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An excellent grammar site

Good editing demands a good knowledge of grammar. Toward that end, englishgrammar101.com (external link) should help most people immensely. Both free and pay services exist, with the free tutorials being well thought out and extremely useful. Module 1 starts with verb identification and ends, 55 (!) lessons later, at adverbs modifying other adverbs. And, if you get finished with that first module, there are five more left to go. Advanced lessons teach about gerunds and past participles and splitting infinitives, all those building blocks of grammar that I forgot about since high school, or never learned to begin with. A great site to bookmark.

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What do I charge? And what should you?

I charge $30 an hour for rush work, $25 an hour for everyday jobs, and $20 an hour for ongoing work. My speciality is non-fiction research and writing for the web, although I also do light editing and polishing.

My rates are significantly under what the two leading writers’ associations suggest but I do not hold this out as a selling point for my services. You can take a look here (external link) at what the Editorial Freelancers Association suggests as editorial rates.

How long does it take to write an article or a blog post? The Editorial Freelancers Association say that one to three pages an hour is a good guideline and that a standard manuscript page is 250 words. In my experience, 500 words an hour is a workable goal.

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Too many years with a one button mouse

Too many years with a one button mouse has kept me from knowing all the terrific features that are delivered by a two button mouse. Picking synonyms in Microsoft Word by simply choosing a word and right clicking is a new, great joy. And invoking a thesaurus at the same time is an even happier happening. Why did I take so long to discover this?

The “Magic Mouse” that comes with an iMac is a single click device. One button. Making it into a two button device is done with software: you enable its two sided function by selecting that choice in your System Preference settings. You then click on the right side of the mouse and voilà! Thanks to Linda Dodge for pointing this out. Now, does anyone need a beat up, hardcopy thesaurus?

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Joining a professional organization

I’ve joined a professional organization, the non-profit Editorial Freelancers Association (external link). It seems to be the best of the few groups that cater to freelance writers. It’s run almost completely by volunteers and members, most of whom are full time freelancers. Cost for a year, including a one-time sign up fee, is about $175. There’s a job board, a newsletter, on-line education classes, an e-mail discussion list, and other benefits. I think the cost is reasonable compared to other professional organizations. And the job list appears solid, serious, without any of the outrageous employer postings featured in the low cost freelance sites. I’ll give it a try and report back.

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Canadian, eh?

I’m studying Canadian English, to better write for Canadian clients. It’s quite mystifying. Microsoft Word has a Canadian English setting, but it is very liberal and it permits major errors, such as writing defense instead of defence. It’s really quite hard to know what to look for. Travelling instead of traveling. Fulfilment instead of fulfillment. Anaemia instead of anemia, and so on. I’ve ordered two Canadian English dictionaries (external link)  and that should help. Best to get right in and wallow in the subject. In the meantime, I’ve found a good resource.

The Canadian government has a language portal (external link) that delves into the many facets of Canadian usage. Grammar, punctuation, typography, vocabulary, and translation are all introduced. Spelling, though, for me, remains the biggest mystery. The site gives a small list of words that differ from American spellings, however, it properly reminds me that a true list would run into the hundreds and still be incomplete. As they put it:

“The recommended spelling authority is a reliable Canadian dictionary such as the Canadian Oxford or Gage Canadian Dictionary. It is important to choose one and use it consistently. Both publications are based on research into Canadian usage, contain specifically Canadian terms and reflect the usage of most federal government departments and agencies more closely than do American or British dictionaries. When they list two spellings for a word in the same entry, choose the one entered first. When two spellings are given separate entries, choose the primary spelling, which is the one followed by the definition (the variant simply refers the reader to the primary entry). For scientific and technical words not in Gage or the Canadian Oxford, check Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.”

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Two directions for the internet. And freelancers.

Where are we going with the internet? Google says that it will rank sites higher which have mobile compatibility. Yet all things video continue to lead the internet. Low bandwidth versus higher bandwidth. For freelancers we will have to get used to both. We’ll have to write shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs, and we’ll have to start learning about video. Among other things.

Today I have retired my six year old iMac. It had 4 Gigs of RAM. My new machine has 16 Gigs, enough to do some pretty heavy duty video processing. But why am I doing this? Millennials call us authors “creatives.” That means we can’t just be about writing. Today, we have to be familiar with editing text, images, audio, and moving pictures. It’s called creating content. And it’s what every website owner expects of us. Soldier on.

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New tools for new writing

As an older writer I’m used to old things. A copy of the The Chicago Manual of Style, Strunk’s Element’s of Style, and a good thesaurus. Things change. Now, writing for the web, I have to add new tools for new writing.

Internet writing demands acquaintance with so called keywords, familiarity with Google Analytics, and a passing knowledge of SEO, search engine optimization. The key to remember is this: your writing matters little if someone can’t find it. And nobody can find it unless your writing ranks high in search results.

I’m now writing exclusively for the web. The content I generate, and I despise that wording, is linked inexorably to the algorithms that search engines employ. I can be more valuable to my employers, my clients, if I know more about search. Can anyone recommend a good primer? Right now I am learning as I go, and it is indeed a new world filled with new tools.

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