Q: Will you please give me the rule regarding when to use “can not” or when to use “cannot?”
A: The rule is simple. “Cannot” is the usual way of writing the term that means “not able to.” Offhand, I cannot think of sentence that calls for “cannot” as two words unless punctuation comes between the words, as in this example: He thinks he can, not that he’s right.
Q: I want to freelance, but I have no idea how to set my rates. How should I figure an hourly rate for writing or editing?
A: No matter what type of freelance work you hope to do, to set an hourly rate, you must begin with how much you want to make a year. Let’s say you want to make $50,000 a year. Take off the last three zeroes to leave $50 and then divide by two, and you get $25, which would give you an approximate hourly rate. That figure is an unreachable ideal, however, because no freelancer on earth fills every working hour with income-producing work; we also have to perform other work-related tasks. We respond to calls and e-mail. We network, do our own banking, handle our own shipping, and usually keep our own books and pay our own bills. We update our websites, write proposals for potential work, and perform research to find work. In addition, some of us have to meet with clients and perform other non-income-producing work, so $25 an hour won’t be enough to reach a goal of $50,000 a year. You will probably discover that you spend half your time performing business tasks that are not income-producing. If you hope to make $50,000 a year, double the $25-an-hour figure and charge $50 an hour, a realistic rate for freelance work.
As a new freelancer, however, you may think $50 an hour is too much to quote to clients. If so, adjust the rate until you reach something that feels like a price you can charge and still make a decent living.
If you want to undertake more research, you can find sites on the Internet that give average hourly fees for various freelance work, and some are adjusted for the region, as well.
Let me offer another tactic. When I began freelancing many decades ago, I quickly learned to charge by the project for writing and by the word or page for editing, rather than charging by the hour. If you tell a client you charge by the hour, the client has no concept of how much the project will cost. Are you a fast writer or a slow one? Who knows? In addition, hourly fees can sound high, yet a project fee can sound reasonable. By charging by the project, page, or word, you are able to give a solid estimate, clients know what to expect, and you can tell if you are comfortable with the fee.
Q: Is it acceptable to have many points of view when writing a mystery? The hero and heroine, the victim and family, and the villains?
A: While grammar and punctuation both have many rules, creative writing has few rules—only recommendations and guidelines. The guidelines generally allow a book of any genre to have more than one point of view, as long it has no more than one point of view per scene. Also, as a general guideline, only main characters should be given a point of view.
Q: What is the difference between although and though, and when is each used?
Although I was on time…
Though I was on time…
A: Although both words mean the same thing, generally speaking, “although” is preferred if it is the first word in a sentence. Elsewhere in a sentence, “although” and “though” are usually interchangeable.
Bobbie Christmas, book editor and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more Ask the Book Doctor questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com.