Quality control of professional copy-editing

Lately I’ve been looking into how to control the quality of output from Wordy. I’m especially interested in companies and services that offer workflow regulated to the extent that they’ve obtained an ISO certification. Why? Because fixed standards and quality control mean much less hassle for editors and the support function, as well as happier, more confident clients. So how do we secure the highest quality in service without having to go to the extent of ISO certification just yet?

There are a couple of obvious things we can do to ensure great output from Wordy. For a start, the aim of receiving an “Excellent” rating for all orders should be natural to any web service, not least a service that handles something as personal and important as people’s writing.

Peer reviews are a great way of ensuring ongoing feedback on work, and they even uncover flaws in how Wordy handles orders. Currently customers are asked to review an order when closing it: it would be natural to put in an extra step after the order was closed to ask other editors to go through and comment on the text. This feedback would offer a great way for the individual editor to improve his or her service. For the reviewing editors it would mean learning or even unlearning some of the bad habits one might pick up during a long career as a professional copy-editor.

An external review board is a more formal method of peer reviewing. This process is up and running for all editors that register with Wordy. As of now the board consists of three UK and US editors who go through all editing tests done by registering editors on the basis of written guidelines. Assessment is based on two criteria: accuracy (the main one) and intervention. Intervention means whether sensible queries are raised, in what quantity and whether any inaccuracies are introduced. Candidates must perform acceptably on both scores. Since the external review board has handled more than 500 registrations since Wordy’s launch there hasn’t been much time for individual commenting (in fact none at all), and relying on an external review board to review and comment on jobs done on Wordy seems a bit cumbersome. Nevertheless, it seems necessary to have clear standards and processes for how and when to review.

Approaching editing organisations that maintain standards and guidelines in professional copy-editing is an idea I really like. Professional editing organisations have a huge knowledge pool about maintaining the best possible standards, they produce and update guidelines and best practices for all aspects of the editing process, they have a living, vibrant community of editors that really care about their profession, and they also have a deep understanding of both the editor’s and the customer’s requirements and perspectives.

In-depth customer feedback means getting customers to comment thoroughly on an individual order. Of course, the customer cannot be expected to know whether the editing job is done properly: this is a trust-bond Wordy is constantly building with every new and returning customer on the platform. Here feedback on a more formal description of the processes from ordering to delivery is satisfactory, with suggestions of what we can do as developers and business developers to improve our service.

Technical development on Wordy: this is especially of interest for text files and pasted text. These jobs are handled in Wordy’s own onscreen editor, and implementing tools to make the life of the editors easier seems like a logical way to go. Here online dictionaries, access to a knowledge base that editors themselves could develop and maintain over time, as well as basic tools (like marking of double spaces, words in the wrong case, etc.) would mean the editor could focus on the more important parts of the job; getting the wording, structure and grammar of the text just right.

An open and lively community is pretty much the dream of every service provider. Discussions can result in quick decisions about changing things on the platform and improving the workflow and product. Feedback can shed light on things we’ve missed out, such as developing the guidelines on how to handle UK and US English jobs on Wordy. And editors can get a sense of the platform as more than simply a way of obtaining jobs from time to time. That said, editors on Wordy make up a great community with logical, consistent and clear feedback on things that need our attention. The next step would be to provide a more public way for editors to write about Wordy in general and their work in particular. In my view, everything that sparks a discussion will help Wordy in the long run.

There are probably a thousand more ways to ensure the quality of Wordy’s output, but there are three criteria they should all meet: participation, dialogue, and ensuring that the new idea actually results in improvements, not just added procedures.

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