Checking your text before sending it to a publisher is crucial. This isn't the same as a manuscript critique because the work is done for you here.


Tel: 0161 445 0159




Do literacy skills really matter when there are editors to correct my work?

Some writers argue that if you have a great story to tell, publishers will overlook your spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors. But if you're a writer, it's assumed that you can write, as well as tell a good story. Literacy skills are the tools of your trade. They should have been learned in primary school but it's alarming how many people don't have them, even teachers I've encountered.

If you're trying to attract a publisher in a highly competitive world, you owe it to yourself to produce the most professional work you can.

Because children are taught to spell phonetically, they write what they hear. Here are some of the clangers I've come across during my work as a copy-editor and creative writing tutor.

  • 'new clear' family;
  • 'outer body experience';
  • 'in tacked';
  • 'would of'' instead of 'would have' (very common these days);
  • '...were brought up together but who's feelings were far from plutonic for one another.' (One mispronounciation [see below] and one spelling error in the same sentence);
  • 'Jan was emitted to the ward' (aka a Malapropism, or a Dogsberryism - a nonsense or humorous word which sounds like the correct word; named after Mrs Malaprop, a character from Sheridan's play 'The Rivals' who constantly spoke like this.)
  • 'She had soused out that one of the nurses...' (another Malapropism);

Words spelt in different ways mean different things:

  • practise (verb, to practise); practice (noun, doctor's practice);
  • stationery (eg envelopes); stationary (eg as in parked vehicle);
  • advise (was advised to...); advice (to give advice)
  • specific (to be explicit, exact); Pacific (this is an ocean). This is more often a verbal mistake by people who may not have seen the word 'specific' in print but it occurs in writing too, usually as the adverb 'pacifically' instead of 'specifically';
  • 'She had nothing to loose', (instead of 'lose' - a common example of phonetic spelling).

Good punctuation helps us to make sense of our sentences:

  • 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves' (the title of journalist Lynne Truss's Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation book). The title means something quite different without the comma.


And bad language is difficult to avoid when people can't define what is or isn't bad language:

  • Quote by student: 'I used bloody and crap as I don't really consider them to be swear words.' (I'm sure lots of people don't but they might just cost you a woman's magazine short story acceptance. You need to know when you can use them and when you can't in your study of the market for which you're writing.)
  • Gud look!

Copy-editing, writing books and fees

Copy-editing books, fiction or non-fiction, involves checking over your text for literacy and other essential elements and correcting them. These include:

  • spelling
  • punctuation
  • grammar
  • syntax
  • accuracy (typing errors)
  • clarity
  • factual mistakes
  • language (hyperbole, misuse of words, excessive adjectives/adverbs, complex vocabulary, repetitions, cliches and taboos, overlong sentences)
  • pacing 
  • show, don't tell
  • dialogue weaknesses
  • consistency (blue eyes Chapter 1, brown eyes Chapter 3)
  • tenses


Light copy-editing

  • grammar
  • punctuation
  • spelling
  • syntax
  • typing mistakes
  • consistency                                      

Copy-editing plus

  • light copy editing, plus  
  • pacing
  • dialogue
  • clarity
  • factual mistakes
  • show, don't tell  
  • vocabulary/language
  • inappropriate tense changes               

Researching and writing books      

Fees are in line with NUJ rates but the full fee depends on the complexity of each work. The reasons for this are given below.

Reading and assessment

Reading and correcting or editing a novel can be time-consuming work. Some manuscripts are more complex than others and they all vary in length.

It may be that when I receive your manuscript, I will feel that it isn't ready for publication and that the amount of work I would need to do would exceed the fee. In that case, I would suggest that more work is carried out on it by you before I would be prepared to work on it.

So that I can assess your work, I suggest sending me the manuscript by mail. I will read through it and copy-edit the first chapter (up to 3,000 words) under the scheme you have chosen above and return it to you with a brief report. I will then be able to assess whether it is ready to go ahead, how much work will be involved and how long it might take me. 

Payment and terms

The fee for reading and assessment is £55 payable in advance. If we then decide to go ahead with the copy-editing, this amount will be deducted from your invoice. At this stage, I will be able to see more clearly how much work is likely to be involved. I can then give you a definite quote for the rest of the manuscript. If you accept my quote, 50% of the fee must be paid in advance and the rest when the work is finished.

The instructions for presenting and sending manuscripts are given on the Appraisals sub-page.

The terms and conditions given on the Appraisal page are applicable to submission of manuscripts for sub-editing.