The Proofreader's Parlour
A blog for editors, proofreaders and writers
In my column on Rich Adin's An American Editor blog, I consider the challenge that the new editorial freelancer faces of being interesting in a competitive market.
An editorial freelancer may not have much experience of editorial work but this “weakness” can be ameliorated when she focuses a potential client’s attention on what she does know a lot about, and then targeting those clients who appreciate that knowledge and see it as part of a solution to the problems they have.
To read the article in full, visit The Proofreader’s Corner: Knowing and Showing Your Strengths (or Being Interesting).
Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader's Parlour. She is also the author of several books on business planning and marketing for editors and proofreaders.
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.
Every writer, copy-editor and proofreader comes across words that are used correctly but spelled incorrectly (typos), but we also have to look out for words that are spelled correctly but used incorrectly – this is the world of confusables.
What are confusables?
Some confusables are not only spelled differently, they sound very different too, e.g. imply/infer; militate/mitigate; reactionary/reactive. In this case, the writer might have misunderstood the meaning.
Some confusables are homophones – words that are spelled differently but sound the same, e.g. rein/reign; stationary/stationery; prophecy/prophesy; loath/loathe. In this case, the writer understands the different meanings, but is unsure of the appropriate spelling.
Then there are errors that are simply a result of hands moving too fast over a keyboard – the meanings and correct spellings are known to the writer, but, in their haste, perhaps they’ve transposed a couple of letters or omitted a character.
Or it may be that the automatic spellcheck has kicked into gear and the writer hasn’t noticed the problem because they’re concentrating on the bigger picture. Examples might include e.g. filed/field; adverse/averse; pubic/public.
Writers aren't the only ones with blind spots. Editorial pros do too. It’s our job to spot these problems and fix them. However, we’re only human and most of us have a few blind-spot words that our eyes are, on occasion, less likely to notice, even though we do know the differences in meaning and spelling.
My own blind spots are gaffe/gaff, brake/break and peek/pique/peak. I don’t know why my eye doesn’t spot these pesky confusables as readily, especially when the likes of compliment/complement or stationary/stationery scream at me from the page! However, I accept that I do have blind spots and have taken steps to ameliorate the problem with a little mechanical help – the macro.
How can macros help?
Using macros enables us to identify possible problems before we get down to the business of actually reading, line by line, for sense.
Every time we find an error, we have to think about it and decide whether to amend. By reducing the number of interruptions, we can focus our attention on the flow of the words in front of us and increase efficiency.
For this reason, I, like many of my colleagues, run my macros at the beginning of a project (though I often repeat the process at the end stage too).
What’s on offer in the world of confusables?
There are several free macros available to the copy-editor or proofreader who wants to tackle confusables with efficiency. See, for example, the excellent “A Macro for Commonly Confused Words” published by C.K. MacLeod on Tech Tools for Writers (updated July 2015).
Another option, and the one that I’m currently using, is the CompareWordList macro created by Allen Wyatt on WordTips. See “Highlight Words from a List” (updated July 2015).
As some of you will already know, Wyatt has two WordTips sites; the one you use will be determined by which version of Word you’re running.
The linked article above will take readers to the article written for MS Word 2007, 2010 and above. If you are working with an older version of Word, you’ll need to follow Wyatt’s links to the sister site.
Why I’m using Wyatt’s CompareWordList
CompareWordList is currently my preferred tool simply because of how easy it is to create and update my own list of words to be checked – words that can, on occasion, be blind spots for me.
As I’ll show below, customizing the list of confusables doesn’t require me to amend the script of the macro once it’s installed. Instead, all I have to do is amend a basic list in a Word document – nice and simple!
Using CompareWordList 1: Create your list of confusables
The first thing to do is to create a list of the words you want the macro to find, and highlight, in a Word document.
Using CompareWordList 2: Get, and tweak, the code
Visit “Highlight Words from a List” and copy the code. If you’re completely new to installing macros, just paste the script in a Word document for now so that you can tweak it easily.
Below is a screenshot of Wyatt's code. The highlighted sections show where I’ve tweaked the code to suit my own needs.
Tweaks to consider
(1) I’ve changed Wyatt's code (as per his suggestion) so that it describes where my list of confusables is located: sCheckDoc = "c:\Users\Louise\Dropbox\Macros\confusables.docx". You’ll use the location you made a note of when you created your own list (see the section above – Using CompareWordList 1: Create your list of confusables).
(2) Wyatt's code emboldens the words found by the macro; I wanted them highlighted so I replaced the highlighted text as follows: .Replacement.Highlight = True.
(3) I changed the Match Whole Word instruction to False because I wanted the macro to find part words. This, of course, will pull up some false positives but it was the easiest solution I could find.
(4) I also changed the Match Case instruction to False.
Now that you’ve tweaked the code to suit your own needs, you’re ready to install it (the basic, step-by-step instructions below are provided for the benefit of those who are completely new to macro installation).
Using CompareWordList 3: Install the code
With Word open, open the “View” tab and click on the “Macros” icon on the ribbon.
This will open up a new window.
If you don’t have any macros already loaded:
If you have macros loaded (your TEST macro or any other):
This will open up a further window:
Removing highlights one by one
Here’s a tiny macro that I recorded to remove a highlight as I move through a Word document. Installing this means I simply have to click on a highlighted word and run the macro.
Assigning a shortcut button (see below) makes the job easy and efficient. I decided on Alt H because I don’t have that keyboard shortcut assigned to any function that I carry out regularly.
' UndoHighlight Macro
Options.DefaultHighlightColorIndex = wdNoHighlight
Selection.Range.HighlightColorIndex = wdNoHighlight
To install: Simply copy the red script above and install it in the same way that you installed the CompareWordList macro.
To create a shortcut key: In Word, select File, Options, Customize Ribbon (1). Click on Customize (2). A new box will open up entitled “Customize keyboard”. In the Categories window (3), scroll down and select Macros. In the Macros window (4), select UndoHighlight. Finally, choose your preferred keyboard combination by typing it into the Press New Shortcut Key window (5). Select Assign and Close.
To remove ALL highlighting in one go: For this job, Paul Beverley’s your man. A huge number of macros are available in his free book, Computer Tools for Editors (available on his website at Archive Publications).
Hope you find this useful!
Louise Harnby is a fiction copyeditor and proofreader. She curates The Proofreader's Parlour and is the author of several books on business planning and marketing for editors and proofreaders.
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader & Copyeditor, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.
If you're an author, you might like to visit Louise’s Writing Library to access my latest self-publishing resources, all of which are free and available instantly.
So what is the best way to promote your editorial business? If you don’t have any experience of marketing, the task can seem daunting – so much to consider, so many things to try!
Actually, there is no “best way” that will apply universally to each individual in the editorial community. What works best for you may not work best for me. That’s because it’s more than likely that you and I have different skills, backgrounds and specialisms; we are offering different services to different client types in different parts of the world; and whom, and where, our primary customers are will determine how they are most likely to find us.
One option for the inexperienced marketer is therefore to start at the macro level – with the marketing wheel ...
What is the marketing wheel?
The marketing wheel is a concept that I first discussed in my book Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business (2014). It’s a starting point for visualizing your editorial business broadly, and organizing your thoughts so that you can approach the task comfortably. The minutiae can come later.
The marketing wheel is a reminder that marketing is about joined-up thinking – that marketing isn’t about doing X, Y and Z in isolation. Rather, X, Y and Z are interconnected components of a broader strategy. For example, your business cards are linked to your website because you’ll include your web address on them; your social media profiles can act as conduits for sharing any added-value content that you develop for your website; your directory advertising can include information about professional societies that you engage with as part of the professional networking process; and so on; your business name, logo and colour way will be consistent across all channels; and so on.
Your marketing strategy is like a wheel on a bike. The hub of the wheel is your editorial business. The rim is your customers and colleagues. The hub and the rim are connected by spokes upon which lie the marketing activities that you will carry out and the concepts you’ve embraced in order to communicate with your customer.
Below is a copy of the marketing wheel that I created in autumn 2013 when I started writing Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.
The activities/tools that I’ve assigned to the spokes, and the underlying concepts that I’ve assigned to the spaces in between those spokes, are not set in stone. The marketing wheel presented here is based on those tools and concepts that I consider important for me – your wheel could look the same, similar or completely different.
The important point is that this type of visualization can help the inexperienced marketer to start at the macro level and think in a joined-up way about who their customers and colleagues are (the rim), what their business is offering (the hub), which activities/tools would best bridge the gap between the two (the spokes), and what concepts will be embraced when bridging that gap (the spaces).
Creating your own marketing wheel
The marketing wheel can be simple, like the one above, or more detailed if you prefer. It’s your wheel so it’s up to you! Some inexperienced marketers will want to fill in the labels with a lot more information. My own marketing strategy is a rather wordy document – it started years back with scribbles in a notepad that later became an extensive Word document. But if you’re the kind of person who prefers infographics, pictures and maps to record your preferences, goals, future plans and strategies, a more comprehensive image may well be the way forward for you while developing your promotional strategy.
Below is a link to a PDF featuring an unlabelled marketing wheel that you can annotate yourself using your PDF editor’s onboard commenting and markup tools (there’s no need to seek permission to use this, or the filled-in version above, for private use – my only request is that for public presentation you attribute the source appropriately).
When creating your own personalized marketing wheel, start by considering the following:
So, your marketing wheel needn’t be a static tool – you can change it as your strategy develops.
You may find that, as you begin to think more deeply about how to fill in your wheel, your priorities change – perhaps after considering your skill set and USPs, you realize that you need to tweak the client groups you planned to target, focusing on others who are a better fit for your specialist subjects and skills.
This will require you to alter the information in the rim. In turn, this might necessitate changing the key tools/activities you’ll employ to reach those customers, and so you’ll need to amend the spokes accordingly.
In other words, don’t let the wheel dictate the information that you label it with; rather, let the information determine the design of the wheel.
Remember, the wheel is nothing more than a visual representation of the things you are thinking about with regard to marketing your editorial business. It’s a pictorial map that provides, at minimum, an overview of the services you will offer, a record of to whom you will offer them, the tools you will use to communicate that message, and the complementary activities you will carry out to ensure that those tools are effective.
A final word
The marketing wheel is just one approach to thinking about editorial business promotion. I like it because it’s simple.
Even the inexperienced marketer will be familiar with the image and I think this makes it a useful tool for tackling a subject – marketing – that some new entrants to the field find daunting.
If you’re a newbie who’s struggling to get your head around business promotion, try using the wheel as a way of organizing your thoughts.
Even if you later move on to developing a more detailed strategy in written form, the visual representation of your initial ideas will provide you with a kick-starter to help you on your way.
Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and copyeditor. She curates The Proofreader's Parlour and is the author of several books on business planning and marketing for editors and proofreaders.
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.
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