If there’s one recurring message throughout this blog, it’s this: never, never, never pay for proofreading exercises. Never. If a proofreading course boasts proofreading exercises as part of its offer, then the chances are you are paying for them when you pay for the course. Which is crazy, because the internet is heaving with free proofreading exercises; you just need to know where to look.
If there is another recurring message running through this little blog of mine, then it is the importance of testimonials in creating a sturdy reputation for yourself as a freelance proof reader.
And, more often than not, the two go hand in hand. Wherever there are free proofreading exercises, there are plentiful opportunities for harvesting testimonials.
I’ve already mentioned writing forums, Yahoo! Answers and Constant Content. Well, here’s another great source of free proofreading exercises/testimonials:
That’s the URL for Duotrope. Duotrope is a resource to help writers find publishers who are currently seeking submissions. I know what you’re thinking: Well, that’s great if you’re an aspiring writer, but I’m an aspiring proof reader. What’s in it for me?
On the face of it, Duotrope is a resource for writers, but dig a little deeper and you find a massive database of publishers. Lots of these publishers fall under the category of ‘small press’ and are unlikely to be able to afford the services of professional proof readers. So, when you get in touch offering free proofreading services in exchange for testimonials (providing you do a good job, of course), I’d be surprised if they didn’t jump at the opportunity to work with you.
Just think how impressive it will look on your resume or website to have testimonials from companies with names like Woodland Press, Hourglass Books and Permuted Press?
Well, what are you waiting for?
On the sales page of this website and in the introduction to The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course itself, I advise my readers to be wary of any proofreading course which includes modules or chapters on the subject of grammar and proper English usage. The reason I counsel caution with regard to this is simple: why pay for something which is available elsewhere relatively cheaply (Fowler’s Modern English Usage) or completely free (The Plain English Campaign website)? It’s what the kids call a ‘no-brainer’. Apparently.
Well, I’ve just stumbled upon another fantastic free resource, offering comprehensive instruction on the subject of grammar and English usage. It’s an online training course provider called Alison and you’ll find it here.
There are a whole host of individual free courses available, from IT and mathematics to chemistry and economics. The course you’re likely to be interested in is called ‘English Grammar Rules’ and it is described thus:
“This free online course offers a comprehensive revision of English grammar. It is designed for those already fluent in English, but who want to improve their writing. It covers punctuation and grammar, from commas and colons to adverbs and prepositions. By completing this course, you will see a marked improvement in your written English. Each section breaks down the rules into easily assimilated explanations. There is a section on spelling. This course is ideal for anyone looking to improve their written and indeed spoken English.”
All you need to do is sign up (which is free) and go here. Then, one push of a button and you’re off.
I really can’t recommend this highly enough for those of you who feel their grammar skills may need a little bit of an overhaul before they attempt to embark on a proofreading career.
Best of luck.
Those of you who’ve read The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course will know that there’s a chapter on setting up and promoting your own freelance proofreading enterprise. In that chapter, I discuss attending networking events as a means of acquiring new clients. Because these networking events require you to be reasonably interesting and engaging and, superficially at least, proofreading isn’t perceived as being the most entertaining of topics, I provided you with a menu of real-life (and often amusing) proofreading blunders. Well, here’s one to add to the list.
I came across this on the BBC website today.
The gift shop at Australia's Parliament House has been forced to take 200 mugs from its shelves. The mugs were supposed to celebrate the visit of US President Barack Obama. Unfortunately they welcomed “Barrack Obama”, instead. In large, bold type.
The black and white mugs, featuring a smiling Mr Obama, retailed at $10 each. That’s $2000 down the drain. Not to mention the considerable embarrassment.
Parliamentary services secretary Alan Thompson said that his staff had learned a "valuable lesson" and that new mugs would be ordered with more attention to detail.
"It did seem a good idea at the time and I think it would have made an excellent keepsake... had the spelling been correct," he said.
Ah, for the want of a proof reader...
A couple of blog entries ago, I advised you to visit writing forums, offering your proofreading services free of charge, in exchange for glowing testimonials to plaster all over your website and promotional literature. Well, here’s another potential wellspring of free proofreading exercises and testimonials: Constant Content.
Constant Content is a free-to-join website where freelance writers can sell their articles and pick up article-writing assignments. Constant Content has a very high editorial standard and articles are routinely rejected due to errors or plain poor writing.
All you need to do is join up. Pop along to the forum (which you’ll need to join separately) and offer your services. Make it perfectly clear that you are a budding proof reader and you are offering your services gratis, otherwise you are likely to be viewed as a spammer attempting to drum-up business.
This is a great opportunity to get your teeth into some real proofreading work whilst accumulating those all-important testimonials (the kind of testimonials which are likely to guarantee you paying work in the not-so-distant future). There is a massive variety of articles, across a broad range of topics. Fast turnaround is essential as articles are often written to demand with deadlines looming.
Best of luck.
Click here to go to Constant Content.
As you’ll know if you’ve read The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course or popped into the ‘About the Author’ page on this site, as well as actively working as a proof reader, I also spent two years working as an Operations Manager for the UK’s largest home shopping business, Shop Direct. During this time, I was responsible for overseeing the production of thousands of pages each year, from design, through repro, and finally on to print (or upload, in the case of the numerous websites). Crucial to this process were the proof readers, ensuring pages were presented to the public free from error.
Now, producing pages free from error was one goal (and, it goes without saying, an important one). Another (arguably more important) goal was getting the pages to press on time. Launch dates are crucial to any business with a vast amount of tightly coordinated marketing activity planned to orbit around such launches. As for ‘to press’ dates, these are, quite simply, set in stone. To miss them is to invite very hefty fines. I’ve known fines of as much as £20,000. Per day.
So, as an Operations Manager, I was balancing the need for quality with the need to hit all scheduled milestone dates on time.
This called for compromise.
As a proof reader, particularly if you find yourself working for a commercially driven organisation (and few organisations aren’t commercially driven in one way or another), you’ll be called upon to compromise.
This means identifying corrections that absolutely must be carried out and those which are ‘nice to do’. It’s going to hurt a little, I’m afraid, but you’re just going to have to be strong.
Examples of the kinds of things that absolutely must be carried out include:
• Spelling errors
• Factual inaccuracies
• Incorrect information (e.g. contact details)
• Lack of clarity (and other ‘customer unfriendly’ copy)
• Anything that might bring the business into disrepute
Examples of the kinds of things that are ‘nice to do’ include:
• Stylistic inconsistencies
• Hyphen usage
• Split infinitives and other slight deviations from the strictest rules of English grammar
• Personal bugbears (e.g. you might be irked by the overuse of adverbs)
When marking up a proof, use two different coloured pens, one red and one green. The red marks are crucial, the green ‘nice to do’. This enables you to demonstrate to your employer that you haven’t missed anything and at the same time lets them know that you fully appreciate the need for schedule adherence.
When I was an Operations Manager, one of my duties was carrying out performance reviews. Those proof readers that showed an appreciation of matters beyond the scope of their day-to-day activities (i.e. recognised that they were part of a greater whole) always receives glowing appraisals.
And, hopefully, so will you.
“I am one of those many fools who paid a huge amount of money for a useless course. This book... has opened so many doors for me. I now look on Mike as my mentor as I embark on a career. Thank you Mike.”
Emma Steel, Proofreader and International Structural Editor.
“ I thoroughly enjoyed the course and am so glad that I decided to take it... the whole experience was invaluable. My proofreading service is now well established and your course played no small part in getting it off the ground.”
Hache L. Jones, Proofreader.
“I'd just like to thank you first of all for writing such a great, straight forward eBook, and then going above and beyond what I would even expect as a customer by providing us, completely free of charge, updated versions months later!”
Rachel Gee, Trainee Proofreader.
“What can I say? Worth every penny and then some! God Bless! This a fabulous course.”
Teresa Richardson, Proofreader.
“As someone who has effectively been proofreading for thirty years, I found Mike’s No-Nonsense Proofreading Course an invaluable introduction and a very useful practical guide to many aspects of this discipline. I can wholeheartedly recommend it as the ideal starting point, and much more besides.”
Jeremy Meehan, Proofreader.
My name's Mike Sellars and I'm an experienced proofreader and the author of The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course. Click here to find out more about me.
The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course
A Fraction of the Cost of Other Proofreading Courses
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“As someone who has been proofreading for 30 years, I found Mike’s course an invaluable introduction and a very useful practical guide to many aspects of the discipline. I can wholeheartedly recommend it.” Jeremy Meehan, Proofreader.
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