The CPD in the work we do

In this post, Abi Saffrey thinks about the ways in which we develop our professional selves while doing the job we do – an often overlooked form of CPD.

This article considers:

  • Informal conversations and guidance
  • Seeing a task from a different perspective
  • Observing colleagues and peers
  • Procrastinating on the internet
  • Teaching others
  • Writing an article
  • Continuing professional development

It’s highly likely that most of the people reading this post have put some formal training on their professional development plan for 2022. I certainly have every intention of signing up for the CIEP’s Plain English for Editors online course, or perhaps the References one. I also have some of the Publishing Training Centre’s e-Learning modules to work through.

When building our development plans, we often dismiss or forget the informal learning that we do every day while working. There are so many ways to learn new skills, adapt current ones, deepen our understanding, broaden our experiences – these are perhaps harder to label than a training course, but equally important in keeping our careers, and businesses, on track.

Informal conversations and guidance

Whether working for an organisation or ourselves, we have networks of people that we talk to. In an office or via an instant messaging tool, we can ask colleagues quick questions, or perhaps jump on a video call to discuss an idea.

Even a more formal meeting can be a learning opportunity, not just about how to carry out a task but how to communicate about it, finance it or improve it.

For those of us who work at home alone, having conversations with peers can remind us of our professional sense of self, and I find that after one of those conversations, I’m more proactive and productive.

Seeing a task from a different perspective

It’s very easy to focus on how we race through a task that we do often, and I suspect we’re all a bit prone to forgetting the actions that sit around that task. With my editorial project management work, I can gain insights into how copyeditors and proofreaders work, into what designers and typesetters need to know, into the priorities of the publisher – and I can take that and apply it to my own editing or proofreading (as well as future project management).

Taking a step back and thinking holistically about a project can be informative and rewarding, remind us of the bigger picture, and perhaps help us identify areas for more formal CPD.

Observing colleagues and peers

This is easier when working in an office with someone, clearly. I learnt so much from those around me as an employee, and when working in a client’s office as a contractor.

I’m in an accountability group, and on one of our professional retreats we spent a session looking at how we’d edit different types of texts – we all had different approaches and talked about which approach worked best for each text. With a bit of planning, this could work well over a video call or even in an online chat forum.

Talking of online chat forums, the CIEP member forums are full of gems covering every aspect of editing and running an editing business.

Procrastinating on the internet

Twitter, hey? It’s a right time-sink. How about that Wordle game? At least you can only play it once a day, but then did you read the articles about how to get better at it?

This may be the wrong thing to say, BUT there is value in procrastinating on the internet. So many of us scold ourselves for spending a bit too long on social media platforms, but there are great things in among the pyramid scheme promotions, political despair and, of course, cats. There are relevant blog posts, discussions, contacts being made, creativity being sparked, unknown terminology being discovered, different approaches to the same problem and the worldwide #StetWalk movement.

Teaching others

Teaching someone else how to do something that we know how to do is a fabulous way to reinforce our own knowledge. It can help us to realise how much we do know, and often highlights what we still don’t know. There is a lot of value in rewinding our understanding and trying to build up that understanding in someone else. That word you use all the time? They don’t know it. Those who learn from us can ask questions that we might never have thought of, and finding out you didn’t know what you didn’t know will be a revelation.

Writing an article

Write about what you know. Tailoring an article to the intended audience is a skill, and writing has the same benefits as teaching. For editors, writing also has the added value of building empathy towards those whose words we work with. When this article comes back from its proofreader, I will be nervous about what corrections may have been made. And once this is published, I’ll wonder about what kind of reception it will have. Receiving feedback help us to better give feedback (and give better feedback).

Continuing professional development

The skills that we need change and evolve, as do the industries we work in. Let’s welcome informal professional development into our work lives, and acknowledge that which already exists. I’ve covered the kinds of learning I’ve benefited from throughout my career – share yours in the comments.

About Abi Saffrey

Abi Saffrey is an editorial project manager, copyeditor and the CIEP’s information director. In 2022, lots of her informal CPD will come from working with her CIEP Council and information team colleagues.

 

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: snowdrop by Kiwihug; Toronto perspective by Nadine Shaabana, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Curiosity or destiny? The different routes to the CIEP

A diverse group of over 20 proofreaders and editors meet up weekly online for professional support through the CIEP’s Cloud Club West. But what do we actually know about each other? Alex Mackenzie asked in a recent meeting: ‘What was your route to the CIEP? Where were you workwise when the proofreading/copyediting penny dropped?’

Here’s what the group discussed:

  • Are proofreaders and editors born or is it a process of discovery?
  • Is an English literature degree or a Master’s in publishing a must-have?
  • Can family life or challenging health conditions accommodate the job?
  • When did you switch to proofreading and editing?
  • How did the CIEP come into your life and what do you enjoy about it?

My ‘ah-ha’ moment

Did my itinerant life lead me here? Perhaps copyediting was my way of joining up the dots when our international life abruptly halted: COVID-19 meets Brexit. It was the CIEP training, discovering the humble dialogue between professionals in the forums and our ‘e-local’ weekly video meet-ups that grounded me in this fascinating profession.

My question for Cloud Club West (CCW) began an entertaining and revealing round-the-table storytelling that lasted four weeks.

It’s in the blood

‘From an early age I knew – then I learned it was a job!’

Some were students of English literature or creative writing, others hold a Master’s degree in publishing. Isn’t that how real editors are made? Whether fresh out of university or experienced in-house editors with high-profile publishers, we are all now freelancing proofreaders and editors.

Loving the detail

‘I want to do something with books.’

Writing up references for her third thesis – enjoying the rigorous detail of italics and comma placement – one member wanted to put this body of knowledge to use. After writing to 50 publishers, she found work as an assistant with a reputable one. Her CIEP membership number is in the low hundreds, and her editorial life spans the digital revolution: marking up on paper before kids, on-screen after.

Teachers turned editors

‘After decades helping multilingual students find their voice – this was a natural transition.’

For the rest, there was a delayed ‘ah-ha’ moment of discovery. Teaching was the starting point for many. Some changed direction during the training, others resigned with a health condition or burnout; for one fantasy fiction lover and gamer, COVID-19 showed them they weren’t quite in the right place. Though teaching made sense at some levels, we are happier now – a clue? One of us has never missed a CCW meeting!

I need to leave – but now what?

‘After numbers, words – it’s what I should be doing.’

For those editors who arrived through maths and science, there may have been a clear moment of recognition. One left a health-threatening, high-pressure job in a civil service payroll department where, in her ‘spare’ time, she was copyediting multi-author reports and writing how-to documents. The required attention to detail crossed seamlessly into scholarly editing, but now she dictates the work on her terms and the ulcers have healed. 

A serendipitous escape from the macho world of finance

‘Do I know a proofreader? … err … me?’

Several of us were economists – proofreading financial reports with 24-hour deadlines. A financial crash prompted retraining as an English teacher, another tired of the male-dominated office and moved countries every 18 months thereafter. One catapulted herself forward answering the question ‘Do you know a proofreader?’ with ‘Err … yes, me!’

Globetrotter slowed down

‘I’m thankful to be working from home near my very elderly mum.’

Our former lawyer had understandable burnout after 20 years dealing with international commercial litigation, with commutes between the UK and Brussels (twice in one day, even!), as well as Canada, the US and other EU countries. A significant domestic violence practice in her latter years in the law added to the burnout. Though she was a guinea pig for the functionality of the online interface for joining the SfEP (as it was then), she welcomed the friendliness and support of the face-to-face Norfolk group and is now much appreciated, steering our Cloud Club steadily from Canada (… for now!), where in non-COVID-19 times she enjoys the lively Toronto group face to face, and now via Zoom.

A change of heart

‘I’ve grown into the job – I’m doing the right thing in life!’

Another economics graduate left the sector after questioning their calling. An ad offered editorial training in using their expertise for academic research. Later, after moving to Canada, he enjoyed a warm welcome from the CIEP local group, and the 2020 conference ‘sealed the deal’. He is now an in-house editor.

Academic detour

‘I was always checking others’ words.’

In fact, academics across the subject range were thrilled to learn there were paying jobs outside educational institutions, where subject knowledge was valued. After internships, redundancy and shrinking budgets affected many. For one, a chance trial proofread of Voltaire’s complete works meant learning BSI symbols on the job!

A friend of a friend

‘I needed courses and, possibly, mentoring.’

A third party introduction is often a catalyst. One lockdown encounter across a stream led to editing pharmacy documents. A knitting club friend with a maths degree recommended a course that led on to proofreading and later indexing. A holiday romance with a proofreader ended happily: get trained, quit the UK job, move to the States, take over his job, marry him!

Midlife crisis?

‘Well, it all worked out beautifully.’

Health scares, marriage, kids, home-schooling, a partner’s career move, empty nest, divorce, volunteering in a bookshop, retraining as a translator or teacher – many and varied are the circuitous routes to the CIEP, even joining the RAF at the age of 49!

But life’s complicated

‘Is that really a thing I can do?’

Our Cloud Club members tend to be a transient, globetrotting lot, with a UK-based element. A number of us have limited mobility for reasons that include challenging medical conditions (quietly mentioned, though in no way diminished because of that), such as Ehlers-Danlos and cerebral palsy. Proofreading and editing provide a flexible, compatible livelihood when life (or our partner’s decision) takes us off course.

Anyone out there?

‘Cool – there are people doing this on their own!’

Looking for like-minded freelancers, many of us came across the CIEP through online research, often after relocating to a new country. One of us left a publishing house job in India (having succeeded in a walk-in interview alongside 5,000 candidates many years earlier!), but others, not surprisingly, discovered the network more recently during COVID-19.

Wrapping up

‘It felt like everything fell apart all at once – my health, my work, the world – but I was able to get through it thanks to the support and warmth I found in the CIEP community.’

CIEP members joined up their formative dots through:

  • childhood internal drivers
  • serendipity
  • self-awareness and a moment of realisation
  • continuing curiosity about words and the reader experience

One regret was voiced: not joining CIEP sooner!


The CIEP’s 40+ local groups, ranging across the UK and including virtual groups with international reach, offer spaces in which members who live locally to one another or outside of the UK can gather, regardless of the stage at which they find themselves in their professional and membership journey.

Find your local group


About Alex Mackenzie

Alex Mackenzie is a British copyeditor and proofreader living in Asturias, Spain. She moved into editing from a 30-year career in international schools across nine countries. Alex is a published English language teaching (ELT) author with a Master’s degree in education. Areas of specialism are ELT, education, sustainability and meditation, adding creative non-fiction and fiction. She is a Professional Member of the CIEP.

 

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: woodland paths by Jens Lelie; detour by Jamie Street, 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 the CIEP’s information team

The information team is made up of the information director (currently Abi Saffrey), plus commissioning editors (at the moment Cathy Tingle and Liz Dalby; Harriet Power and Julia Sandford-Cooke will join the team in early 2022). We work quite closely as a team, though we all work slightly differently. We have varying areas of interest outside the core skills of copyediting and proofreading, too, and this helps when we come to divide up work between us.

The information team editors are paid for 15 hours per month of their time, so the work is very much part-time and must fit in around other client work, plus various caring responsibilities such as looking after children, not to mention outside interests and downtime. In practice, this means we tend to spend a little time most days on information team work, as there’s always something to be done!

What we work on

The work is a combination of dealing with small tasks as they arise, commissioning and compiling recurring content for the two newsletters (columns, book reviews and round-ups), and commissioning or writing one-off blog posts or fact sheets, plus longer-form focus papers and guides. We also look at material on the website that needs updating or rewriting, and we answer various questions from members and other interested parties via our team email address. We all write content when necessary, such as blog posts and fact sheets, and Cathy also compiles the quiz – a bimonthly feat of humorous ingenuity.

Who we work with

Abi is our main interface with the Council, but we also all communicate directly with various Council working groups, such as the Values Working Group (ValWG) and the Environmental Policy Working Group (EPWG). We also sometimes work with other directors, especially the training, marketing and communications directors. To get resources laid out and looking as they should, complete with CIEP branding, we work with the design team via the CIEP’s design coordinator, Rich Cutler.

Cycles of work

A typical week, if there is one, is therefore a combination of ‘keeping things going’ – answering emails, communicating with regular contributors, making corrections to existing resources – and working on new resources and content. We all watch what’s happening in the forums, to see what members might need, and we stay in touch with the wider world via Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, for example, to find ideas and contributors from the CIEP and beyond. If there are patterns to our work, they are governed by where we are in the publication cycle of the two newsletters – they go out in alternating months. Each of us usually has several longer-term resources that we’re working on at any given time.

The content we produce is both inward-facing (for members of the CIEP) and outward-facing (for non-members of the CIEP). The Edit and Editorial Excellence are our two newsletters, for members and non-members respectively. These help us highlight new resources and other relevant content. Each issue has a loose theme, which we decide in advance. Both newsletters are a real team effort, with content drawn from all three of our remits and the many contributors we work with. Abi also runs the blog, as she has done for several years, and a lot of our content is hosted there and linked to from the newsletters.

Team spirit

We keep in touch with each other via Slack, which enables us to work together although we are in distant corners of the UK – Cathy is in Scotland, Abi in the east of England and Liz in the southwest. There’s usually a conversation going on about some resource or other, or a task that needs doing or a decision to be made, and occasionally personal things such as birthday cake, children with colds, or holidays. We all understand that we have other commitments, so although we all try to respond as quickly as we can, we’re not on call 24 hours a day. Although we rarely meet in person, especially right now, the regular communication we share helps us feel like a proper team. When so much of what we do in our professional lives is done alone, this is a real pleasure.


Check out all of the CIEP’s resources!


 

About the CIEP’s information team

The CIEP’s information team works with contributors across the globe on guides, focus papers, fact sheets and, of course, blog posts. If you’ve got an idea for a resource, get in touch: infoteam@ciep.uk

 

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: information by Philip Strong; info by Giulia May, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Talking tech: Making Windows open to all

Andy Coulson looks at the accessibility improvements in Windows 11 in this Talking tech column (previously known as What’s e-new?).

As you have probably seen, a big Windows upgrade is out and many of us will be prompted to update soon. Microsoft are keen to emphasise improvements in the visual design and how these help tools work together. As part of this they have looked hard at how to support accessibility. While it looks as if there aren’t many new features, Windows 11 has tried to improve these and make them easier to use and clearer and more integrated visually.

The first of these changes, and one that sets the tone of what Microsoft have done, is in renaming Windows 10’s ‘Ease of Access’ section of settings as ‘Accessibility’, a widely recognised term. This also highlights a change in the way Microsoft consulted – they talked to the community much earlier in the process, allowing them to integrate those features much more tightly into the design. This has led to Windows 11 trying to address a much broader spectrum of accessibility and reflect that some disabilities can be temporary or situational. An example of this could be a broken wrist, forcing you to alter the way you work.

Microsoft groups these features into four broad categories: ‘Vision’, ‘Hearing’, ‘Mobility’ and ‘Neurodiversity and learning’. I will use these categories below.

Vision

Windows has always allowed you to do a lot of customisation of how the screen looks. Windows 11 has a set of new high-contrast themes that increase contrast and reduce screen brightness. As well as helping those sensitive to light, these can give your eyes a bit of a rest on a long day.

For those with weaker eyesight there are a series of options to make Windows easier to use. The mouse pointer can be customised to make it more visible, through increasing its size, having a stronger contrast or setting it in a bright colour. You can add mouse trails so its movement is easier to track and, if you use a touch screen, you can add visual feedback when you touch the screen.

Another tool to help here is the Magnifier. This can be turned on with the Windows logo key and the plus sign. It allows you to zoom in and move around the screen. You can continue to work and interact with whatever you have on screen while zoomed in.

Colour filters help make the screen easier to see. As well as filters that invert the colours, or change to greyscale or inverted greyscale (that is, a black and white screen) there are a number of filters that focus on different types of colour vision deficiency.

Finally, for anyone who can’t read a screen, there is a Narrator tool that can read aloud what is on the screen. Couple this with voice typing, which I will look at below, and you can effectively use a PC without a screen.

Hearing

Sound was one area where Microsoft’s earlier engagement on accessibility has really influenced what they have done. Many customers with hearing difficulties found the feedback sounds ‘aggressive’, and this has influenced the sounds in Windows 11, which attempts to create a calmer scheme. It also highlighted the need to ensure that the sounds used a broad range of tones across the hearing spectrum. Feedback from users with visual impairments also influenced changes to the timing of when sounds are played. The startup sound now plays when you are able to enter your login information.

Other assistive options here include being able to switch between stereo and mono audio, and adding visual indications to audio notifications, so the screen will flash with an audio notification.

Windows 10 and 11 both have the closed-captioning system for video, adding captions for what is being said. As well as helping someone with a hearing impairment, this can be helpful if you are watching in a noisy (or quiet) environment, or learning a new language. The captioning can be extensively customised to make it easier to read, and Windows 11 adds new themes for this.

Mobility

Windows 11 has updated the voice typing feature, with additional languages and commands. This allows you to dictate directly to the computer and have the words appear on-screen. There are various command words that allow you to add punctuation, delete things, select things and so on. In fact, I’m using that to dictate this paragraph and I have to say the accuracy is pretty good. While this isn’t going to be usable for editing, I’m certainly going to look at it a bit further for quick notes and first drafts for writing.

Windows also has a more sophisticated speech recognition system that ties in with its virtual assistant, Cortana. This is more focused on controlling and navigating the computer. The pre-release information on Windows 11 suggests to me at least that the voice typing may use the same AI speech recognition engine as Cortana in this release. This perhaps means that the two will merge over time.

The other feature here is eye tracking, which requires some additional eye-tracking hardware. Windows 11 adds support for more devices and some extra languages to a feature that came in partway through Windows 10’s useful life. Again, the implementation looks well integrated and perhaps points the way to a future interface.

Neurodiversity and learning

Microsoft have built various tools into Windows 10 to help remove distractions such as notification pop-ups, and you can customise these with various rules governing what you see and when. You can also remove animations, desktop backgrounds and suchlike. Windows 11 has taken these features and appears to have tidied up and in some cases simplified them. I’m very anti-notification to start off with and have most of these turned off, so perhaps I’m not the best person to judge how useful they are. As Windows 11 seems to focus on working smoothly across applications, I think notifications will be one of the tools it uses. However, it seems as if it is going to make it easier to manage these and perhaps give more granularity in terms what you can do.

The final feature highlighted is the Immersive Reader that works with text in the Edge browser. Microsoft say that it ‘simplifies a web page layout, removes clutter, and lets you customise your reading experience’.

The text tools allow control over the text size and spacing, and the colours used on the page. The themes are inspired by Irlen Spectral Filters, and so support colour schemes that can help people with various conditions. An example would be using a pale yellow background for text, which could be helpful for someone with dyslexia. There are also some grammar tools that allow highlighting of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, and splitting words into syllables (eg syl·la·bles). Finally, there is a line focus tool that highlights one, three or five lines at a time, helping the reader focus on a smaller amount of text. It will be interesting to see if these tools get integrated into Word in the longer term.

Summing up

Microsoft appear to have built accessibility into Windows 11 in a much more holistic way than before – it is an interface designed to work for most people rather than adding in features. Based on the previews, I think Windows 11 is going to make supporting accessibility easier. In doing this, I think it allows a broader range of customisations that will help users make the system work for them. Through supporting a more diverse range of users from the start, we all ultimately benefit.


Andy’s previously written about considering the environment when buying technology, the terminology of technology, open banking options and how to be your own IT department.


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: open window by Chris Barbalis; colourful laptop by Dhaval Parmar, both 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: October and November 2021

In October and November 2021 we continued to use Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to raise awareness of the CIEP, promote our values and highlight our incredible and growing list of resources for members and non-members. Looking to the wider world, we posted articles that celebrated major events and explored the business of editing, the details of text, beautiful books, and weird and wonderful words.

Supporting self-publishing

In October we were a session sponsor at the Alliance of Independent Authors’ online conference, #SelfPubCon21, where we sponsored CIEP member Sophie Playle’s session on crafting beautiful prose. We created a lovely bundle of free resources for delegates: three guides, two focus papers and four fact sheets.

Boosting specialist knowledge

We promoted a new guide, Editing Fiction Containing Gender-Neutral Pronouns, by Louise Harnby, which helps fiction editors consider the implications for narrative viewpoint when an author uses gender-neutral pronouns.

And we continue to raise awareness about the CIEP’s Directory of Editorial Services on a weekly basis. In October we promoted music and language editors and novel critiques. The aim is to demonstrate that the Directory is a source of professionals in whom clients can have confidence.

We also want to share our knowledge more widely, and we decided that not enough people know about Editorial Excellence and what incredible value there is inside this bi-monthly newsletter.

So all of our social media accounts now have sign-up details pinned to the top of the page, and when people join they get a welcome email pointing them to the newsletter archive so they don’t have to wait for the next edition.

Blog bonanza

Our blog posts went into overdrive in the wake of the CIEP conference, with 19 posts reviewing conference sessions, finishing with a first-time conference-goer’s experience in which Dayita Nereyeth summed up her journey through #CIEP2021 beautifully.

We also promoted blog posts on a variety of topics: eco-anxiety, sentence case in titles, grammatical rules and personal communications, business-boosting tools, 21 tech tips and commissioning, editing and proofreading figures.

Questions and more questions

November saw a new CIEP language quiz, number 11, for the competitive grammarians among us.

And we promoted the launch of our new course, The Art of Querying, across all of our platforms.

Marking world events

As usual, we marked events in the wider world with our curated content. We posted Oxford University Press’s celebration of ten people who made British history for Black History Month; on 1 October it was also International Coffee Day and we linked to a list of coffee quotes, courtesy of Goodreads; at October’s end it was of course Halloween, which we anticipated on 12 October with Merriam-Webster’s list of monsters with excellent names including Snallygaster and Hodag. Nearer the date we shared a spooky Halloween tale for writers by cartoonist Tom Gauld in which, after curses and death, the worst event was, in the words of the storyteller: ‘The book had a typo and the entire print run had to be pulped!’ One of our Facebook followers commented: ‘Pulped for one typo??? Those were the days.’ Quite right. Remember, folks, most books have the odd typo.

In November, COP26 in Glasgow was the main event, and we made sure we gave our followers enough environment-related reading material to accompany them through, from new words such as wish-cycling to the etymology of the word ‘world’. Brian Bilston published an ingenious poem, ‘Every day the planet burns a little more’, to be read downwards and then, for a more hopeful vision, back up again.

The business of editing

As ever we posted a good deal of content about being an editor or proofreader, starting with The Ethics of Online Portfolios: How should editors showcase their skills and experience?. In early November we looked at how to build a waiting list, and later in the month CIEP’s own business columnist, Sue Littleford, published a well-received blog on the ACES website about author querying, which included seven golden rules and a description of Sue’s own querying process. The article got a lot of love online, and for good reason.

Something else that got a lot of love was the term ‘polywork’, which describes a new working lifestyle of ‘pursuing multiple jobs to fulfill multiple interests’ as defined by fierceelectronics.com and recorded by Cambridge Dictionaries. One LinkedIn follower commented: ‘I’m definitely a polyworker: genealogy, editing, writing and a bit of designing brand books. I love it all so why choose only one?’

Textual healing

From the subjunctive to pronouns, capital letters to commas, as well as what happens when friends discover grammatical ‘errors’ in your novel, we also considered the details of text. One very popular article, Writing by Seeing Only the Punctuation, allowed its readers to paste into a web tool any piece of writing in order to view only its punctuation. Our followers called it ‘fascinating’ and ‘awesome’, and one commented: ‘These are works of art! I’d love one as a poster.’ That’s someone’s Christmas present sorted, right there.

Beautiful books

On 28 October it was a day for the enjoyment of books as we posted an article about the 15 most beautiful bookstores in the world as well as a scientific explanation for your urge to sniff old books. The author herself (@joodstew) thanked us on Twitter for the shout-out. Most welcome.

And then for those who have all the books but don’t have the time to read them, a new concept: an antilibrary, a research tool that ‘creates a humble relationship with knowledge’ because it reminds us of all the things we don’t yet know.

Weird and wonderful words

Something else we’ll bet you don’t yet know is the meaning of most of the words in Merriam-Webster’s Great Big List of Beautiful and Useless Words, Vol. 2 (yes, there has already been a first volume). With a subtitle of ‘They’re wonderful. They’re obscure. They’re often quite pointless’, this list includes ultracrepidarian, ‘giving opinions on matters beyond one’s knowledge’ (perhaps they need a humbling antilibrary), and spanghew, ‘to throw violently into the air; especially to throw (a frog) into the air from the end of a stick’. We hope to never have to use that particular word, ever. Poor frog.

And finally, as we’re getting into words-of-the-year season, a nod to The Cambridge Dictionary Word of the Year – wait for it … keep going … almost there – perseverance. We’ll allow Cambridge Dictionary to elaborate:

In 2021, people all over the world have had to show perseverance in the face of challenges and disruption to our lives from COVID-19 and other problems. Perseverance is almost always a positive word that expresses our admiration for people who keep going in difficult situations … You might find it encouraging to learn that we usually use perseverance to talk about an effort that is eventually successful.

We can only hope. From CIEP’s social media elves, wishing you a very happy festive season and a wonderful start to 2022.


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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: rainbow book shelves by Jason Leung on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Forum matters: Using the CIEP forums with dignity and kindness

How do accessibility and good communications work in our members’ forums? Community director John Ingamells, also a forum moderator, gives us some ideas.

The CIEP’s online forums are probably one of the main ways in which members communicate with each other. From seeking advice on a tricky editing problem or offering work to colleagues, to sharing amusing anecdotes about infelicitous typos, we like to think that the forums are a valuable professional resource for members as well as our very own ‘water cooler’ where, despite us all being cooped up in our own homes or offices, we can meet and interact with each other.

A small team of moderators keep an eye on the forums to ensure good order, iron out any difficulties and answer questions members may have. Like any CIEP space, the forums are covered by the CIEP Dignity Policy, and members should be familiar with that. Here are a few simple do’s and don’ts for using the forums, based on the collective experience of the moderators.

Keep it professional

The first and most important rule – which should perhaps go without saying – is to remember that our forums are not the unregulated Wild West of Facebook or Twitter, but a professional forum populated entirely by your colleagues and fellow professionals. So, be courteous, be polite. Opinions often differ and that’s only to be expected. But we should all maintain a professional attitude when taking part in discussions, avoiding personal remarks or criticisms. The CIEP takes seriously its obligation to ensure that all members can take part in its activities free from bullying or harassment and we expect members to play their part.

Enjoy the chat

But that doesn’t mean it all has to be dour and po-faced. There’s nothing wrong with going off-piste occasionally. Many a thread has started with a question on a strictly editing-related problem but has given rise to a conversation that goes off on all sorts of interesting and informative tangents. And where would we be without our regular laugh from the ‘Typo of the Day’ thread? Another thing to bear in mind is that, although we are a fairly specialist crowd, we can still boast a healthy measure of diversity. We have newcomers and others with years of experience. Some have been in and around publishing all their working lives, others have taken up the red pen after careers in very different fields. We have freelancers and others working in-house who will bring a different perspective to discussions. Most exciting of all is that our global reach has grown and around 20 per cent of our membership is now based outside the UK.

Opportunities in the Marketplace

The Marketplace gives you the opportunity to find someone to do a job that you have been offered but are unable to take on. This can be a great way to maintain a relationship with a good client, even if you can’t fit a particular job in. It should only be used for individual, one-off jobs. So, please don’t use it to advertise, for example, permanent positions with a publisher or the chance to get on a publisher’s freelance list. What we really want to avoid is companies getting free advertising on the Marketplace when they really should be paying for it or doing their own legwork in our Directory!

Our code of conduct for courses

Courses often come up as a topic for discussion on the forums. Many new members have found a wealth of advice about which courses to take and how to go about developing their skills. But, for reasons that I am sure will be obvious, we do not permit detailed discussion about the content of individual courses. Course exercises should be all your own work. So, if you’re stuck on a seemingly intractable point of grammar or formatting in a CIEP course, please try to figure that out for yourself – or ask your tutor!

Some of our members devise and offer their own training courses or materials. You may see references to these resources in members’ signature blocks on the forums, along with links to their websites. This sort of passive promotion is fine. But members should not use the forums for any active promotion of their courses or other paid services.

Screens and spaces

The age of Zoom has thrown up a few additional considerations for the CIEP. The Institute takes seriously its obligation to ensure that all its events are inclusive and offer as many members as possible the chance to participate. At the same time, we have to protect our brand and products.

So, a member might come to a forum with a question about how to do something with, say, PDF markup. Another member might be something of a PDF expert and offer to go on Zoom and demonstrate things by sharing screens. This type of informal cooperation is a hallmark of the CIEP but, while a quick screen-share during a local group meeting to illustrate something is fine, if you are organising discrete meetings for more structured help or informal training, you should use your own Zoom resource for that, rather than the CIEP’s, and make sure that participants are aware that the space is a personal one.

Be discreet

Finally, please be careful about identifying outside individuals or organisations and don’t quote external sources or private emails or messages without permission. In particular, please avoid anything that could cause harm to the reputation of an individual or organisation.


If you’re a CIEP member, have you discovered the forums yet? Find out how to register.



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: connections by Nastya Dulhiier on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Flying solo: Good communication is accessible

In this latest Flying solo post, Sue Littleford looks at the importance of accessibility in business communication.

Accessibility shouldn’t be an afterthought. You shouldn’t make a thing and then think, ooh, I guess I should make it accessible. Instead, build accessibility into the thing from the start.

We wordsmiths know that accessibility for every reader begins with the right words.

From an editorial point of view, that means clarity in your communication with clients and authors.

From a business point of view, that means clarity in your website text, your emails, your contracts and definitely in your small print. This is the angle I’ll be looking at.

Even if you have a law degree, your client may not

Just as one of the things we can easily spot is when an author has tried to reach for the big words, words that they’re not completely in command of, so it is with writing your T&Cs and anything vaguely legal, whether that’s in emails, on your website or in your contract.

Absolutely, ensure the necessary points are covered. Writing your T&Cs in straightforward language helps you to be clear about what you offer, and what you require from a client. It then helps your client understand what it is they’re signing up to, which is one of the key ways you can prevent problems from appearing later on.

So many problems with clients stem from a lack of mutual understanding of what’s being bought and what’s being sold.

I really rate Karin Cather and Dick Margulis’s book The Paper It’s Written On: Defining Your Relationship with an Editing Client (ISBN 9781726073295), and I recommend it in the Going Solo guide.

At the time of writing, the Kindle edition is £5.98 and the paperback £9.81 through Amazon – a modest price for such an incredibly helpful guide through the complexities of contracts, and priceless if it means you sidestep problems with a client.

Although the book is written by Americans, it’s not the legal jurisdiction that’s important in this little book (70 pages) so much as the explanations of the breadth and nature of the kinds of things you want to nail down.

Contracts – honest ones – are clear and unambiguous, and they spell out the responsibilities of each party to the contract. A good contract is, in short, accessible intellectually to all involved. A good contract will also include remedies if either you or your client fails to keep up their end of the bargain, and this will be worth its weight in gold to the other.

No weasel words, no wrapping things up in cod legalese that will confuse and may well backfire.

Emails are contracts, too

You may prefer to rely on an exchange of emails rather than a formal contract. That’s fine – the emails become the contract. So it’s essential that your emails contain everything you need the client to know about your transaction, in unambiguous terms. Bear this in mind when negotiating a job.

My confirmation emails rehearse the terms of the job, the terms of payment and so on, so that what is agreed is all in one place. Complete. Accessible.

Good accessible communication is honest

Be straight with your clients, even outside of a contract. Don’t confuse your potential clients with undefined technical terms – and if you’re having to define a lot of technical terms, shouldn’t you be using clearer language in the first place?

Do NOT promise perfection. You can’t deliver it, what with so much of English being subjective. I bore people senseless on this point, I know – but it is so important. Promising editorial perfection is, frankly, mis-selling.

Any editorial discussion on social media will show you the range of possible solutions to a drafting problem. Some you’ll doubtless discount as wrong for the context, but you will also find a range of perfectly sensible solutions, not just one sensible solution.

A client told to expect perfection may have preferred one of the other solutions, and a difference of opinion on the use of the serial comma, ending a sentence with a preposition, or just how essential ‘whom’ is these days may mean your edits are found wanting, despite being just fine for many other clients.

So be honest about what you bring to the job, and be clear that you can’t promise perfection, as perfection is in the eye of the beholder.

Accessible marketing

How accessible is your website? I’m not talking just about tech things like colour contrast, and alt text and aids for assisted reading.

Do you keep your paragraph-length short for easy reading on all sorts of devices?

Are your terms and conditions for the website as crystal clear as your contract for services?

If you maintain an email list, are your subscribers offered a genuine choice as to whether to join it? Can they unsubscribe readily? Do you make it clear in every mailout how to do that?

Sweat the small stuff

I recently had an email from a fellow editor and noticed in their email signature that they were still linking to their directory entry through the old sfep.org.uk address. Their LinkedIn URL was still using http://.

Both those addresses still work just fine for now – until they don’t. Your email signature is a great opportunity to reinforce your brand and marketing: is it clear, up to date and accurate?

The ultimate small stuff is, of course, small print – content that punches above its weight. How accessible is the small print for your cookie widget on your website? Your privacy notice for GDPR compliance?

What about your profiles on places like LinkedIn or, indeed, the CIEP Directory of Services? Do you speak plainly of what you offer? Will your target client actually understand what they’ll get when they approach you?

Accessibility is good customer service

All this boils down to good customer service – as always, I’m going exhort you to put yourself in your client’s (or potential client’s) shoes and bring them along with you, cooperatively. Avoid the hard sell wrapped up in unclear, weaselly contract terms, opaque jargon (jargon editor to editor is sensible shorthand; jargon editor to novice author is not accessible) and sneaky email address capture for marketing.

A good client relationship will be built on openness, clarity and honesty – in brief, on accessibility.


Sue started writing her Flying solo column at the beginning of 2021. She’s covered checklists, customer service, using business records to make decisions, useful UK tax resources and lessening the impact of our business on the environment.


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: lightbulbs by Dil; speech bubble by Volodymyr Hryshchenko, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Wise owls: what’s your favourite phrase or saying?

We asked our parliament of wise owls to tell us about their favourite phrase or saying. And because it’s nearly the end of the year, we even said it didn’t have to be related to editing.

Liz Dalby

‘I can’t think about that right now.’

The thing I seem to find myself saying most often is ‘I can’t think about that right now.’ If this sounds negative … well, it is and it isn’t. Often, I can only take in a certain amount of bad news. I want to stay informed about the world I inhabit, but at the same time I’m human and can only cope with so much. So not thinking really hard about everything (the environment! politics! people being bad to each other! the groaning to-do list!), all the time, is a necessary act of self-care. It enables me to function: to carry on without overwhelm, and get stuff done.

In my editing life, ‘I can’t think about that right now’ is less an evasion, and more a trusted approach to workflow that has served me well over the years. The way I undertake an edit is to do it in several separate passes that focus on different things. So for example, my first pass would entail styling headings and getting a sense of the overall structure and logic of a document. While I’m doing this, I might notice that there are some inconsistencies (a stray z spelling or em dash, for example), but I simply make a note and skip over them, not stopping what I am meant to be doing. I might even mutter ‘I can’t think about that right now.’ (Yes, I do talk to myself sometimes when I edit.) Not allowing myself to be sidetracked in this way saves me time and maintains my focus and accuracy.

Sue Littleford

‘It’s the way you hold your mouth.’

Mum, observing my failure to thread a needle, would declare that, ‘It’s the way you hold your mouth’. And, of course, it is. Next time you’re threading a needle, or putting on mascara, or concentrating hard, take a mental step back and check in with your mouth. Odds are your tongue is stuck out, or your lips are contorting – think of little kids learning to write and draw. Try to arrange your mouth neutrally and you’ll find the task just got harder! The phrase just means that you’re not applying yourself correctly.

I don’t remember hearing this anywhere else, though, so I’d been wondering if it was from Mum’s familect. But after a squiz on Google and, discarding those that are about speech therapy, I get nearly 300,000 hits just on the phrase as Mum used it (there are variants, naturally). One person claims it originated in the 1950s and is from the US, another that it’s Irish. Mumsnet thinks it’s from Lancashire but a fair few people on that forum say they’ve never heard it in Lancashire; but people in New Zealand know it (but don’t say which part of the world their ancestors emigrated from). Well, my family’s from what is now Greater Manchester, so it certainly showed up in pockets of north-east Cheshire and south-east Lancashire! The consensus is that it’s something old folks say. Let’s give it a new lease of life and get all generations using it because it is a simple truth, pithily conveyed.

Melanie ThompsonMelanie Thompson reading the SfEP guide 'Pricing your project'

When the CIEP information team posed this question I didn’t think I had a favourite phrase or saying, then as the deadline loomed* (as they are wont to do) several candidates came along at once – just like buses.

Brand new in at number 3 is:

‘HIPPO’

I heard it in the first episode of Stephen Pinker’s new series for Radio 4 (Think with Pinker). It stands for ‘Highest Paid Person’s Opinion’, and is something editors are probably very familiar with.

Holding on at number 2 is:

‘Keep on keeping on’ (aka ‘KBO’, source: Churchill)

Applies to many situations we editorial professionals face, whether it’s starting out and early training, building up a client list, or just keeping going in a long edit, or a long freelance career. I once ran a workshop at the SfEP (as was) conference based around this theme.

But still up there at number 1 is the Bard himself with:

‘To thine own self be true.’

A great motto for freelance workers: more than most, we really do have the opportunity to aim for this target.

* Cf. Douglas Adams.

Nik Prowse

‘Do the needful.’

One of my favourite phrases for a work context is ‘do the needful’, which in an editorial or production setting can be useful in an email such as, ‘The author has sent me the revised manuscript, which is attached. Please do the needful.’

I first encountered this when new to publishing and working in-house for a science publisher. The old hand in the office, who was the fount of all knowledge and who I was keen to learn from, often rattled off emails containing the phrase, and to me it made instant sense: it meant ‘please do what is necessary’. It was concise and, to my mind, a polite way of asking someone to do something.

Years later, working as a freelance project manager, when I asked my in-house colleague to do the needful she questioned it and whether I was sure that’s what I meant to say. She was familiar with the phrase but had only seen it used by colleagues based in Southeast Asia. It is a common phrase in Indian English, and perhaps sounds unusual to those more used to British or American English. As many of us work with typesetters, editorial controllers and project managers in India and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, I’m sure it’s a phrase that is often encountered and which has trickled into parlance in the UK and the US and Canada too.

I love its conciseness and musicality, and I would be very pleased to see it used more widely. So you know what you have to do: spread the phrase, do the needful!

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin

‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.’

I stumbled over this saying many years ago, when I was still in my 20s. It was a long time before I discovered that American author Neale Donald Walsch had coined it. Walsch is most well known for his book series Conversations with God, which I’ve never read, but where the quote comes from. I’m not religious, but this saying is a daily reminder to me to push myself forward. It’s very easy to slide into a rut, but you only get one shot at life. You’re never going to live every day like it’s your last, because life gets in the way, but I’ve had some of my best experiences when I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone. And some of my worst, but let’s not go there (that said, I learned from them). So I’ll keep stepping out of my comfort zone, because I don’t want to die full of regrets that I didn’t try this or didn’t do that because I was too lazy or timid or fearful.


Other wise owl wisdom in 2021 covered making prices public, how long editing takes and where clients find them.


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: owl by Jesse Cason; another owl by Joe Green, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

 

A Finer Point: The vocative comma

Cathy Tingle updates a column of Christmas past for a festive reminder of what one kind of comma can teach us.

As I am an editor, my favourite Christmas carol – obviously – is ‘God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen’ because of the vocative comma (the one before ‘Gentlemen’). This type of comma is particularly important in creative works, as I discovered a few years ago when I cast my eye over a friend’s unedited novel and encountered characters being addressed directly without this comma: ‘I really don’t know Marion’, ‘Did you see Marion?’ (Marion was the addressee in both) and ‘Trying to sober up Richard?’ (as Richard was asked at the end of a party). The meaning conveyed in each case is quite different from what the writer was intending, as in the old classic ‘Let’s eat Grandma’.

A multitude of angels – sorry, angles

Commas cause most people who work with words to pause for thought now and then, and they can’t possibly be covered in one short column. Why? Because there is just so much to say. Larry Trask, in the Penguin Guide to Punctuation, divides the comma population firmly into four types: the listing comma, the joining comma, the gapping comma and bracketing commas. In his recent CIEP guide on punctuation Gerard M-F Hill takes on the brave task of simplifying Trask’s model, and consequently gives the comma ‘with minor exceptions … two functions in prose’: isolating and listing. But it takes an action-packed 22-page chapter to elaborate fully on these functions and their exceptions.

Elsewhere, John Seely, in the Oxford A–Z of Grammar and Punctuation, identifies seven roles for commas if we omit their use in numbers. And The Chicago Manual of Style (17th edition) devotes sections 6.16–6.55 – that’s 40 sections – to them.

Even if we could square up these various ideas about how many uses commas have (and it’s tough: Fowler’s deals with this by following New Hart’s Rules), comma use is, according to David Crystal in Making a Point, sometimes simply a matter of taste, because it’s linked to psycholinguistics. ‘One person says, “I need a comma to make the meaning of this sentence clear”; another finds the same sentence perfectly understandable without a comma. It’s because they have different processing abilities.’

So, because things are hectic enough at this time of year, how about we look at just one type of comma, the vocative, which many experts including Seely and Trask don’t even cover directly? Who knows, it might tell us a small thing about commas in general.

Merry gentlemen, or not so much?

Back we go, then, to ‘God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen’. This is interesting because, of course, it’s often rendered as ‘God Rest You, Merry Gentlemen’, and indeed I spent my childhood picturing a group of jolly old chaps. (My friend Judith spent her childhood thinking that the lyrics included the words ‘to save us all from Santa’s power’ – it’s ‘Satan’s power’ – but that’s another story.)

In fact, ‘rest you merry’ used to be a recognised phrase, meaning ‘rest well, be happy’. Dickens, in A Christmas Carol (1843), actually changed the title to ‘God Bless You Merry Gentleman’, in the words of a boy singing outside Scrooge’s door. There’s no comma at all in my 1946 edition, which isn’t to say Dickens didn’t put one in the original, but the point is that he made ‘God Bless You’ the unbreakable phrase in this line (and those who punctuate before ‘Merry’ are making ‘God Rest You’ the unbreakable phrase), whereas ‘God Rest You Merry’ is the title’s original unbreakable phrase and so the comma should follow that. As we wrote about this carol’s title in last year’s festive CIEP quiz, ‘if you’re interested in the impact of punctuation, it’s an interesting exercise to omit the vocative comma, then move it slowly up the sentence from the end, displaying its power to change meaning’. There you are – something to do once the presents are opened on Christmas Day.

‘“No punctuation” is the ultimate marker of semantic tightness’, as David Crystal says in Making a Point. Commas create breaks between words, to put it simply, and if there’s no comma we tend to read the words as one block. There’s something about the special confusion experienced in response to the lack of a vocative comma that makes you appreciate this fully.

If you’d like to further explore the comma nuances in ‘God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen’, complete with a cappella musical accompaniment, may I recommend to you a short video, new for the 2021 festive season, by RamsesThePigeon. It really is a gift.

No comma, no confusion

But what if the lack of a comma before a name doesn’t cause confusion? One thing the vocative comma has been suffering from is a sense that it has become non-essential in phrases like ‘Hi John’. Mignon Fogarty (Grammar Girl), in The Grammar Devotional, valiantly tries to explain why it’s necessary in such cases:

In Hi, John you are directly addressing John, which means the punctuation rules of direct address apply. From a comma-rules standpoint, Hi, John is no different from Thanks for coming, John or Wow, John, what were you thinking?

Yet the comma after ‘Hi’ is used less and less. In November 2019, Ellen Jovin of @grammartable lamented on Twitter: ‘If people I communicated with still used vocative commas after “hi,” I would have continued to use them. But they look at me as though I have three dangling participles if I even bring up such a thing.’ Are we losing the vocative comma in this formulation because there is very little scope for misunderstanding without it, as with 2019’s giddy pre-Covid inter-generational put-down ‘OK Boomer’? Whatever else you thought of it, and however you capitalise it, this phrase is certainly not punctuated. So perhaps we’re slowly discarding all punctuation except what’s absolutely necessary for comprehension.

A simple lesson

I still keep in touch with my high-school English teacher, now in his mid-80s, and as you might expect, along with the chat about how my kids and his grandkids are doing, occasionally punctuation comes up. In a letter in 2019, he said, ‘I used to try to teach various classes that punctuation was in many instances more important than spelling: I could make out that “ejog” (as I had to once) was meant to be “hedgehog” from the material round about, but if the punctuation was misplaced or non-existent the sense was lost.’ He continued by revealing his tried-and-tested example: ‘I tended to use “Stop Toby” (our dog) v. “Stop, Toby”.’ Well, then: perhaps the vocative comma can teach where no other comma types can reach. With my own vocative comma firmly in place, it only remains for me to wish you a lovely festive season, everyone.


An earlier version of this column was published in Editing Matters, Jan/Feb 2020. CIEP members can access all issues of Editing Matters in the archive.


Resources

The Chicago Manual of Style (2017). 17th edition. University of Chicago Press.
David Crystal (2016). Making a Point. Profile, 2016.
Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol (1946); reprint Penguin 1984.
Mignon Fogarty (2009). The Grammar Devotional. St. Martin’s Press.
Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, ed. by Jeremy Butterfield (2015). 4th edition. Oxford University Press.
Gerard M-F Hill (2021). ‘Punctuation: A guide for editors and proofreaders.’ CIEP guide. ciep.uk/resources/guides/#PEP
New Hart’s Rules (2014). Oxford University Press.
RamsesThePigeon. ‘Where Is the Comma in “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” Supposed to Go?’ YouTube video. youtube.com/watch?v=sxfxy-3dGz0
John Seely (2020). Oxford A–Z of Grammar and Punctuation. Oxford University Press.
RL Trask (1997). Penguin Guide to Punctuation. Penguin.

About Cathy Tingle

Cathy Tingle is a copyeditor, tutor and member of the CIEP’s information team.

 

 

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:

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

10 etiquette tips for editors

Editor Jennifer Glossop recently shared her top ten etiquette tips for editors with the Toronto CIEP local group. Here, Katherine Kirk details those tips, and explains why they’re in that top ten.

The Toronto CIEP local group invited Jennifer Glossop to speak about author–editor relationships. A guest speaker at the 2018 and 2019 Toronto mini-conferences, Jennifer has worked as an in-house and freelance editor for over 35 years, has taught editing and has written a number of children’s books.

The Toronto group generously invited non-locals to join, and it was an absolute pleasure to learn from Jennifer. I had put her tips into practice within 24 hours! Jennifer shared with us her finely tuned (but ever-evolving) list of etiquette rules for editors:

  • Make a good first impression.
  • Communicate often and promptly.
  • Put it in writing.
  • Praise the author and the work. Criticise only the work.
  • Be sincere and honest.
  • Know when to give in and do so gracefully.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions.
  • Avoid the temptation to lecture.
  • Keep your feedback helpful.
  • Remember whose work it is.

Though some of these tips may seem obvious to experienced editors, Jennifer says it’s often the obvious things that we forget about, and that’s when we get into trouble.

1. Make a good first impression

Whether meeting in person or online, Jennifer reminds us that first impressions last forever. She suggests finding a personal connection with the author, so that you can see each other as people rather than as red marks on a page. We should show an understanding of and enthusiasm for the author’s work. Let them know we are in their corner and be excited to work with them.

Even if you have no knowledge at all of the subject they’ve written about, you can turn that into a strength by saying you’re coming to it without any preconceived ideas or prejudices. Jennifer also points out the impact of a professional website as a first impression, and she encourages us to emphasise our experience on it.

Once you’ve connected with the author and gained their trust in you, you need to help them trust the process, and the best way to do that is by ensuring that they understand the timeline, stages of editing, what to expect from you and what they are responsible for. Freelancers should make sure the scope of work is clear and agreed upon by both parties, and this is the time to discuss payment.

Finally, you need to find out about the author’s vision and goals for the book, and to do so, you need to listen to them and ask them questions. This will guide you in the type of feedback you give them. Get on the same page about the manuscript; this can also avoid disasters later, like the editor thinking the book is a tragedy when the author intended it as a comedy.

2. Communicate often and promptly

It’s important to be reachable, stay in touch and meet deadlines. This is a basic courtesy and Jennifer didn’t dwell on it, but the CIEP’s Code of Practice expands on it, saying, ‘A fundamental requirement in the good handling of any material is to raise major queries without delay and other minor queries in batches as convenient to all concerned’. (COP 5.3.2a)

Be sure to define your boundaries and politely affirm them if necessary.

3. Put it in writing

Back in the day, Jennifer would discuss the job on the telephone, and post letters to clients. She tried always to keep a written record of what was discussed on the telephone, since our memories can’t be trusted. These days, email makes everything a lot easier, but she says the same principles in writing those letters apply.

She recommends the ‘praise sandwich’ approach for written communication, as it can soften the blow of criticism and make the author more willing to act on it. The filling of the sandwich should not be only criticisms, but rather explaining what you did, and what you expect the author to do next.

Jennifer also recommends sending longer communication like editorial reports as attached documents so that they are more easily referenced and don’t get lost in the inbox.

4. Praise the author and the work. Criticise only the work

There is no such thing as too much praise, and even if it feels saccharine or artificial when you’re writing it, if you are being sincere and honest, and use it properly, it can be a very powerful editorial tool. Writers crave praise, and it will soften the criticisms.

Criticism can feel very personal when it relates to sensitivity issues. Jennifer suggests framing those queries from the reader’s perspective and recommending an authenticity read if necessary. It helps to remind the author of how wide (and how diverse) their audience might be, and why using conscious language is important.

5. Be sincere and honest

Editors should not lie to authors or make empty promises about their potential for publishing success. That said, you can stretch the truth a little and tell authors their writing is a little better than it is.

Jennifer says, ‘Honest criticism is the greatest gift you can give. Clear and well-thought-out criticism is useful. Criticism for the sake of saying something can be damaging.’ Editors who want to master the art of querying might want to sign up for the CIEP’s new course.

6. Know when to give in and do so gracefully

Jennifer adds, ‘Even if it’s through clenched teeth.’ Choose your battles and if the hill of the serial comma is not worth dying on, let it be. It’s not your book.

7. Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions

Jennifer says that sometimes editors need to take on the responsibility of being the ‘designated idiots’ in order to fully understand the text and make it clear for the readers who come after us. She cautions us to be careful how we phrase our questions so that they are specific and useful.

8. Avoid the temptation to lecture

Although Jennifer has spent many years teaching us to edit, and many of us have been teachers at some stage in our lives, she reminds us that we are here to edit, not to teach the author. She recommends letting the author come to you with questions where they need clarity, but generally keeping explanatory notes brief and sticking to what is necessary.

Your client might not need to know the difference between a dependent and independent clause, or they might not care. Don’t come across as a ‘tutting school marm’ or condescending.

9. Keep feedback helpful

There are three types of feedback someone can give, Jennifer explains. The first is appreciation, which we might expect from friends. The second is evaluation, which we get from reviewers or examiners, and which can feel demeaning. The third, which editors should strive for, is coaching, where you tell the author what’s wrong, how to fix it and praise them for doing it well.

Jennifer suggests avoiding telling an author to do something beyond their ability or against their wishes. She also suggests breaking your feedback down into a logical and manageable sequence of steps, and helping the author to navigate it, especially for developmental or structural edits.

Jennifer usually starts her feedback with a phone call, as she believes that editing should be a dialogue between author and editor. She sometimes teaches authors techniques for processing the information she’s given them.

10. Remember whose book it is

Remind yourself that this is the author’s book, not yours, and never put your own ideas, jokes or voice into it. It is their book, and they might have spent years creating it, so be sensitive towards them and the text.

Saying ‘this is not my book’ doesn’t mean giving up on doing the best job you can; you’re still a part of its creation, and that should be enough for you to care about doing the work properly.

If you laid out the scope up front, didn’t make assumptions or have expectations about the text, and got everyone on the same page about those expectations and responsibilities, then your role will be clear and you can make the writing shine within the limits of your brief.

Some authors like to acknowledge editors for the role they play in bringing the text to life, by mentioning them in the acknowledgements or in the front matter. Jennifer says this is up to the author and editor to negotiate, but it’s fine to say no and ask for a testimonial or referral instead.

Wisdom sharing

Jennifer’s advice focuses on putting the person first, and encourages us to see the human behind the words we’re editing. It was amazing to be able to pick the brain of someone with so much experience, and yes, we did gush profusely about Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which Jennifer edited.

I left the meeting with a fullness in my heart at the thoughtfulness that informs her editing, and the generosity of editors who are willing to teach each other and help the whole profession grow. The CIEP’s local and international groups are a great space for sharing editorial wisdom, and they’re well worth a visit.

About Katherine Kirk

Katherine Kirk (Gecko Edit) edits fiction and tabletop role-playing games for clients based mostly in the USA. She lives halfway up a volcano in Ecuador and can be found every Thursday at Cloud Club West on Zoom – though she might put on a bunny hug disguise and sneak into more Toronto group meetings in the future.

 

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: Answers by Hadija Saidi on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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