Monday, February 15, 2010

On-demand, Online Editing: Why You Must Shop Smart to Look Smart, by Adrienne S. Escoe, PhD

No one gets a second chance to make a first impression. Typos, bad grammar, poor formatting, and sloppy word use can be toxic to the image of your products or services and devour your bottom line.

To preserve, protect, and propel your brand, enlist the services of a professional editor. A convenient and cost-effective solution is on-demand, online editing. The result will be a clear, concise, and correct finished product that projects an image worthy of your products or services.

But how do you select an online editing service? Talented writers, as you might have found out already, are not necessarily great editors.

Web sites seeking on-demand, online editing services vary greatly. Many providers have sprouted from the roots of technical writing, corporate communications, English, or journalism, but may not meet your specific needs. As a business-to-business or individual consumer, how can you judge the scope or quality of the services offered? Visit a handful of on-demand, online editing sites (listed below), and see how well they measure up to the evaluation questions that follow.

Questions to Ask
  1. How are editors qualified?
  2. Are fees the same for proofreading as for heavy editing?
  3. Is the pricing structure clear? Are payment terms and methods specified (for example, credit card)?
  4. Can customers specify the level of editing they seek?
  5. Are performance criteria spelled out, or do customers have to guess the specific grammatical or usage errors or inconsistencies that the service will rectify?
  6. Can customers receive a quotation without an obligation to buy?
  7. Does the service specify a default manual of style with which its proofreaders and editors comply, and can customers specify an alternate manual of style? The four most popular manuals include APA, Chicago, MLA, and Microsoft®.
  8. Is the ordering process clear?
  9. Does the service, or an affiliated service, provide writers at your site, if needed?
  10. Does the site include a contact form for inquiries?
  11. Is the site free from typos, bad grammar, or inconsistencies?
  12. Are references or testimonials readily available?

Ultimately, you want to be sure that the service you choose has a customer-driven structure that accepts, and even encourages, customers to transmit their unique editing requirements, including company editorial conventions.

Adrienne S. Escoe is president of Escoe Bliss Communication, Inc. and the author of The Practical Guide to World-Class Documentation.

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