Authenticity reading. Part 2: Becoming an authenticity reader

In Part 1 of this two-part series, Crystal Shelley explained what authenticity reading is and isn’t, why it’s important and how editors can help their clients by recommending it when relevant. In Part 2, she shares how professional editors can add authenticity reading to their services.

Here’s what will be discussed in this post:

  • Decisions to sort out first
  • The process of doing the job
  • Where to find clients

Offering authenticity reading as a service

If you’re passionate about assessing writing related to your identities or lived experiences, you may consider adding authenticity reading to your services. After all, many professional editors are in a prime position to do this because working with clients, assessing writing and crafting feedback are all muscles that are flexed daily. Let’s take a look at some of the key aspects to consider when deciding to become an authenticity reader.

Preliminary decisions

Before you dive right into calling yourself an authenticity reader, there are some considerations to work through first.

Topics

One of the first decisions you have to make is what topics you’ll read for. What social identities do you hold that writers might hire you to assess? What unique experiences have you had? Think about the representation you’ve read that’s made you angry because it was inaccurate or harmful based on what you know or have experienced. That might be a topic you can read for.

Training

There’s no formal training that qualifies you to become an authenticity reader. That said, resources exist to provide information on what you need to know to offer this service, such as a recorded webinar and booklet from the Editorial Freelancers Association. Before I started offering authenticity reading, I also scoured the internet for articles and discussions about it, especially from the perspectives of authenticity readers.

Pricing

As with editing, there are no set prices for authenticity reading, so you’ll have to decide what to charge. I’ve seen fees ranging from £0.004 to £0.015 per word. You won’t be making direct interventions to the text but will instead be leaving feedback, so your working pace will likely be faster than it is while editing. At the same time, consider what you’re being asked to do. There is often emotional labour involved in authenticity reading, and you may be reading text that is harmful or even traumatising.

Your limits

Know what you are and are not willing to read. Many of the topics that authenticity readers assess are related to personal identity or lived experience, and there’s a chance that the writing might include representations of hate, bias, microaggressions or past traumas. If there are certain topics you won’t read, screen potential clients for this type of content before you agree to a project. There’s nothing wrong with setting boundaries and taking care of yourself, especially when you’re often being asked to approach writing from a place of vulnerability.

Doing the job

Once you’ve worked through the preliminary decisions, you have to be prepared to do the job. Your task is to use your lived experience or expert knowledge to provide feedback to the client, but what does that actually look like? Every authenticity reader has their own process, but these are the steps I go through for each project:

Set expectations from the get-go

In Part 1 of this series on authenticity reading, I outlined several common misconceptions about authenticity reading. In the proposals I send to potential clients, I dispel these myths right away because I want the client to know what they can and should not expect from authenticity reading.

Clarify what the client wants you to focus on

Some clients will simply say that they want a general read, whereas others have specifics they’re concerned about. I always check if there are certain areas the client wants me to pay attention to, such as terminology, whether an experience is accurate, or if a character is stereotyped.

Read the manuscript

I read the entire manuscript once, and I make notes of what works well and what should be reconsidered.

Leave comments in the manuscript

As I’m reading, I also leave comments in the manuscript, as I would in an edit. I want the client to know my impressions, and I leave feedback on specific elements of the writing. I’ll write a comment if a word gets misused, if a character’s description is problematic, or if I have a positive or negative reaction to something specific.

Write a report summarising feedback

I turn the notes I took while reading through the manuscript into a report. Because I mainly work on fiction, my report is usually broken down into sections on plot, characterisation, dialogue and behaviours, cultural elements and settings, and conscious language. If I have resources to share that will reinforce my feedback, I’ll include those as well.

Answer the client’s questions and concerns

Once I deliver the marked manuscript and report, I’ll answer whatever questions or concerns the client has about my feedback. This is usually done through email, but I also do phone or video calls if requested.

Finding clients

Once you’re ready to do the job, it’s time to find clients. There are many avenues through which to reach potential clients, and these are a few ideas to try:

Business website

Add authenticity reading to your website as an offered service. Be sure to list which topic(s) you read for.

Social media

Talk about authenticity reading on social media so that your followers know that you’re offering the service. I’ve also seen tweets when indie authors or publishers are looking for readers – you never know what’ll pop up. You can also join the Binders Full of Sensitivity Readers group on Facebook. (Please note that this group is for readers of marginalised genders only.)

Directories and databases

If you’re an editor of colour, join the Editors of Color database and sign up for the job list. Add authenticity reading (or sensitivity reading) to your CIEP Directory entry so you’ll pop up when prospective clients do a keyword search.

Publishers

Many book publishers and presses hire authenticity readers and maintain databases of freelancers. Consider contacting publishers to let them know you offer this service and what topics you read for.

Final thoughts

Authenticity reading is an important and rewarding part of publishing that you may want to consider dipping your toe into. Even if editors don’t formally offer it as a separate service, we can still leave feedback for writers based on our identities and lived experiences – to help writers avoid doing unintentional harm, and to help readers see more authentic representations of themselves and their experiences in writing.

Are you interested in becoming an authenticity reader? Let us know in the comments!

 

About Crystal Shelley

Crystal Shelley is a licensed clinical social worker and the owner of Rabbit with a Red Pen, where she provides editing and authenticity reading services to fiction authors. She is the creator of the Conscious Language Toolkit for Editors and serves on the Executive Committee of ACES: The Society for Editing.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: Hours of happiness by Jr Korpa; Read by Ishaq Robin, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Authenticity reading. Part 1: What editors need to know

Authenticity reading, often called sensitivity reading, is a service that all editors should know about, because it plays a valuable role in the publishing process. In the first part of this two-part series, Crystal Shelley explains what authenticity reading is and isn’t, why it’s important and how editors can help their clients by recommending it when relevant.

Here’s what this post will cover:

  • Authenticity reading at a glance
  • Topics that authenticity readers assess
  • Common misconceptions
  • The value of authenticity reading
  • Recommending this service to clients

Authenticity reading at a glance

People want to see themselves, their identities and their experiences reflected accurately in media, but too often the representation on screen or in writing is problematic. One way in which writers can craft stories or text that’s accurate, respectful and validating to those being represented is to hire authenticity readers.

Authenticity readers, commonly called sensitivity readers, evaluate the way an identity or experience is portrayed in writing. They’re usually hired when a writer is writing about topics outside their lived experiences, where it’s easy to get things wrong.

For example, an author may write a story that features a character who has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and if the author does not have OCD, then their portrayal may be inaccurate, stereotyped or harmful. They can work with an authenticity reader who has OCD to evaluate the story and characterisation, similar to how one might consult a subject-matter expert.

Topics that authenticity readers assess

Many people have the impression that authenticity reading is only used for assessing race and cultures, but there are a variety of topics that can be reviewed:

  • Social identities, such as race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, spirituality, disability, body size, socioeconomic status and neurodiversity. Authenticity reading is especially important when evaluating marginalised groups.
  • Experiences that are difficult to capture without having gone through them first-hand, such as being a family caregiver, going through the adoption process or working as a sex worker.
  • Subcultures that often require in-group knowledge to portray convincingly, such as military, gaming or fandom culture.

Common misconceptions

Those unfamiliar with authenticity reading often misunderstand what it is and what its intent is. Here are just a few of the common misconceptions I see:

Misconception #1: Authenticity readers seek to censor writers

This is by far the most widespread and damaging criticism of the service, and it’s also untrue. Authenticity readers provide feedback on representation, which allows writers to make informed decisions on how to proceed. A reader may recommend that the writer seriously reconsider elements of their story – or not tell it at all – but that’s out of concern for the harm that may result from the writing. Ultimately, writers aren’t forced to make a change, no matter how egregious their portrayals may be.

Misconception #2: One reader can represent everyone within a demographic

An authenticity reader can only critique based on their own opinions and experiences, and they do not act as a spokesperson for an entire group.

Misconception #3: Authenticity reading can serve as a shield from criticism

Some writers hire an authenticity reader in the belief that their work will become immune to negative reviews or publicity, which is not how it works. First, as mentioned, an authenticity reader does not represent everyone, so they can’t guarantee that another person won’t take issue with what’s written. Second, the writer doesn’t have to do anything with the authenticity reader’s feedback, so just because an authenticity reader has worked on a project doesn’t mean they approve of its contents. Writers should hire authenticity readers because they want to write respectful, accurate representation – not because they want a pass.

Misconception #4: Authenticity reading is used only for fiction

Authenticity reading can be useful for any type of writing, not just for fiction. Whenever a writer is writing about topics or experiences outside what they know, especially those that should be handled with nuance or sensitivity, an authenticity read may be beneficial. I’ve read textbook passages and non-fiction guides as an authenticity reader.

The value of authenticity reading

Developmental editing, copyediting, proofreading, formatting, indexing – all of these have their place in the publishing process. While they each serve a different function, they all work towards the same goal: giving readers the best experience possible. Authenticity reading also plays its part, and these are only a few reasons why it’s a valuable service:

When writers write outside what they know, there’s room for error

And when those errors result in misrepresenting, stereotyping or erasing the identities and experiences of communities – especially those that are marginalised – harm can result. Authenticity readers can help minimise that harm.

Research can only go so far

Even if writers do their due diligence by seeking resources to help them understand the unfamiliar, they may not be able to capture it accurately or authentically. Authenticity readers can help fill in writers’ knowledge-gaps and strengthen the work.

Harmful representation can lead to damaging consequences for writers

When representation is poor or harmful, readers might leave negative reviews, critics might blast writers on social media or publishers might cancel contracts. These can all lead to financial losses for writers. Authenticity readers can help writers avoid the mistakes that lead to outcry before publishing.

Recommending this service to clients

Editors are educators who talk with clients about various stages in the publishing process, such as developmental editing, proofreading, indexing and book design. Authenticity reading is a service that editors can talk with clients about too.

We are usually among the first people to read a piece of writing, so we’re often asked for our impressions of the text or the story. If we’re working on a project that we think may benefit from an authenticity read, we can check with the client about whether they plan to work with someone who has first-hand experience of the topics being covered.

If you want to recommend that a client hire an authenticity reader, here are a few options you can suggest for their search:

Wrapping up

Authenticity reading has been around for many years, and it’s only now becoming more understood – and used – as editors, writers and publishers witness the harm that can be done by inauthentic or problematic representation. Editors who recognise the value of this service and who know how to talk to clients about it can be part of the process of doing good. In part 2, I share what you need to know to become an authenticity reader.

About Crystal Shelley

Crystal Shelley is a licensed clinical social worker and the owner of Rabbit with a Red Pen, where she provides editing and authenticity reading services to fiction authors. She is the creator of the Conscious Language Toolkit for Editors and serves on the Executive Committee of ACES: The Society for Editing.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: waves by Joshua Oluwagbemiga; book shelves by CHUTTERSNAP, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

The CIEP’s Environmental Policy Working Group

It’s the Great Big Green Week, so it seems like the perfect time for Robin Black to introduce us to the members of the CIEP’s Environmental Policy Working Group (EPWG).

It’s a funny thing being part of our Institute’s working groups. Editors, subduing their own opinions frequently in service to the client, are either by nature or by practice disinclined to be seen telling people what to do. We may work out our persnicketiness in the limited realms of spelling, punctuation or syntax, where ‘It depends’ is superseded by ‘You don’t want to look silly’.

In the virtual professional space of the Environmental Policy Working Group, attended by a handful of circumspect editors, we are prone to figuring out the brief and then rising to the occasion; making individual contributions in small doses; listening; anticipating objections; and bringing to the table healthy amounts of self-doubt.

But is that enough? Given the scale of the climate crisis and how late we all are in addressing it, the challenge can’t be left to the experts and crusaders. It certainly can’t be left to the governments. John Robinson, one of many lead authors on the most recent IPCC report, says that the notion of sustainability jobs doesn’t hold up; rather, there will be no careers left without sustainability dimensions.

And so our humble working group has developed an environmental policy for the CIEP. Will it work, whatever that means?

Oh, boy. That’s a doozy. Some of you have been out on the streets to demand change; some of you have honed important lines of communication to get the message out; some of you feel that everything will be fine. We like the idea of reaching the membership, wherever you’re sitting, with these questions. We are just CIEP members ourselves, after all.

How did we, the members of the EPWG, get here?

Martin Walker, outgoing CIEP organisational director, incoming EPWG chair

When I was in the sixth form at school, I asked a friend what career he had in mind. He wanted to be an ‘ecologist’. That was a completely new word to me, so he told me about books like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and about emerging environmental movements like Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club.

That conversation 50 years ago sparked a lifelong interest in environmental matters. The publication a year or so later of EF Schumacher’s influential Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered was another big step in my environmental education. That interest has led me to take some practical steps over the years to reduce what we now call my environmental footprint, including cultivating organic gardens and an allotment for over 40 years.

We can all do better, of course, and the CIEP can play its part by reducing the organisation’s environmental impact. It can also play an important role by offering practical advice to its members on how to run their own businesses in as environmentally friendly a way as possible. Members of a community of over 3,000 people will also have many ideas and practical suggestions to share that other members can adopt and benefit from.

Not enough has been done to change over the last 50 years or so of environmental awareness, so the world is now facing its greatest crisis because of global warming and the over-exploitation of the earth’s resources. The adoption of the CIEP Environment and Energy Policy is a small but important first step for the organisation and its members.

Sally Moss, EPWG chair Mar–Sep 2021

In my application to join the EPWG, I said I was keen ‘to help the CIEP formulate an environmental policy that is both ambitious and workable, and to support members to embrace and advocate for regenerative practices in their working lives and beyond’.

I also outlined my three decades of environmental activism, from badgering people in the streets of Liverpool with an eco-survey in my mid-teens (I wonder if any of my victims recall that early climate alarm call?), through arts-based initiatives such as an experimental Permaculture Surgery, to more recent efforts to incorporate my passion for savvy ecological practice into my editorial work.

We are without doubt in a critical era for humankind, and a liveable future depends on our collective actions now. We need nothing less than system change. So many of the stats are bleak, but what keeps me going is the knowledge that nature is powerful: every positive contribution will harness a profound regenerative force. So let’s see what we can do!

Jo Johnston

I was a young child when my awakening to environmental justice happened as I cried at images of the Ethiopian famines during the Live Aid concerts.

Fast forward to 2000 and one of my first jobs for an NGO was to write a guide to climate ‘change’ (before that term was replaced by ’crisis’) which pulled data from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. Approval of this complex project was given by the atmospheric physicist the late Sir John Houghton. Among the hardest projects I’ve ever worked on, it is one I am proud of – but also haunted by: we’re still talking about the same issues.

‘There’s no planet B.’ This rallying cry sums up why I jumped at the chance to be part of the EPWG.

It’s one small way to channel eco-anxiety, but I also hope that the EPWG can inspire our members, other freelancers and businesses. It’s governments and corporate change that will make the biggest difference to the environmental crisis through policy change, but it’s our voices, actions and words that keep up the pressure.

Christina Petrides

I first became aware of the problems we face while in secondary school, back in the early nineties. The voices of environmental activists were beginning to multiply as the world grappled with new science and the occasional cataclysm. It was hard not to notice.

After studying environmental science at university and working in the sector for nearly 20 years, I switched to freelance editing and writing.

I’ve never been an activist myself. While louder voices are essential for raising awareness, change should also be brought about through practice. Working with businesses to implement change is, in my view, one of the best ways. Many organisations want to be seen to be doing the right thing and to differentiate themselves from the competition. Those of us on the inside have continued to encourage, cajole and push them to lead the way. It is now no longer a differentiator but a requirement.

Occasional cataclysms have become regular occurrences, and we are dealing with a brave new world. The CIEP called on volunteers to develop an ambitious environmental policy and to support its members in the same. The opportunity was right up my street, and I got my application in straightaway!

Robin Black

In the pages of Dark Mountain, the writer with druidic tendencies John Michael Greer tapped on the fragile glass of my assumptions with ‘the recognition that the universe is indifferent to human beings, not sympathetic, not hostile, not anything, and that it’s really rather silly of us, all things considered, to expect it to conform to our wishes …’. In other words, no truism is in place to stop life on Earth from getting really, really bad. The melted ice of the climate crisis poured through my now-broken glass; it hurt, and I was scared.

Armed with an editor’s overdeveloped sense of responsibility at seven years old, I’d been recycling and turning off lights since then, just as they taught us when the school board sent speakers to our classrooms with age-appropriate information about the environment, street drugs and rabies(!). But personal responsibility was never going to get us out of this mess, and governments still aren’t behaving like it’s an emergency, which it is. Given the mismatch between the urgency and government action after all these decades, I am not an optimist about our chances.

Melanie Thompson

Energy and buildings are in my blood. Growing up in Sheffield, a focal point of the Industrial Revolution, we learned at infant school of the city’s long history of metalworking and how important the local wood and coal supply was to the revolution. Amid the power cuts, industrial strikes and oil crises of the early 1970s, we knew well of the smog and pollution of industry; while the strangeness of the shifting seasons and the occasional dramatic flood fed our Yorkshire folklore.

I almost gave up undergraduate physics, but modules in quantum mechanics and chaos theory rekindled my interest, and after graduation I set off on my goal to help scientists communicate their research. The ‘hole in the ozone layer’ was in the headlines, and collective international action stepped in to tackle it. As part of a youth delegation to NATO, I heard scientists warn of mass migration as one of the many consequences of ‘global warming’.

I ultimately found my favourite editorial home in what was then the UK government’s Energy Efficiency Best Practice unit, working on documents about saving energy in buildings, as well as energy and environmental policy. I’ve worked in the ’green’ sector ever since, for several high-profile national and international bodies, focusing more in recent years on international action on climate change.

I was very keen to join the CIEP’s working group and do my bit to help others do theirs. It’s even slightly easing my frustration that it’s taken so long to get this crisis up the global agenda, despite decades of scientists (and their editors) banging on about it.


Have you made changes to reduce your impact on the environment? Would you like to know more about what changes you could make? Let us know in the comments.

If you are a CIEP member and would like to join the EPWG, contact Abi Saffrey.

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: ice by Derek Oyen; it’s not easy being green by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Podcasts and editors: what the word nerd heard (part 2)

In the first part of this blog, I explained why I’m a fan of podcasts and how their focus on narrative and storytelling make them particularly appealing to writers and editors.

In this second part, I’ve identified a few shows that I think fellow editors may enjoy – and they’re not necessarily what you’d expect. It’s just a small selection from the two million plus podcast series that are available, so existing podcast fans will probably wonder why I’ve not mentioned their favourite show. Well, I probably don’t know about it – but I’m always looking for new ideas so do put a link in the comments to any podcasts you love.

1. Podcasts about working with words

I only listen to a handful of podcasts that deal explicitly with language. I spend enough of my day wrestling with words as it is. But these are all diverting enough for listening not to feel like work, and could even be regarded as CPD (continuing professional development).

The Editing Podcast: All about writing and editing

Our friends, CIEP directors Denise and Louise, may have given you your first taste of the wonderful world of podcasts. They already have six seasons of bridging the gap between writers and editors, showing that our profession is both approachable and knowledgeable. What better combination? Add to that the fact that their shows are short and they don’t take up all your phone memory, and it’s a must-listen.

By the Book: The power of books and friendship

Here’s another couple of literary ladies, these ones quite different to Louise and Denise. Kristen and Jolenta live by a different self-help book each week, with varying results. For editors, it’s fascinating to note what it is about this genre that appeals to readers. But it’s not so much about how useful the books are, as about how powerful relationships are. Even if you have little in common with their New York lifestyles, these two not only are great role models as friends, but also seem to have helpful and supportive husbands who don’t mind their personal lives being recorded for the entertainment of thousands of listeners.

Because Language (was Talk the Talk): Cutting-edge linguistics

Much of the engaging character of this show also stems from the relationship between the three presenters. They take a very modern and descriptivist approach to language use, which is interesting from an editorial point of view. One might argue that they can be a little too tolerant of certain uses while shutting down others, but that’s the balance that linguists must negotiate.

For another option, Lingthusiasm is probably the best-known linguistics podcast, due to one of its presenters being the author of the excellent book, Because Internet – and it is worth listening to – but I have to admit my mind tends to wander during their lingthusiastic discussions.

The Allusionist: Exploring language in society

Helen Zaltzman explores language in relation to everything from cookery books to the censorship of Brazilian newspapers to Dickensian theme parks. It packs a lot into 20 minutes or so, and sheds a lot of light on both American and British culture, including the latest thoughts on sensitive language. The transcripts are particularly comprehensive, with lots of supporting material and enough links to get lost in for the rest of the day.

Something Rhymes with Purple: Jolly japes with Gyles and Susie

Everybody loved Susie Dent’s interview at last year’s CIEP conference and her etymological podcast with National Treasure™ Gyles Brandreth is just as entertaining. Both presenters are incredibly erudite, but wear their learning lightly (unlike Gyles’s famous jumpers) as they spark off each other while discussing the words of the week. It’s also quite funny to hear these respectable celebrities discuss sex and swearing so openly.

For ideas for more podcasts about language and writing, check out the suggestions at Podchaser and Book Careers.

2. Podcasts about narrative and storytelling

You may have noted that, for me, the appeal of my favourite podcasts often comes from the interaction of the presenters, and how they construct their narrative.

It’s the same for these podcasts, which focus on broader themes – real experiences and the world around us.

The Moth: The art of (true) storytelling

This is the original performance-storytelling podcast – real-life anecdotes told live on stage without notes. From an editorial viewpoint, it’s about constructing a compelling narrative but, on a more emotive level, it’s about life experiences across different times and cultures. Some stories are funny, some are tragic, some are compelling, all are memorable.

Don’t miss a lovely story by Mr PerfectIt himself (I nearly crashed the car when I heard the name Daniel Heuman), the amazing experience of an astronaut struggling to swim, or my absolute favourite – a woman remembers how reluctantly collecting milk-bottle tops for charity became something much greater than she expected.

Also check out spin-offs like The Dublin Story Slam, which features mostly Irish storytellers recounting their experiences. Mortified is another variant on the theme, in which adults read out their own teenage diaries on stage, with comical and cringeworthy results.

Spooks and Bogles: Never let the truth get in the way of a good story

Actor, author and historian (and – disclaimer – my friend) David Kinnaird found himself short of an audience at the start of last year’s lockdown so, with typical energy and panache, he used his considerable knowledge and performance skills to write and perform a weekly podcast about Stirling’s history and ghost stories. If that sounds a little esoteric, well, that’s part of the charm, but David’s research and storytelling is exemplary. And in fact, after around 70 episodes, it’s broadened its focus to Scottish, and sometimes Irish and English, folklore – the starting points for fascinating explorations of history, politics and the nature of reality.

For context, start at the beginning with Dead Man Talking.

99% Invisible: Putting the visual world into words

This one’s a lesson in style for non-fiction editors – every episode succeeds in vividly explaining the influence of design and inventions on the world. Presented by the memorably named Roman Mars, each of these mini-documentaries about architecture or technology or town planning or ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’ by the Baha Men* will have you repeating random facts at everyone you meet.

They’ve covered almost literally everything – but several episodes are about books and here’s a recent episode, The Clinch, about the sexy covers of romance novels.

*If you’re interested in the origin stories of cheesy pop songs, an honourable mention goes to this uplifting episode of Every Little Thing, about the origins of that wedding-reception classic, ‘Cha Cha Slide’.

How I Built This: The stories behind the brands

Another memorably named presenter, Guy Raz, interviews entrepreneurs of brands you may or may not have heard of about their experiences of starting, running and sometimes leaving businesses. It sounds horribly dry and capitalist but it’s actually very engaging – another lesson in how storytelling works in factual contexts too. Guy’s politely probing interviewing style results in some candid revelations from CEOs. Look out for him making a point of asking both women and men how they balanced work with childcare, and also note the answers to his most famous question … was your success due to skill or luck?

As a daily Duolingo user, I like this episode about the surprising story of the world’s top language-learning app.

Beautiful Anonymous: A weekly tribute to empathy, openness and honesty

It’s a simple premise. New Jersey comedian Chris Gethard chats with an anonymous caller for an hour. They tell their life stories in their own words, so you get perspectives from those whose voices you may not normally have a chance to hear. Some callers have rather dull lives; others certainly do not – but it’s all about what it is to be human.

There are more than 270 episodes so far. Chris himself recommends his favourite early episodes in this article.

And finally …

My Dad Wrote a Porno: The best editing podcast of all

You’ve probably heard of this one – it’s one of the most popular British standalone podcasts and has picked up numerous celebrity fans. And it really is all about writing and editing! Jamie and his friends read out – and comment on – his dad’s explicit but amateurish porn novels. It’s both hilarious and, er, educational, in more ways than one. They’re quick to pick up on inconsistencies, factual errors (especially involving body parts) and structural issues – showing that readers do notice such things. The spin-off book was a marked-up manuscript – I’ve got a copy right here next to Hart’s Rules.

And you’ll never think of pomegranates in the same way again.

Enjoy listening and do tell me about your own favourite podcasts – the more obscure the better!

About Julia Sandford-Cooke

Julia Sandford-CookeJulia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications has spent more than 20 years in publishing. When she’s not listening to podcasts, she writes and edits textbooks, speaks very bad Dutch and posts short, often grumpy, book reviews on her blog, Ju’s Reviews.

 

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: play/pause by Thomas Breher from Pixabay; Listen by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

When publishing contacts move on, and how to keep moving as a freelance editor

Leena Lane reflects on the importance of career moves and development – for freelance editors and for the people they work with – and focuses on thoughts regarding:

  • career paths
  • choosing freelance or in-house
  • networking
  • benefits of CIEP membership

I often take 15 minutes before starting work, especially on Mondays and Fridays, to scroll the news headlines across both current affairs and updates within the publishing world.

Posts which can make me both joyful and wistful at the same time are the ‘I’ve got news’ tweets. An individual who has been my main contact at a publishing house is making a career move to another company or is going freelance themselves. This has happened twice since COVID-19 hit and is no real surprise as people reflect on their lifestyle and commute, their career path, or just feel the need for change.

Despite working remotely as a freelancer, and having shared the stress of many deadlines and also those punch-the-air moments of success, I often come to regard these clients as ‘colleagues’ of a sort. When they move on, it stirs up conflicting thoughts and feelings.

Sadness

I’ll miss them! They’ve been great to work with and a friendly contact over many years. Sometimes I’ve known them start as the newbie enthusiastic/stressed editorial assistant, move up within the company to assistant editor, commissioning editor, and then move away to be editorial director.

Excitement

I’m genuinely pleased for the individual – their skills, character and contribution have been recognised and rewarded. They’ll be fabulous at their new position.

Trepidation

In the past, losing a personal contact has sometimes meant losing regular work with that company – how can I prevent that happening this time? How can I make contact with their replacement? How can I shine out from the pool or list of freelancers they’ll see on arrival, and how can I cultivate relationships with a wider team at the same company?

Opportunity

New doors to push? As they move on, might they be able to use my services within their new company, or introduce me to someone who will? Time to polish the website, Twitter profile, CIEP Directory entry, LinkedIn profile, etc, and prepare for some self-marketing.

Wistful reflection

After ‘slowing down’, even just for a year, in terms of career-focused work to start a family, it can be challenging to make it back to where you hoped to be. Relatively few publishers offer part-time or job-sharing as a serious option for key editorial roles.

Though many people appear to succeed and ‘do it all’, a long commute, high childcare costs and having no family locally made a full-time in-house position increasingly difficult for me. I started freelancing to bridge this phase of life until I could find the right in-house role again, but it has quietly turned into a more permanent path.

There have been many pros:

  • the rich variety of clients and projects
  • flexibility
  • focus groups in my own house (aka lots of bedtime stories, Middle Grade critiques and YA rejections)
  • focus groups in my community (aka being a primary school governor and seeing what parents, teachers and children are really reading, needing, thinking).

There have also been some negatives:

  • missing that buzz from being part of a regular team
  • lonely moments
  • erratic income at times
  • and a few regrets:
    • Should I have tried to get promoted one more level before having kids?
    • Should I have taken less parental leave?

Constructive reflection

As a freelancer, how have I still tried to progress in my career?

This is where the CIEP has been instrumental in keeping me on track and also in strengthening my resolve that being a freelancer can be just as fulfilling and valid for me as being an in-house editor.

Since joining, and upgrading twice, I’ve come to appreciate this group of editing professionals more each year: some on a similar path juggling career and family; some going freelance to provide variety they perhaps couldn’t find within just one publishing company; others continuing to work in-house − all striving to provide excellent editorial service within the industry.

One fantastic resource to guide career progression is the new CIEP Curriculum for Professional Development which details what editors and proofreaders need to know, and how they can acquire that knowledge.

In lockdown I’ve finally met up with my regional group, albeit on Zoom, and have bounced ideas around and received some really valuable tips and advice from both new and experienced members. The CIEP’s annual conference – online in 2020 and 2021 – is a wonderful opportunity to meet with editorial professionals, to learn and to laugh.

As I turn back from news-scrolling to my current project, I congratulate those moving on and progressing in their career in publishing, especially those who are, only now in 2021, finding chinks of fairer access and representation – there’s still so much more to be done. Within the community of the CIEP, I feel challenged to stay alert and fresh in my own career.

About Leena Lane

Leena Lane is a Professional Member of the CIEP  and is a member of its Berkshire local group and Run On. Leena provides editorial services to publishers and authors, specialising in children’s Middle Grade and Young Adult books. She’s committed to making stories more representative for all young readers.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: signposts by Javier Allegue Barros; doors by Robert Anasch, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Flying solo: Unlocking HMRC

In this post for her Flying Solo column, Sue Littleford highlights useful resources to help UK-based editors understand the country’s tax system.

This post is for people in the UK tax system, where Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (henceforth HMRC) is the government department that deals with collecting taxes and National Insurance. Self-employed editors must evaluate their own tax and National Insurance liabilities (‘self-assessment’) and will find plenty of help and resources on the HMRC website. This article looks at how to access the most relevant information.

Sorry, everyone else, but do explore your own tax authorities’ websites – you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

When you fill out your tax return, you’ll find context-sensitive help all over the form but, usually, the help means even less than you’d already intuited, if you’re anything at all like me. Please don’t be put off and think you can’t possibly deal with your tax return yourself. With all due respect to accountants, who are invaluable if your tax affairs are complicated, we have a self-assessment system that’s (meant to be) designed so that taxpayers can file their tax returns all by themselves.

And so HMRC, despite the terminology you see on the tax return, does a great deal to help you understand what you need to do, what you can and can’t do, when you need to do it by and so on. And as we start the increasingly rapid slide into Making Tax Digital (MTD; live April 2023 for the self-employed with a turnover (takings) of £10,000 pa or more), it’s best to get familiar now with the sources of information, so you can also start readying yourself for the demands of MTD.

I’ll now go through some of the sources of explainer videos and webinars, and guidance notes.

Personal tax account

A good place to start your journey of understanding is with your personal tax account, or PTA. To access this you’ll need to log in to HMRC (via Government Gateway or GOV.UK Verify, or create an account).

Here, you’ll find collected together PAYE and self-assessment tax, National Insurance, pensions, benefits such as tax credits, child benefit and marriage allowance, and your annual tax summary. The information on self-assessment is presented in a slightly more usable way than through your self-assessment account which, when I looked at it when I did my own tax return a few weeks ago, was – and I stress this is my personal opinion – still atrocious.

If HMRC emails you and says there’s a message for you, you can pick it up in the messages tab of your PTA.

Incidentally, these PTAs were introduced in April 2016 as long-lead preparation for MTD. No one can say we weren’t warned!

HMRC customer forum

HMRC has a customer forum or, rather, a list of forums where taxpayers can join the appropriate board to ask questions and read the advice already given or to give advice. Some answers will be given by other forum members, but HMRC Admin pops up from time to time, and will also post links to relevant new information on the main HMRC website.

Each top-level forum subdivides into topics, so it’s worth visiting and scrolling through just to see whether the coverage coincides with what you want to ask about.

HMRC help sheets

There is a whole slew of help sheets for self-assessment for the self-employed, and for all other categories of taxable situations.

HMRC webinars and other help

HMRC runs webinars throughout the year on a variety of topics, usually of an hour or less, and at different times of day to help people to attend. If you can’t attend a live delivery, then recordings are available.

If you’re new to self-assessment and filling out a tax return, start with the introductory webinar and the one on record-keeping, and with the guidance. If you’ve not completed your tax return for 2020/21 yet, then keep on scrolling down the same page for explainer videos on how to do it, and how to pay your tax and National Insurance. You’ll also find videos on allowable business expenses, the simplified expenses system and a host of other topics that may or may not apply to you. It’s a very long page, so do ensure you scroll right to the bottom to be sure of discovering all the help.

I strongly recommend you sign up for the email alerts. That will ensure you’re told about upcoming webinars, as you need to register to attend them, and things like due dates for your tax return and tax payments.

There are frequent live webinars on business expenses (ie which expenditure you can offset against your income to reduce your profits and thus reduce your income tax and National Insurance, and which you can’t). There are occasional webinars on MTD (and I expect they’ll get more frequent as we get closer to April 2023, to make sure people are making the necessary preparations). Live webinars come with downloadable documents with links to the help for that topic.

Although the recordings are great at demystifying the tax system, do attend the live webinars if you can, as via the chat function you can ask questions and get direct answers. They won’t deal with your individual tax record, but they’ll answer questions about the specifics of your situation and either answer directly or link to a place where you can read up on that topic. Some of the more common questions are answered by the presenters during the webinar, but all the time the backroom staff are busy typing away. And you can save the whole chat history, to see other people’s questions, and the answers they got, which can be great if there was something you meant to ask but didn’t. Maybe someone else asked it for you.

After attending a live webinar, you’re emailed a link to the replay and a list of links for the various help sheets.

YouTube channel

HMRC also runs a YouTube channel, with videos organised into playlists, such as self-assessment help and deadlines.

Making Tax Digital

MTD is already live for VAT (since April 2019), so much of the information available is around the VAT element. But there are listings there too for self-assessment folks, with videos and written guidance.

The HMRC business manual

You can also access the HMRC’s internal business manual on taxing income. This will tell you, in quite a formal way, everything you could possibly want to know, and you can’t get more from the horse’s mouth than this.


I’ve kept the resources here limited to self-assessment for the self-employed. For a much wider range of resources, browse ‘Money and Tax’, to find ‘Dealing with HMRC’, ‘Income Tax’, ‘National Insurance’, ‘Self-Assessment’, or ‘VAT’ among other topics, on GOV.UK.

One thing I’ve not been able to find, to my satisfaction, is a reasonable glossary of terms. The ones I’ve turned up are too narrow, too high-level, too old … If you know of one, please pop it in the comments! Thank you!

About Sue Littleford

Sue Littleford is the author of the CIEP guide Going Solo, now in its second edition. She went solo with her own freelance copyediting business, Apt Words, in March 2007 and specialises in scholarly humanities and social sciences.

 

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: padlock and keyboard by FLY:D 🔶Art Photographer; Pay Your Tax Now Here! by The New York Public Library, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

What’s e-new? Technology terminology

Of bits, nerds and cookies

Computing has added many words to our vernacular, as well as bending the meanings of others and repurposing them. This article explores the roots of some common terms we take for granted or might have been bemused by.

Acronyms, abbreviations and portmanteaus

Computer terminology loves acronyms, abbreviations and portmanteaus for their ability to create a simpler term from something more long-winded. Your computer is bristling with these – disks are connected by USB (Universal Serial Bus) or SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment); data is copied into RAM (random-access memory); the images reach your monitor via an HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) connector, and data is sent around in bits (binary digits).

Many acronyms and abbreviations come from people’s names. For example the RSA algorithm, which is at the heart of most security on the internet, is named after its authors: Rivest, Shamir and Adleman. Meanwhile the Linux operating system takes its name from its original author, Linus Torvalds, who wrote it as a version of Unix.

Technology has often relied on abbreviations for practical reasons. In the early days of text messages, abbreviations were essential to fit a short message length with limited typing capability. Early computing systems used modems to connect to the internet, and transmission speeds were slow (remember the fun of waiting for an image to download with a modem?), so abbreviations slimmed down messages. This has carried over into social media today. One example pertinent to editors is TL;DR, which means ‘too long; don’t read’. Perhaps we should reclaim this as NAE – needs an editor.

Inventions

Some words are complete inventions. For some reason, customer support seems to provide a rich seam of these. Maybe this says something about the job? Two examples are PEBKAC (problem exists between chair and keyboard) and the error code Id10t (I’ll leave you to figure that one out for yourself). Terms for the user seem to be a common theme – perhaps this confirms the stereotype of computer people not always being people people! My favourite has to be ‘wetware’ or ‘liveware’, which interfaces more or less neatly with the hardware and software.

Repurposing

Repurposing or flexing the meaning of language has always happened, and the terminology of technology is no different. Many of the most common terms have come to us via this route.

One good example is the term ‘surf’, as in ‘surfing the internet’. One of the first uses in the computing context was in 1992. Before that the term for the practice of riding on boards on waves can potentially be traced back to 15th-century Hawaii. In the 20th century surfing became more popular in the US, especially in 1960s California. It seems to be around the 1980s that some new uses started to appear – ‘van surfing’ (dancing on a van roof); ‘train surfing’ (riding on the roof of a train) and then ‘channel surfing’ (hopping from channel to channel using a TV remote control). I suspect it was a short hop for Silicon Valley to borrow and adopt the term from there.

Your average computer geek’s (originally meaning ‘fool’ or ‘freak’ in Middle Low German, but has become a slang term for a slightly obsessive enthusiast) reading matter often draws inspiration from some odd sources. Nerd, another term for the stereotypical slightly obsessive computer person, appears to come from the Dr. Seuss book If I Ran the Zoo. Cookie, a term for a small packet of information passed between a web browser and web server, came from ‘magic cookies’ used by programmers, which in turn has its roots in fortune cookies, as it is a small container for information.

Often history has had a hand in the repurposing of words. Patch is a good example of this. The term is now used to describe a series of changes to computer code to fix problems or improve the code. If you look at the update history on your computer, you can often see references to patches. This comes from the time when paper tapes or punched cards were used to put information into computers. When you needed to change a program, you had to cut out part of the tape and patch in a new bit. Meanwhile ‘bug’, used to describe an error in computer code, is often wrongly attributed to Second World War computing pioneer Grace Hopper, who tracked down a problem to a moth caught in one of the computer’s relays (a sort of mechanical switch). She taped it into the logbook for the computer with the word ‘bug!’ written next to it. However there are earlier records of bug being used to describe defects in mechanical systems as far back as the 1870s, and Thomas Edison certainly used the term in his notes.

Problems

Some computing terminology has, like any language, acquired problematic terms. Recently I worked on a computing book that referred heavily to the ‘master–slave system’. This term refers to a computing system (or part of one) where one piece of equipment or component has a controlling (master) function. The term is decades old, and a recent article in Wired found that in 1976 67,000 US patents used it. Unfortunately, this means it is deeply embedded in many technologies, despite being rooted in unacceptable practices and discriminatory language.

In the book I worked on this led to a lot of discussion, as the term is so well understood that really it needs an industry-wide agreement on what to use instead. Fortunately the company whose technology the book was about was happy to implement its own approach, using ‘leader’ and ‘follower’ instead.

The issue raises a lot of questions within the industry, highlighting yet another area in society that suffers from a lack of diversity. Wired’s article on this, ‘Tech Confronts Its Use of the Labels “Master” and “Slave”’, is an interesting insight into why changes like this take so long.

As you can see, like any new innovation, technology has adopted, stolen, repurposed and occasionally mangled existing language in order to describe itself. And these new words have then been incorporated into more general English usage, often with further repurposing.

About Andy Coulson

Andy Coulson is a reformed engineer and primary teacher, and a Professional Member of CIEP. He is a copyeditor and proofreader specialising In STEM subjects and odd formats like LaTeX.

 

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: cookies by Jason Jarrach; surfer by Jeremy Bishop, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

A week in the life of a corporate editor

Books aren’t the only collections of words that need editing. Corporate editor Louise Marsters shares her experience of communications, brand and business publishing, including the types of projects that need an editorial eye.

People can get very excited when you say you’re an editor. They think: best-selling books! Glossy magazines! Influential newspapers! Their enthusiasm drains when you clarify: ‘corporate stuff – you know, like annual reports and accounts’. ‘Oh, right,’ they say.

Little do they realise the reputation-enhancing effects to a company or brand of a well-told story or clearly communicated strategy – and how visual identity can pull the words together.

Dry but fun

Let me come clean: I wanted to be a dentist. But school physics and chemistry required an application that I couldn’t muster. English, meanwhile, seemed to require no application at all. It just clicked.

A business degree in communications followed, as did junior marketing communications jobs at a couple of corporate law firms. The only aspect of the work that I genuinely loved, though, was the writing and editing: client newsletters, legal manuals, tender responses. Dry stuff – but if I, a non-lawyer, could make sense of the content, the clients stood a chance too.

One of those firms was big enough to have its own publishing team. Writing and editing was all they did – all day. And they needed another member. The dry stuff was supplemented with whizzy brochures, website and intranet content, annual reviews, pro bono reports and, the holiest of grails for me, a new style guide. Getting to grips with design, photography and branding was all part of the deal – and the fun.

Just do the words

Thinking some more study might help my career prospects, I did a master’s degree in communications and media, before packing a (very large) bag and leaving Australia for the UK.

Another law firm job ensued (sigh) but it wasn’t long before the expat bush telegraph in London spread word of a job at a multinational oil and gas company – in corporate reporting.

‘In what?’ I spluttered. ‘The annual report and accounts? But I’m not an accountant.’

‘No, you just do the words,’ they said.

‘Oh, okay. When do we start?’

‘September, for publication in April. About 180 pages. And you have to put together the annual review and the financial and operating information at the same time. And edit the notice of meeting. Then, in the summer, you can research our competitors’ annual reporting suites and project manage a big report about energy economics. Oh, and sort out the style guide.’

Gulp.

Mission control

‘Doing’ corporate reporting meant project managing, working with designers, writers, printers, typesetters, photographers and online gurus, not to mention senior executives, board members, the company secretary’s office, content providers, lawyers and accountants – across the UK and the US.

Everyone ‘in house’ was an author or an approver. And their opinions (down to how the name of a report should appear on its perfect-bound spine) were as varied as the audiences (aka stakeholders) for whom the financial reporting publications were destined: investors, analysts, regulators, auditors, employees, customers, journalists.

I was mission control, scheduling, cajoling, influencing and, alongside those more senior, diplomatically helping the company to agree a single, unified story for the year. Only then could I copyedit the content, collate changes, query, get sign-off and submit for typesetting.

Proofreading – what felt like the purest of the editing work – came for a week or two (or three) before ‘going on press’ for each project. We’d camp out in a meeting room for the duration, bulky A3 proofs methodically arranged across the table and floor, bulldog clips and red pens in plentiful supply. Bliss.

Words before politics

After six ‘seasons’ of corporate reporting, it was time to move countries again: this time Switzerland. Not speaking much of any of its four official languages meant that working in a communications or editing capacity was as likely as my becoming a champion skier. The answer? Freelancing.

The network I’d built up and the lessons I’d learned from 12 years of corporate life meant I had a valuable launch pad.

I worked first for people I knew and who knew how I could help them. Then, as they moved around, they’d seek me out again, or new clients would find me. Being able to focus on words, not politics, was an unexpected upside.

Joining the CIEP was another upside. Training, upgrading, being mentored – plus the famous directory – all helped professionalise me as an individual editor, when I didn’t have a company name or job title to offer instant credibility.

Reputation, reputation

Fundamental to editing for a business or brand is understanding that the quality of what they publish is essential to their reputation.

Clients worth working with can see that editing is a crucial quality-control tool in producing professional communications – communications that enhance credibility and inspire trust. And they needn’t be big companies. Niche consultancies and independent charities, for example, have the same reputational needs.

Now back in the UK, this corporate editor’s work recently took in:

  • proofreading brand and imagery guidelines for a global management consultancy
  • proofreading a review of past financial reporting for a FTSE 100 pharmaceutical company
  • proof-editing the ESG (environmental, sustainability and governance) section of an annual report for a FTSE 100 beverage company
  • proofreading and cross-checking the print and interactive website versions of an annual report for a global engineering and architecture firm
  • developing detailed writing and editorial style guidelines for a large independent charity aiming to professionalise its communications
  • copyediting (and partly copywriting) the content of the same charity’s annual report to create a consistent tone of voice

and even included:

  • proofreading – out loud, in a pair – the financial statements of an annual report for a FTSE 250 food ingredients company
  • filling in every single page number and cross reference of a 152-page annual report for a British fashion brand

… but not all in one week!

Lately I’ve also:

  • attended a webinar about how companies will soon be obliged to report against the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures
  • written a blog piece for the CIEP
  • agreed ongoing work with a niche investment pitch agency to edit business plans for start-up companies
  • cast an editorial eye over friends’ websites, flyers or articles, for respite.

Words in context

I often feel there’s been a perverse logic to my career. Having started in broad marketing communications roles, I’ve managed to narrow work down to the ‘bits’ I really like: words, grammar, tone, style. But it’s that broadness that gives you the context in which those bits sit – and allows you to deliver a meaningful edit. And, yes, I genuinely love that.

About Louise Marsters

Louise Marsters edits communications and business content for corporate clients. Working in-house in corporate and financial communications taught Louise to shift her brand from ‘perfectionist’ to ‘pragmatic perfectionist’. Her colleagues even developed a strapline: Has it been Louise-d? Louise is a Professional Member of the CIEP, and a member of the plain language organisation Clarity.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: Louise’s headshot by Jeremy Mason; report by San Kaÿzn on Unsplash; lighting by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

CIEP social media round-up: June and July 2021

June and July 2021 in social media gave us conference fever, hot new resources, trustworthy professionals, heroic diving etymologists and faithful canine edibuddies.

We used Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to promote the CIEP annual conference in September, and posted a video and text-based posts about the speaker line-up. The full programme is available on the CIEP’s conference page. Take a look!

Fabulous resources

We’ve also made a splash about the following fabulous additions to the CIEP’s extensive resource library.

Professionals you can trust

And we continue to raise awareness about the CIEP’s Directory of Editorial Services on a weekly basis. The social media posts reflect the broad range of specialist editorial skills CIEP members have to offer and draw attention to advertisers’ qualifications, experience and client references. The aim is to demonstrate that the Directory is a source of professionals in whom clients can have confidence.

The wider wordy world

In rounding up the external links we have shared in the previous two months we try to look for vague themes. This period has been unusually disparate in its topics, although highlights have been an article from ACES about whether your punctuation is too varied; Lynne Murphy’s celebration of 15 years of Separated by a Common Language, her blog about British and US linguistic variation; a well-received CMOS quiz on editing lingo; and an interview with Zakiya Dalila Harris, author of The Other Black Girl, on the spoofability of the publishing world.

However, two themes did emerge: etymology and dogs. So, same old same old, but let’s plough on nevertheless.

Heroes of etymology

At the CIEP we just love etymology, the study of the origins of words and terms and how their meanings change. So June and July were a treat for us as they provided a combination of box-fresh new terms (lockdown foot and bungalow leg; yep, both sound painful), a fascinating myth-busting quiz about the OED and an interesting article from a New Words editor which started with the words: ‘My name is Fiona and I am responsible for putting amazeballs into the OED.’ Another word that Fiona’s team has worked on is ‘staycation’, the subject of much hot debate this summer as Person A casually said to Person B, ‘Yeah, we couldn’t get abroad this year so we went for a staycation at the coast about 50 miles away’ and Person B spat back, ‘But that’s a holiday! You have to stay at home for a staycation!’ If you’re interested in whether Person A or Person B is correct in their use of the term, here’s the link to the entry in the OED. (Spoiler: it’s both. Both are right. Now, please stop arguing.)

Another term that has been used a lot this summer, to consternation in some quarters, is ‘wild swimming’, the practice of taking to the water in lakes, rivers and the sea (‘What? In my day we called this “swimming”’). Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman valiantly dived (or is it ‘dove? Oh, never mind) into this particular controversy on the Grammarphobia blog, usefully tracing its origins to Roger Deakin’s classic swimming book Waterlog. This was published around the turn of the millennium, so, yes, unless you are very young ‘wild swimming’ would have been simply ‘swimming’ in your day, but now it exists as a term in the OED (although you’re not obliged to use it).

We appreciated Edwin L. Battistella’s honest, self-reflective post for the OUP on ‘crazy’ and related terms. Being conscious about language is constant work, and this etymologist, author and lecturer outlined the reasons he would no longer be using ‘crazy, wacky, looky, kooky, or nutty’ after hearing directly from his neurodiverse students about how they were affected by this type of language.

We posted another great blog from Edwin L. Battistella in June about the flexibility of pronouns, which formed the basis of a question in CIEP quiz 9. There are all sorts of different types of pronouns, it turns out: personal, reflexive, indefinite, demonstrative, interrogative … and ‘your ass’, as in ‘If you keep that up, they’re going to fire your ass’, is a pronoun too. Who knew? Those hero etymologists knew, along with their equally heroic colleagues, the linguists and the lexicographers.

Everybody and their dog

‘Everybody and their dog’, according to Battistella’s article, is an idiomatic compound pronoun that simply means ‘Everybody’. But when we said on 25 June ‘Everybody and their dog is at work today’ we really meant it, as it was Bring Your Dog to Work Day. If you work from home, this day was likely no different from any other, for you or your dog, but we asked our social media friends and followers how their canine friends were helping them on this special date. A LinkedIn follower responded: ‘My #edibuddy keeps reminding me to take a #stetwalk!’

How does having a canine edibuddy work for other freelancers? Well, some of us with dogs can report that the experience is a combination of having your feet snoozed on (particularly welcome in the winter), hoping they don’t see a squirrel out of the window during a Zoom call (mute button at the ready) and being followed into the loo (chin on your knee and all), but who can more professionally articulate its ups and downs? How about copywriter and dog owner Tom Albrighton, author of a blog for the CIEP on how to be a freelance introvert? Here are some of his recent tweets at @tomcopy: ‘Imagine if dogs had phones. You’d be getting constant texts like “Time for a walk?” and “How about some cheese”.’ (Truth.) ‘It’s common practice in our house to articulate the dog’s presumed thoughts in a “doggy” voice. What happens if you have two or more pets? It must be like one of those one-person Shakespeare performances.’ (Can CIEP members with more than one dog illuminate us on this?) And finally: ‘Just got caught singing a song to the dog about how I’ll take him out in the garden in another half an hour. That’s what working at home is all about.’ It sure is, Tom, it sure is.

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About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credit: dog in a box by Erda Estremera on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

‘Non-native’ and ‘native’: Why the CIEP is no longer using those terms

EDI director Luke Finley and community director Vanessa Plaister explain why the CIEP is calling time on the terms ‘native speaker’ and ‘non-native speaker’.

What’s the problem?

The phrases ‘native speaker’ and ‘non-native speaker’ are still common in our field and related areas such as translation and ESL teaching. But there’s a strong argument that they are unhelpful at best and that at worst they perpetuate assumptions about language competence that have an exclusionary effect.

The CIEP has been keeping up to date with that thinking. Increasingly, those of us writing as the CIEP have instead used more precise phrases. Now, we’ve decided to make that decision formal: the CIEP style guide will ask its authors not to use ‘native’ and ‘non-native’ to differentiate English speakers according to where they’re from, where they’re based or which variant of English they use.

Why are we doing this?

Whether we mean to or not, when we identify someone as ‘non-native’ we relegate them to an ‘out-group’ – we other them. And, beyond geography, the word has possible connotations about what else that person is excluded from, including rights, status and language.

Boosting belonging

Does an accident of birth make a language – particularly when that language has myriad global variants – inherently more ours than someone else’s?

Many of us would answer ‘no’ – yet when we don’t consciously reflect on it, it’s all too easy to position those Englishes hierarchically or competitively. British and US English vie for first place based on their respective histories; Australian, Irish, Canadian, New Zealand and South African English follow on closely – and the rest straggle along at the back. It’s no coincidence the winners in that race are mostly majority-white, ‘Western’ nations – the nations that colonised and imposed English on the others, or the ones in which those colonisers settled.

Sharing ownership

In fact, while we may consciously reject vehemently the idea that English language competence is tied to racial identity (or presumed racial identity based on skin colour), it’s worth reflecting candidly on the mental picture that forms when we use the words ‘native English speaker’. Even if you genuinely think of someone from the Punjab, the words can act as a dog whistle to others who think they know what you really mean. And that’s an unacceptable risk in the context of the CIEP’s global membership.

If it ever did – because it is a language formed over centuries of global influences – English no longer belongs inherently to one geographical community. It’s the language of global communication, spoken fluently by more people than any other. And that fluency can come from acquiring English as a first language or from learning it more formally.

Challenging assumptions

As all editors learn, being fluent in a language is far from enough to make you a good editor. Significantly, those who learn it as a second or other language often have a better, more systematic understanding of its grammar and how to describe it than those who’ve used it all their lives. And while fluency may imply that a person has a more instinctive way of choosing their words, a larger vocabulary and a comfort with slang or idiom, is that necessarily always an advantage? These things may make a language richer, but they don’t necessarily allow us to communicate clearly, quickly or as widely as possible within a global marketplace.

What’s the alternative?

As is so often the answer: it depends.

When we see the words in context, we will think about what our writers really mean.

In many cases, the solution may be to refer to people using English as a first language or as a second or other language.

But even then, this might be tied up with an ill-founded hierarchy of competence – with assumptions about who can speak, and edit, English effectively. Perhaps we mean simply a multilingual author or someone still learning the language. Perhaps we’re talking specifically about the linguistic foibles or needs of that individual.

Or it could be that the phrase just marks out the subject as someone from a different background to the writer. In such cases, it may be that not only the words ‘native’ and ‘non-native’ but the distinction itself is unnecessary. In those instances, we might decide instead to delete the words.

In short, the terms ‘native’ and ‘non-native’ are imprecise, potentially racially loaded and fraught with issues of ownership and power – of who gets to define what is a ‘good or bad’, ‘correct or incorrect’, use of a language. This is why, as an association of members centred in the UK but spread across the world, those of us responsible for positioning the CIEP securely within that global editing community have decided to stop using them.

About Vanessa and Luke

Vanessa Plaister has been the CIEP’s community director since 2018. Luke Finley became the CIEP’s first equality, diversity and inclusion director in early 2021.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

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Photo credit: globes by Duangphorn Wiriya on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.