Document editing services: what should I know before my first order?

If you’re considering using an online editing or proofreading service for the first time, there are a few things it’s helpful to know before you start.

Most editing or proofreading companies will require several pieces of information from you. So we’ve put together this quick guide to help make sure you have everything you need when you get in touch with your chosen provider.

That way, you’ll be able to get an accurate quote for editing your document. If you then decide to go ahead, your editors or proofreaders will have all the information they need to get straight to work.

What information do I need when choosing an editing service?

To start with, it’s important to know the word count of your document. The majority of online editing and proofreading services will ask about the length of your document, so that they can accurately estimate how long it will take to polish your draft.

You can easily find this word count in Microsoft Word. For example, look under ‘Tools’ or ‘Review’ (depending on which version you have). Just make sure that you don’t have a section of your document highlighted when you do this as it may give you an incorrect word count. You can also see this word count at the bottom of the screen when your document is open in Word.

If you’re using Google Docs, simply click on ‘Tools’ in the menu bar and choose ‘Word count’.

Make a note of this figure, as it’s usually one of the most important things an editing company will need to know in order to give you an accurate quote for working on your document.

Is there a minimum word count for my document?

While every editing and proofreading service varies, some will have a minimum word count for each document submitted. This ensures that the time and effort taken to process your order, share your document with the right editor or proofreader and send you back the revised version does not outweigh the time spent working on it.

If your document is shorter than a company’s minimum word count, a good option can be to combine it with additional text to create a longer document. This will save you from paying a higher price than necessary for your original text, and allow you to maximise your order by having two documents edited or proofread at the same time.

How do I decide on the right turnaround time for my document?

Your chosen editing company will also need to know your preferred turnaround time (how quickly you would like to have your document returned to you).

While each service differs in its approach, a less urgent turnaround time will often result in lower fees, so this is one area where it can really pay to be organised and plan ahead. You may be able to save money by choosing a slower option – although the quality will still be the same.

However, it’s wise to build in time for any internal reviews and comments from colleagues once you have your document back. So keep this in mind when choosing how quickly you need your edited or proofread document returned.

Similarly, if you’re planning to publish your content online – for example, in the form of an article, blog post or website page – you may also need to allow time for uploading, formatting and testing your content, as well as adding any images or tags.

Can I share special instructions when submitting a document for editing?

Most online editing and proofreading services will ask about any special instructions you may have for your document – for example, spelling and grammatical preferences or sections to which your editor or proofreader should pay extra attention.

Your company may already have a clearly stated preference for this. For example, some businesses opt for British English spelling because the majority of their operations take place in the UK, while others prefer US English usage.

Many companies also have a house style guide that sets out the key spelling and grammatical rules to follow in all your business materials. If your organisation has one, consider sharing this with your chosen provider to highlight any particular preferences your editor or proofreader should follow.

If you have feedback on a section of your document that you’d like to share with your editor or proofreader, one way to do this is to add a comment. To do so in Word, choose ‘Insert’ and then ‘New Comment’ in the menu bar (or it might be under a different menu, such as ‘Review’, depending on your version of Word). Comments allow your editor to see your feedback in context and to ensure your questions and concerns are addressed as they work through your document.

How do I pay for document editing or proofreading services?

Finally, if you’re trying out a document editing or proofreading service for the first time, you may like to check how it lets you pay for services. While some companies may offer accounts for regular business editing clients, many will require new customers to pay upfront, typically using a credit card or an online payment service such as PayPal.

It’s also worth checking whether editing or proofreading costs are likely to require approval from your manager. If so, it’s probably a good idea to ask now!

If you’re likely to need ongoing support with polishing your documents, it may be worth setting up an account to avoid having to go through the payments process each time you submit a document.

But if it’s your first time and you’re still getting used to the idea of working with an external editor or proofreader, why not start small? Submit your first document and use it to check the quality of the editing or proofreading, and to find out if you trust the company you’ve chosen to work with. Once you see the difference a professional editor or proofreader can make, you’ll probably be back for more!

Do you have any other questions about using an editing or proofreading service? Let us know, and we’ll do our best to address these in a future article.

Further reading:

Business editing – 4 situations where it can help your company
Editing vs proofreading – what's the difference and which service should I choose?
Human Communications launches online tool for instant editing and proofreading quotes
Have you seen our editing services video?