Hi - I'm Neil,
I edit and proofread roleplaying games for publishers, independent authors and designers. I've been playing and running tabletop roleplaying games for the last 35 years, and I've been involved in the industry since I founded Paladin Roleplaying in 2017.
I've always been of a bit of a word-nerd: it bugs me when I see out of place apostrophes, typos and bad layout in games, and I want to help you make sure your game looks professional and doesn't contain unnecessary mistakes that could have been prevented.
"At the end of a protracted writing and design process, you're understandably pretty excited to release your book into the world. It's finally time to collect on all the the adoring praise and international success that you deserve! However, experience has taught me that if you're too hasty, you'll instead be met by a helpful (but less exciting) buzz of corrections and confusion as your readers pick apart every spelling error, grammar blunder or unexplained term in your work.
My advice to you is simple: get Neil to find these embarrassing mistakes for you! He is rigorous, considered and gentle, and he'll make you look like the flawless genius you always knew you were."
Jack Harrison, Mousehole Press (Artefact, Orbital, Bucket of Bolts)
What’s the difference between proofreading and copyediting?
The simple explanation is that copyediting happens before layout has been done, and proofreading happens after layout has been done. If you’re looking for someone to ‘proofread’ your game, but you’re not at layout stage yet, then you actually need copyediting!
Included with both copyediting and proofreading
- Correcting grammar, punctuation and spelling
- Ensuring that your meaning is clear
- Applying the house style (if any)
- Ensuring consistency in spelling, capitalisation, formatting, number style and hyphenation
- Checking text is internally consistent for sense
- Checking for incorrect word usage
- Deleting redundancies and repetition
As well as looking for typos, grammar and punctuation mistakes, it's important that your document is consistent. For instance, 'dwarfs' and 'dwarves' are both acceptable spellings, but you should choose one and stick with it. Likewise, words like 'recognise' are perfectly fine with either -ize or -ise endings, but it's not good to mix-and-match them within the same text. It's the same thing when there are various acceptable ways to use punctuation.
In the mechanics section of your game, it's especially important that your meaning is clear. Things that seem obvious to you might not be to your reader; if they find your rules unclear or confusing it can cause a lot of problems – in the worst case they give up and your game never even makes it to the table.
I will also check the more technical aspects of the text, looking for lists of seven skills that actually contain eight, stat blocks missing one of the stats and so on.
What is copyediting?
This stage of editing takes place before your game goes to layout. It's a word-by-word analysis of your text which provides an opportunity to tidy up your writing and identify any problems or mistakes.
- Everything in the 'copy editing and proofreading' list above
- Improving sentence structure where needed
- Rearranging sentences and paragraphs to improve pace and clarity
- Fixing awkward phrasing to improve clarity and flow
Copyediting is NOT about changing your style. I'll keep your tone and 'voice' intact, just making suggestions to polish the text and make sure that each sentence is easy to understand, flows well and does exactly what you intended – I’ll make sure readers don’t stumble over awkward sentences or misinterpret ambiguous phrases.
What is proofreading?
Proofreading is a final look over your game before it is finalised and/or goes off for printing. The proofreading stage looks at the design and layout, and includes:
- Everything in the 'copy editing and proofreading' list above
- Flag awkward page or column breaks and end-of-line word divisions
- Cross-check internal references (eg ‘see page 17’) and links
- Make sure formatting is correct and consistent
- Ensure tables and illustrations are correctly captioned and referenced
Proofreading is not about rewriting your manuscript. It's a detailed letter-by-letter check to make sure that it is consistent, makes sense and looks professional. It's a light-touch edit and the aim is to make the smallest number of changes possible.
Before you get proofreading done, your manuscript should already have been looked at by multiple sets of eyes – ideally one of them a professional copyeditor. If you still have playtesting to do, material to write or layout to finalise, then you're not ready for proofreading yet.
Types of projects I work on
I am happy to help you with anything game related! Whether that's a big chunky trad-style RPG rulebook or a little indie zine, even a one-page game is fine (no job too small!) I'm also happy to work on non-TTRPG games, for instance board games, interactive fiction or other game or nerd culture material – feel free to get in touch if you want to run your idea past me.
I'm also happy to work on Kickstarter pages, websites, and related materials.
Projects I have recently worked on include Fabula Ultima High Fantasy Atlas (Need Games), Koriko (Mousehole Press) and Astro Inferno (Haxan Studios).
Style sheets and style guides
A style sheet is a document that contains style decisions on spelling choices, punctuation, capitalisation, hyphenation, etc. The style sheet records decisions about the text, and helps to ensure consistency. You may already have a preferred style guide or house style sheet – if so, I'll work to that. If not, that's OK, I'll create one for you as I work. I'm happy to work with either UK or US English.
If you haven't worked with me before, or if you've never worked with a professional proofreader or editor before, it can be helpful to get a sample proofread or edit. Just send me a sample of your work, and I'll work on it and return it so you can get an idea of how I work and what's involved. There's no charge for this service, as it also helps me to get a feel for your project and quote a fair price.
Why choose me?
Most editors and proofreaders who work on tabletop games fall into one of two categories:
- Trained editors who have little or no experience of gaming
- Experienced gamers with no formal training in proofreading or editing
What I can offer is a combination of the two - high quality formal training by the Chartered Institute Of Editors And Proofreaders (the UK's leading institution), and lots of experience and knowledge in the TTRPG field.
I will always follow your brief, meet your expectations and deliver a project to your deadlines. And I will always work with you in a professional, friendly and non-judgemental manner.
Why can't you do all this yourself or crowdsource it?
Well, you can – but probably not all that well. For a start, it's almost impossible to spot your own mistakes. You already know what your document is supposed to say, and your brain will fill in the gaps and gloss over the little mistakes.
Even if you widely distribute a beta or playtest version of your game and ask for feedback, a lot will get missed. A whole load of untrained eyes doesn't equal a trained professional who knows what to look for and how to look for it!
Plus, crowdsourcing your proofreading makes a LOT of work for you, with comments coming in dribs and drabs from different people at different times and maybe even in different formats. There will be lots of repetition, some things missed completely and some feedback that doesn't make sense, or is plain wrong. You have to try and keep track, make sense of it all and put it into some kind of order. It's a lot of work.
If you go to a professional proofreader you'll get everything back to you in one document, and you or your layout designer can make all the changes at once. At that point you can distribute the pdf of your game for further feedback if you like, knowing that you've already dealt with 99 per cent of the errors.
What does it cost?
The short answer: there's no fixed price. It depends on the length and complexity of your game, and how much work is needed. If you've already employed a professional editor and/or have an existing stylesheet, that will reduce the workload and lower the price. If not, that's fine, but it may take me a bit longer and cost a little more.
I'll need to see your manuscript (or a sample of it) first, and then I can give you a price. I'll always do my best to work within your budget.
How long does it take?
Again, it depends on length and complexity. I'll be able to give you an idea once I've had a look at it. I'm happy to work to your deadlines, so long as they're reasonable – rapid turnaround is sometimes possible but incurs a higher fee.
What about confidentiality?
Your game, and any other material you send me to work on, stays completely confidential. I'm happy to sign an NDA if you'd like me to.
Want to know more?
I'm very happy to talk it over and answer any questions you might have. The best way to get hold of me initially is generally by email: contact me
"We engaged Neil to proofread our 400-page RPG adventure and sourcebook The Straight Way Lost for 5e. Neil was incredibly forthcoming, fast and meticulous in his work. As TSWL was our first original work, we had no style sheet and a lot of open questions, but Neil navigated us through all of this. He also has a great grasp of 5e wording and formatting and found quite a few issues that our developers had overlooked. I can wholeheartedly recommend working with Neil and we’ll surely engage him again for our next project."
Melina Sedó for Vortex Verlag