When people discover I’m a freelance editor at networking events or through casual conversation, they occasionally ask this question: “Why does anyone need an editor when they can just use spellcheck?”

The first few times, this query seriously pissed me off. I mean, really? You think you can do a better job editing than an actual editor? Yeesh.

But eventually I came to see to see the question as a teachable moment, both for the questioner and, as it turns out, myself. Why? Because many organizations and small businesses are unable to afford the cost of – or do not see the value in – hiring a dedicated editor to check over written work. Often proofreading is up to the individual putting out that report, email, or post.

Listening provided perspective. Now when asked, I offer this overview of self-editing whys and hows:

  • Written content, regardless of type, requires review. Writing fast and sending (posting, tweeting, emailing, mailing) courts disaster in the form of mistakes. Some are amusing typos, others are get-you-fired typos.
  • Make time to put aside the copy for at least 15 to 30 minutes … yes, even that 280-character tweet!
  • Reviewing should start with your own eyeballs. Read the text slowly to yourself. Then read it out loud! (A wonderfully effective technique.)
  • Get a coworker or friend to check the copy – someone who has not previously proofread your work.
  • Now run it through the spellchecker installed with your computer’s word processing software (like Microsoft Word), or Google Docs or similar online freeware. Other sites offer the option of plugging in a paragraph or uploading a file for free spelling and grammar review.

Following this straightforward routine will help weed out most grammar, spelling, and style gaffes in your written work.

Other projects may require the services professional editor. Looking for one? Let’s talk!