I Can (Literally) Do This in My Sleep

This is how wicked-awesome I am at proofreading and copy editing. I can now say with confidence that I can do it in my sleep.

One of my many job-juggling tasks is editing Web content written by a writing service. The man in charge hires writers to produce the basic content for various Web sites. So, you know, if Joe’s Garage in Kentucky wants to start a Web site, they need someone to write all that initial content. They probably don’t want one of the grease monkeys fiddling with HTML and text on that old computer they use to print out invoices in the office. They hire someone to produce that content.

And then the writing service hires me to edit that content before they send it to Joe’s Garage.

All of this glamour for a whopping $.0025 a word. (Yes, that’s correct. I didn’t add an extra zero there. I get a quarter of a cent per word.)

This is still a good deal for me because I’ve streamlined the work enough that I can make a tidy little sum per hour while sitting in my jammies late at night with my laptop … while watching a marathon of The Walking Dead on AMC.

Often, the guy who hired me will ask if I’m available to edit today, and I’ll write back with an eager, “Yes, please! I want some more!” … not unlike the Dickens orphan Oliver in that sad British musical of the same name.

That doesn’t mean he’ll send over a batch of content right away, though. Yesterday, for instance, he asked at 2 p.m. if I was available, and I immediately said yes. But the batch of content didn’t show up until 8 p.m., due by this morning.

That’s fine. I’m a freelancer. I’ve learned to juggle multiple projects. In fact, I like switching from one task to another throughout the day. It feeds into my Project-A.D.H.D. quite nicely. But, when the content arrived at 8 p.m., I wasn’t quite ready for it. So, I finished what I was doing and then started on the Web content well after 10 p.m.

Sometime after midnight, not even the zombies on the TV could keep me awake. When my attention starts to flag on this job, it helps to read the articles out loud as I’m adding red slash marks with Word’s Track Changes. It gives me a sense of cadence in the writing and helps me catch all sorts of errors.

(Note: This method works in the living room only when I am the only one home. If Wayne is around and trying to watch Duck Dynasty or a Modern Marvels episode on the ten worst submarine accidents, I try not to read articles on the most effective hemorrhoid removal in all of Houston, Texas, out loud. It ruins his concentration.)

Last night, though, not even reading out loud could keep me awake. On nearly a dozen occasions, each about two minutes apart, I found myself nodding suddenly awake—you know, that head-dip thing you do when you nod off sitting up, when your neck hits the bottom of its natural pendulum swing and your body jolts itself awake. I had a vague awareness that I had been speaking out loud and then had just stopped. The cursor on the screen was still in the same spot in the Word document where I had stopped speaking.

So, I continued on. I was determined to get through this batch before going to bed, rather than setting the alarm (!!) to get up and finish it in the morning.

On the very last piece of content, though—for a chimney and air-duct cleaning service somewhere on the East Coast—I not only nodded off multiple times, but I realized as I woke back up that I was still speaking the whole time. Unfortunately, since my eyes had closed and my brain had mostly shut down, I wasn’t reading the actual Web content on the screen. I was saying whatever words were jostling around in my brain trying to get out.

One time I think I was saying “horse and buggy,” though I don’t know why. Another time I caught myself saying “house house house” over and over again. The last time, I was repeating nonsense syllables of some sort: “Nuhhh… huhhh… nuhhh…”

After sitting up straighter and adjusting my laptop screen, I finished the rest of the batch and uploaded it.

But now I’m afraid to go look at what I did to that article in my sleep. I’m afraid I might have suggested that people come on down from their house house house in their horse and buggy to ask about air duct cleaning.

More Proof That Proofreading Isn’t Boring

Well, perhaps I exaggerate. But, here are links to a two-part interview with yours truly about my favorite topic in the whole world (after Gene Wilder and “Weird Al” Yankovic or potential nuclear power plant disasters): proofreading!

Author Dora Machado (my favorite client) interviewed me about my nitpickiness as a career path. Read both parts here (and it’s in two parts because I have way more opinions about this than a normal person has a right to have):

What a Proofreader Can Do for You, and Why OCD Has a Role in the Profession

And, part 2:

Why Texting is a Tool of the Devil and Proofreading Your work Matters . . . A lot!