Writing 101: Are You Turning In Clean Copy?
Four Must-Do Things Before You Submit Your Article
Spelling and grammar errors are one thing when it comes to posting your feelings on Facebook, but when you’re submitting an article for pay, even through the Vocal family of sites, you need to be turning in work that is clean. I’ve read through many articles, and poems, even on Vocal, and I’ve noticed that some, though a very few so far, don’t seem to understand some simple concepts in proper English grammar.
Some gigs will have an editor that cleans up your mess, but not all of them do. And, if you are continually giving an editor more work to do they are going to quickly get frustrated with you. Plus, you end up making yourself look less educated by turning in articles with mistakes, and you also make the site or company you write for look bad. It could even lose you your writing gig.
Now, don’t get me wrong, even the pros make mistakes. The award-winning children’s book Island of the Blue Dolphins has a couple mistakes in it. I even let mistakes slip by me sometimes. But when you’re making a common mistake in everything you write (like writing “I had a earache” instead of properly typing “I had an earache") it’s time you go back to grammar class or stop writing for a living (or fun). People don't want to continually read your stuff if you always have those same annoying errors in it.
Use Spell Check
Spell check is a great asset. It can catch some of the basic mistakes, like misspelled words. However, it isn’t going to tell you when you’ve used the completely wrong word. We’ve all had it happen, we’re typing away and the article is on music but we have pizza on the brain so somehow the word “pulse” ends up “pizza”. Spell check isn’t going to point that mistake out to you.
Grammarly isn’t going to point it out either unless you’re paying for their upgrade. The free version of Grammarly can be very useful nonetheless. It can help you learn how to properly use punctuation. It can also catch some of the minor things that spell check misses.
The paid version of Grammarly can be a great asset to someone that writes for a living. It can alert you to syntax errors and more. It’s a monthly fee, but as a professional freelance writer, you could write-off the fee when tax time comes.
The only way to catch the wrong words in the wrong spots is to re-read your article, word-for-word. Reading it through as though it’s your first time reading the article (essentially it is since you were writing it not reading it). After you’ve silently read through it, skim through line by line to look for any other missed mistakes. Sometimes a word can be spelled completely wrong but look right when you’re reading it (that’s why those chain memes on Facebook with the vowels removed or words backward are so popular).
Read It Out Loud
Your last step should be to read the article out loud. This will ensure that every word and sentence you’ve written makes sense. You want it to read fluidly, not choppy as though someone with poor English wrote it.
If you’ve written in a conversational style you want it to read as though you could be speaking to a friend about the topic the article is on. If it’s in the third person and a more technical piece, you want it to read more like an instruction manual.
If you follow these steps with every article, blog post, poem, or even social media post you write you’ll rarely turn in anything but a clean copy. Your editors will love you and you’ll be more likely to get more writing gigs when people read your flawless writing samples.