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To make an unsolicited offer to copy edit someone's book?

(25 Posts)
Saracen Thu 28-Apr-16 01:13:50

I'm an activist. Someone I "know" from internet forums is writing a book publicising my favourite cause. I admire his work. He's tremendously knowledgeable and puts together excellent arguments. He's also very dyslexic.

I've read one of his previous books, which was self-published. Every page contained numerous errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling. There were sentences which occupied nearly a whole page. It looked like a first draft. This surprised me: I would have expected him to have asked a friend or ally to help tidy it up. The book sold reasonably well, but it could have been much better. I hate to think that some people might have dismissed it because of its poor presentation.

I'd like to volunteer to help with his current project, but I'm afraid that my offer may give offence. I wonder whether anyone has told him just how extensive the problems in the other book were.

Can I manage to make this offer without hurting his feelings? If I do take it on, will it shock him to get it back from me with dozens of alterations on each page?

MattDillonsPants Thu 28-Apr-16 01:16:26

Of course you're not being unreasonable. It's fine. You can just say something like "I would love the chance to edit for you...what do you think?"

Keep it simple...but asking in a way that makes it "a chance" for you, will mean he won't feel that you're judging his writing.

GraysAnalogy Thu 28-Apr-16 01:36:34

Not at all! I'm sure they'd appreciate it, I know I would.

I'd give some feedback on how much you enjoyed his work but had noticed some errors in the copy editing so would like to offer your services.

GraysAnalogy Thu 28-Apr-16 01:38:22

Maybe even suggest something like

'I've read your work and thought it a piece, could I suggest the following amendments to *, I'd be more than willing to amend the rest if this is something you would appreciate'

or something like that ha

funniestWins Thu 28-Apr-16 02:58:28

I'd say it depends on your qualifications / experience. If you don't have any then it's a little presumptuous however well intentioned it may be.

I realise how people who correct grammar on internet forums tend to be dickheads but there are several mistakes in your post.

I have a postgrad in linguistics but would still need to do plenty of googling to be absolutely sure of my grammar being perfect. I think you're underestimating the skill, time and experience required.

claraschu Thu 28-Apr-16 03:44:53

A friend of mine, who is dyslexic, asked me to proofread her book. I found it an impossible task because, for instance, I felt I had to get rid of innumerable comma splices and I couldn't do that without making other changes to syntax. She started to sound like a (crappy) version of me.

I don't mean to be discouraging. I think you could offer tactfully, and it would be a very interesting, worthwhile, and kind thing to do.

I just think it is extremely hard to help someone who doesn't use standard sentence structure (as opposed to someone who leaves out the occasional comma or something). You end up changing the person's style and way of expressing himself, unless you are very skilful.

GraysAnalogy Thu 28-Apr-16 04:26:53

I think you're underestimating the skill, time and experience required.

I don't think she is, I think she's offering to improve on the obvious errors he had in his last pub. Even if it's not expert quality, it's better than the unedited version that was self published before surely?

as long as she offers a disclaimer to him, which I'm sure would be something she would do given she's offered to tweak it for free

GraysAnalogy Thu 28-Apr-16 04:34:15

claraschu Perhaps that was more to do with her writing ability than her dyslexia? It sounds like it to be honest.

OP has read this persons work and obviously has been able to identify errors that she could fix. He can chose to publish it like he did last time with numerous errors or allow her to identify some for him and amend them, voluntarily. If he wants to pay someone he can do but he didnt last time and let a shed load of errors through by the sounds of things.

I used to do it for my friends because sometimes when you write you can't see the wood for the trees. I did my younger brother's (who was dyslexic). One of my friends I tried to but like you said clara I would have had to do major changes to it because the sentence structure, everything was off - turned out to be not just dyslexia for her though but other difficulties.

JustABigBearAlan Thu 28-Apr-16 04:46:01

I think it sounds like a really kind offer. If he's dyslexic, then he's probably only too aware that his writing might not be perfect, surely? I'd imagine he'd be grateful for your help.

funniest may I ask where the mistakes are in the op's post? I'm normally very picky, but I can't see any!

GraysAnalogy Thu 28-Apr-16 04:50:08

I'm not an expert and I'm pissed but I think perhaps the colon should have been a semi colon. The commas before 'but'. My own posts are full of errors probably.

GraysAnalogy Thu 28-Apr-16 04:55:56

In fact I think I'm wrong about the buts now grin need sober person

fuffapster Thu 28-Apr-16 05:33:11

I'd echo the remarks above about being wary of the work it takes to do a proper editing job.
Though if OP wants to do it, and she has some relevant experience, I think it's a really generous offer. Maybe approach him by saying something like: you'd like to do it, but just to make sure you are going to be able to work together, you propose to start with a sample chapter or something. And see how that goes.

FWIW, the errors I spotted in the OP are:
I've read one of his previous books that was self-published.
The colon after 'This surprised me'
and maybe
Someone I "know" from internet forums is writing a book that publicises my favourite cause.

These are minor errors I think. If the person's the writing is as bad as the OP says, I have no doubt he would benefit from her motivated pair of eyes.

funniestWins Thu 28-Apr-16 05:43:41


The comma before 'but' is correct as it's starting an independent clause.

The know shouldn't be in quotation marks. I realise this is more stylistic that grammatically incorrect.

The colon should be a semi (99% sure - like I said, I'd need to check it).

Every should be each.

I've been awake for nearly 20 hours now so my proofreading skills probably aren't up to scratch. I just missed my mouth with my cup of tea!

I certainly didn't mean to dig at the OP and her punctuation and syntax is exemplary. Another skill is keeping the author's tone and voice while correcting their mistakes. I have no qualifications in proofreading as such (a second year module in it) and no professional experience besides helping out friends or colleagues occasionally.

Clarachu said it better than I did and her post came across as nicely as mine was meant to.

"I just think it is extremely hard to help someone who doesn't use standard sentence structure (as opposed to someone who leaves out the occasional comma or something). You end up changing the person's style and way of expressing himself, unless you are very skilful" [and experienced].

funniestWins Thu 28-Apr-16 05:47:58

I've read one of his previous books that was self-published

Nope. OP was correct.

HopelesslydevotedtoGu Thu 28-Apr-16 06:02:09

I think it's a kind offer, I would make a low key offer to do this, and if he is keen agree to do one chapter/ small section first as a trial. It may be more work than you are expecting and he may be upset at the number of changes you make. People can be very sensitive about having their hard work amended, and so I would do a small section first and see how he views this.

dailyfailureismyname Thu 28-Apr-16 06:41:49

I would offer. If his previous writing was that bad then surely anyone with half decent spelling/punctuation/grammar could make an improvement?

I know someone who self published and she offered to send me a copy. She has a lot to say, is knowledgeable etc but the mistakes with the english language (she has ESL) were horrendous. I gave feedback on the book and told her there were lots of mistakes (she is a very critical, frank person so knew she could take this) and offered to correct them. The shocking thing was that three people had already proof read for her!

Go for it OP. I would hate to buy a book with excellent material but lots of mistakes. It just lowers the tone for me.

BeckywiththeGoodHare Thu 28-Apr-16 07:55:31

I think the colon's correct: it's offering information explaining or supporting the previous statement.

SonjasSister Thu 28-Apr-16 07:56:53

Clearly the editing needs to be crowdsourced on Mumsnet wink

Saracen Thu 28-Apr-16 20:17:58

Thanks! That has given me plenty of food for thought.

It's true that I have no professional experience whatsoever. I've helped two friends with their books, but they'd asked for my help. It does feel presumptuous to offer without being asked, especially when I don't really know the guy. While I know my efforts wouldn't be as effective as those of a professional, I'm sure they'd improve the book.

grin at crowdsourcing the job on MN. Deadline? Ha! We haven't reached consensus!

For the record, I stand by my colon. Perhaps that means I am looking up my own you-know-what. grin

Alachia Thu 28-Apr-16 20:57:52

I think it should be a semi.
I also think that the "but" comma (hehe) is probably optional.
Long time since I've editied though

MiniMiniMiniAndABigRedBus Thu 28-Apr-16 22:37:42

It should be that was self-published. Not which. It's not specifying which book it was out of a number of options; it's describing one book.

OP's post is pretty much spot-on, I'd say, in terms of spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

OP, the best way to do it (if you genuinely want to help him) would be to offer to do the editing yourself (in a Word doc or similar), rather than proofing a hard copy and expecting him to then make the changes himself.

I would be straightforward about it. But on the other hand, I wouldn't actually do it myself; I've done a lot of proofreading and editing professionally, and it is very time-consuming and tedious, even when you're getting paid.

EmpressofBlandings Thu 28-Apr-16 22:45:21

there are several mistakes in your post....

Possibly. Or maybe there are just several idiosyncrasies, as you don't seem able to pinpoint a single actual error, despite your "postgrad qualification".

There's a big difference between something that is riddled with syntactical errors, spelling mistakes etc, and something that simply isn't exactly how you would write it. Seems to me that OP is offering to correct the former, not to rewrite to change to the latter.

(English degree, editorial experience and a job that means I edit and rewrite stuff all day long, here. Why yes, I do hate unnecessary Oxford commas, since you ask)

MiniMiniMiniAndABigRedBus Thu 28-Apr-16 22:48:37

I love an Oxford comma. I love anything that makes things clearer.

RaisingSteam Thu 28-Apr-16 22:57:45

grin DH is dyslexic. Over the years I have proofread or tactfully amended essays, business proposals, websites for him. If we ever break up it will be over a matter of English language. We have had some very close calls!

CocktailQueen Thu 28-Apr-16 22:57:58

I realise how people who correct grammar on internet forums tend to be dickheads but there are several mistakes in your post.

Hmm. Are there? The only one I can see is the colon - should be a semi colon (used when two halves of a sentence give opposing views: Jim ran down the hill; Mary fell down it).

OP, I think it would be a good thing to offer your help to your friend. Seems like you have a good grasp of SPaG.

Or you could suggest that he looks for (and pays) a professional copy-editor to edit his book - if the book is selling well, he should be able to afford this. (He can find an editor at

If he's selling via Amazon, he must have had bad reviews about the book's lack of editing?

If you decide to do it, even if you just check spelling and grammar and query bits that you find hard to read/understand, then the book will be improved.

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