How An Editor Can Improve Your Writing

The other day I got a text from my friend Eric.

Eric: Do you want grammar notes on something you posted? You have a comma splice in that status about Prime Day. That comma should be a period.

He was referring to an email I had sent out that was also on Facebook and Twitter. The conversation continued, and apparently, I was feeling snarky that day:

Garrett: It’s a newsletter not a thesis paper

Eric: No offense, but the only reason I brought it up is because it’s a newsletter that you’re using to try and make money. Grammar is important for that. At least to me. It looks sloppy and that’s a false impression because you’re not sloppy with your work.

I had two email headlines being A/B tested:

  • What Amazon Prime Day means for writers and readers
  • It’s Amazon Prime Day, how can that benefit you as a writer and reader?

The second one, the one with the comma splice, had 36.4% open rate. The other one had a 9.1% open rate.

Of course, that could have nothing to do with the grammar. Despite the splice, it may just be a really well-written title.

Regardless, Eric is right. People who are looking for writers and editors may not know grammar well enough to catch that, but what if some do? What if I missed an opportunity to be hired by one of my favorite publishers or game studios because they saw that title and decided I wasn’t a good enough writer?

Everything we share should radiate professionalism.

I’ve got a few confessions to make:

  1. I’m pretty bad at comma splices, I do it all the time.
  2. I’m not 100% sure I know how to use a semi-colon.
  3. I’m generally not good at editing my own work (but great at editing others’).

If I want to edit something well, I need to write it ahead of time and come back to it much later. If I try to edit shortly after writing, I miss a lot of things. It’s because I’m too close to the work still. We’re in the honeymoon phase.

It might be the same for you.

That’s why I recommend doing two things:

  1. Self-edit your work a few days after writing.
  2. Get an editor to look at your work.

Hiring an editor can get expensive very quickly, especially if you’re creating content on a weekly basis. When you’re just starting out, it’s fine to self-edit your work. Just make sure you give yourself enough time to separate the emotion from the piece. Don’t edit when you’re still on the honeymoon with your art.

I also recommend this (mostly) free tool called Grammarly. It will point out a lot of things that need correcting. It’s more powerful than just a regular spell check. You can do a lot with the free version, but if you’re serious about your writing business, you’ll want to pick up the paid version.

Grammarly in action.

Click here to check out Grammarly for free.

If you’re just getting started building a business with writing, just use what free tools you have access to and self-edit. Once you start making money, it’s a good idea to invest back into yourself and upgrade Grammarly, as well as hire an editor when you reach that point.

Editors do more than just check Grammar. They’ll be able to tell you what flows and what doesn’t. They’ll be able to make suggestions on better ways to word what you’re saying. They’ll also be able to tell you where information is lacking, or maybe you’re giving too much information.

There are many benefits to hiring an editor, so when you can: it’s going to improve your career.

Quick Take-Aways:

  • Don’t self-edit to soon after writing.
  • Use Grammarly.
  • Hire an editor as soon as you can afford it.

You think you know everything, don’t you? – 06-24-2016 Newsletter

I’m just kidding. You probably don’t think that at all. You’re a pretty rad individual so I doubt you’re that self absorbed.

But you do know a lot of things. A lot of those things you know are things other people don’t know.

You should be writing about them. No, seriously. You should be writing about what you know. Educate the masses.

Or, at least educate your target audience.

There are a lot of benefits to writing what you know.

  1. You get it all out of your head, opening up for more information to come in.
  2. It’s out of the way so you can begin researching what you don’t know.
  3. You build authority in that niche.
  4. You create products you can sell.
  5. And more…

This was the best advice I ever received: “Write what you know.”

I wrote about it (because I know it) here: http://bit.ly/28JEg3H

What do you know that you can write about today? Reply and let me know.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you next week!

Garrett Mickley, GarrettMickley.com

P.S. Do you have any questions about writing creative non-fiction? Reply to this! Seriously. This isn’t noreply@garrettmickley.com (that’s not even a real email address). It comes straight back to my inbox. I’ll get your questions.

P.P.S. Did you know you can read old newsletters at GarrettMickley.com/newsletter?

 

I Will Soon Be Unemployed

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I wrote this in 2006 for a college course.
[Content Warning: Work related stress, violence, ageism]

Let me be honest with you, this paper is pretty much nothing more than a rant about how much I hate my job, and why.  By the end of the day this will be on my Live Journal, and my friends will have an open discussion, usually resulting in someone trying to justify how their job sucks worse than mine.  But this paper is not about social iconography and what is popular.  This paper is actually about my current job, and my inevitable unemployment, which is just on the horizon.  The cause of my soon to be lack of job can be traced to the disgusting inadequacies of my current job.

I am going to tell you a little bit about my wage.  I was hired at six dollars an hour.  That was great at the time, in my opinion.  I was sixteen, minimum wage was five seventy-five, and I was not bagging groceries.  After a year, I was at around six seventy-five.  Not even a month later, the minimum wage was raised to six fifty.  I had been working there for a year, and the new people were coming in making twenty-five cents less than me.  I wanted compensation, a fifty cent raise, but they would have none of it.  The raise system sucks, too.  After two years I am only making a dollar and seventy-four cents more than I was when I started.  That is pathetic.  I am trying to start my own life, not dependent upon anyone else, and they expect me to do that at less than nine dollars an hour.  I, honestly, am not so sure I could pull it off at nine dollars an hour, considering the cost of living in Jupiter, Florida has gone up.  Come to think of it, the cost of living everywhere is going up considerably.  Also, in my opinion, I am not in paid enough to deal with the customers I have to deal with.  I need a job with higher pay.

The customers are probably the worst part of my job.  Retail customers are by far the worst.  Sometimes it takes all my self control to prevent me from punching one in the face.  They do not care at all about how they treat you.  They shove things in my face, yell at me when something does not work, and they usually walk away leaving me disgruntled, more so than when I showed up to work.  One of the biggest problems is our return policy.  The customer has to have their receipt, and it has to be with in thirty days of the purchase.  That sounds pretty reasonable to me, but no customer agrees with it.  To make it better, they argue about it.  We have it on a big sign hanging above our heads, all of the return policy rules, but they argue it with the cashiers as if they can change the policy.  The fact is, we can not change the policy, and if we go around it and get caught, we get in trouble.  It is not something we will get fired over, but it is something that will hinder our chances of getting a raise when the time comes.  And our pay is already low enough.  Aside from at a cashier, customers are still rude out on the sales floor, just in a different way.  It seems as though they seem to have never graduated kindergarten, which sometimes may be the case.  They never put things back.  They pick it up, look at it, and if they want it, throw it in their cart.  If they do not want it, they just throw it on the rack or sometimes even on the ground.  Sometimes, they will put it in their basket and walk around the store shopping for a little while, then just throw it wherever.  I can not stand when I am cleaning up the home goods section and I find two bras, a pair of shoes, and a skirt, all stashed in a metal tin, which is supposed to be used for out door planting.  The one other thing they do out on the sales floor that I find extremely unintelligent is opening things that are closed.  I don’t understand why, even though there are four signs around them saying “Do Not Open Packages,” they feel a need to open the package.  It is clear plastic, they can see through it.  They know exactly what they are buying, but they have to open the package and touch it or something.  It is a complexity I will never understand.  I need a job with less mess to clean up.

When it comes to management, I am pretty sure I could do better than my current.  They were never out on the floor, or doing the hard work, because they are managers.  They have us to do that sort of thing.  Because of this, they do not understand what really goes on out there.  They get a glimpse, when they come up and walk around, and most of them work register when needed, and a few of them help clean.  But most of the managers do not, they just hide in their office and emerge when provoked, like a bear in a cave.  Certain of us, like my self, are on the floor more than on register.  Those people get projects.  These projects are usually all day sorts of deals, but we are assigned three at a time, and are expected to have all three finished.  During this time, we are also running register when needed, price checks, and anything else we are needed for.  All of that make it increasingly difficult to finish the projects.  Recently, we have gotten a new manager.  The old manager was relocated to a different store.  She had been my boss since I was hired.  She knew everything about me, she respected me, and she knew what I could and could not do what I liked about my job and what I hated.  She treated me above people at my same position because she knew I deserved it.  This new manager comes in, and she does not.  To her, I am the same position as everyone else.  She knows how long I have been there.  She knows I am authorized to handle pretty much anything in the store.  The only set back is my title.  Theoretically, I am a coordinator.  Officially, I am not.  I do all the things coordinators do, but my official title on the payroll is still cashier.  I even have the ability to open a register and steal all of the money in it, if I were so inclined.  That is how much I am trusted, but it is not how I am treated by this new manager.  And to me, that sucks.  I need a job with more understanding management.

As you can see, I will soon be unemployed.  The cause of my impending unemployment is the fact that my current job sucks.  But I am completely comfortable with that.  I have come to realize and accept that my job sucks.  I need a new job.

The Definition Of Customer Service

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I wrote this in 2006 for a college course.

[Content Warning: Work related stress, ableist slurs, ableism (sorry, I was young and naive), ageism,]

My job is psychological guerrilla warfare.  That is right; I work as a Customer Service Coordinator at a discount retail store.  Customer service is not assistance and other resources that a company provides to the people who buy or use its products or services.  It is not at all a service that a company provides to individuals.  Customer service is the death of all that is logical.  Customer service is the death of intelligence.  Customer service is the death of pride.  Most of all, customer service is the death of my faith in the future of humanity.  All of this can be summed up into one thing, the policy that states that the customer is always right.  Customer Service is succumbing to the customers.

There is a certain policy that many companies enforce.  This policy is aptly titled: “The Customer Is Always Right,” and is pretty much self explanatory.  This policy is to my logic what Brutus was to Julius Caesar.  While the customer is always right, the customer is often wrong.  Since the customer is always right while being wrong, I am stuck with the conundrum of whether or not what I know is right or wrong.  If the customer says what I know is wrong, then it is wrong, and I must relearn what is right according to the customer, because the customer is always right.  If another customer says that is wrong, then I am back where I started, because the customer is always right.  For example, I make a Statement Z.  Customer A makes a Statement A, which is contrary to Statement Z.  Statement Z is now wrong, and Statement A is right, because the customer is always right.  Customer B makes a Statement B, and Statement B is that Statement Z is correct, so Statement Z is now correct, because the customer is always right.  Statements A and B are the control, while Statement Z is the variable, meaning Statements A and B are always right, while Statement Z can be right or wrong.  Statement B equals Statement Z, while Statement A equals the opposite of Statement Z and B.  Et tu, Brutus?

Let us suppose before I went to work today I took an IQ test.  On that IQ test I scored a ninety seven, which is generally average.  Then, the situation that was previously discussed occurs.  In less than five minutes I have become completely devoid of logic, and it only took two people to accomplish such a task.  Not to mention, these individuals are people I have never met in my life.  They have completely destroyed my ability to identify with any reasonable logic known to man.  A very good portion of the IQ test is logic related, and at least twenty five percent is specifically focused on logic.  In general, the IQ test is roughly thirty three percent logic.  If I received an average score on the IQ test before I had lost my ability to reason logic, now that my logic is gone, I will lose thirty three percent of the score I received if I were to take the IQ test again.  Naturally, I take the IQ test again after that.  I score about a sixty three.  That score is extremely low according to IQ Test standards.  In just five minutes I have become mentally retarded, thanks to a company policy I wish I were not required to enforce.

In the first five minutes of my shift, I have gone from average intelligence to mentally retarded.  I am working a six hour shift.  On average, these situations happen twice an hour on the off season.  Lucky for me, my logic has already been destroyed and I can not lose anymore intelligence, even if this happened every five minutes for my entire six hour shift.  While I am not losing intelligence anymore, I have lost one other thing.  That one other thing is my pride.  I lost my pride back when my logic was obliterated; even before that.  As soon as I began to enforce the “The Customer Is Always Right” policy, Customer A had stolen my pride from me.  It did not happen that second, but that millisecond.  When I succumb to the whims of a customer, I am giving them my pride, because I can not stand up for my self when the tell me I am wrong, because the customer is always right, and if the customer is right and I am wrong, I have no pride.  Good bye pride, good bye logic.  Sometimes, before I go to sleep and I am lying in bed staring at the ceiling, I wonder what would happen if a customer told me I still had my pride.

Customer Service is readily handing over your logic, your intelligence, and your pride to the customer, and allowing them to stomp it into the ground.  Customer Service is succumbing to the customers and their opinions on what is right and wrong.

Pirates VS. Lumberjacks

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I wrote this in 2006 for a college course.

[Content Warning: Satire, stereotypes, sexism, violence, alcohol, cancer]

There is a point in time in every boy’s life where he becomes a man.  This could be at the age of thirteen, or at the age of thirty.  Either way, this boy must choose how manly they want to be.  Obviously this is broken down to two choices: pirates and Lumberjacks.  Always capitalize the word Lumberjacks, because Lumberjacks are so manly, they become proper nouns.  Lumberjacks are a better definition for the modern man than pirates.

What is the definition of manliness?  Man must show bravery in the face of irrational danger.  If they have to be brave and fight, that’s okay.  In fact, it’s even better.  Violence is very manly.  Man must be intelligent in the face of overpowering stupidity.  Women think men are ignorant, but it is just denial.  Women have to deny how much they love men, and hide their emotions, because women are weird like that.  Man must have the ability to control, tame, and handle the female gender.  They need to wise up and face the fact that they love men.  I do not include the homosexual females in this, although I have nothing against them.  Man must have an appetite for foods considered chemically hazardous.  This is okay, because man has been given a gift from God.  Not only can man urinate while standing, but we also have stomachs lined with reinforced steel.  Last, but not least, man must have a disgustingly inadequate ability to groom him self.  This includes the homosexual male, whom I also have nothing against.

It is clear that pirates are manly, although the feminine side of manly.  They are most definitely brave as heck, too.  They steal ships for a living, and they steal them by force.  That is the coolest profession you could possibly have. They also get to fight with swords.  Fighting with swords is the second manliest way to fight, the first being with fists.  Violence is very manly; just ask Steven Segal, Chuck Norris, or Bruce Lee.  What makes them less manly is that they also use guns, and guns are for cowards.  Real men fight melee.  Pirates are so intelligent; they know words that most of us lesser citizens do not use.  What is better?  They use these words every day.  They use words like “commandeer,” “parlay,” and “ahoy”.  I am not sure “parlay” and “ahoy” are even real words, and if they are not, that is even manlier.  Pirates personify everything a woman cannot have in a man who is not a criminal.  Pirates love rum, which is one of the most chemically hazardous liquids to ingest in large amounts, and you know they do not just drink a little.  Pirates also wear obnoxious clothing.  Their hats are disgustingly obtuse.  They also wear puffy shirts.  Just like in that episode of Seinfeld.  Everyone knows those are inadequate grooming.

Lumberjacks are men’s men.  Any Lumberjack will tell you he is a man’s man.  Lumberjacks cut down trees for a living.  They have a burning hatred for trees and keep those horrible green entities from invading and possibly overthrowing our society.  Lumberjacks have the brain power of a telekinetic super-being.  Instantly, they use algebra and geometry to not assume, not predict, but decide the fall trajectory of the trees they slay.  They also automatically know which trees need to be cut down and why.  Lumberjacks are loved by women because they are the strongest men in the world with the most robust muscles. They can perform hard physical labor for up to forty eight hours without taking a breath or drinking Gatorade.  Women love men who work.  Lumberjacks eat flapjacks every day, probably because just like their title, it ends in “jacks.”  What is that?  Flapjacks are not chemically hazardous?  Yes, yes they are!  Flapjacks are made with artificial flapjack powder, which is actually a cancer causing agent.  Real men are not afraid of cancer.  Lumberjacks also wear flannel and suspenders.  Sometimes they even wear bright orange.  They clearly have no ability to groom themselves.

Although pirates and Lumberjacks are both manly, there is a fine line between which is manlier.  Pirates represent the feminine side of men; something all men will not admit, but know is true.  None the less, pirates are still men, and they will always be considered the next manliest thing, compared to Lumberjacks.  It is very clear, and everyone knows the truth.  Lumberjacks are a better definition for the modern man than pirates.  Remember, Lumberjack is always capitalized.