Tips from the Talent Team: Most Frequent Grammar and Content Issues in Writer Profiles

tips from the talent team

This week, I reread one of the first sci-fi/fantasy books that lured me into writing Wonderland as a small, squishy child: A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle. An illustration from the book explaining the concept of a tesseract has clung to me through the years, pictured below.

Tesseract

I have a strong suspicion that this is what happened to the month of August; it disappeared within a wrinkle in time. Of course, the proof that this month actually happened lies in all the queues, profiles, newsletters, and recommendations Charlotte and I have mowed through in preparation for the launch of WriterAccess 4.0.

Hopefully the 6-star writer upgrade looked smooth as the chrome buttocks of a freshly manufactured robot baby; the wiring underneath was anything but. We’ve been making a concentrated effort to polish writer profiles across the platform to boost prospective clients’ confidence in our services. As it turns out, even our best writers had a little cleaning up to do! That doesn’t mean they aren’t top of the league—it just means they’re humans prone to human error (who knew?), and they’re probably too busy killing it with actual content orders to spend hours rearranging punctuation marks in a profile they wrote back in 2011.

Every profile, no matter how spicy your skills may be, merits a double-, triple-, and even quadruple-check to ensure Ultra Awesome Superstar Impact. A typo here and there might not seem like a big deal to you, but trust me…we have clients who notice that stuff, and they’re usually the ones with the moolah to demand flawless work, a.k.a. the ones you want to impress the most.

01 Legend of Sixth Star

As you dive in for that quadruple-check, here are some of the top issues Charlotte and I noticed among the profiles we reviewed, from grammar to content:

1. Apostrophes hanging out where no apostrophes should hang.  If you’ve been slipping inappropriate apostrophes into your decades, high kick ’em out of there!  Unless that year is actually possessing something, the apostrophe should only appear if you’re abbreviating the decade.

Bad:

I’ve been abusing apostrophes since the early 1990’s.

Good:

I learned how to use apostrophes correctly in the mid-2000s.

I’ve been freelancing since the ’80s.

The Internet tells me that some house styles and journalists favor this improper apostrophe, but MLA disapproves.

On a related note, some folks have been leaving out apostrophes where apostrophes actually belong.  That’s “ten years’ experience” or “ten years of experience,” not “ten years experience”!

2. Periods venturing onto the wrong side of quotation marks.  In American English, periods and commas usually go on the inside of the quotes, while most other punctuation marks go on the outside—depending on the circumstances, because why would grammar be easy?  We’ll admit, it isn’t the most intuitive system, and arguments have been made in favor of the British style where periods hang outside the quotes—but for now, we continue to cringe reflexively every time we see it.

3. Web addresses redirecting to samples.  When you send clients to another page for your sample, you risk sending them to a page that may not even exist anymore.  You could also be sending them to a page with identifying information where they may try to contact you off-site, which would violate our TOS.  The best use of the sample field that we’ve seen is a sentence of introduction providing context for the sample, followed by a 1-2 paragraph excerpt from a larger piece of writing.

4. Shout-outs to our competitors.  Most freelancers, especially those who write full-time, spread themselves out across multiple platforms—and that’s perfectly fine!  However, our profile guidelines state that you should leave any mention of specific competitor sites off your profile.  If it applies to you, go ahead and mention that you’re a top-ranking tech writer on another content platform, or that you’ve achieved your copywriting certification through another content site.  Naming those competitors is a big no-no, though, along with providing links to your other profiles.  Hey, we get jealous easily.  At least let us think we’re your #1!

We know it isn’t easy to pick through your 40-page profile for tiny grammatical hiccoughs.  (Seriously.  We’re still in the process of doing it for about 35 writers—and it hasn’t been easy!)  Plus, there are a lot of tabs on your profile—it’s hard to remember all the rules.  Just remember that your profile is your first impression on the Talent Team and the clients to whom we recommend you.  And if you’ve been around for awhile, we might know you’ve done excellent work in our platform, but all this new million-dollar client sees is a snapshot of your style, your experience, and your attention to detail.

This September, let’s buckle down and make WriterAccess 4.0 the best iteration of our platform yet.  We need your help to make that happen, though, and perfecting your profile is the best place to start!


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