding of English, regardless of their native language. Conversely, the spoken word may have the influence of a non-native English speaker or the twang/colloquialism of a native English speaker from a different area of the United States that a listener is not accustomed to hearing. Examples include: the Southern Drawl, the Native New Yorker style, the Midwestern/Chicago style (Deese/These, Dem/Them, Doze/Those; Da/The Bears, etc.), and the Northeastern/New England style. One needs only to watch various TV shows to get a sample of how each of these dialects sounds. But how does a writer write them, especially if they are natives of the particular region of the country? The short answer is: a (good) writer will write a word, sentence, paragraph, etc. based on their knowledge of the written form – not the spoken form. The more formal or professional the work needs to be based on the audience, the more proper and correct the language should be. Hence, a writer will use “p-a-r-k” to describe an open area used for recreation, but the speaker of that word will pronounce it based on how they have learned to pronounce it in the region where they live or came from.

Understanding English with an Accent

Beyond the dialects and colloquialisms of English in America, we continue to be a huge “melting pot” that includes people  from other countries around the world. Even many who are a third or later generation from another country often speak English with some kind of accent that harkens to their native language. I have been in myriad situations where I simply could not understand what a speaker was saying because of their accent – one I was not accustomed to hearing and deciphering. But when I had the opportunity to READ what they were saying, it became crystal clear. The written word generally has no accent – it simply is what it is. The exceptions I can think of are words that came from another language to begin with like attache’ – a french word for a briefcase, or a person affiliated with a government agency.

Most writers I’ve worked with over the years use “common U.S. English”, regardless of where they are from or currently live and we communicate mostly by email – the written word. Sometimes it is a surprise to get on the phone (or VOIP) with them and realize they speak with an accent or in a dialect I’m not entirely familiar with. And therein is my point: Almost anyone understands the written word, but the spoken word is not always so clear and universal.

When a Typo Isn’t a Typo

For those who write, edit and/or proofread their own work or that of others.

I’ve been keeping a running list, based on proofreading other writer’s work and my own. Here’s what I’ve found so far.

  • often/of ten (I go there often./Here’s a list of ten things I found.)
  • ding/doing (Your boss might ding you for that activity./Are you doing that task correctly?)
  • tired/tried (I quickly tired of the task./I tried but failed to complete the task.)
  • fired/fried (He was fired for being late./I fried those eggs until they were done.)
  • wired/weird (Your connections must be wired correctly./Your configuration of those components is weird.)
  • or/our (You can go here or there./You can go to our website.)
  • there/their (You can go here or there./If you go to their website… )

I think (hope) you get the idea so I’ll continue with just the words – no examples.)

  • form/from
  • here/her
  • envelops/envelopes
  • principle (idea, concept)/principal (a person; CEO, president, etc.)
  • tough/though/thought/through
  • hew/new/mew
  • complement/compliment
  • compiles/complies
  • front/font
  • thing/think
  • closet/closer

This is by no means a comprehensive list. The correct word to use depends greatly on the subject matter of your document. For example: You probably would not use the word “mew” (the sound a cat makes) in a technical manual or white paper about a new customer management software program.

As you can see, a lot of these “typos” are not typos at all. They are due to “fat-fingering” on the keyboard as you’re typing your masterpiece. But as long as they are spelled correctly, the spell-check feature of Word (or your favorite word processing program will not flag them as typos. Finding them in your document requires keen attention to detail a.k.a. proofreading your own work – that is, if you don’t have the luxury of enlisting someone else to do it, who has the keen eye needed for this. Surprisingly, they are fairly easy to identify when you are reading or proofreading what someone else has written.

A primary reason for sharing this information is because anyone who is working (or wants to work) as a freelance writer wants their writing (article, log, marketing piece, etc.) to be polished and error-free. Errors like the ones I have listed above can degrade your integrity as a writer – regardless of the subject matter. A slip of the finger can make all the difference – particularly if you tout yourself as “detail-oriented”.

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