Reaching 5 Stars: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Comma
When I registered with Textbroker in October of 2011, I was sure that I would receive a 4-star rating right off the bat and quickly achieve access to the vaunted 5-star OpenOrder pool. I was right, as long as you take "right off the bat" to mean two years, much of which was spent being kicked by my own high horse.
As someone who had always done well in English courses, I was sure that my initial 3-star rating was a mistake–except that my next article, as well as the dozens that proceeded it, met with the same paltry 3-star fate. What was wrong with Textbroker? Clearly, I was 4-star — no, 5-star — material.
It eventually occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, I wasn't as good as I thought. As ridiculous as the idea was, perhaps I could improve my writing.
By finding a step ladder and getting over myself, I discovered two important things: I had room for improvement, and Textbroker sets the standards, not me. I don't know of any organization that focuses on content production, be it The New York Times or Cracked.com, that does not have its own set of standards. If I wanted to do well, I needed to learn them and stop trying to get Textbroker to come around to my way of thinking, which, just for the record, was wrong anyway.
Thanks to my new attitude, I was able to focus on getting better, and my ratings improved. Apparently, the editors aren't meanies who drink the tears of 3-star authors. When I discovered my new 4-star rating, I did a happy dance around the house, scaring the cat half to death in the process. My elation was short lived, however, thanks to the proofreading test.
Saying the proofreading test appeared to pose a certain amount of difficulty is on par with saying the ocean appeared to contain a certain amount of water. My suggestion for passing the proofreading test is to keep writing and taking note of editor feedback. Eventually you will be able to identify correct answers from your own experience.
When I got the email stating that I had been promoted to level five, I once again scared the cat and hopped up and down in circles for an indecorous period of time.
If I Can Do It, You Can Too
Outside of patience and awareness that there is always room for improvement, here are some specific ways I improved my writing:
The editors have a job that I could probably not do. When I see people writing things like, "Whats the big, deal its a stupid question and you're point is mute," my right eye begins to twitch. While I understand we are far better writers than that, seeing an endless stream of grammar, comma and homonym errors would drive me to drink something other than coffee. The fact is the editors are telling us exactly what we need to fix to improve our writing and our ratings.
Know your Weaknesses
In spite of knowing when to use "who" and "that," I was constantly referring to people as "that." I resolved the problem by doing a CTRL+F search for "that" before submitting an article, possibly saving the sanity of a few editors.
One of the things I love about the site and her books is that not only does she explain rules, but she also gives you devices for remembering them. Thanks to her site and the book The Ultimate Writing Guide for Students, errors cower in my presence.
This program is free and an excellent tool for catching spelling, homonym and subject/ verb agreement errors before they scuttle past and wreak havoc on your ratings. It's available at http://www.gingersoftware.com/grammarcheck.
In an effort to be helpful, your brain will "fix" a variety of errors when you are reading something, unwittingly enabling mistakes to embed themselves in your writing; reading aloud overrides this part of your brain.
You may be thinking that the system is stacked against you; I did at one point. However, though it was not easy, I still managed to climb to the top. If you love writing, and I’m going to assume you do, it's worth getting better and increasing your opportunities, even if it doesn't happen overnight.