Tag Archives: freelance advice

Today’s Writing Tip: Question Marks In the Middle of a Sentence

sig2010Punctuating question marks in the middle of a sentence confuses the best of us. Our instinct is often to capitalize the word that follows the question mark, but usually that’s wrong. Here’s an example:

When I asked my teacher, Mr. Cotton, “What is the purpose of life?” this is the answer I received.

Note two things about that sentence. One, the word that proceeds the question and the question mark is lowercased. That’s because the phrase “What is the purpose of life?” is still part of a larger sentence, even though it is a complete sentence and can stand on its own normally, but in this instance it is only half of the sentence.

“This is the answer I received” is the other half and we need it to make our point. Two, there is no comma after the question mark. A version of our example which includes the comma is wrong, e.g., When I asked my teacher, Mr. Cotton, “What is the purpose of life?,” this is the answer I received.

Fortunately, your spellcheck will probably pick up the second issue and flag it as a problem; however, spellcheck may incorrectly tell you that you want to capitalize any word after a question mark. Don’t do it automatically; do so only if it is not part of a larger sentence and that includes dialogue. (“Is the purpose of life to love and be loved?” she asked. No caps for the pronoun and no comma after the question mark.)

Sigrid Macdonald is an author and an editor. You can find her at http://sigridmacdonald.blogspot.com/ 

Today’s Writing Tip: How to Spell Internet


It comes as a surprise to some people that the word Internet is always capitalized. Ditto for the abbreviation “Net.” Why is this?

The Internet is like a place. It is a large computer network that connects computers all over the world. In grammatical terms, it is treated as a proper noun. However, as Wikipedia points out, when we refer to the World Wide Web and the Internet, we want to capitalize that, but if we are referring to smaller internet channels, we don’t necessarily have to capitalize them.

By and large, when people write about the Internet, they are referring to the big picture, hence the need for caps. One way to make sure that you spell this right is to perform a spellcheck at the end of your e-mail, article, or manuscript.

It will pick that error up right away.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor http://tinyurl.com/7wnk5se and two erotic short stories, which she wrote under the pen name Tiffanie Good. Silver Publishing just released “The Pink Triangle,” a tale of friendship, lust, and betrayal. You can view her story here: http://tinyurl.com/6v65rgr

Ethics in Freelancing

Joe-Wallace-Vinyl-Collector-and-authorby Joe Wallace

Once I had a client that needed some writing done on financial topics which included those very unsavory payday loans you might keep seeing advertised late at night in infomercial-land.

I was young in my freelance career and hadn’t really experienced much in the way of ethical dilemmas in my work, so in the end, I tried to give this client what was asked for but still keep within a certain ethical boundary. I wound up writing about these payday loans, describing what they are and how they work, but also encouraging the reader to carefully read contracts and especially the fine print.

I wrote that nobody should ever sign a contract they don’t fully understand, and a few other reasonable cautions. I felt like I should probably never take on that kind of work ever again, but at least I wrote something that could not be disguised as snake oil.

But I was wrong. I learned later, confidentially, that my work had been turned over to another person who took out all of my reasonable words and basically distilled my work INTO snake oil. The client WANTED snake oil and wasn’t too happy that they got “read the fine print, too”.

That was a lesson I’ve never forgotten.

Ethical freelancing is important. It’s not up to me to tell YOU what YOUR ethics should be, but I can say from experience that when the little voice in your head starts bugging you with nagging urges to ditch a certain project because it’s making you feel crawly, listening is a very good idea. Even if it means losing that week’s income. In the long run, whatever you have to do to make up for that lost cash is worth it.

If there’s any advice to be gained from my experience, it’s that–don’t ignore your instincts, they’re there for a reason.

Is This Wrong?

Joe-Wallace-Vinyl-Collector-and-authorLet yourself get on a few PR mailing lists and eventually you get flooded with press releases, requests for work, product reviews, an endless supply of e-mail. And on the day you post a “help wanted” ad for a creative person, whether they’re writers, editors, photogs, etc…you can expect an even larger pile to deal with. It’s my own fault, I know.

But I feel slightly guilty when trying to manage all that incoming mail, for one simple reason; I round-file anything that looks even vaguely like spam and aggressively delete emails from the clueless, the hopeless, and the inept. I’m sure they are all nice people, I just don’t have time for them right now. I have deadlines to meet, material to edit, audio to create, mixes and uploads to contend with.

A multimedia freelancer’s life is a very busy one–something a lot of these e-mail senders don’t seem to appreciate. Especially the ones who want me to hire them.

It’s sad, but it’s true. Long, rambling preambles, irrelevant details, people who won’t GET TO THE VERB, as it were. I am guilty of doing this myself, but fortunately, it’s mostly contained to my blog posts.


Lately I’ve been aggressively deleting ALL emails, unread from the moment I encounter the following pet peeve: people who write “free-lance” instead of “freelance”.

Having worked as a freelancer since 2003, I find the use of “free-lance” to be a red flag. A warning sign. An indicator that a degree of cluelessness is very likely present. This is not nice, it is not fair, and likely not even true in some cases. But I don’t care, since pet peeves are not tied to logic, common sense, or human decency.

I’ve even seen the dreadful use of this mangling of the word “freelance” on book covers–books I refuse to review.

There IS a point to all this, somewhere. I suppose the point is that packaging is everything, first impressions are critical, and you should stop hyphenating the word “freelance” if you want to appear like you know the business at all. That’s just my opinion and doesn’t reflect those of other seasoned creative types who are in business for themselves.

But it’s a good object lesson anyway, methinks. Because THAT is how subjective the freelance business can get, savvy?

Joe Wallace writes, edits, produces, and promotes creative multimedia projects. He is very busy and isn’t accepting new assignments except on a very limited basis. He’s currently editing and doing sound design for the indie film project 45 RPM, writing about veteran’s finance issues, and doing social media promotion for said projects.


Joe-Wallace-Vinyl-Collector-and-authorby Joe Wallace

I filed a tax extension in April to give myself more time to ignore properly deal with my taxes. When I finally filed, I quizzed my CPA on several things including the concept of branching out and including more freelance audio work and film making in my repertoire.

My concern was that these other activities might be classified only as “hobby income” by the IRS, thereby nullifying any deductions I might be entitled to take otherwise. My CPA advised me that several things I was already doing in my freelance writing and editing work would apply for this new possible source of freelance income.

What follows SHOULD NOT be considered any form of advice from me to you, it’s just me musing out loud about what I’ve been told.

For example, I am told that “hiring” someone to work for me on a freelance basis as needed and issuing a 1099 for them is a signal to the IRS that you’re doing much more than just hobby work. This establishes a paper trail that hobbyists would not bother with. Joining a professional association for the type of work represented by my new income streams–live sound, field recording, film making, editing audio/video–would also go toward convincing the IRS that it’s a serious concern.

That move I’ve already made–I’m a member of ASCAP (The American Society of Composers and Performers) and a member of the Audio Engineering Society. I actually belong to more recording associations than writing-related ones!

My CPA told me the standard practice of keeping a separate credit/debit card for your business and maintaining a separate personal account is crucial, as is keeping careful track of your business spending versus personal spending. It’s one thing to take a “draw” on your business account, it’s another to buy groceries with your “corporate card”. These practices only make sense to me, and they are the kinds of details that do get more complicated as you get more successful…but the rewards are well worth it.

Keeping the IRS happy is one of my priorities–it’s a standard part of doing business AS a business. Keeping it all above board, moving in the right direction and maintaining your records is just as important as finding new clients and keeping ’em.

Today’s Writing Tip: Using Your Spellcheck


Previously I’ve written about the drawbacks of the spellcheck device in Word, Yahoo or Gmail, or Outlook Express.

There are many disadvantages to relying on a spellcheck, starting with the fact that it doesn’t always recognize homonyms, and it will frequently miss a typo if the word is spelled correctly. For example, the grammatically incorrect sentence, “I went to give him a huge” was not flagged by my Outlook or in Word.

However, despite all its frailties, it’s critical to use a spellcheck for e-mails, articles, blogs, and, in particular, manuscripts. Why wouldn’t you take advantage of that? It’s like doing complicated math in your head instead of pushing a few buttons on a calculator. I may know how to do a square root, but if a machine can do it for me and I know that it will be accurate, I would be foolish not to take advantage of the wonders of the 21st century.

The spellcheck is nothing like a calculator because it doesn’t have a 100% accuracy rate if you pump in all the right numbers like a calculator. But spellcheck will recognize a large number of misspelled words and flag all kinds of grammatical problems.

If you are writing a manuscript and submitting it to an editor, the editor determines his or her price estimate for your project based on how many hours the project will take. And if it’s not spellchecked, it will take a lot longer to do than a manuscript that has been checked. Deliver a clean product.

Enable the automatic spell-checking on your e-mail program and always push F7 when you finish an article or manuscript. It really makes a difference.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor http://tinyurl.com/7wnk5se and two erotic short stories, which she wrote under the pen name Tiffanie Good. Silver Publishing just released “The Pink Triangle,” a tale of friendship, lust, and betrayal. You can view her story here: http://tinyurl.com/6v65rgr