gimlet editorial an eye for the detail
Professional Proofreading for Students, Academics and Authors
A professionally trained proofreader, awarded distinction by the Publishing Training Centre, and an intermediate member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, I offer a bespoke service with meticulous attention to detail and a dedication to creative and academic excellence. Let me cast my gimlet eye over your writing and help you present your work at its absolute best!
I'm Bec McNeil, a former English teacher and A-Level examiner. After 15 years of helping young people become better writers, I left the classroom behind to go solo as a freelance proofreader. Working abroad for many years with non-native speakers, I managed to get to grips with English grammar and lexis in a way that has stood me in excellent stead in my editorial career!
Having completed the Publishing Training Centre’s entry-level proofreading qualification with distinction, I’m now an intermediate member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and follow their code of practice. I have proofread all kinds of texts for both individuals and large organisations, from lifestyle blogs to promotional material for the Arts Council of England, but with several years’ experience of preparing sixth formers for university, one of my specialisms is academic writing. I’ve been an IB thesis supervisor many times, helping students to master the principles of in-text citation and referencing, and the intricacies of compiling a bibliography.
While much of my work is for students and academics, my own academic background has led to strong working relationships with self-published authors writing in genres as diverse as romance, YA and science fiction. I have a BA in English Literature, as well as a Master’s in Applied Linguistics, where my thesis explored the application of functional linguistics to the teaching of poetry; I have also devised, taught and examined A-Level creative writing modules. Words have always been my bread and butter, and the creative use of language is my obsession!
BA English and History of Art (first class honours)
MA Applied Linguistics (first class honours)
PGCE English and Drama (Grade 1)
Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults
15 years as a teacher of English Language, Literature and Drama
AQA Examiner for English Language A-Level
OCR Examiner for English Literature A-Level
PTC Basic Proofreading: Editorial Skills 1 (Distinction)
Specialisms: English literature, art history, linguistics, Initial Teacher Training, education, ESL, visual arts, literary and commercial fiction, poetry
WHAT I DO
What is proofreading?
Traditionally, proofreading is the process by which the final checks are made on a text or document (in the form of a ‘proof’) before it goes out to the world in its published format. A proofreader will pick up on errors of spelling, punctuation and grammar as well as pointing out any problems missed by the typesetter, such as inconsistencies in fonts or heading styles. However, because the text is in its final format, a proofreader must limit his or her interventions to correcting errors rather than ‘rewriting’ the text.
When I proofread your writing, I will make sure:
the spelling, punctuation and grammar are standard (English/US) and consistent throughout the text.
word-usage is correct and suggestions are given for the avoidance of repetition.
dialogue/embedded quotations are punctuated consistently.
hyphenation and capitalisation are consistent.
chapters and pagination are correctly sequenced.
paragraph indentation is standard and consistent.
paragraph and section/chapter breaks are logical and aid readability.
fonts, heading styles and bullet points are consistent.
justification is consistent throughout the text.
problematic word-breaks and stacked hyphens are amended.
solutions are given for widows, orphans and short lines.
any extraneous spacing is removed.
errors or omissions in the positioning and labelling of illustrations/tables are highlighted.
footnotes and endnotes are consistent in numbering and style.
anomalies in timelines, locations and systems of measurement are highlighted.
inconsistencies in characterisation (e.g. names, personal attributes) are highlighted.
the text complies with the house style guide in all of the above aspects (if relevant).
What is copy-editing?
Usually, by the time the proofs reach the proofreader, they will already have been through the copy-editing stage. This is a deeper level of editorial intervention, and proofreading isn’t always possible if a text hasn’t first been through this process. Sometimes a writer might say that their work needs proofreading, when what they really mean is copy-editing. According to the Publishing Training Centre, while copy-editing does include checking the spelling, grammar and punctuation, to a greater extent it is concerned with:
ensuring the structure/organisation of the document flows logically.
ensuring the writing style is appropriate for the intended audience.
checking arithmetic (e.g. in tables) is correct.
deciding and instructing on the best positioning of image elements.
querying with the author anything that seems odd, ambiguous, contradictory, repetitive or unclear.
checking any cross-references in the document, including footnotes.
ensuring that bibliographies/references are complete and follow a consistent style.
looking out for any possible legal problems such as libel, plagiarism and copyright.
Strictly speaking, these tasks fall into the domain of the copy-editor rather than the proofreader, but nowadays the line between proofreading and copy-editing has become blurred to the extent that many proofreaders, myself included, also offer a service called a ‘proof-edit’, which might be recommended if a text has had only light copy-editing (or none at all).
If you’re unsure as to the level of intervention your text requires, please feel free to get in touch. After viewing a sample I’ll be happy to advise and to point you in the direction of a copy-editor if that would be more to your benefit.
Further information about my services:
What will it cost?
The price you will pay depends on a number of things: the length of the text, whether I’ll be working on screen or on paper, the turnaround requested, and the level of editorial intervention required. As a newly qualified proofreader, my rates are highly competitive: £12 per hour / £10 an hour for students. (As a point of reference, the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading's suggested minimum hourly rate is £25.40 for proofreading, and up to £29.60 for copy-editing.)
However, please note that I only quote for a job after I’ve seen a representative sample of the text and had a discussion with you about your needs. So that clients don’t need to worry about going over budget, I usually give a fixed fee based on how long I estimate the job will take. If the job is completed in a shorter space of time, then you will only pay for the hours worked; if it happens to take longer, you will not be asked to pay any more than the fixed fee agreed at the outset. You can rest assured that I will work as efficiently as is possible without compromising quality.
Once we’ve agreed a price, I’ll ask you to complete a booking confirmation form to secure my services for a set time period. I require 50% of the total agreed fee to be paid in advance to confirm the booking; the remainder will be due upon completion.
Get in touch using the contact form at the bottom of the page to set the ball rolling.
WHAT TO EXPECT
How I work
Once your job has been booked into my schedule, I’ll send you a reminder the week before, requesting the document and a copy of your style guide (if there is one) to be sent to me to arrive the day before the job begins. This is so that I can check that nothing is missing from the file before I start. I can work in Word (using Track Changes), on paper using the BS 5261 annotation symbols, or in a PDF document, according to your preference.
During the dedicated time period for the job, I may need to contact you periodically with straightforward queries – for example, if I find a person’s name spelled in two different ways. We can agree at the outset the best method and times for me to do this (e.g. by phone or by email; every day as queries arise, or in one block towards the end) but I will need your response in good time in order to meet the deadline for the job. Other queries might not be quite so black and white as the correction of an error, and these will remain for you to view on the finished proofread document as a marginal query labelled with a Q (e.g. Q: Change ‘stuff’ to ‘items’ to avoid repetition?). It’s important to note that the document you receive from me will not be the finished text that goes out into the world and will almost certainly require further action from you, whether this be incorporating the corrections I have made on paper or PDF into the original file, or making decisions on whether to reject or accept the individual corrections I have made using the Track Changes function in Word.
At the end of the job, along with your proofread document, you will also receive a style sheet which will list the various standardising decisions that were made, so that it can be referred to by anyone undertaking further editorial work on the text or related documents (such as the sequel to a novel).
How long will it take?
Working in Word with Track Changes is faster than working on paper or with a PDF, but this question is impossible to answer without seeing a representative sample of the text. According to the CIEP, how long a job will take ‘depends how complex, difficult or badly written the text is.’
How many problems did it have to begin with? How well was it edited? Unless the material is straightforward, it will need at least two passes – one for headings, numbering and layout, say, and one for content. Proofreading is tiring for the eyes and the brain, so proofreaders cannot work for hours at a time and remain efficient. It also takes time to get up to speed, reading or re-reading the brief and style guide, so short jobs are slower by their nature.
Allowing for all the factors mentioned, an experienced professional can usually proofread and correct 2000 to 3500 words per hour – about 6–11pp. in many books – and 2500 is typical.
If the budget or schedule turns out to be too tight, our ideas of what is ‘good enough’ have to change. In that case, the proofreader will minimise and simplify any changes, partly because time is now tight for the designer or typesetter to take in corrections.
Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, 2020
By its very nature, proofreading is a methodical and painstaking process. While you can rest assured that I work with maximum efficiency, I don’t work through the weekend or do ‘all-nighters’, as this would be counter-productive: quality would be compromised.
Will it be perfect?
What is perfection – and is it achievable? Coming from a background of applied linguistics, my approach to grammar is descriptive rather than prescriptive; a living language is changing all the time and what was considered incorrect forty years ago (split infinitives, anyone?) might be perfectly acceptable today. I am concerned with making your text professionally polished and unambiguously clear to your intended audience; arcane pedantry doesn’t come into it. Of course, I aim for perfection, but as the CIEP points out in their ‘Standards for Proofreading’:
[...] perfection is rarely possible. By the Law of Diminishing Returns, perfection requires inordinate amounts of time and money. It is not realistic, but nor are some clients. Even when time is tight, they still want perfection while paying only for ‘good enough’. If they did not pay for copy-editing, the proofreader can only sort out the worst problems. […]
An experienced professional proofreader, reading a copy-edited typescript, should be able to spot and deal appropriately with at least 80% of all errors but at least 90% of typos – other things being equal.
Other things are seldom equal. Was the writer accurate, consistent and reasonably coherent? Was the material edited? How tricky is the subject matter? Did the author respond to queries? Did the author, project manager, journal editor or designer add new mistakes? Did the proofreader have enough time and money?
While it is generally agreed within the editorial field that perfection is highly subjective and seldom achievable, I can guarantee that I will aim for the highest editorial standards and your work will be significantly improved in accuracy, clarity and quality. My academic qualifications demonstrate my dedication to excellence; you can visit the Testimonials page to see just how happy my clients are with my work.
“Wow, I can’t sing Bec McNeil’s praises enough! My novel had already been beta-read and edited, so I didn’t think there would be much left to correct, but Bec still caught several mistakes, including places where I’d made a story flub. I was impressed by how carefully she must have read my work to have caught all these. She gave me dozens of helpful comments, edits and suggestions. She caught instances of repetition, found typos and errors in punctuation, and made good suggestions for alternative word choices. I have a pretty good grasp of grammar, but Bec still taught me something new about how commas are unnecessary when we use cumulative rather than co-ordinating adjectives. In short, I recommend her highly. Your manuscript will be in good hands with her.”
V. Samson, Author
“As someone with absolutely no writing experience, it was really reassuring to have someone so knowledgeable proofreading my work, and it really helped with my confidence. Bec always seemed to understand what I was trying to get across and managed to correct my punctuation without losing the chatty and intimate tone I was aiming for in my blog. She was always very clear and honest about whether my articles just needed a light polish or a more in-depth proof-edit. Thanks to her help, as time went on and I found my feet as a writer, it was the former more often than the latter!”
K.O’Leary, Lifestyle Blogger
“I contacted Bec when I was putting together a job application. It took me such a long time to draft my personal statement that it was a huge relief to be able to hand it over to a professional for proofreading. I’d already had it checked by two other people who had picked up on some spelling mistakes, but Bec found grammatical errors they had missed as well as sentences where my meaning could have been construed in different ways. She also suggested re-arranging the paragraph structure for greater impact. I would definitely recommend her services, and if I move jobs again I will be giving her a call!”
L. Greene, Health Professional
“We used Gimlet to proofread a project proposal for a major collaboration between our university department and local arts organisations and stakeholders. Very impressed by the attention to detail, not just to the spelling and grammar but also the layout and formatting. We’re a very busy department so the quick turnaround was appreciated too. Many thanks and will definitely use again for this kind of work.”
A. Ainsworth, University Lecturer
“I’d like to thank Bec for putting in so much work in proofreading my manuscript. I could tell she read every word, and she made several good catches neither I nor my copy-editor picked up. Thank you!”
D. Furse, Author
“Thank you so much for the brilliant job you did with my dissertation. I’ve always struggled with punctuation and your help took so much of the stress out of the process. I was able to concentrate on getting my ideas across without worrying that my writing was going to let me down. I will absolutely be recommending this to my uni friends.”
F. Dixon, Student
“Excellent work! Bec picked up several typos as well as suggesting re-wording in places to remove repetition or to clarify the meaning. The finished web text is clear and professional and reads more smoothly. Many thanks!”
N. Bishop, Crowdproducers.com
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