Falling Stars: Avoid the Pitfalls of Subjective Editing

Star Rating SystemYou may be wondering why writers are afraid of being the victim of falling stars and also trying to digest what would cause a star to fall in the first place. If subjective editing isn’t your first choice on the list of possibilities, you’re not reading the right list.

Many but not all web sites use a rating system to determine a writer’s ability. One of the most popular systems is the star rating that ranges from 1 to 5 with 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest. Two other options include the sliding scale based on a scorecard and the basic bronze, silver, or gold rating, each based on copyeditor feedback.

Star ratings allow clients to gage a writer’s work and set goals for writers to achieve by submitting only high quality pieces whether you’re a content or press release writer. On the flip side, level ratings are a burden as each writer must either attain or retain the higher rating in order to access more assignments, better paying assignments and special assignments.

Using an extensive inventory that includes words, phrases, quotes, stats and urban slang, writers create their “word stew.” When the stew has finished simmering and is ready to be served, the gourmet piece must first be “taste tested” by a copyeditor. Enter the zone when writers worry their star level will fall, resulting in an impact on earning potential.

Here’s the thing to remember: subjective copyediting abounds, especially when working with clients that use the services of multiple copyeditors. No matter how clear the guidelines, CEs are human—yes, they are—and interpret content differently. What one editor thinks is quirky and catchy, another may feel is too casual or over-the-top. What one thinks is quality writing, another deems sub-par. It’s all about differences in opinion that can affect your rating.

You must understand there isn’t necessarily anything you can “fix” or “improve.” What you can do is read guidelines thoroughly, ask questions when guidelines are unclear, submit well-researched and well-written copy, accept constructive criticism, treat your writing as a professional and not a hobbyist, and have confidence in the final piece. Even with all this in place, you may receive a low rating due to subjectivity.

Writers must also accept the fact revisions are part of freelance writing and rejections do occur. This may or may not be the writer’s fault, but if you’re consistently submitting less than quality content, expect falling stars. Address this by looking at any patterns noted in the copyeditor feedback and working to avoid the same issue. Accept responsibility when you know you’ve submitted less than your best work with the result being a low rating.

Copyediting is subjective even if you’re working one-on-one with the same editor. If you understand copyediting is about opinions and interpretations, and practice always submitting your best work, expecting and taking care of revisions, not taking things personally, and realizing falling stars are sometimes a reality, your freelance career will live long and prosper.

Vickie F is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.


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