PaperTrue provides copyediting and proofreading services to writers, entrepreneurs, and academics. Based in India, the company employs over 100 editors and works with writers, academics, entrepreneurs and executives around the world.
In this interview, CEO Neha Vaidya explains:
- Why every writer should work with an editor
- How to prepare your story, screenplay or book for an editor
- How much editing and proofreading costs
- What to expect from your editor
And lots more
I started by asking Neha to explain a little more about how PaperTrue helps writers.
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Bryan Collins: So, Neha, could you start by giving me some background information about what PaperTrue does and how you help writers and other people who need your services?
Neha Vaidya: So just to tell you a little bit about the inception of PaperTrue. We were incorporated in the year 2014. One of our co-founders, Mr. Rishi Raj, he came up with this idea while he was still preparing for his B.Tech., that is his bachelor’s in engineering here in India.
Neha Vaidya: When he was preparing for job interviews, he wanted a friend of his to go through his resume, just proofread it, correct it for any mistakes. And the version that he got back from his friend was riddled with more errors than the first version, which is when he realised that… the engineering college that he was attending is one of the premier institutes in the country. So he was just wondering that since he, I mean, although he had access to the highest quality education, he still had colleagues who were struggling with producing good quality written English, which is where this idea of PaperTrue was conceived. He thought that there’d be so many other people in this world that would need a proofreader and editor to have them finalise any English documents that they might be producing.
Neha Vaidya: When we started, we were a small team. I think we had just about five freelance editors. And over the last five years, we’ve grown to have about a hundred editors globally. We offer 24-by-seven operations. We offer turnaround as fast as 12 hours. Whereas earlier, when we started, our fastest turnaround around used to be 48 hours.
Neha Vaidya: So this is how we have grown in the last five years. I’m proud to say that we have helped at least tens of thousands of both students, writers, and business persons produce English that is of a very high standard.
Bryan Collins: Yeah, so I count myself as one of those people. I sent a sort of book a few months ago that I needed proofread within a few days. And I got the manuscript back with some mistakes that I was able to fix quite quickly. So thank you for that.
Bryan Collins: Could you explain the types of people that you work with? I know you touched briefly on them there. A writer might understand why they would need a proofreading service. But what about the other types of people that you mentioned?
Neha Vaidya: Okay, so incidentally, you’d be surprised to know that about 65% of our clientele is academics. It’s essentially students or researchers that are preparing their thesis, their dissertations, research papers, articles they write for journals, so on and so forth.
Neha Vaidya: And out of that, 60% is the academic community, I would say about 75% of those are immigrants. Immigrant students that have moved from non-English-speaking countries to education hubs like the UK or the US. And these people, they definitely need help with it, proofreading any documents that they do produce. Their professors recommend that they do have all of their articles proofread by someone who’s an English expert. And that’s where we step in. That’s how we help them out.
Neha Vaidya: Like I said, about 60, 65 percent of our clientele is people from the field of academia. Out of the remaining 30, 35%, I would say 25% are authors, especially authors that are self-published. They don’t have a big publication house that’s backing them. They don’t have any developmental editors that they’ve worked with. Most of the time these people have written their books on their own time and need a proofreader and a copy editor to finalise their work. And the remaining five to 10% are business persons that need their marketing material, their annual reports, their business proposals, their websites proofread, corrected for tone, for clarity, those kinds of things.
Bryan Collins: That makes sense. I’m looking at your pricing here. So for people listening, a 1000-word business article works out at about 35 euro. You touched on something there that’s quite interesting. Proofreading versus copy-editing, what do you see as the difference?
Neha Vaidya: Proofreading focuses on correcting the mistakes that are there in the document. These mistakes could be language errors. They could be formatting errors, consistency errors. For people writing academic documents where they’re referencing other material, references need to be in a particular format, so these might not be formatted correctly.
Neha Vaidya: When I say language errors, I mean stuff like spelling, grammar, punctuation, words that are missing. When I say consistency errors, somewhere you might be using the symbol for the euro, somewhere else you might have just written the word euro. So all of these are consistency errors. All of this comes under proofreading.
Neha Vaidya: Whereas copy-editing corrects for … It improves the language. Copy-editing includes proofreading, but over and above that, it will also correct your document for sentence clarity, to make sure that you’re using the right syntax, that the diction is right.
Neha Vaidya: By diction, I mean the words that you’ve used, whether they’re appropriate for what you’re trying to convey, whether your statements are constructed concisely, whether there is cohesion, coherence between two different statements, two different sentences, whether you’ve maintained the right tense across, whether your subject and verb agreement is correct, whether the flow, the tone of your overall content is correct. For instance, if you’re writing a business document, but you’re using a very casual kind of language, we will correct that to make it sound more formal. All of that is done by the copy editor.
Neha Vaidya: Just to summarise, the proofreader corrects all the errors, and the editor improves on your language.
Bryan Collins: And is editing a more expensive service, or copy-editing?
Neha Vaidya: Honestly speaking, we don’t differentiate between proofreading and copy-editing. What we do offer is copy-editing services. So we give you the entire bundle because we think that in most cases, a bot could correct a lot of the language errors as such in your document, and we want to give you a more premium experience.
Bryan Collins: So I’ve written the first draft. I’ve edited it myself, and now I’ve sent it to you. I’ve gotten that back, and I’ve gotten feedback. What should be my next step?
Neha Vaidya: So most of the time, once you’ve got the feedback, there will be some questions that the editors might have asked. There might be some comments. What we return to you is two versions of the file. We return a clean file where we have implemented all the changes, and it has some comments in it. And that is a tracked file, which shows you all the changes that we have made. And we leave it up to you to either accept or reject some changes.
Neha Vaidya: Apart from this, there will be a lot of comments that we offer where we … So one of our commandments, so to say, for our editors is that thou shall not change the meaning of a sentence. And a lot of times, when we are unclear about what you have meant by a particular sentence, instead of us going and changing it, correcting it to the best of our knowledge, we will just leave a comment there where we can give you options, where we say that if you meant this then this is how you need to say it, but if you meant this then this is how you need to say it. So there’ll be a lot of such comments. There will be other stylistic recommendations, tonal recommendations.
Neha Vaidya: Once you get the feedback you need to go through it, you need to implement some of those changes. If you have further questions based on comments that we’ve left or based on the changes that you’ve made, you can reach out to us. We will either explain those, or if you give us the answers to some of the questions we’ve asked you in the comments, we will then re-edit the document based on your answers.
Neha Vaidya: Also, if you have understood everything correctly and once you implement all the changes that we’ve mentioned, you can send the document back to us for a final revision, so to say, when you’re just like, “Oh, I’ve done everything that you asked me for. Can you just make sure that I’ve done it the right way?” And we’ll just go through it once again. Make sure that everything, that all the changes that you’ve made, that no new errors have been introduced. And once we give our thumbs-up, we say everything’s all okay, then that’s it. You don’t need to work further on your document.
Bryan Collins: I like that. So how many rounds do you believe is enough? How many rounds of editing?
Neha Vaidya: It depends on the document. Something that’s a short business document, any document that’s maybe close to about three to four thousand words, usually it’ll go through one edit, we will return the document, you look at it, you implement changes, and we take a second look at it, and that’s enough. But when we’re working on something like a novel or we’re working on a large thesis or a dissertation or something like that, it can go up to as many as three or four revisions.
Bryan Collins: Okay. What should writers or business people know about getting ready to work with an editor or with your team? How can I get my manuscript in shape or ready for an editor?
Neha Vaidya: Okay. So first of all, well, I’m assuming that this is for people who’ve done some amount of research, even for people who are writing a book, a manuscript for the first time, I’m assuming that they’ve done some amount of research as to how they need to structure the manuscript, that they know what the flow should be. They know how they want to get from point A to point B. So we, as copy editors, like I said earlier, we don’t get involved in the developmental side of things. So essentially what’s coming to us is the first final draft.
Neha Vaidya: What you should be sending to us is something that you think is close to being final, a document that is complete. You should have gone through it at least once to make sure that you’re happy with the flow and the structure. Not for proofreading, the proofreading part can be completely left to us. But you’re just happy with … The meat of your document is there, essentially.
Neha Vaidya: Suppose you’re writing a novel, you want to make sure that all of your stories in there, all your characters are starting at a particular place and reaching where you want them to reach. And once you have that and your word count should it be in plus or minus 10% ballpark of where you want that eventual document’s length to be. Because that’s important. You don’t want to be adding too much after that. Or you don’t want to be in a position where the copy editor needs to trim it too much. So if your word count is around 10% plus or minus of wherever you want it to be, and if you have all of your flow and your structure in place, then we’re ready to take it on from there.
Bryan Collins: I’m glad you mentioned the plus or minus 10%. That’s something that I’ve used in the past as a rule. I’m curious, should the document be formatted in a certain way, for example, double-spaced or Times New Roman, or does that not matter?
Neha Vaidya: No, that doesn’t matter. We do all of that, especially if it’s something like, say, for instance, screenplays. Screenplays are expected to be in a particular font only. But if you haven’t written your screenplay in a particular font and if it doesn’t follow the typical flow and the structure that a regular screenplay does, you need not worry about that. We take care of all of that.
Neha Vaidya: It’s not as important for novels, but something which is like a research paper or a journal and things like that, where there are certain guidelines, some formatting guidelines that the university has recommended or the journal has recommended, but you probably aren’t proficient enough with your word processor to be able to format it correctly, that’s fine. You just need to share those guidelines with us, and we will do that formatting for you.
Neha Vaidya: Even when it comes to novels, for instance, where the content is the thing that is most important before you can go and publish that novel, it needs to be typeset. It needs certain additional things. Like it needs to have a copyright page, it may need to have an author profile, those kinds of things. We provide services where we construct all of those things for you. So you don’t need to worry about the presentational aspects of your document.
Bryan Collins: That’s a real time-saver. So for somebody who wants to become more productive, that would save them hours. Could you describe some of the other benefits for people, maybe business people or academics, for using a service like this? For example, time-saving will be one. What else? What would other benefits be?
Neha Vaidya: Right. So, especially for business documents. I would say one of the most important things is that we usually write the way we speak, but representing that on paper is not usually perceived correctly when someone’s reading it.
Neha Vaidya: This conversation that we are having, if we put it as is in an article, it won’t end up sounding as complete or as coherent as it is right now because we are listening to one another. So for business documents, that becomes very important, that most people will just write the way they speak. The language is very colloquial, very informal. In that sense, we will correct all of that. So we will improve diction. We will make sure that the right words are used, that sentences are constructed correctly. Structurally it flows well so that when someone else is reading it, it doesn’t seem very informal.
Neha Vaidya: For academic documents, we will also do stuff like, for instance, graphs, tables, figures, all of these things need to be structured in a particular manner. For instance, I’m trying to get the right example. Units of measurement, in the case of scientific documents, they need to be written in a particular manner. They need a particular kind of spacing, et cetera. You don’t need to be worried about any of those things. Our editors will take care of that.
Bryan Collins: So to summarise, it would be, you would save time, it would be clearer, and you wouldn’t have to worry about smaller details like graphs and formatting of scientific figures.
Neha Vaidya: Yes. You won’t need to worry about formatting issues. You will save a ton of time. You don’t need to be concerned about the formal parts of language. You obviously get something that’s error-free, because you have a second pair of eyes that is looking at it. Even if you’re great at English, you know how to write well, you know how to format things well, even if you’re very proficient at that, you will always need a second pair of eyes because we’re human beings after all. You could have missed out on something.
Bryan Collins: You mentioned business people use your services as well.
Neha Vaidya: Yeah.
Bryan Collins: So what are they sending to you?
Neha Vaidya: A lot of marketing material comes through. A lot of agreements, website copy, annual reports, business proposals, those kinds of documents.
Bryan Collins: Would you recommend that a small business owner or entrepreneur set aside some of their budget for proofreading and editing?
Neha Vaidya: 100%, especially for their marketing material, for their website, which I include as part of marketing material because that’s your interface with your clients, right? All of your marketing material, your website. And you don’t want to have any embarrassing errors out there.
Bryan Collins: Do you look at that on a Word document as well or do you look at the website link?
Neha Vaidya: If they have material, if they already have all the material in the form of a Word document, that’s better for us. It’s easier for us to edit and track changes. But if we’re looking at their website directly, we’re okay with that as well. We have tools that will help us extract the content from the website into a Word document and then we edit in the Word document.
Bryan Collins: Okay, makes sense. So you’re based in India, and the company has proofreaders and editors around the world. So how do you handle cultural differences with the documents that you’re receiving? For example, British English versus American English.
Neha Vaidya: We have editors all across the globe. So obviously we have editors that are proficient in different styles of English. Our clients would typically request a particular style, so we take those requirements from our clients.
Neha Vaidya: If a client has requested US English, then we make sure that we send it to an editor that’s based out of the States. If someone’s specifically asked for UK English, then it goes to someone from that region.
Neha Vaidya: Then there are a lot of other clients that are … Suppose there might be a Middle Eastern client that is based in the US right now. We specifically ask our clients whether they are ESL people, so where English is their second language, it’s not their first language. And if that is the case, then sometimes we do recommend some of our editors that are specialists, as far as dealing with ESL documents is concerned, because there are some typical pitfalls of someone whose first language is not English. So we have editors who are specialists with that, who can identify such a local English syntax and is able to convert that into whatever they want.
Bryan Collins: I’m also curious that your a CEO based in India and your team are in different countries. So do you have any advice for CEOs who are managing remote teams or team members in different areas but not in the same building or office?
Neha Vaidya: Processes, processes, processes. You need to have all of your processes in place. There are a ton of tools that we’ve built in-house that help us coordinate between a distributed team, the distributed network of editors that we have. There are other tools that we use that we’ve purchased that help us allocate work, that help us make sure that teams are clear on what their deadlines should be, that help intra-team and inter-team communication.
Neha Vaidya: Also, I visit people a lot. We also have quarterly meetings, so to say. So there are a few things. For the editors, for the editing team, we conduct something that’s called a work allocation test every quarter that has people just refresh their knowledge. There are some refresher courses as well as it gives them an opportunity to qualify for certain documents.
Neha Vaidya: Now, like I mentioned earlier, there are different people, different editors that specialise in different types of documents, and these work allocation tests that we conduct allow them to qualify themselves to work on certain documents. Someone who’s better with novels might not be as good with business documents. So the work allocation tests let us know who is good at what, which is great for a distributed team because we’re not meeting them every day. It gives us the opportunity to touch base once a quarter to make sure that their skills are up to the mark. Or if they have improved on a certain skillset, then they get the option of working on a larger type of document.
Bryan Collins: How many people did you say work with the company?
Neha Vaidya: Our editing team is about a hundred editors. On top of that, we have operations executives, a large team of, I think we’re at about seven, eight-strong operations team, that is responsible for allocating documents to these editors. Then we have around-the-clock sales and support team, which is about 15-odd people. And then obviously we have human resources staff. We have an in-house development team that helps maintain our website, that helps develop and maintain our order management system. So I would say we’re close to about 150 total.
Bryan Collins: Wow, it’s pretty big. And finally, do you have an ideal early morning routine as a CEO?
Neha Vaidya: Okay, so in the morning I’m an early riser. I think I wake up at about 5, 5:30 every day. I am into yoga, so I do yoga in the morning. It’s something that, I know it sounds very New Age-y but I think just helps you calm your mind, balance your body, those kinds of things. And then I’m in the office by about 8, 8:30. I like to touch base with all the various teams. I conduct standup meetings with a bunch of teams, so just five minutes. Spend five minutes with the teams. Make sure that I know what they’ve done in the past day, what they’re going to do for the rest of the day. It also gives them a chance to have an audience with me on a daily basis. So if they are facing some problems, then I catch those early instead of two weeks down the line when everything, pardon my language, the shit has hit the fan. So, yeah, that’s how my morning is.
Bryan Collins: I like that. So where can people find more information about PaperTrue or your services?
Neha Vaidya: We’ve also very recently made a foray into China. So for any Chinese listeners, you can find us at cn.papertrue.com. And we haven’t yet started publishing any blog articles in Chinese but we intend to do that soon.
Bryan Collins: Well, thank you. It was great to talk to you today.
Neha Vaidya: It was really nice talking to you too, Bryan.
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