Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The perils of the self-edited resume

There are so many different kinds of resumes. Traditionally, a resume is a snapshot of your personal history, highlighting your skills and experience. However, for the academically inclined, the resume goes a step further and grows into the curriculum vitae (CV). In some ways, a CV is much easier to create than a traditional resume, because a CV is not bound to one page. Most of them go well beyond ten pages, including every academic accomplishment imaginable. A more traditional resume, however, has to give that aforementioned snapshot - it has to capture the attention of the hiring manager in one glance. Outside of a university setting, no one has the time to wade through the CV.
It can be incredibly difficult to prioritize content, though, so whittling one's experience down to one page can be daunting.

Add to that the fact that traditional resumes take many forms. The most popular one currently is the dynamic functional resume, which eschews the standard list of work history, focusing instead upon specific skills and the number of years associated with those skills. How can you figure out which kind is correct for you? And where does a copy editor come in? Does a copy editor also become the content editor when it comes to resumes?

For this particular editor, I would answer yes, to that last question. Resume editing requires an editor to put on both editing hats. But why is an editor even needed? Surely simply talking to your parents, your friends, even a college advisor, could offer you enough guidance regarding what to put on your resume.

Unfortunately, that's far from the case. Your resume's goal is to put your very best face forward. While an advisor, relatives, or friends can certainly offer you guidance about what should be prioritized, and might be able to offer some guidance regarding which type of resume might be best, nothing can compare to the touch of a professional editor. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The next step in content editing: the traditional publishing route

Yesterday, I declined a potential editing client. Two gentleman have collaborated on what they describe as a "labor of love;" they have decades of experience in real estate and have been working on a related book together for quite sometime. They were looking for an editor who does nonfiction, and I certainly fit the bill. I have lots of experience editing nonfiction, both academic and standard. I charge more for academic pieces, because there are many, many more components to copyediting and content editing an academic piece of work.

The piece that I declined skirted a fine line between the academic and non-academic, doing an excellent job of keeping the manuscript well-cited and fact-based while also keeping a voice that the average person can understand. I admire what they're doing. So why did I decline it?

I declined to edit it because they're no longer at the editing step - they just didn't realize it. They had utilized beta readers as well as a copy editor, and they were looking for someone to content edit. Particularly, they were looking for the kind of content editing a traditional publisher does, regardless of what you've done to your manuscript before it's gotten to them. For anyone pursuing traditional publishing - using a query letter, finding an agent, etc. - especially in regard to nonfiction! - the final content editing is publisher-driven.

These potential clients are definitely not self-publishing, which is excellent, because the quality of nonfiction books on the self-published market is truly lousy. That makes me sad, but if they want their book to go anywhere, they need to go the traditional route. I told them to get the 2015 Guide to Literary Agents, put together a chaptee-by-chapter outline, and have three sample chapters polished and ready to submit (they already do). An agent and a publisher take it from there.

This is very rare - a potential client who does not in fact need the services I require - but when it happens, I am (and always will be) up front!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Indie Publishing vs. Literary Agents

I've just edited a novel for an author who has, up until this point, self-published. She's also provided marketing for other self-published authors as her side job. She's a very gifted author, and her success is growing. However, she's just finished a book - and I just finished editing it - that an agent wants to represent, and she's going along with that. I've said, previously, that agents are rapidly going out the window, with self-publishing becoming the wave of the future. So why would I agree with her move to go with the agent?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Upshot of Upwork

Elance, the freelancing site that I've been using to find new clients, has been taken over by the freelancing site Upwork. The transition has happened over the course of a couple of months, with things like reviews and experience transferring from one site to the next. Of course, these things are never seamless, and I know, from my experience in IT, that new software or hardware is always met with skepticism.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Ack! I'm behind on the blog!

Please allow me to explain, though. I've just returned home from visiting my grandmother, who turned eighty this year. She still lives in the house in New York in which she raised my mother and her two sisters, as a single parent. It's kind of amazing, considering the time and what she had to work with, that all of the kids made it to adulthood and even had functioning kids of their own. It's a testament to resilience and determination, for sure.

That said, though, I was unable to get any work done while I was there. I thought that maybe, with my mom, brother, aunt, and grandmother, I might be able to foist off my surely charming children in order to continue the blog, copy edit more efficiently than usual, and perhaps even get some writing projects going. However, it was not to be, as that "charming" adjective may be either an exaggeration or entirely sarcastic on my part. I love my children, really I do. One of them is going through a Velcro phase, meaning she is velcroed to me. Hey, why did I capitalize that first word? Because Velcro is a proper name of a product. So why didn't I capitalize it with the second use? Because that version of the word is slang, rather than an established proper title. By all means criticize my use of a slang term, but my capitalization is on target!

And I'm back home, so I'll get back into the swing of things. I'm still accepting new clients!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Past-Perfect vs. Headings: Creating Smooth Flashback Scenes

I recently edited a piece from an author that had a significant number of what I term "flashback scenes." This particular piece was written in first-person past-tense (I was, I went, etc.), so when the main character expressed a reflection or memory within the regular narrative, in order to illustrate itself as a memory, it had to be written in past-perfect tense (or what a good friend and author terms "past-past" tense - I had been, I had gone, etc.). Is there a problem with this?

Grammatically speaking, no. However, it does make things complicated and somewhat tedious to read, if past-perfect reflections/memories are extensive. What if the memory or reflection is so extensive that you are remembering yourself remembering things from prior to the reflection? You end up with so many "had had" inserts that it's like looking at a puzzle. Without doing it like that, though, you risk the reader misunderstanding the sequence of events as you're attempting to lay it out.

This copy editor's opinion is that past-perfect tense should only be used selectively, in small doses. Does this mean I don't want to see flashback scenes and that I think every author's narrative should come out in a linear fashion? No, most definitely not. How boring would that be? My own writing certainly doesn't come out linearly.

But there's an alternative: headings, also known as subtitles. It's lately trendy to use subtitles at the beginning of each chapter to illustrate perspective change, so that a novel or story can be written from multiple perspectives. As a reader, and as a proofreader, I love this method - it's so clear, and with the headings, I, the editor, have less confusion that I have to go directly to the author to reconcile. If someone slips into the other perspective beneath the other character's heading, I can change that effectively. The same is true - perhaps even more so - of time changes. "First meeting," or "1975," can tell the reader to shift his or her perspective in just a few short words - the writing that follows will be much clearer and more understandable, as it will maintain the established tense of the book. Consider headings - and pepper in your past-perfect in tiny doses.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

So you're from New Yawk; I had no idear!

I just finished editing a YA novel set in the deep South. The author accomplished what many first-time authors struggle mightily with: a grammatically accurate representation of accent, dialect, and vernacular, that was clear and smooth to read. How did he do this, might you ask?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Change of Scenery

Editing one's own work is tricky. Before I continue, please allow me to explain that while I do edit my own work first, even I hire someone to edit my longer projects. Perhaps you wonder why, since I'm an editor. Doesn't it illustrate my own deficiency as a copy editor if I have to hire someone else to look at my own work?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Speaking in Action

I really enjoy reading well-conceived dialogue; it's often the most action-packed part of a narrative, whether fiction or non-fiction. From the perspective of a copy editor, however, it's also the part that requires the most meticulous focus. So, when there's a dialogue-heavy narrative, it takes this copy editor significantly longer to get through it. Why? Well, there are some common pitfalls that many authors have a hard time with.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

What's "vacation?"

I have this one hang-up about Forrest Gump, which is otherwise one of my favorite movies of all time: when Forrest asks his mom what vacation is (where, Forrest hears her tell the amorous school principal, his father went), she tells him it's when someone goes somewhere and doesn't ever come back.

It doesn't bug me that she gives him an alternate definition to a word in order to explain where Forrest's dad is. What bothers me is that it seems like that was deliberately placed with the intention of a later scene involving at least a mention of Forrest's misunderstanding of the word. Like, maybe Jenny needs a vacation, or Lt. Dan needs a vacation, and Forrest gets confused about what that really means. Instead, Forrest never hears anyone else use the word in any context. "Vacation" is apparently erased from his environment's vernacular.

Monday, July 13, 2015

But, if there's no independent clause, why is there a comma?

I've mentioned previously that comma usage is a pet peeve of mine. Specifically, I've written about the loss of the comma, and how that's attributable to our abbreviated forms of written communication - text messages and social media.

There's something even more aggravating for me, however: commas inserted where they shouldn't be. I mean, first of all, why waste the effort? Second - it makes your writing choppy. But there's a trend going on among independent authors, specifically with the word "but" and commas. See how I started that sentence with, "But..."? And do you notice a comma in that sentence? Do you see that the comma is not immediately after the first word?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

It's All About the Benjamins

I've mentioned my disdain for apostrophe usage in plurals. Allow me to offer up the headline as an example. No, "Benjamins" should not be "Benjamin's," unless I was writing about "Benjamin's exciting love life" (which, incidentally, Mr. Franklin did allegedly have). 

Okay. Ahem. That's out of the way.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

For the fourth time, is it the 4th?

Happy 4th of July! Hey! Wait a minute! Has the grammatifier gone casual? Is that slang? That doesn't look at all like formal writing. Can you figure out whether there's a problem? Is it in the title, in this paragraph, or both? Does it really matter?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Trends in Capitalization

Capital letters are in interesting part of the English language. Famously, author e.e. cummings refused to use them, and in my recent copy ediing experiences, I've developed a new sympathy for his choice. Authors from all walks of life have developed a tendency to capitalize words they consider important. I can't blame this one on texting or Facebook, either - while I say authors "have developed," I don't mean it's a particularly recent development. I'm just surprised that, in spite of e.e. cummings' best efforts, this trend continues.

A capital letter at the beginning of a word does not determine importance, despite evident feelings to he contrary. Nor does a lowercase letter at the beginning of a word diminish the word's importance. The most important word in any given sentence is the verb - and, unless it is at the beginning of the sentence, verbs are not capitalized (except in cases of trademarks that have become slang - "I Bedazzled my jeans"). 

The noun is really secondary; the verb gives us the action, and we all enjoy action, right? Especially copy editors. I certainly love action, in reading and in life. What I don't like is overinflated ego, and I think, visually, that's how I interpret improper capitalization. Capitalization, though, should be reserved for proper nouns and the first letter of the first word at the beginning of a sentence. Instead of designating degree of importance, capital letters serve as a tool, one similar to the copyright or trademark symbols. 

An example:

"There aren't enough Apples this season."
"There aren't enough apples this season."

Speaking of overinflated egos...that first sentence makes Apple a proper noun, which indicates you'd like celebrity fruit names to become a trend. In the second sentence, we are referring to something that grows on a tree and feeds people. 

Is one of those nouns more important than the other? I would argue affirmatively...and it has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not it starts with a capital letter!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Travel Writing - A Copy Editor's Experience

I've decided to search for extra editing jobs on eLance. While editing was already a full-time pursuit, I've now completed my contract as an adjunct professor and will only be focused on editing. That enables me to open up my client list further, and eLance seems like a good place to do that.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Comma, Over Here

I've noticed missing commas in everyone's writing in recent years, and it really makes any narrative, fiction or non-fiction, pleasure or business, really clunky. Words jam together in the reader's mind, and the writing appears amateurish at best. The source of this trend is obvious; we frequently communicate through abbreviated mediums, including text messaging, Twitter, and others. In the interest of minimizing length, a comma is often the first punctuation mark to disappear.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Replace My WHAT?!

Language is a funny thing, and I can't imagine writing or editing without maintaining a sense of humor about it. Is 35 too old to think bodily functions are funny? Maybe being a parent to a preschooler has taken my humor down the juvenile path. Or maybe my sense of humor never grew up. Really, though, how is it possible to be an obsessive copy editor and not be amused by the following two words?

The punctuation mark, of course, is best used when followed by a list of one or more specific items. And the other kind of colon could be described similarly, if we want to be cheeky about it. Each kind of colon is a noun. What about a semi-colon, though? How does one partially extract a colon? Well, by inserting a comma, of course.

English is weird, period. Is my period in the right place? I'm not sure how the period ends. With a pregnant pause, perhaps? 

Does this mean two periods get together to make a colon? Can we call that the grammar version of a colonoscopy? Comma over here, let's see what we can make out of this... 

Friday, June 12, 2015


I just love it when Microsoft tempts its users with the "accept all" option. Corel used to do something similar; in any text based piece, when someone has made tracked changes in your document, you can choose to automatically accept all changes or you can go through them point by point, accepting or denying each one. Should you do that? If you have confidence in your copy editor, if you trust this individual to edit your book, document, or otherwise, doesn't this option make sense?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Difference Between Editing for Non-Fiction and Editing for Fiction

I've explained the difference between content and copy editing. Copy editing is my primary specialty, although upon request I do some content editing, as well. But surely, in regard to copy editing, text is text, right? Who cares about the content in copy editing? What difference does it make?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Promotion Expansion: Indie Excitement!

I am happy to announce that I have ten up-and-coming new indie authors who have taken advantage of my half-off promotion! I am excited to read all of these authors' work, and I am excited to receive new manuscripts as well; I am still accepting new clients, and I am expanding my promotion. All indie authors can receive half off my standard rate for the first novel, with my standard rate for all subsequent novels. Keep those creative juices flowing, and keep the inspiration coming my direction for polishing!

Update: I've got too much of a waiting list to keep this promotion going, but keep your eyes open for future specials!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Copy Editing and Citations: A Tedious Relationship

My editing experience is extremely varied - from websites to research papers to novels, I've done quite a bit. I'm as comfortable editing a novel as I am a non-fiction research study. There are some differences, though, and it does translate into cost. Non-fiction that involves significant research of the variety requiring citations takes more time and thus potentially costs more in copy editing. I say "potentially" because the part that costs additional money - and time - is the citation editing. Why?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Through Marketing and Beyond: How Can I Help?

As I'm translating my business to an online platform, I'm learning about the differences between marketing a book and marketing editing skills. There are so many talented and creative writers posting in the Facebook groups that I'm sometimes overwhelmed with the things I want to read - but this truly does seem to be an excellent way to market your newly published book. I'm certainly an example of why! I've taken advantage of multiple free and .99 offers and given positive reviews.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Beyond Amazon

Lots and lots of people reference the bestseller status of their respective books. I do not want to diminish anyone's accomplishment in this regard, but there are an awful lot of bestselling authors who aren't making enough to live on. Why is this, do you think?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Which Comes First...the Content Editor or the Copy Editor?

Okay, it's not quite the age-old chicken vs. egg question (which has totally been solved, by the way; Google it), but it's a compelling question nonetheless. For new authors, it's also a confusing question. What exactly is the difference? Isn't one editor supposed to do all of that?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Importance of Software

I'm always excited to get a new story, chapter, or entire manuscript in my inbox. It's a new landscape, open for adventure. I'm a copyeditor because I love to read! I accept text a variety of ways - various office-based software (several examples pictured above - does anyone in the room over 30 remember when Corel was the preference?), a Google doc, text in the body of an email, and even text in a Facebook message. Copy and paste exist on my computer for a reason.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Website Excitement

After witnessing confusion among several potential clients regarding my web address, I realized that not everyone shares my editor humor. Even better, those that do are concerned that I didn't make my site correctly incorrect. According to one worried friend, in "whomkneedsanediter," I was causing confusion because "kneeds" is not a word and instead should have been "kneads." I say, "editer" is not a word, either, if you're putting it that way...but there you have it. Grammar and spelling jokes are best left out of contact methods, I suppose. With that in mind, I now have the much easier to remember Both site addresses will remain pointed to the same site, though - and even one extra site misspelling that I won't share here. It would only cause confusion. All you have to do is ask yourself - who needs an editor? And here you are.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

You're, Your, and "Ur"

See that "Y" key up there? Let's chat about that, shall we? Of course, there's the "O" key, too, that requires consideration, but for now, the "Y" key will do.

Steam comes out of my ears when I see "ur" used in a manuscript. The only way that is acceptable is when it is part of a quote directly from a text message or internet post. Other than that, please take two extra seconds and type the "y" and the "o."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Dreaded Apostrophe

A friend asked about the correct plural form of the vernacular "pjs" for pyjamas. Pyjamas is, of course, a permanently plural word - no one says he or she has just one pj. I answered that since "pjs" is not the combination of two words, instead being closer in nature to an acronym, an apostrophe indicates possession rather than plural. An example: The Waldo County YMCA's gym is quite expansive, while other YMCAs seem to have smaller gyms. 

I now discover there's a hot debate associated with this. English is a fluid language, changing significantly with every generation. Apparently, the opposing side of the "pjs" debate ("pj's") argues that the apostrophe makes the term more readable. As my brain does a mental jerk every time I run across this error, it has the opposite effect on me. However, I am willing to accept this evolution as a stylistic preference. If you tell me, prior to editing your work, that this is the way that best suits you, I'll leave it alone and keep my mental spasms to myself. :)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Promotion for Indie Authors!

Are you an independent novelist who needs an editor? I am expanding my copyediting to include indie authors! I will edit two pages of any novel for free, and then, for the first ten authors, I'll charge half my normal rate. You've got the novel - I can help you make it shine! Contact me at

My normal rate is .003/word. I accept payments through Paypal upon completion.

PayPal Acceptance Mark

Editing Example 2: Editing for Author Danielle Bannister

Quote from Danielle Bannister, author of the Twin Flames trilogy: "I asked Jessica to edit the first chapter of my manuscript to get a feel for her style of editing. I was impressed with her ability to catch when I slipped tenses (something I do all the time). Her grammatical catches were spot on as well. Her skill at copy editing can help improve the writing of any author. As any author will tell you, editing does matter. You will get nasty reviews if you have a sloppy edit. Copyeditors, like Jessica, are worth their weight in gold."

Monday, January 19, 2015

Editing Example 1: Northwoods Ranch and Retreat's Blog

From the Director of Northwoods Ranch and Retreat, Rory McLaughlin: "I don't put anything on the website that doesn't go through Jessica first. She's brutal, everything has to be perfect."