Posted on

5 Reasons Businesses Invest in Writing Services

Professional Writing Services

Professional Writing ServicesWhen they begin to develop content for their websites and marketing materials, businesses often have unrealistic expectations about the time and skill the process requires. They think, “It can’t be that hard to create some content, right? Just put together a few paragraphs, and voilà!”

Not quite.

As a writer, you know about the hours it takes to produce quality content. You know the difficulty of gearing an article toward a certain audience or composing a phrase that will resonate with all readers.

Part of being a freelance writer or professional writing service is demonstrating to potential clients how your skills—the skills you have spent years cultivating—will help them consistently produce content at a level of quality that they could not have reached without you.

As in any business, part of appealing to potential clients is understanding their pain points, or the problems they face on a daily basis that cause them frustration. Sometimes, potential clients are not even aware of their pain points until you show them a solution that will increase their efficiency and, ultimately, their bottom line.

The following list will help you understand some of the pain points experienced by businesses in the area of content production. Use this list as you build your brand as a freelancer and continue to develop—and market—your skills.

1. Businesses really don’t have the time to write.

It might not always look like it, but you know that writing right is hard work. It involves researching, organizing, composing, editing, and proofreading.

Many small businesses can’t afford to hire a full-time writer to produce content for their blog or website, so they must rely on other support staff to accomplish this goal. For an inexperienced writer, a single article can easily take five hours to write properly, while an epic post of up to 2,000 words could take as long as 10 hours or more to research, write, and edit. Add to this the need to fulfill all their other duties as well, and the business’s goal of producing new site content weekly—or even monthly—becomes either a major source of stress or an unattainable wish.

Professional writing services and freelance writers can address this pain point by working on a per-project or per-hour basis, allowing support staff to focus on their real priorities.

2. Writing is not a business owner’s highest and best use.

Most entrepreneurs didn’t get into business to become a writer or an accountant or a salesperson. They got into business because they had a great idea and found a way to monetize it.

Anything that takes them away from their main tasks of organizing, long-term planning, and networking can actually harm their business. If small business owners choose to focus on something they could easily outsource (i.e., content writing), they are using up time during which they could be advancing their business in the long term and are creating bottlenecks for projects that need their review or approval. Outsourcing the task of content creation to freelance writers or professional writing services enables business owners to focus on doing what they need and want to be doing—running and growing their business.

3. Writing is not employees’ highest and best use, either.

There are a number of content marketing blogs that suggest that businesses should involve the whole company in producing material for their blog or for social media. The idea isn’t completely without merit, as it is a great way to share a business’s knowledge, allow customers to see the names and faces of employees, and pump out content at a high rate. But it comes with an astonishing number of hidden costs.

First, as previously mentioned, support staff are not usually professional writers, so the company can end up investing a lot of time (and therefore money) in redrafting, editing, and proofreading the material. Second, businesses are effectively paying hourly rates for content that they could likely get for less by using a professional writing service. This is especially true if they are getting managers or IT staff to write for them, as these positions typically command higher rates of pay. Third, and most importantly, there are the opportunity costs. Time spent on producing content is time not spent doing what the employees were hired to do in the first place.

4. Creating content in-house complicates scheduling.

The Internet runs on an up-to-the-minute basis, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Business websites have to keep up. To ensure that prospects and customers return to a business’s site, new content must be posted regularly so that visitors do not lose interest (and so that Google continues to reward the site with a good page rank).

If companies attempt to do this themselves, they must commit a chunk of time every week. If a business relies on staff to contribute, they will require a rota to make sure everyone contributes equally and consistently. They will also have to schedule around vacation time, sick leave, conferences, and the big projects, which inevitably start sucking up whole weeks as deadlines approach.

Freelancers and professional writing services specialize in producing content according to strict deadlines, and reliable services guarantee that the content is completed and ready to publish by the deadline. By outsourcing these tasks, business owners and employees can ensure that their site always features fresh, high-quality content.

5. Do they even SEO?

Writing for the web is significantly different from writing for print. Search engines rank websites based on their content and relevance, and this has a major impact on how much traffic the writing attracts. If the proper keywords and phrases are present, the article can get into the top rankings. However, if this is not the case, the writing can be lost forever in a sea of web content. On the flip side, writing strictly for search engines can lead to keyword stuffing; this results in awkward, hard-for-humans-to-read prose that will earn a penalty from Google.

So, in addition to teaching writing, editing, and proofreading skills to staff, businesses that produce their content in-house will also need to teach staff about search engine optimization.

Freelance writers and professional writing services specializing in creating web content can use search engine best practices to make content more accessible to customers. In addition, creating up-to-date content on a regular basis will ensure that the articles remain relevant to the search engines, which in turn will bring businesses more traffic.

Harder than it looks

Content marketing is well worth the effort, time, and investment. However, doing it properly can put a huge strain on a business’s in-house resources. Understanding the main challenges faced by businesses in terms of content creation will help you as a freelancer or professional writer to appeal to a business’s desires and satisfy their needs.

Image source: stokpic.com

Posted on

Can I Get Proofreading Employment in My Town?

ProofreadingCamp.com explains how local proofreading employment can offer a stability that freelance positions can't provide.

Proofreading employment offers a stability that freelance positions can’t provide

ProofreadingCamp.com explains how local proofreading employment can offer a stability that freelance positions can't provide.Freelance opportunities in proofreading are a great way to get extra part-time work that you can do from home. However, the freelance lifestyle is not for everyone. If you only want to work as a full- or part-time employee but don’t want to have to move across the country to chase jobs, a number of options are still available by which you can gain proofreading employment.

Mobility

You will greatly improve your chances of getting proofreading employment without moving if you have your own transportation. Big cities have extensive public transport networks, but getting from one end of the city to the other may involve several bus and rail changes, with long waits for the next leg. Having your own vehicle extends your search field for proofreading employment to cross-city opportunities. Also, residents of small towns can consider neighboring towns within driving distance if they own a vehicle. The wider your search area is, the more likely you are to find multiple opportunities, and this will greatly enhance your chances of finding proofreading employment.

Publishers

The organizations most likely to offer proofreading employment are publishers. You may think that all publishers are in cities like New York or London, but you would be wrong. Many publishers are based in small towns to reduce costs. Take a look through your Yellow Pages, or do a quick search online to find publishers that might offer you proofreading employment.

Types of publishing

When people think of “publishing,” they probably think of book publishing houses. However, don’t overlook your local newspaper. Track down printing companies in your local area, and ask them if they will let you contact the companies that bring them printing work. Anyone who gets anything printed will need a proofreader. Take your résumé when you go to meet the manager of the printing company. Maybe the printer will consider hiring you so it can offer a proofreading service along with its printing services. Many printers offer typesetting, layout, and graphics services to their customers, so this may be an avenue to explore for proofreading employment.

Advertising agencies

Advertising agencies produce a lot of written work and need proofreaders. Look in your local paper for ads from advertising agencies, and send them a copy of your résumé. Proofreading employment could even help you get started in an advertising career.

Big companies

Chances are, your town has one big employer, and you probably already know people who work there. Big companies produce in-house magazines, sales brochures, user guides, and operational manuals, as well as a whole range of other printed literature. It’s possible that the company outsources much of its sales brochure work to an advertising agency, but that will not be the case with its internal communications. Network among your friends and neighbors to find a contact within a company if you think it could offer you proofreading employment. Ask around to find the right person to send your résumé to.

Cooperatives

If you don’t want to be a freelancer, you probably don’t want the loneliness and stress of starting your own business. Instead, consider going into partnership with other proofreaders you might know. If you gather together the copywriters and editors in your contacts book, you might be able to form a company. In this scenario, you would get all the benefits of proofreading employment, such as professional insurance, health coverage, and a pension. A cooperative is a useful midpoint between self-employment and corporate work.

Image source: Gajus/Shutterstock.com

Posted on

What Do Copy Editing Jobs Entail?

What Do Copy Editing Jobs Entail?

Find out about the day-to-day tasks involved in copy editing jobs

What Do Copy Editing Jobs Entail?Not all copy editing jobs are the same. Different companies have different requirements of their staff. You may find yourself working as part of a team in which each person fulfills a section of the tasks that copy editors do. Copy editing jobs at small companies may encompass a much wider range of tasks, taking in the full spectrum of the various responsibilities a copy editor has. Some are even given responsibilities that might not always be assigned to workers carrying out normal copy editing jobs. Look through this list of tasks usually expected in copy editing jobs; you may end up doing all of these at once, or you may have just some of these responsibilities.

Proofreading

Correcting spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors is often the responsibility of a proofreader, so you might think it is not part of all copy editing jobs. However, while proofreaders get hold of a text immediately before publishing, copy editors engage in proofreading as soon as the writer has finished the piece. As part of this task, you will need to make sure that the length of the text fits the specification the writer was given and that the piece consistently follows the required house style guide and the dictionary.

Content editing

A key responsibility of all copy editing jobs is making sure the text being edited actually makes sense. This includes straightening out any confusion in wording or phrases that could be misinterpreted. In this task, you often have to return the work to the writer for clarification. This task, in particular, requires skill and discernment—if you decide to seek a role that includes content editing as well as basic proofreading, consider enrolling in an online editing course to sharpen your editing ability.

Fact checking

Copy editing jobs involve a range of fact checking. You have to check that what is written is accurate. Your company may have procedures in place that require the writer to provide sources for any assertions. You will also have to make sure that none of the text has been plagiarized and that all quotes have been properly attributed.

Picture editing

Many publishers have a specialist picture editor, and those carrying out copy editing jobs may not see any illustrations on a piece until it is published. However, other companies have copy editors do the work of checking the copyright on an associated photo, checking for appropriateness, and writing a caption.

Author liaison

Copy editing jobs vary widely in their requirements for contact between the copy editor and the writer. When working on newspaper or web articles, the copy editor is usually expected to have contact with the writer. However, in book publishing the copy editor almost never has direct contact with the author.

Image source: StockLite/Shutterstock.com

Posted on

Top 10 Grammar Rules You Can’t Believe You Didn’t Learn

Top 10 Grammar Rules You Can't Believe You Didn't Learn Until University

Top 10 Grammar Rules You Can't Believe You Didn't Learn Until UniversityGrammar is an exhaustive subject, with layers of rules from the basic to the obscure. Teaching styles have changed over the past century, and common rules your grandmother learned through memorization and practice could be a mystery to younger generations encouraged to stray from those rules and let their creativity flow. Below are the top 10 grammar rules that you may not have learned until university.

1. A comma and a coordinating conjunction should be used to combine two independent clauses.

What do you call a series of ideas linked by only a comma? A run-on sentence (or comma splice)! This mistake runs rampant in academic writing, regardless of how well the writer thinks he or she knows English. Even worse is that a lot of people are not taught the difference between independent and dependent clauses before attending university, when writing—and writing well—becomes a fact of life.

How detrimental is the comma splice? Run-on sentences detract from the readability and flow of any writing. Arguments can quickly become convoluted and incomprehensible when too many ideas are introduced in one long sentence. When writing needs to be clear and concise, thoughts should be organized using punctuation in all the right places.

Do this:

Holiday shopping is stressful for a lot of people, but some families budget for it.

Not this:

A snowy, cold winter is common in Canada, people sometimes have a hard time keeping up with shoveling, there are storms when the snow gets so high that you cannot make it out of your driveway for days!

2. A semicolon is most often used to separate two independent, closely related clauses.

The rules for using a semicolon are clearly unknown to many people who reach the university level. Writers use this commonly misunderstood form of punctuation in haphazard, mysterious ways. A semicolon is often mistaken for a colon, is used in place of the comma, or even appears at the end of sentences in truly odd situations.

Do this:

Reality TV is a favorite pastime for many people; however, those who hate reality TV have a lot of complaints.

Not this:

Reality TV is a favorite pastime for many people. However; those who hate reality TV have a lot of complaints.

3. A colon is used after a complete sentence to introduce a word, phrase, clause, list, or quotation.

The colon, often mistaken for or incorrectly replaced with the semicolon, has several uses that remain elusive to many writers. The colon is all too often forgotten completely or found in the wrong places at the wrong times.

Do this:

We must remember to buy the following groceries: eggs, milk, flour, and apples.

Not this:

We must remember to buy the following groceries eggs, milk, flour, and apples.

4. A list or comparison of equally significant ideas should use the same grammatical pattern.

Items in a series need to have a parallel structure that uses equal grammatical units. This means that nouns should follow nouns, and subordinate clauses should follow subordinate clauses. If you use a certain form of a verb in each segment of the series, it should be the same in each segment.

Do this:

Her car needed its tires rotated, oil changed, and windshield wipers replaced.

Not this:

Her car needed its tires rotated, oil changing, and its windshield wipers to be replaced.

5. Do not split your infinitives in formal writing.

The infinitive split is a common grammatical mistake that many people don’t even realize they are making. An infinitive is the most basic form of a verb that is not bound by a particular subject or tense, as in “to type.” What writers often do is insert a modifier between the “to” and its accompanying verb—a definite grammar no-no in formal writing (although this rule is disputed in more casual writing). To keep sentences clear, never split your infinitives.

Do this:

I’ll need my best tennis shoes if I’m going to run quickly.

Not this:

I’ll need my best tennis shoes if I’m going to quickly run.

6. A hyphen connects, an en dash separates numbers in a sequence, and an em dash offsets nonessential information from the rest of a sentence.

Where were you when you discovered that a dash isn’t just a dash and that a hyphen belongs in a particular place and not in others? Really, there are three separate forms of punctuation that all look like a dash: the hyphen (-), the en dash (–), and the em dash (—). A hyphen is used to connect compound adjectives, such as blue-green, or compound verbs, such as freeze-dried. It is also used in modifying compounds when modifiers come before a noun, such as high-speed connection.

En dashes, however, are the proper punctuation to use when displaying a range of numbers, like so: 5–10. Em dashes can be used much like a comma to offset nonessential information—information that doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence but does add description.

7. Adjectives modify nouns; adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.

The difference between an adjective and an adverb seems lost on many writers who never learned the grammatical difference. An adjective is a word that modifies only a noun, whereas an adverb is a word that usually ends in “ly” and modifies verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Knowing these differences is important when you need to keep your writing concise, as most adverbs can be removed from a sentence without changing the meaning.

Adjective:

The large, purple flowers on the orchid were wilting.

Adverb:

The large, purple flowers on the orchid were slowly wilting.

8. “I.e.” stands for “that is,” and “e.g.” stands for “for example.”

Many people believe that i.e. and e.g. can be used interchangeably. Both are abbreviations of Latin terms, but each is used in a specific situation. The first, i.e., stands for the Latin term id est, whereas e.g. stands for exempli gratia. I.e. should be used to offer more information or to restate an idea, and e.g. should be used to include an example.

I.e.:

“There are three main methods of motor transportation in the city (i.e., if you can’t afford taxis, try the subway or bus).”

E.g.:

The bake sale included a huge variety of treats (e.g., cookies, pies, cakes, and pastries).

9. Explain an acronym in full the first time it appears. Every usage afterward should be the acronym.

Acronyms can also be mysterious to a writer who doesn’t know the correct grammatical usage. Just remember, an acronym needs to be written out fully the first time it appears in a writing and then used consistently throughout the rest of the writing each time the term appears.

First use:

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was founded in England in 1824.

Second use:

The SPCA is dedicated to protecting animal welfare and finding homes for unwanted animals.

10. A modifier (a word, phrase, or clause that describes something else) goes next to the thing it modifies.

Misplacing your modifier can lead to some very confused readers. A sentence can sound awkward or the meaning can be changed completely if a word, phrase, or clause is separated from the word it describes.

Do this:

I picked up my new hamster, Bert, who was small and fluffy.

Not this:

Small and fluffy, I picked up my new hamster, Bert.

Even if you didn’t learn them until university, remembering these top 10 grammar rules is sure to strengthen your writing and help you earn better grades. To enhance your grammar skills even further, consider taking an online grammar training course, such as GrammarCamp.

 

Image source: Maridav/Bigstock.com

Posted on

Top 5 Human Resource Tools

Top 5 Human Resource Tools

HR tools can reduce your hiring and staff management costs

Top 5 Human Resource ToolsFew small businesses can afford the overhead of a dedicated HR department. Although the absence of this admin function from the office is a cost saver, it does mean that small businesses often fail to plan their HR requirements properly and can create ill will among staff through the haphazard treatment of HR functions such as pay and sick leave. Incompetent HR management can lead to production limits and uncooperative staff. Fortunately, there are a number of online HR tools that can help the busy business manager cope with the demands of HR needs. Here are five of the best HR tools currently available.

1) The Resumator

The Resumator automates the hiring process. It integrates with your email system, enables you to post job vacancies on a list of well-known employment websites, and then reads through and parses arriving resumes sent in PDF or Word formats. You can also post jobs on social media platforms through this HR tool or have your own jobs webpages, which The Resumator will host for you. The system also sets up workflows, which give you a schedule by which to complete the necessary steps the hiring process requires. However, you would need to have a fast turnover of staff or operate an employment agency to justify the cost of operating The Resumator. The system is available only on a monthly subscription; therefore, if you hire only one or two people a year for your small business, you probably wouldn’t require the unlimited capacity this HR tool offers. If you do have a regular staff intake, you can add “onboarding” and training modules to the basic HR tool for an additional fee.

2) Zenefits

Zenefits covers the operational aspects of HR. It keeps employee records, calculates payroll, and manages tax, insurance, disability, and compensation payments. The system records time sheets and logs employee attendance. Payments to employees can include a range of benefits, such as stock options. As you would expect with all that operational data going into the system, Zenefits is also able to produce a range of reports to help you file taxes and analyze resource utilization. This is a very comprehensive HR tool, but it is specifically written to comply with US taxation and employment law, so Canadian, British, or Australian readers are unlikely to benefit from Zenefits.

3) Upwork

Small businesses need to be quick on their feet. Web-based companies often have short-term requirements for programmers and content creators that do not justify hiring long-term employees. Rather than paying top whack for a consultant, you should check out Upwork to source specialist skills from freelancers. Many of the skilled workers who work through Upwork live in remote locations and like to telecommute. The benefit of this method of employment to you is that you don’t need to provide equipment or office space for these short-term workers. You don’t have to worry about the overhead cost of bringing in a specialist from far afield, either. This HR tool is more than just a job board; you can track goals and work hours through the system and even make payments to the freelancers. Upwork charges freelancers 10 percent of their fees, and you don’t have to pay anything for the service.

4) Staff Squared

The payroll functions of Zenefits are specifically written to cater to a US customer base. Staff Squared is very similar to Zenefits, but it does not cover payroll. Therefore, it is suitable for use by companies both outside and inside the United States. This is a cloud-based HR tool, so you don’t have to worry about losing data if your system crashes. The remote storage of your HR records also means that you can access your HR files from anywhere, so if you take a day working from home, you can still perform all your HR tasks. Staff Squared has an employee interface that mediates requests, such as vacation and shift change requests. The requests get directed to the relevant manager via email for approval. The system is charged on a subscription basis and is US $4.50 per month, per user. Unfortunately, because every employee needs to access the system for functions such as time-off requests, every staff member is counted as a user; thus, if you have a lot of staff, it could get pricey. You can try this HR tool for free for 14 days.

5) Jobatar

If you are fully stretched running your business, you may not have the time to dedicate a full day to interviewing applicants for a vacancy. Jobatar has a solution to this problem. This HR tool is an interviewing scheme. You record questions for interviewees and then send them invites to access the questions and record answers. The interviewees are recorded through the webcam of their PC or laptop, and then you can view each respondent whenever you have the time. You don’t have to be in the office to review the interviews because the system can be accessed from tablets and smartphones. Therefore, if you are always on the move in your job, this HR tool should tie in with your lifestyle.

HR solutions for small businesses

These new HR tools mean that small business owners can better manage their HR functions themselves without needing to have an HR manager on the team. After reviewing each of these HR tools, consider whether any of them could help you manage your own staff more effectively.

Image source: venimo/BigStockPhoto.com

 

Disclosure: If there are links to a product in any of the reviews, a commission may be paid to us if you purchase the product. We will never write a review on a manufacturer’s product, nor will we promote a product, if we believe the product will not be beneficial to you.

Posted on

Proofreader Courses: The Googd, the Back, and the Ugley

ProofreadingCamp.com helps you learn how to evaluate proofreader courses.

Learn how to evaluate proofreader courses

ProofreadingCamp.com helps you learn how to evaluate proofreader courses.If the title of this article irritates you, you might consider a career as a proofreader. Proofreading is a specialized aspect of editing that requires you to correct spelling and grammatical errors without rewriting large pieces of the text. A proofreader is not a critic or an editor and should not overstep the boundaries of the job. However, a proofreader is not someone with reading abilities who just walked in off the street. You need a solid grounding in the skill, so you need to investigate proofreader courses.

Where to look

Fortunately, the World Wide Web has brought us online proofreader courses, and you no longer have to apply to a university to get industry-standard training. The reach of the web gives you the option of taking courses provided in many different English-speaking countries. If you are multilingual, you could even look for proofreader courses in other languages. To find a suitable course, your first stop should be your favorite search engine.

What to look for

If you are interested in proofreading, make sure you narrow your search to courses that have “proofreading” in the title. This may seem like a piece of useless advice, but it’s actually incredibly important because of the sometimes-unclear boundary between proofreading and editing. The skill of proofreading is an essential part of any editing job, so many editing courses include proofreading but don’t specialize in it. Resolve to consider just proofreader courses.

Live or offline

Your particular circumstances will dictate whether you focus on proofreader courses that enable you to learn at your own pace or those proofreader courses that are conducted as webinars with live interaction with the tutor. Keep your budget in mind when making this selection. One-on-one tuition can prove expensive, even if it is conducted over the Internet. Your schedule will also dictate whether you can log in at specified times to participate in discussions or whether you would be better off taking a pre-written course.

Supported or unsupported

Proofreader courses that are made up of pages of text to read are much cheaper than those with interactive video. However, don’t go too cheap. If you get into difficulties with some of the course notes, you will have wasted your money. The course should at least include support from a contact at the school. You may not need interactive support, but an email exchange to enable you to clear up any points of confusion is well worth the extra fee. A named contact is easier to deal with than an anonymous help desk. Make sure the course you choose is supported by experienced tutors who speak English as their native language.

Check credentials

Only consider proofreader courses offered by experienced editing and proofreading services. You may find courses offered by general training companies. Consider it a warning sign if you find proofreader courses listed among tutorials on a wide range of other subjects. For an example of what to look for, check out the proofreader courses at ProofreadingCamp. This online training specializes in proofreading and is offered by Scribendi.com, an award-winning editing and proofreading service that has been in business for 15 years. Make sure you’re learning your craft from an authority on the subject.

Image source: martan/Shutterstock.com

Posted on

The Most Important Grammar Rules to Remember

The Most Important Grammar Rules to Remember When a Spell-checker Isn't an Option

The Most Important Grammar Rules to Remember When a Spell-checker Isn't an OptionEvery university student has at some point wished that the human brain came with a built-in spell-checker. Sleep deprivation, study fatigue, and anxiety can all take a toll during exam times, leading to rampant errors in handwritten essays or short-answer questions. Additionally, studies by Statistics Canada and the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario reveal a decline in literacy skill over the past decade, which means that current post-secondary graduates are less literate than those from older generations. In part, this is due to education systems and reduced literacy acquisition or use outside of an educational environment. So what can you do to avoid the most common grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes when you have to rely on your own skills?

Know the structure and purpose of paragraphs.

You cannot write a cohesive essay without understanding and utilizing the paragraph properly. Essentially, a paragraph is made up of two or more sentences focused on a single topic. Each paragraph should have an identifiable topic sentence followed by supporting sentences with clearly defined points. Academic writing, for the most part, requires an author’s argument to be made as clearly and concisely as possible. As long as you keep track of proper paragraph structure, this is easy to accomplish—just remember, one topic per paragraph. It’s often helpful to write a quick outline to keep track of your argument and supporting points, especially in time-sensitive situations like exams.

Know your homophones.

The grammar rules regarding homophones cause problems for both native and non-native English speakers. Mixing up words that sound the same but have different meanings is the most common spelling mistake authors make. The list of homophones in the English language is surprisingly extensive, but the following words cause the most confusion:

Affect and Effect

Affect is a verb, as in “The music affected her emotionally.”

Effect is a noun, as in “The most common effect of sleep deprivation is the constant urge to nap.”

Than and Then

Than is used when comparing two things, as in “He was faster than his coworkers at completing projects.”

Then denotes a subsequent action or time, as in “Then, she put on her coat and went home.”

There, Their, and They’re

There indicates a position or location, as in “She would rather sit over there.”

Their is a possessive pronoun, as in “They loved their dog, even when he ate their shoes.”

They’re is a contraction of the verbal phrase “they are,” as in “They’re all going to the concert later.”

Your and You’re

Your is a possessive pronoun, as in “I can’t stand your taste in movies.”

You’re is a contraction of the verbal phrase “you are,” as in “You’re going to regret eating all those chocolates.”

Whose and Who’s

Whose is a possessive pronoun, as in “Whose car is blocking my driveway?”

Who’s is a contraction of the verbal phrase “who is,” as in “Who’s going to the restaurant later?”

To, Too, and Two

To is a preposition, or part of the infinitive expression of a verb, as in “She was heading to the gym after work” (preposition) or “She wanted to go home” (verb).

Too is an adverb, as in “There was too much junk food at the Christmas party” or “Although he’d already had a brownie, he decided to eat a gingerbread cookie, too.”

Two is a number, as in “She couldn’t image having two babies at the same time.”

Accept and Except

Accept is a verb, as in “Please accept my apologies.”

Except is most often used as a preposition, as in “I love all kinds of fruit except bananas.” It can also be used as a conjunction, as in “She would have purchased the fruit, except that she left her purse at home.”

Unfortunately, the easiest way to keep these types of words straight when a spell-checker isn’t available is memorization. Consider reading over this list of most commonly misused homophones before your next exam!

Know how to use the comma properly.

The most common grammar mistakes relate to one simple form of punctuation—the comma. Commas are overused, underused, forgotten altogether, or generally misunderstood. Below are the most common comma mistakes:

Comma Splices

The comma splice, or run-on sentence, is all too frequent in exam essays or long answers because it’s easy for time-constrained students to connect floods of ideas with commas until they have sentences half a page long and one frustrated professor. The rule here is that two independent clauses—full sentences able to stand on their own—should never be separated by a comma. Instead, use a semicolon, use a comma with a conjunction (such as “and,” “but,” or “so”), or simply end each clause with a period.

Do this:

It was a gloomy day, so she bundled up in her hat and scarf.

It was a gloomy day; she bundled up in her hat and scarf.

It was a gloomy day. She bundled up in her hat and scarf.

Not this:

It was a gloomy day, she bundled up in her hat and scarf.

Nonrestrictive Phrases and Introductory Clauses, Phrases, and Words

Nonrestrictive phrases provide additional information that isn’t necessary for the sentence to make sense. These phrases are often used to add description to some element in the sentence and should be set off by commas.

Introductory clauses, phrases, and words that are not separated by a comma can cause confusion and detract from the readability of your writing. These introductory elements usually set the stage for the rest of the sentence and are dependent because they can’t stand on their own and make sense. They will often start with an adverbial clause; a prepositional, participial, or infinitive phrase; or a transition word like “still,” “however,” or “furthermore.”

Do this:

Because he kept Tylenol in his work desk, he was always ready for a headache.

To get to her friend’s new house, she had to take the train and walk three blocks.

Still, his text message wasn’t clear and made her anxious.

Nonrestrictive Relative Clauses

Nonrestrictive relative clauses are a type of dependent clause introduced by a relative pronoun, most commonly “which.” These clauses contain information that is not essential to the understanding of the sentence and should be set off by a comma. A good rule to remember is to always use a comma before the word “which.”

Do this:

He finally changed his number, which he had been meaning to do since he moved, to avoid all those long-distance charges.

Even the most grammatically gifted students and writers may have difficulty with these grammar rules when a spell-checker isn’t available. Preparing for such a situation does require some effort, but learning these grammar rules—whether on your own or with the help of a grammar course—will be sure to help you write well.

 

Image source: photosquared/BigStockPhoto.com

Posted on

8 Comics to Help You Avoid Unfortunate Punctuation Errors

Ah, punctuation errors. Once a missed keystroke on a typewriter, now the fodder of Internet memes, viral screenshots, and endless Tumblr posts. We’ve all seen the public restrooms reserved for elderly pregnant disabled children, the unsettling connotations of a restaurant that serves “fresh” sushi, the PR disasters that could have been averted with critical commas. In an online world where every little mistake is photographed and shared, understanding punctuation is more important than ever to maintain a credible reputation.

1. Obey the Terminator

The importance of periods.

Terminal punctuation can seem like a no-brainer, and it’s for this very reason that many mistakes occur. Sometimes we overlook glaring errors simply because they’re so obvious. We assume we haven’t made them and don’t think to check. There are, of course, guidelines to keep in mind: Exclamation points in sequence are the written equivalent of shouting (right up there with all caps); some indirect questions actually end in periods, not question marks; and different styles of writing use different rules for terminal punctuation in quotes, parentheses, or abbreviations. The bottom line? Proofread!

2. A comma, a comma. My kingdom for a comma!

The importance of commas.

This little devil is the culprit in the most infamous punctuation blunders. Commas can be tricky things, what with the many, many rules that apply to their usage. Some of the more common gaffes are forgetting to include a comma between items in a list, after introductory phrases, or between independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction. If you’re thinking those mistakes sound innocent enough, take a look at the magazine cover that declares that Rachael Ray finds happiness in cooking her family and her dog. Although the cover was found to have been Photoshopped, this punctuation error is easy to make, so be vigilant!

3. Say “no” to sketchy quotation marks

The importance of quotation marks.

I’ll say this once: Never use quotation marks for emphasis. Inappropriate use of these teeny little marks creates a written implication that something is, well, questionable. If the text at hand isn’t actually a quotation or the title of a work, using quotation marks brings to mind the image of someone saying the word or phrase while employing air quotes and waggling their eyebrows. Would you eat at a grill serving “beef” steaks?

4. Hyphens and en dashes and em dashes—oh my!

The importance of hyphenation.

Finding error in the length of horizontal lines may seem like nitpicking. Many won’t even realize these little dashes are different! However, ignoring the circumstances that call for hyphens, en dashes, or em dashes can lead to embarrassing changes in the meaning of a written phrase. As a cheat sheet: Em dashes (the longest of the three, equal in length to the typed letter m) are used in place of commas or parentheses to create emphasis. En dashes (equal in length to the letter n) connect values or ranges (e.g., 2002–2008), and hyphens join words that are logically connected (e.g., state-of-the-art, anti-war, long-term relationship).

5. Don’t eclipse the ellipsis

The importance of ellipses.

(For those of you who don’t get the reference, check out this YouTube clip, and go watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show as soon as you finish this article!)

Ellipses, consisting of three periods in succession, are useful tools that allow writers to indicate an omission (usually in quoted text), the trailing-off of a thought, or a hesitation. As with exclamation points, the rule of less is more applies. A page overzealously spotted and dotted with ellipses will only look messy.

6. Apostrophe catastrophe

The importance of apostrophes.

Pet peeve of editors, proofreaders, and grammar gurus worldwide is the misguided use of apostrophes to form plural nouns. Let’s take a moment to be absolutely clear: Apostrophes denote ownership or conjoined words; never should an -s at the end of a plural noun be preceded by an apostrophe. So please, noble writer, apostrophize the teacher’s office, the dog’s bowl, and let’s get out of here, but stay your hand when telling us about the 1980s or dinner with the Andersons.

7. Serious about semicolons

The importance of semicolons.

(This is another reference for film buffs; if you don’t get the above reference, you’ll enjoy it more after checking out this YouTube clip from the 1976 movie Network.)

Semicolons represent a pause longer than that of a comma but shorter than the full stop of a period. Before you start applying semicolons willy-nilly, however, remember some simple rules: Use a semicolon to join two sentences without a conjunction; before transitional phrases, such as meanwhile, however, and for example, when they connect independent clauses into a single sentence; and in lists of this sort that include commas within list elements.

8. The dreaded grammatical colonoscopy

The importance of colons.

The colon means serious business. Mild toilet humor aside, the use of a colon in writing is a signal that something important is about to follow. Use a colon to introduce a list, to lead into a second sentence that explains or adds to the first without using a conjunction, or simply to add emphasis to whatever follows. To make sure your colon is clean (ew), you may wish to consult your style guide about whether the sentence following the colon requires capitalization.

Still worried about succumbing to punctuation errors? Here’s a cheat sheet from Scribendi.com’s GrammarCamp course to make things easy.

Posted on

What Freelance Editing Jobs Are Out There?

What Freelance Editing Jobs Are Out There

There are many different types of freelance editing jobs—how do you decide which is right for you?

What Freelance Editing Jobs Are Out ThereIf you have a permanent editing job, you may be curious about the world of freelance editing. Maybe you have worked with a freelance editor and decided that you could do the same thing. There is not one type of freelance contract, as experienced freelancers know. Once you start looking into the different options available to you, you will see that whether to go freelance is only the first in many decisions you will need to make before arriving at your ideal freelancing position.

Location-based jobs

Editorial companies and publishing houses take on the number of editorial staffers that are needed for the average amount of work in that business. However, sometimes, they may need to handle more work than their current staff can handle. In these instances, the employer does not want to worry about the long-term commitment that comes with hiring new staffers and might not require this staff for more than a few months. It might decide to create just one or two freelance editing jobs to get through the short-term expansion in demand. In some ways, these freelance editing jobs are the same as permanent positions in that you are expected to work in an office during regular business hours. As a freelancer, however, your employment contract will last for a limited time, such as two weeks, three months, or six months. The other difference between you and the permanent staff you work with is that they will receive sick pay and other non-wage benefits that you do not get. So what are the benefits of freelance editing jobs? They can pay better and may give you more varied work.

Telecommuting

One growth area in freelance editing jobs is remote work. Remote freelance editing jobs are sometimes offered by companies that don’t want to provide large areas of office space in expensive cities. In general, home-based work allows more flexibility in hours than an office-based job. An editing job will have a deadline, but the employer does not specify the exact hours when the work should be performed. Freelance editing jobs can be carried out independently at hours that suit the worker. If the company requires the freelance editor to work with other staff or attend meetings through teleconferencing, specific hours of availability may be written into the contract. Another advantage is that the company can seek the best freelance staff from all over the world and is not limited to editors who live nearby. The great benefit to freelancers of this type of contract is that they can live anywhere in the world and meet their home-based commitments, such as caring for children or an elderly relative.

Piecework

A major difference between freelance editing jobs and permanent positions is the pricing structure in many freelance contracts. In some places, companies that create freelance editing jobs are still obliged to extend the benefits and rights awarded to permanent employees to their freelancers. Paying on a task-by-task basis gets around this legal requirement. Remote workers are difficult to monitor, so employers are not always willing to give an hourly rate to people who work at home. Being paid by the task also ties in well with flexible working hours. It also opens up the possibility of infrequent work, and thus limited pay, for the remote freelance worker. At the same time, task-based editing jobs can let the freelancer take on several contracts concurrently.

Image source: scyther5/Shutterstock.com

Posted on

6 Reasons Businesses Outsource Their SEO Content Writing

SEO Content Writing

A Guide for Writers

SEO Content WritingSome companies are wary of the shift to outsourcing search engine optimization (SEO) content writing, worrying that it might not be the best decision. However, there are several benefits to outsourcing content writing. In fact, outsourcing can actually be much better for a company than attempting to do the work internally. Knowing why companies choose to outsource can help you, as a writer, understand the obstacles they face and better cater to their needs.

1. They want to focus on what they do best.

If a company doesn’t specialize in SEO content writing, then why strain to make it churn out content? Companies often choose to outsource SEO content writing services to keep their employees working on the tasks that are essential to the core functions of their businesses. This improves efficiency and quality assurance.

2. They want to save the hassle of hiring, training, and paying full-time writers.

When companies try to internalize SEO content writing, it often means having to hire new staff. This itself can be a huge hassle, particularly if the company is new to the world of SEO content writing and doesn’t know what skills to look for.

Once they finally find someone who is able to take on SEO content writing duties, they then need to train them. Even if new hires are competent writers and are familiar with SEO, they will still need to be familiarized with the company and the procedures for writing and posting content. Hiring full-time in-house writers can be a good solution for larger companies, but many small businesses cannot sustain the burden of paying another full-time team member. Plus, if the company is only aiming to produce a weekly or bi-weekly blog post, a full-time writer is likely overkill.

3. They want their SEO content writing to be done skillfully.

Even if some members of a business’s in-house staff take the time to learn the basics of SEO content writing, there’s no denying that a full-time professional SEO content writer is going to be much more skilled at incorporating SEO best practices into clear and engaging copy. As an SEO writer, your knowledge of and experience in the field is what sets you apart from the average employee, and a desire for the high-quality content you can produce is ultimately what will push businesses away from completing the work in-house and toward outsourcing to a professional.

4. They want their SEO content writing to be done efficiently.

Because freelance writers are used to working within deadlines, companies are guaranteed that their projects will be completed efficiently. This beats waiting for the one or two employees who have picked up some SEO content writing skills to complete the projects after finishing their other duties.

5. They want to choose their own output frequency.

The great thing about outsourcing is that companies don’t need to stick to a certain number of articles every month. If they find that the frequency at which they are posting is not enough to engage and excite their readers, they can easily increase the number of articles they issue each month. Similarly, if they need to downscale to fit a budget, they won’t have to worry about having a full-time staff member without tasks to complete. Outsourcing to a freelance SEO content writer allows them the freedom to post at the frequency they determine appropriate.

Conclusion

As a writer, it’s important to be looking for opportunities to use your skills. Many businesses are seeking high-quality SEO web content to keep their blogs and websites fresh, compelling, and valuable to potential customers, and understanding the obstacles businesses face can help you partner with them to produce the content they need.

Image source: Luis Llerena/Stocksnap.io