Reaching Level 4: Eye on the Prize
by Keira, Editorial Services Manager
For some, level 4 may seem like a fabled oasis beyond a harsh and inhospitable landscape. You know that you too could drink from those waters if only the oppressive heat of comma usage and awkward phrasing would stop beating down on you. Why can't a cloud ever push that heat away and let your message stand alone for what it is? Who cares about commas anyway?
The fact is that punctuation is the compass in your sentence. It guides your reader through the article, and if it's lacking, your reader may be left wandering forever. What makes sense to you does not always make sense to your reader, and that is why we have standard rules for how to break up units of thought into commonly accepted patterns.
It's true that some clients may only care about your message, but many others do care about grammar. Poor grammar can weaken your authority, and why should someone continue reading from a debatable source? Clients are looking to be viewed as experts and may reject your work if they find your authority lacking. If the work really does conflict with our published standards, we have no choice but to uphold the rejection.
We give feedback in the hopes that authors improve in future articles because we genuinely want our authors to succeed, but maybe that feedback isn't enough. For those who truly struggle with reaching level 4, I've compiled a list of the most common mistakes that keep authors at 3 stars.
Master Your Punctuation
If you're struggling with commas, try learning one rule at a time. When you've mastered that rule, move on to the next. If you try to learn everything at once, you may get confused and develop bad habits. Textbroker already has a number of blogs on this subject where the rules have been broken down into everyday language:
Compound predicates/coordinating conjunctions:
Commas and Coordinating Conjunctions (FANBOYS)
Adverbial clauses/conditional clauses:
Clauses, and We Don't Mean Santa
Comma splices and nonessential/essential clauses:
Apostrophes: You Asked, We Answered
The Semicolon: Not a Fancy Comma
Filler text is any text that does not contribute to your argument. Filler text is often off-topic or only tangentially related to the topic, and it comes across as if the writer is just trying to meet the word count. Just as fiddling with the margins and increasing the font half a point in an academic essay to meet a page requirement would be frowned upon by an instructor, this kind of writing leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of your reader. Circuitous writing might get you to the submit button, but it won't get you to 4 stars.
If you have trouble staying on-topic, consider writing your conclusion first. Once you've determined your finish, you can start from the beginning and work up to that point. Use active voice wherever possible, and keep your sentences concise. When you develop a style that says more with less, clients notice.
Keep It Consistent
If you're going to do anything in writing, be consistent. When writing is inconsistent, it forces readers to double back. If readers have to do this too often, they will lose interest. Reading your work aloud may help you to avoid inconsistencies, and it will also help you to catch awkward phrasing. This is akin to practicing good hygiene. Consistent brushing and flossing guarantees an impressive smile; consistent polishing of pronouns and narrative guarantees an impressive prose.
There is no substitute for human review. Embrace that philosophy if you want to make it to level 4 and stay there. Proofreading your work will ensure that your word choices are appropriate, that doubled words are singled out and that the mechanical villain code-named AutoCorrect has not turned your work into another statistic. If you have time, set aside your article for a bit, even if it's just for a few minutes. Proofread out loud with a fresh mind. As you develop this skill, you will find yourself revising more as you write instead of after, catching mistakes sooner rather than later or not at all.
Read Your Feedback
We leave feedback for your benefit, and it's tailored to your writing style. Take advantage of that fact, and look into the problems we've highlighted. If you've done your research and you still don't understand the correction, contact us. We're always happy to point you in the right direction when your compass gets foggy.
As always, please feel free to email us at email@example.com if you have any questions at all. We sincerely appreciate all that you do. Have an outstanding weekend, and thank you for sharing your talents at Textbroker!
posted on 06/01/2012 - 06.15 | grammar and style | comments: 21