“Helo! For this months’ newsletter I’ve interviewed to fabulous freelancers.”

First impressions matter. So did you shudder at the missing ‘l’, cringe at the misused apostrophe, or was it the wrong ‘to’ that hit you hardest? What’s your first impression of me? And how does it make you feel about my ability as a copywriter?

Spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPaG) is never a ‘nice to have’, it’s essential for you to come across as credible, for your business to maintain its professionalism and for your communications to be clear and free of any misunderstandings.

Did you know…nearly half (42.5%) of consumers are influenced by spelling or grammar blunders[1]?

Can you really afford to miss out on precious pipeline and client conversions because of a rogue comma?

Despite the importance of SPaG, getting it right seems to be an ongoing problem for many businesses. As a copywriter I see poor SPaG used as the butt of many jokes within our community – I know some copywriters whose entire promotional efforts centre on poking fun at different brands’ inability to use a spell checker.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Say hello to Sara…

Sara helps brands to tell their stories, without stressing about commas, through her copyediting and copywriting services. I love Sara because she’s as quirky as me, complete with bright green hair and a big place in her heart for Disney. Plus, she adores words and understands how copywriting is about more than words, it’s about the techniques and principles that sit behind them to bring the words to life.

Here I spend 5 minutes talking to her about her business…


What do you do?

Niching has never really appealed to me as I worry about getting bored too quickly, so I do lots of things that are closely related:

  • Editing
  • Content writing
  • Brand books
  • Editorial style guides

As a kid I always wanted to do an English degree but ended up as a librarian and then a genealogist. Nearly 30 years later, I’m finally living my dream and starting my final year at university (again). And the skills I picked up as a librarian and genealogist have come in very handy on many occasions – I love that I can help people to find what they need.

After moving up north with my husband, I set up a genealogy and indexing business. But I found myself getting really annoyed at all the bad business writing. I knew I could write and help them communicate better so my business evolved into editing and then later copywriting.

When you’re a writer and an editor, it’s easy to forget that not everyone can do it. I really enjoy being able to help people improve their communications so they’re being clear, consistent and look professional.


Who do you help?

In the past I’ve worked with publishers. Now I tend to work more with self-publishers and artisan businesses because I like their attitude. I talk about myself as being a no BS business writer and I find smaller businesses are the same. There’s no corporate fronts or big egos, just a craft that sits at the heart of their business.

I like the little ones because I know I can help them communicate better and tell the world how amazing they are.

That said, if McLaren or Disney called me up I’d drop everything to work for them! I’ve followed McLaren Formula 1 since I was little – the first race I saw was back in 1976. And Disney is my happy place. We had planned to go again this year but clearly the pandemic had other ideas.


What do your clients value most about your service?

Confidence.

When you work with words every day you tend to forget the craft that goes into it. So when you give something back to a client where there’s no spelling mistakes, everything is laid out nicely and the piece communicates exactly what they want to say, they then have that confidence to get their message out into the world.

I’ve always wanted to offer my clients brand books and editorial style guides, and lockdown has finally given me the time to be able to add them to my services. I feel it’s an important thing to offer because every brand needs to present itself consistently.

The brand book focuses on design, pulling everything together so it’s in one place – from the colour palette to typography, tone of voice and how the company presents itself on different channels. The book then guides the business on how to present itself consistently, including helping to brief external agencies or freelancers.

The editorial style guide focuses on the words, creating a style sheet of how the company will talk about itself, products/services. The guide includes what words to use and those to avoid, whether they use contractions, it might even include broader English rules on spelling, punctuation and grammar. Again, it’s all about ensuring brand consistency.


When is the right time for someone to contact you?

It really depends on the job. For editing, if someone bashes something together and hands it straight over to me it’s going to cost them a lot of money. What’s better is if they can get it as good as they possibly can first – so doing a basic spell check and asking someone else to read it. An editor will always find something to fix because we’re trained to see things other people don’t, but your money is far better spent fixing the structural and grammatical issues than overlooked typos.

With a copywriting project, the best time is when you know what you what to say, who to say it to, and the level of detail you want to go into. When you know what you want written, you can give a good brief, which ultimately makes for a better end result.

And with the brand books and editorial guides, the best starting point is right at the beginning. These clients tend to be more established businesses who don’t know how to look after their brand as they grow. By pulling everything together, I can help them be consistent, and where necessary advise them on how to enhance their current brand.


What is it like to work with you?

Again, it depends on the project. Usually the client will email me, we’ll talk through their needs and then I’ll quote for the job. I prefer to work over email because then both sides know what was said and agreed upon. Over the phone it’s easy to waffle more and you don’t say what you really need – writing it down forces you to think and be clear on the requirements.

Because the projects I work on are larger and need more time to complete, my schedule tend to gets booked up weeks or months in advance. But this gives the client plenty of time to get any briefing information together and ask any questions ahead of time.

To book a project, I ask for a 50% non-refundable deposit upfront and then invoice the remaining 50% when the job is finished.


What’s the best way for someone to contact you?

Either through my website: northerneditorial.co.uk

Or email me:  sdonaldson@northerneditorial.co.uk


  • [1] Source: https://cxl.com/blog/grammar-mistakes-costing-money/