March 2017
Currently booked up, but please drop me a line for work in the new year.


Most of my work comes from personal recommendation, and I do not generally solicit testimonials. But here are a couple of local comments:


Our technical papers were considerably improved by Colin Holcombe's recent editing.

Ing. Juan Carlos Valenzuela Illanes

Instituto de Salud Pública


Colin's editing is always prompt, helpful and professional.

Alicia Soto Carrasco

Oficina Regional del la FAO para Américana Latina y el Caribe



I have a resource library built up over many years, but you may want to use some of these sources to get your manuscript looking its best before submitting it to me.

1. The Journalist's Toolbox: Copy Editing Archives: Very extensive listing, aimed at journalists.

2. Writers Resources: Copy Editing: Listing in Open Directory.

3. EFA: Resources: Select list grouped under wide range of categories.

4. Copyediting-L: Subscription list for copy editors and other defenders of the English language.

5. Electronic Resources | Copy editing blog: free to $399/year subscription.

6. Copy Editing Resources: More for students.

7. A Copy Editing Resource: Articles and advice.

8. Copy Editing Resources on the Internet: Last updated 1997 but still useful.

9. GHNewsroom: Less proofreading resources than information and association sources, though these also hold much useful information.

10. PerfectIt Style Sheets help stylize US and UK English documents. Intelligent Editing. $59-99


Editing Services Offered

I provide a full range of services:

· Proofing

· Editing

· Rewriting

· Ghost writing (geology)


What You Get

My aim is to get the copy into the shape you want — which naturally depends on your audience, the conventions in place, and your own particular 'voice' or style. Generally I look through the manuscript and study carefully what the client has in mind, exchanging emails until both parties are happy with what's to be done and the fees applying. Payment is in stages.


I've generally been employed to correct errors and make the document as pleasingly close as possible to what its author intended. If the author wrote 'having reigned all week, the pitch presented a sorry state', I will change the 'reigned' to 'rained'. I would probably also query the expression, since it's not the pitch that has rained (it having rained . . . after a week's rain, ...). I might also suggest — if proofreading extends into editing — 'was in a sorry state' or 'presented a sorry picture'. But I would not change the 'sorry state' to 'waterlogged', or 'a marked contrast to previous years', or anything else my years of writing might suggest.

It goes without saying that I'm professional, turning out work to schedule with minute attention to detail. When in doubt I check with clients, asking how far they want me to proceed. Sometimes a separate sheet with suggestions is acceptable. If necessary I get the terms of reference made clearer.

Above all, I try to be sensible and realistic. Solecisms are cheerfully expected in your parish magazine, but not the Harvard University Press (though they happen). Formal documents from embassies and UN Missions — and I've worked on quite a few — are intended to be stiff, circumlocutory and bafflingly imprecise. I keep them that that way.

Proofing does not usually include checking the facts or references, though I make a note if I do spot some silly error.


Far more demanding and intrusive is editing, when I look at the copy to ask:

1. What's the theme? Is it introduced on the first sentence, or at least a pleasing anticipation generated?

2. Is the writing clear and logically developed?

3. Is the supporting evidence in its proper place and convincingly marshaled?

4. Does the article have a pleasing shape, with paragraphs of comparable size, and the introduction balanced by concluding remarks?

5. Does one sentence flow into the next, and do these aggregate to make a proper paragraph? Does each paragraph deal with a specific point?

It will also be important to check that:

1. Headings are informative and sensibly nested.

2. Any table or artwork is correctly labeled, and properly referenced: e.g. your reference to Figure 3 does indeed illustrate what the text says it does.

3. Citation is correct and consistent.


Occasionally everything has to be rewritten because it simply doesn't make sense to cover the manuscript with corrections. A complete rewrite is the quicker way forward — recasting the material to make sentences follow naturally, and the facts stand out properly. Sometimes the author's first language is not English, or the translation was an amateur job, when again the copy has to be drastically rewritten. I undertake (re) translation when the original document is in Spanish — I ask for the original to work from or check — but in other cases advise clients to use professional translation services, expensive though they often are.

Ghost Writing

Most good writing is some form of rewriting, and ghost writers can help to shape the story into a commercial and compelling narrative, saving time and frustration later. The work ranges from extensive rewriting, to complete authorship situations where the ostensible author simply recounts anecdotes or suggests areas to be covered. Research is often necessary, and this may take months and involve extensive travel, sometimes to foreign countries where the information exists. I do very little of this work now, and only in areas where I have sufficient expertise, i.e. geology.

Style Issues

What's acceptable in the Chairman's report won't serve for an academic article, or an investment study. The sulfide mineralization worked at the fictitious 'Troutbridge Mine' in Canada, for example, becomes:

In the academic style the language is measured, referenced and dense with detail:

Orebodies occur at felsic-mafic pyroclastic contacts and have been folded into upright, isoclinal, locally downward-facing structures of F2 generation (van Staal et al., 2006). Initial mineralization may have been syngenetic, but evidence presented here indicates that the presumed feeder pipes are in fact a later diagenetic or postdiagenetic feature. Remobilization of the sulfide mineralization appears to have continued through and after the F3 deformation period, and some may be a relatively late feature.

An investment document would emphasize the commercial features:

The Troutbridge Mine orebodies are considerably richer than is usual for the area, and occur in steeply-deeping Precambrian volcanics. An underground drilling campaign has outlined further reserves at depth, conservatively estimated at 23 m. inferred tons of 4.9% Zn, 1.6% Cu, 3.6% Pb, 63 g/t Ag and 1.6 g/t Au. Though these reserves are readily accessible from current workings, operating costs at the Troutbridge mine are some 30% higher than those in comparable settings, and both mine and concentrator are in urgent need of modernization. The increased reserves are sufficient to extend the Troutbridge Mine for another 22 years of life, or 15 years if the throughput is increased to 5,000 tons/day. Investment is sought to convert these inferred reserves to proved reserves, and to upgrade mine and concentrator facilities.

The Chairman's Report is different again.

I am happy to report that this year's drilling program has significantly extended the estimated life of the Troutbridge Mine. Inferred additional reserves are 23 m. tons of 1.6% copper, 3.6% lead, 4.9% zinc, with significant silver and gold values. We have commissioned a feasibility study from XZY Consultants and are in talks with investment sources to prove up these reserves and expand mine facilities.


And so on. There are many variations, but each has to be accurate, informative and appropriate.

How It Works

1. You send an email, explaining what's required and your time constraints. Also something on style issues: audience, British or American English, etc.

2. I email you back giving the likely fees involved. I also sign any nondisclosure agreement you may send.

3. You email me the document in digital form.

4. I look through the document and we come to an agreement regarding work required, turnaround and fees applying.

5. I ask you to pay a small part of the fees up front as a pledge of faith. Payment thereafter is in stages unless the job is a very small one.

6. As commercial faxing services in Santiago are limited and rather expensive, I rarely send the marked-up paper copy back in the traditional manner, but:

7. Keep a pristine copy of the original file in a safe place, clearly marked: e.g. Troutbridge_Prospectus_Uncorrected_Copy1. I also make a copy of the original for later correction: e.g. Troutbridge_Prospectus_Corrected_Copy1

8. Print out the document, and carefully proof/edit the paper copy in the usual manner.


What happens next depends on your requirements. These are the usual practices:

A. Working from the proofed paper copy,

1. I mark suggested corrections on the digital file: Troutbridge_Prospectus__Corrected_Copy1:


  • show alterations in red.

  • show deletions with the strike through facility.

  • for queries insert a superscripted number next to the item in question, and list these queries on a separate query sheet.

2. I return the copy with the suggested corrections, including if necessary the query sheet.

3. You check the work and make the corrections yourself, paying any remaining fees. I destroy the original copy.


B. As above, but (after checking) you instruct me to make the suggested corrections to the original copy. I then send that corrected copy back to you. You pay any fees outstanding.

C. You simply want the corrections made. I show the corrections in red.


D. You only want a list of suggested corrections: I prepare such a list, noting the place and what should be done (e.g. Page 4, Para 2, line 4: change btween to between.)


E. If circumstances rule out other approaches

I have on occasion:

  • scanned the paper proofs and sent them as an email attachment.

  • converted the corrected document to pdf and again send as an email attachment.

  • telephoned the corrections to the typesetter, correction by correction.

A Final Point

Everyone has their own particular skills. I have worked with industry leaders who couldn't write a decent article to save their lives but possessed gifts the most accomplished would envy — making impromptu speeches that held whole conferences spellbound, for example, or steering fractious committees into sensible compromises that satisfied everyone present. That was their professionalism. Mine is to get your manuscript into the best possible shape within the budget and time agreed.