You can’t tell who they are until something happens. Something evil. Something so terrible it’s almost an unspeakable crime. But they’re everywhere. And if you’re not a careful proofreader of your own writing, you may one day find yourself face to face with the grammar police.
And that’s no laughing matter.
The uncommissioned members of the grammar police are outraged by misplaced commas. They hyperventilate over misspellings. And they’ll shake their fist at the sky over a dangling participle…sometimes muttering words we can’t repeat.
For freelance writers, there’s an often overlooked factor that kills some client relationships and undermines your credibility: grammar and punctuation mistakes.
Even seasoned writers are at risk of letting those mistakes pass through the final draft. And I guarantee you, that if you do, the grammar police will find you. They’ll slash your work with a red pen and virtually edit your writing into oblivion. Don’t let that happen.
Here are the 10 most common mistakes to watch for. Correct your mistakes before the grammar police hunt you down. Here’s how:
If you’re a new freelance copywriter, sending a quote can be fraught with anxiety:
- Will they think you’re professional?
- They know you’re not a content mill writer, don’t they?
- Did you cover everything they mentioned?
- Are they going to accept your price or try and haggle over freelance copywriter rates?
- Did you include an upsell?
- Are they going to say no?
It’s enough to distract you from your paying clients, get frustrated, and start second guessing your career as a freelance copywriter.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
If any of these post-send fears sound familiar, you might be making some common, but easily fixable, freelance copywriter mistakes.
Here’s how to find out, fix the problem, and earn more:
You’re about to fire off a query letter, submit an article assignment to an editor, or send an LOI to a prospect. Do you use a grammar checker tool before you hit send?
There’s the typical safeguards to catch spelling errors and basic grammar issues in programs like Microsoft Word and Google Docs.
But in the last few years, there’s been a kind of meeting of the minds between wordsmiths and software engineers to create more sophisticated grammar checker tools.
These grammar checker tools promise to:
- Catch spelling and grammar issues
- Identify major issues in your writing
- Learn your writing style
- Offer specific recommendations based on the type of writing you’re doing (business, technical, medical, marketing, etc.)
Does that mean you can just ignore all the rules covered in The Elements of Style (one of the most widely-used books on style and grammar since 1918) and use a grammar checker tool?
Let’s take a closer look at some popular grammar checker tools to find out if this is crucial software, or just a crutch for freelancers.
Note: Are you part of the grammar police? Or do you despise well-meaning writers who can’t overlook an errant punctuation mark or typo? In this post, originally written by Linda Formichelli, she serves up four in-your-face reasons grammar police make terrible freelance writers. Enjoy! —Carol.
The other day I received this email in response to a marketing message I sent out to my subscription list:
Basic grammar forbids the use of double negatives, “…using the wrong
set of skills for the wrong job”. An authority on writing must master
the rules of writing before they can be taken seriously.
(I so wanted to let this guy know that “the wrong skills for the wrong job” is hardly a double negative, and that some of the greatest writers of all times used double negatives for emphasis — Shakespeare, anyone? But I took my own advice and hit Delete.)
They pay late, or too little. They’re not sure what they want. They’re unavailable when you have questions, and sometimes downright abusive when they do pick up the phone. They’re clients from hell, and as a freelancer, you just don’t need this grief.
And yet, tales of client woes are an epidemic in the freelance world. Stories of the best friend you went to work for, who underpaid you for years. Or the company that never raised your rates, even as your responsibilities grew. The one that disappeared with your big final payment.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could avoid freelance writing clients from hell like these?
Well, for the most part, you can! There are some classic warning signs that things will go wrong — if you know what to look for.
Here’s my guide to quickly screening out losers:
Ever have one of your freelance writing jobs turn into a total disaster? It happens, even to experienced writers.
I know, because it recently happened to me. After roughly 18 years of freelancing.
This flameout happened on a $3,000 corporate research report project that required intensive interviewing. I’d done these sort of projects in the past, loved them, was excited to do another one.
Then I did my research, put my list of possible interview subjects together, sent out hundreds of inquiries — roughly triple what I’d needed in the past to land the 6-8 interviews required — and got zero responses. Not. A. One.
It’s been a long time since one of my freelance writing jobs ended in failure. In fact, I’d only ever had one other article that got killed, at the very beginning of my career. Having a complete whiff this late in my career was a humbling experience.
What should you do if the worst happens and one of your freelance writing jobs gets screwed up? Here’s my guide to keeping it professional and minimizing the damage, when everything that could go wrong does: