Resources round-up: The publishing process

Welcome to this round-up of resources compiled by the CIEP. This time, we look at how books are made. We have divided our picks into:

  • Free resources from the CIEP
  • Books
  • Glossaries
  • Articles

Resources round-up: The publishing process

Free resources from the CIEP

Forgive us for leading with our own resources, but some of the free fact sheets on the CIEP’s practice notes web page provide a useful overview before we delve into the details of how books are made. ‘Anatomy of a book’, which describes the different parts of a book, is a good place to start. After that, you might want to explore the book-making process with ‘The publishing workflow’, supplementing that with the ‘Good editorial relationships’ infographic. Finally, ‘Proofreading or copyediting?’ covers which type of editing happens at different points in the creation of a book.

Books

These books aren’t free, but you can read free reviews of some of them by members of the CIEP, which might help you decide which are worth investing in.

Books about the publishing process

Two major editing and proofreading books – Butcher’s Copy-Editing (4th edn, Cambridge University Press, 2012) and New Hart’s Rules (2nd edn, Oxford University Press, 2014) – contain overviews of the publishing process. You might already have these volumes, so see what gems you can find within.

Inside Book Publishing by Giles Clark and Angus Phillips (6th edn, Routledge, 2019) covers the processes of traditional publishing in more detail. And to really dive into the subject, reach for the Oxford Handbook of Publishing, edited by Angus Phillips and Michael Bhaskar (OUP, 2019). Since this was reviewed by a CIEP member, a cheaper paperback version has been published.

If you’re coming to book production from a self-publishing point of view, the Writers’ & Artists’ Guide to Self-Publishing (Bloomsbury, 2020) could be helpful. Read the CIEP review for more.

The parts and people that make up the books

From a book’s blurb to its index, the different parts of a book have been explored in recent publications that are as entertaining as they are fascinating. For more recent bookish books, read our end-of-2022 round-up blog.

To add to these, get a copyeditor’s experience in The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller (Chicago University Press, 2016), and hear from a lexicographer about how dictionaries are made in Word by Word by Kory Stamper (Pantheon, 2017).

Woman in a bookshop reading a book

Glossaries

Introducing ‘Publishing terminology explained’, Penguin Random House says: ‘Publishing shouldn’t be a mystery and that’s why we’ve pulled together an A–Z list of terms that we use in our business to help you navigate conversations and become familiar with how a publishing team operates.’ The CIEP has also written a free glossary of editorial terms.

Articles

Articles by and for the self-publishing industry excel in discussing how books are made. Recent examples include: ‘Why prologues get a bad rap’ by Tiffany Yates Martin on Jane Friedman’s website and ‘When should you have a table of contents and an index in your book?’, a TwitterChat run by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). You can rely on ALLi to really drill down to the intricate details that self-publishing authors might not realise they need to think about before the process starts.

However, one element that most authors will consider is the cover of their book. Cover designer Jessica Bell wrote articles recently on different aspects of this. For Jane Friedman, she discussed ‘The key elements of eye-catching book cover design’, and for ALLi she wrote about ‘Indie author book cover design: what works in 2022’. From ALLi you can also discover what really doesn’t work, in the TwitterChat ‘How a bad cover can ruin book sales’.

Last but never least is indexing. Indexer Geraldine Begley took to the AFEPI Ireland blog with ‘Indexing: An introduction for the curious’ which answers every question about indexing you can think of, including ‘Can’t a computer do that?’ (‘No’), and ‘Do I have to read the whole book?’ (‘Yes and no’). For anyone considering entering this interesting profession, or simply interested in what indexers actually do, this is indeed a great introduction for the curious.

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: laptop and notebook by Maya Maceka on Unsplash, bookshop by Alican Helik on Pexels.

Posted by Belinda Hodder, blog assistant.

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

Editors don’t just spot typos: Breaking down the editing stereotypes

Are editorial professionals just hard-hearted pedants? Of course not! Julia Sandford-Cooke looks into four common misconceptions about editors.

Image of a cascade of books, with the title of the blog post and author headshot on top

When a content creator asks ‘Why do I need an editor?’, it can be hard to know how to respond. We’re so good at quietly enhancing the clarity of texts that our role is often overlooked altogether. The CIEP, of course, is doing a fine job of raising our profile, but editors also have a responsibility to demolish the common stereotypes about our work that make many writers reluctant to hire editors.

Stereotype 1: Editors just spot typos

Even a little research reveals that this is not true. Scan the list of courses offered by the CIEP. Flick through the 12-page CIEP syllabus for the basic editorial test. The word ‘typo’ does not appear but the phrases ‘professional practice’ and ‘editorial knowledge and judgement’ do. The CIEP’s members are described on its homepage as ‘the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose’. That is a broad description. Clearly, there is far more to being an editorial professional than just ‘correcting mistakes’.

Stereotype 2: Editors are the grammar police

Editors and proofreaders may suggest many types of amendments, and some of these suggestions may involve correcting grammar. Good editors and proofreaders will do so respectfully and sensitively. We don’t make judgements about the writer’s education or background. We don’t set out to destroy the writer’s self-confidence or impose our own style of writing on theirs. We won’t force the writer to make the changes we’ve marked up. They are just suggestions that we believe, in our professional capacity, will make the text more effective in achieving its purpose. The writer isn’t obliged to accept them (unless they have been commissioned to write to a specific brief).

We appreciate that seeing a screen of red Track Changes can be intimidating. We know that it can be dispiriting to be told that that long-incubated text is not quite ready for publication. But we are on the writer’s side. It should be more a partnership than a hierarchical relationship, in which we respect the writer’s vision and the writer respects our expertise.

A typewriter with the word 'grammar' typewritten on the inserted paper

Stereotype 3: Editors are too expensive

‘Expensive’ is a relative term. A good edit or proofread is an investment but budgets are often tight. Several hundred (or thousand) pounds is a lot of money to find, even for established publishers – in some cases, the rates they offer editors and proofreaders have actually reduced over the years.

A self-published author once told me that they’d had the budget to commission either an editor or a cover designer and had opted for the cover designer, believing that marketing was more of a priority. After all, when a book catches your eye, you’re likely to buy it before you read it. But reviews on sites such as Goodreads and Amazon, and old-fashioned word-of-mouth recommendations, also generate sales. When a reading experience is spoilt by inconsistencies, errors and impenetrable prose, those positive reviews and therefore those additional sales will not materialise.

If a client baulks at my fees, that’s their prerogative, just as it’s my prerogative to turn down a job that doesn’t meet my minimum hourly rate. Editorial professionals are running a business and need to pay the bills. And my quote for ‘doing the work’ includes not only the time taken to do the work itself but also 25 years of editing experience, both in-house at publishers and as a freelancer. Factors other than long service may also be significant. For example, those who became editors after a successful career in another field may apply the knowledge from their previous roles and qualifications to provide a specialist service, such as for legal or medical texts. Clients are paying for that knowledge, just as they would for the services of a plumber or solicitor.

Stereotype 4: Editors have been replaced by AI anyway

Artificial intelligence (AI) seems to be everywhere these days. Can computers do what editors do? Well, some editorial tasks can be performed by software. Microsoft Word has an ‘Editor’ function that suggests ‘refinements’ to aid such aspects as ‘clarity’, ‘conciseness’ and ‘inclusiveness’. The popular app Grammarly promises ‘bold, clear, mistake-free writing’. And editors themselves use a variety of tools to help them work efficiently and accurately. Few of us would contemplate copyediting without running the trusty PerfectIt or our favourite macros.

But extracting meaning from text requires not only an in-depth knowledge of the ‘rules’ of language and punctuation but also an ability to put ourselves in the heads of readers to identify what could be clearer, what could be missing, or what could be cut. We’re not merely correcting grammar and typos – we are interacting with the text, raising queries where we believe it could be made more effective. Our checks may involve formatting and presentation – for example, checking that a page layout is balanced – or they may be to do with the content and the way the argument is expressed. None of these aspects have yet, to my knowledge, been fully grasped by a computer.

Again, our personal experiences bring a very human dimension to the act of editing. Our thought processes have quirks and tangents that are difficult to program. We look at the big picture, as well as the details, and there are subtleties in language and meaning that cannot quite be quantified by a machine. We use editorial judgement to get that balance right.

In any case, as a writer, I’d much prefer to engage with a real person with real opinions. Real people will be the readers of my published work, after all.

But don’t just take my word for it. Download this focus paper, ‘Imagine … an editor’, by the CIEP’s honorary president, David Crystal, to read his inimitable take on the importance of editorial professionals. His argument is far more eloquent than mine. Perhaps I need an editor!

About Julia Sandford-Cooke

Julia Sandford-CookeAdvanced Professional Member and CIEP Information Team member Julia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications has clocked up nearly 25 years in publishing. When not editing textbooks, she posts short, grumpy book reviews on her blog, Ju’s Reviews, and would like to get on with writing her novel if only work didn’t keep getting in the way.

 

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: header image by Pixabay, typewriter by Suzy Hazelwood, both on Pexels.

Posted by Sue McLoughlin, blog assistant.

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

Developmental fiction editing Q&A part 3: Process

To celebrate the launch of our new guide, Developmental Editing for Fiction, we are publishing a series of three blog posts in which Sophie Playle – author of the guide – answers CIEP members’ burning questions about this service.

To learn more, download the guide and consider taking one of Sophie’s online courses about developmental fiction editing.

I’m interested in how you communicate the developmental edit. Is it primarily through an editorial letter? A combination of a letter and comments in the margins of the manuscript? Do you meet with the author on Zoom, talk on the phone? How often?

Absolutely no to Zoom! My poor little introverted soul couldn’t take that kind of spotlight – though video or phone sessions definitely work for some editors.

The way I deliver my feedback will depend on the scope of the service I’ve defined and the needs of the manuscript. For example, for some general feedback, I’ll write an editorial report that doesn’t go beyond a certain number of pages; there will be no notes in the manuscript.

But for a full developmental edit, I’ll provide a longer editorial report, and I’ll leave notes in the manuscript. How extensive these are will depend on what’s needed. I might make some direct changes to the text, I might not. I might extensively highlight the manuscript, I might not.

Do you use book maps or other visual aids?

I might, I might not! (See above.)

Book maps take time to create. If I think the plot is going to need some extensive work, I’ll suggest that I make a book map as part of my developmental edit. Sometimes, I’ll get the author to make one for me (this saves me time and saves the author money) and I’ll use that to help form my analysis.

I’ve made a basic narrative-arc graph that I often insert into my editorial reports when explaining the three-act structure. Sometimes I’ll use tables or graphs if they help me present information more clearly. It’s something I want to make more use of, actually, so I’m always on the look-out for ideas in this area!

I love to know about workflows and the practical side. How do you do the processing of reading, analysing, assessing and suggesting? Do you use a step-by-step process? How much back-and-forth is there with the author?

There’s no one right way to conduct a developmental edit, but this is my general approach:

  1. Read the manuscript straight through, quickly, without taking notes.
  2. Let thoughts percolate for a day or two.
  3. Jot down my main impressions for what needs to be addressed.
  4. Plug these notes into my editorial report template.
  5. The next step will depend on the scope of the specific service.
    • For a critique, I’ll flesh out those notes, scanning the manuscript to refresh my memory, if needed.
    • For a full developmental edit, I’ll work through the manuscript page-by-page, making the notes in the manuscript and my editorial report inform one another.

I’ll only get in touch with the author during the edit if I need them to clarify something relevant to the feedback I’m crafting. I won’t send them the manuscript to work on while I’m also working on it.

Developmental fiction editing

How many times do you read each manuscript, and what sort of notes do you make for yourself on each pass?

Usually once for a critique, twice for a full developmental edit (leaving notes and making edits during the second read-through).

I try not to make any notes on the first read-through as I want to experience the story more like a reader on this pass. I might highlight text I think could be useful to my analysis, and I might leave a few scant notes if I notice emerging recurring problems, but I won’t go into any detail or think about ways to fix the issues yet.

After you return your feedback to the client, is that the end of the process or do you then review any changes they make in light of your comments?

I let authors know that they can ask me for any clarifications if there’s something in my feedback they don’t understand. I ask them to batch their questions and let them know that I won’t spend more than another hour addressing them.

I don’t go back over the manuscript to check the revisions unless we’ve already agreed that this will be part of the service. This takes time, and needs to be considered in the fee and my schedule.

How do you balance how much you suggest and how much responsibility the author needs to take for fixing their own book under your guidance?

I won’t make substantial changes to an author’s book – that’s completely their responsibility, since it’s their book. I can only provide guidance and suggestions. How general or specific that is will depend on the scope of the service we’ve agreed upon.

How do you edit books in which authors have written to a formula, such as the frameworks in books like Save the Cat! Writes A Novel or Story Grid, especially if you’re not familiar with such frameworks or if the author is highly resistant to deviating from them?

If an author wants to use a framework you’re not familiar with, either don’t work on that book or take the time to learn about the framework.

If the author wants to use a framework, that’s up to them. You might be able to make the case for them to deviate from it, but if they decide they don’t agree with your justifications, that’s their right.

Authors often use frameworks as learning tools. They might not be ready to delve into more original or experimental story structures, and doing so might not help them achieve their writing or publishing goals so isn’t always necessary anyway.

As well as that, frameworks don’t produce cookie-cutter stories (if used well). Understanding archetypal story structure is hugely useful – for both authors and editors. Originality is found in the details, and the combination of new ideas – all of which can be hung beautifully upon frameworks.

About Sophie Playle

Sophie Playle is a professional fiction editor who also teaches online courses to other editors. Speculative and literary fiction are her favourite genres to edit, and she loves working with authors who are passionate about high-quality storytelling. Sophie is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP, and has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London.

 

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: header image by EliFrancis on Pixabay, open books by Gülfer Ergin on Unsplash.

Posted by Belinda Hodder, Blog Assistant.

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

Developmental fiction editing Q&A part 2: Definition and boundaries

To celebrate the launch of our new guide, Developmental Editing for Fiction, we are publishing a series of three blog posts in which Sophie Playle – author of the guide – answers CIEP members’ burning questions about this service.

To learn more, download the guide and consider taking one of Sophie’s online courses about developmental fiction editing.

What is reasonable for the client to expect of us in terms of interventions in the actual text in a developmental edit?

Whatever you’ve defined as part of your service.

And I don’t mean something like ‘I’ll leave at least five comments on every page’ because that’s arbitrary. It’s not about making the edit look a certain way, but making sure you’re delivering the outcomes you’ve promised – and that might mean your edits look quite different from one manuscript to another.

How do you explain the difference between developmental editing and other types of editing to a client? I’ve found sometimes the client hasn’t been wholly clear about what they expect from me.

Publishers will have a brief in mind, and if you’re not clear on what they want from you, ask for clarification.

If you’re working directly with authors, though, they will look to you for guidance on what your service entails. They might have a rough idea about the kind of feedback they’re looking for, but you should lay out the details of your service for them so that you’re both on the same page.

Do you usually work with a finished draft, however rough it may be, or do you work with the author during the writing process? The latter is often referred to as ‘book coaching’, but it seems to overlap with developmental editing. Maybe that’s why so many authors – and editors – are confused by the scope of developmental editing.

I always work on complete drafts because to help an author shape their novel, I need to understand the story in its entirety. I’m definitely one of those people who consider those who help authors finish their drafts as book coaches.

But you’re absolutely right that there are no hard-and-fast service definitions, and this can create confusion. But only if you don’t define your service. As long as you’ve got a clearly defined service, it doesn’t really matter if someone calls a similar service by a different name.

At the end of the day, the aims are similar.

Laptop and typewriter sitting on a desk

I’d love to have some ideas on how to cost a developmental edit – and how to explain to the author how that price (range) has been arrived at.

I actually don’t think the author needs to know how you’ve arrived at your price. I don’t ask my mechanic or my plumber why they charge a certain fee; I don’t ask an artist how they decided how much to sell their watercolour for.

If I feel I’m getting a fair exchange of value, that’s all that matters – and that’s all that matters to your clients, too.

There are so many ways to conduct a developmental edit that it’s not very helpful to try to compare your fees to others in the field – because everyone will be doing things differently. Working out your fees for developmental editing is the same as working out your fees for any kind of service. There are lots of methods out there, and lots of things to consider.

Generally, it comes down to this:

  • What do you need to earn?
  • How long will the work take?
  • What are your clients willing to pay?

Playing around with these somewhat nebulous concepts will help you arrive at a cost – but pricing really is an art, not a formula, and it may take you a bit of trial and error before you feel confident you’ve got it right.

How do you make sure your page comments are suitable for a developmental edit and don’t stray into line editing?

Some editors will do a lot of line editing as part of a developmental edit, and that’s up to them – but I don’t work that way. If I want to delve into addressing issues at a line level, I’ll suggest that as an additional round of editing after the bigger-picture (developmental) side of things has been addressed.

This means all my page comments will be related to a big-picture issue. If I have a clear idea of what those big-picture issues are before I start working through the manuscript page-by-page, I can make sure my comments are suitable and targeted.

About Sophie Playle

Sophie Playle is a professional fiction editor who also teaches online courses to other editors. Speculative and literary fiction are her favourite genres to edit, and she loves working with authors who are passionate about high-quality storytelling.

Sophie is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP, and has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London.

 

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: header image by EliFrancis on Pixabay, laptop and typewriter by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Reviewing and updating the CIEP blog

Andrew Hodges, who is a member of the CIEP’s social media team, has been busy reviewing the CIEP blog to make sure our posts are still relevant, useful and discoverable. In this post he explains what this entails. 

When starting a blog, simply putting content out there is a good strategy: we all know that it’s easier to edit existing copy than start with a blank page. And the CIEP has come a long way since it set up the blog in 2014. The Institute has grown a lot in recent years, and many changes currently under way reflect that growth and the Institute’s chartered status.

Just like a house, some of the blog’s furnishings and fittings still look great after eight years. Others haven’t aged so well, while others have gone completely out of style and could do with more than a revamp.

A blog is a marketing tool designed to serve its members and promote the Institute. The blog therefore needs to remain relevant, and it should be interesting and discoverable to potential members and our wider audiences.

That’s why the CIEP Council asked me to step in and review the posts, as well as the book reviews, with these goals in mind.

The good stuff

There are many excellent posts that remain relevant. These include ‘evergreen posts’ on editorial topics and business skills. How to style ellipses in New Hart’s Rules and Chicago style rarely changes, and when or if it does, that would be big editorial news!

The blog now has over 350 posts, all publicly available for free, and new ones are added most weeks.

Time for change

Some of the older posts are no longer relevant for various reasons, which is why I have reviewed them for the information team and Council.

In the first stage of my work, I divided these into posts that need a content review or deletion, and posts that need optimising. Here’s the reasoning:

Content review or deletion

Out-of-date posts: We no longer need posts on topics such as recommendations for office exercise equipment in 2016 with broken links to sales websites, or a short summary of a 2017 conference presentation. With reviewed books, a new edition may have been published.

Posts with little content: Some of the older posts are short with very little content, and other blog posts have covered these topics in more detail. Very short posts provide little value, and search engines do not rank them highly.

Posts that don’t reflect our values: Some of the older posts take positions on debates that are now old hat. Others use phrases such as ‘non-native speaker’ (when the label is attributed to others) that can cause harm. Some of these posts are still highly relevant but need a content review.

Irrelevant posts: A few posts aren’t directly relevant to the CIEP and the work that its members do.

Optimisation

SEO issues with the blog titles: Some posts have cryptic titles that sound clever. (I used to work as an academic researcher, and this was commonplace in the humanities and social sciences. It can also be fine in other contexts, it just isn’t ideal for the blog genre.)

For example, imagine that you are copyediting a report written in British English. You encounter a sentence and are unsure about whether a certain comma before ‘and’ is optional. Would you search for:

‘Commas: The Chameleon Conundrum’ or

‘Do I need to put a comma before “and”’?

Fabulous references to Culture Club aside, these kinds of tweaks to titles can make our useful evergreen content more discoverable.

Other SEO issues: Other tweaks can improve discoverability too. Each blog post should have a keyword repeated throughout the text and headings (a word or phrase that people are likely to search for online), and things like metadata, a URL that includes the keyword, ALT descriptions and image URLs that reference what is in the picture etc.

You can optimise blog posts by making content changes too. For instance, by cutting up large sentences, including more transition words etc.

But we (the information team, Council and I) have decided to focus on quick SEO wins. This means we won’t be making changes to the main body of the blog posts and book reviews (except for changing SfEP to CIEP).

Wooden blocks spelling out 'SEO'

Progress so far

The first step has been to review all the blog posts and book reviews briefly and come up with an initial recommendation – delete the post, optimise it or keep it as it is.

In summary, a lot of non-evergreen posts from the first three years of the blog (2014–2017) have been recommended for deletion or archiving (if they are of relevance to the CIEP’s history).

For all the suggested deletions, I’ve written a list with a short explanation of the reason for each deletion and have passed this on to the Council. Abi Saffrey, the CIEP’s information director, has reviewed this and then made the deletions.

Next steps

Now we have a trimmed-down set of blog posts and book reviews.

The next step will be to make minor changes to some blog posts (optimising them) and reviews.

These changes will include:

  • changing old post titles to better reflect the content and optimise for SEO
  • inserting or changing subheadings that clearly reflect the content
  • deleting any remaining references to the SfEP
  • making sure the URLs reflect the content
  • flagging up any EDI issues for review
  • checking all the images have URLs that reflect the content and inserting ALT descriptions of said images
  • requesting reviews of newer editions of certain books.

We will keep a log of all changes made.

The next big change for the CIEP blog will be ensuring that all existing posts are available through the new CIEP website.

Did you write an SfEP blog post?

Most of the posts that we will change or delete were originally published when the Institute was the SfEP. If you wrote a blog post for the SfEP, you may want to check whether it is still there. If it’s not and you’re unhappy about this, get in touch and we can have a chat about possible options (perhaps you could write an updated blog post on that topic). And, of course, the same applies if you’ve written a post since we became the CIEP.

Get in touch

About Andrew Hodges

Headshot of Andrew Hodges

 

Andrew Hodges runs an editorial business called The Narrative Craft in Edinburgh, UK. He loves line-editing fiction and ethnography and enjoys chatting with science fiction and fantasy authors about worldbuilding and point of view issues whenever he can.

 

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: letters by Pixabay; SEO blocks by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi, both on Pexels. 

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Developmental fiction editing Q&A part 1: Giving feedback

To celebrate the launch of our new guide, Developmental Editing for Fiction, we are publishing a series of three blog posts in which Sophie Playle – author of the guide – answers CIEP members’ burning questions about this service.

To learn more, download the guide and consider taking one of Sophie’s online courses about developmental fiction editing.

What’s the most common developmental editing problem you see in fiction?

New writers often underestimate how much they don’t know.

Completing a full draft of a book is an immense achievement in and of itself, and authors will usually find their writing technique has improved by the time they get to the end of their first draft. But just as writing technique takes practice, so does the art of hanging plots together.

So the most common developmental issue I see in fiction is a weak or unclear premise (because the author will have usually started writing with a vague idea that they developed as they wrote) with a plot that doesn’t hit enough significantly dramatic, interesting or relevant events (because a good structure is built from a good premise).

Often the solution is to teach the author how to refine their premise and make better use of the archetypal plot points that lend themselves to a classic three-act structure.

Other common issues include narration that focuses too much on summary and exposition (instead of building dramatic scenes) and unfocused point of view, causing distance or confusion between readers and characters.

Have you ever come across a developmental problem so huge that it could not be resolved? If you have, how did you handle this with the author?

No, because what does it even really mean to resolve all the issues in a book?

There’s no such thing as a perfect book. In my eyes, my role is to help the author improve what they have, and I can always make suggestions on how they might do this.

Fiction authors tend to be emotionally involved in their writing. How do you deal with authors being upset and/or resistant to your suggested amendments? Or are they generally happy to receive constructive feedback?

You’d think that when someone asks for professional feedback and is willing to pay for it, they would be open to receiving said feedback … But that’s not always the case!

I’ve worked with authors who have replied to my feedback quite curtly, affronted. Over the years, I’ve developed a better instinct for the kind of authors who are secretly looking for validation and the kind of authors who are genuinely looking for constructive guidance, and made sure I’m working with the latter.

I work really, really hard on writing my feedback with sensitivity and tact, and I tell the author what they’re doing well, too. If they resist my feedback, there’s nothing I can do about that – and it’s their prerogative.

It’s possible the author needs to work on their own emotions around receiving feedback, but it’s also possible that I’ve not quite understood what they’re trying to do or that some of my suggestions aren’t right for the book, so I try to maintain some humility and distance from how an author receives my work.

There have been times when I’ve felt like an interloper in the private, intense author–text relationship. How does an editor create the space for themselves to work, and for the author to coolly re-evaluate the text?

Similar to my answer above: the author is responsible for their own mindset, but there are things we can do as developmental editors to help them feel good about the feedback we’re giving – by communicating with humility and tact.

What do you do when it feels as though everything needs fixing?

I put the manuscript aside for a day or two and let the small issues sink to the bottom of my mind like sediment so I can see the bigger issues more clearly. Then I focus on addressing those.

If I feel it’s appropriate, I’ll suggest multiple rounds of feedback – so the author will go away and address the first round of suggestions, then I’ll reassess the new draft and give them different, more nuanced things to focus on for the next draft.

I try to suggest this approach upfront, before I even start working on the manuscript, so that I’m not suddenly asking the author to shell out for more editing that they didn’t expect or budget for. To be able to suggest this approach to the author, I need to spend a little time looking at the manuscript and getting to know the author’s creative goals beforehand.

You (and the author) have to take into account the law of diminishing returns, though. Authors don’t have infinite budgets or time, so sometimes it’s about doing the best you can with the resources available, and accepting that.

Even if you and the author can’t get the manuscript to the point you’d like, it can be a valuable learning experience for the author and they can take what they’ve learned to their next book.

About Sophie Playle

Sophie Playle is a professional fiction editor who also teaches online courses to other editors. Speculative and literary fiction are her favourite genres to edit, and she loves working with authors who are passionate about high-quality storytelling.

Sophie is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP, and has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London.

 

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: header image by EliFrancis on Pixabay, bookstore by Maria Orlova on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Ten bookish books of 2022

2022 was a good year for books about, well, books: their history, what constitutes them – from their different sections to their individual paragraphs, sentences and words – and the places they can live. In this article we look at ten books, published or reissued this year, that people who are interested in books – professionally or for fun – will love. Some of them have already featured in the CIEP book reviews slot in The Edit, our newsletter for members, and on our website, and some are in the pipeline for review. We’ve listed them in order of release.

1. Comma Sense: Your guide to grammar victory by Ellen Feld (Mango, 18 February 2022), 288 pages, £16.95 (paperback)

‘Food and grammar have a lot in common!’ according to this book’s author. Based on US grammar, Comma Sense contains useful advice, brief but clear lessons, and fun quizzes – some cooking-based – for all writers and editors. Our reviewer said: ‘This encouraging book would refresh the grammar skills of a variety of time-strapped word wranglers, from creative writers, to businesspeople, to editors.’

Read the CIEP review. Buy this book.

2. How Words Get Good: The story of making a book by Rebecca Lee (Profile, 17 March 2022), 384 pages, £14.99 (hardcover)

This book, in fact, is about the making of many books. The author is an editorial manager at Penguin Random House, so has overseen all the stages of book production, working with the people who are essential in each of them, from authors to indexers. There are plenty of entertaining behind-the-scenes stories, and you’ll come away wiser about exactly what goes into the creation of a book. Those who work in the industry are likely to feel acknowledged, their part in the process no longer a mystery.

Buy this book.

3. Portable Magic: A history of books and their readers by Emma Smith (Allen Lane, 28 April 2022), 352 pages, £20.00 (hardcover)

Emma Smith’s work, ‘a thing to cherish’, according to The Guardian, examines books as objects: scrolls, mass-marketed paperbacks, hiding places, decoration and even fuel for the fire. Smith tells the stories of the different types of books that have emerged at different points in history. People who cultivate giant piles of ‘to be read’ books rather than instantly transporting their chosen text to an e-reader will appreciate this appreciation of the physical, sniffable, page-turning hard copy.

Buy this book.

4. Rebel with a Clause: Tales and tips from a roving grammarian by Ellen Jovin (Chambers, 11 August 2022), 400 pages, £16.99 (hardcover)

To those who have followed her on Twitter, it feels like Ellen Jovin has been running her Grammar Table, where anyone can come and ask a question about language usage, for ever. In fact, it’s only four years. It’s been a packed schedule since that first appearance outside her Manhattan apartment, as Jovin has taken her table across the USA. This book tells some of the stories of the questions brought to the Grammar Table, and examines the grammar behind the answers. There are diagrams and ‘quizlets’ to support Jovin’s explanations. A must for any grammar lover.

Buy this book.

5. Blurb Your Enthusiasm: An A–Z of literary persuasion by Louise Willder (Oneworld, 1 September 2022), 352 pages, £14.99 (hardcover)

The author of this book has written 5,000 blurbs, so she knows what she’s talking about. In Blurb Your Enthusiasm she gives ‘the dazzling, staggering, astonishing, unputdownable story of the book blurb’, and asks why publishers always describe books using those sorts of terms. Quirky, fun and illuminating, this is a treat for anyone who is interested in books or the art of copywriting.

Read the CIEP review. Buy this book.

6. A History of Cookbooks: From kitchen to page over seven centuries by Henry Notaker (University of California Press, 6 September 2022), 400 pages, £22.36 (paperback)

This broad and detailed history of the Western cookbook was first published in 2017 but has now been released in paperback. This is a fascinating read for all lovers of cooking and books, covering the evolution of recipe formats from bare notes to the detailed structure we see today as well as what we might call the ingredients of the books themselves – their writing, designing and printing.

Buy this book.

7. The Library: A fragile history by Arthur der Weduwen and Andrew Pettegree (Profile, 29 September 2022), 528 pages, £10.99 (paperback)

This history of libraries is entwined with the history of publishing and the development of society, so this book gives insights into all three. It has taken some centuries for libraries to hit their stride, in terms of access and stock, and reading about this might prompt a fresh appreciation of your local library branch. According to its CIEP reviewer, ‘this book is both informative and easy to read, and goes to all sorts of unexpected places. Come to think of it, that is much like a decent library, isn’t it?’

Read the CIEP review. Buy this book.

8. Reading the World: How I read a book from every country by Ann Morgan (Vintage, 29 September 2022), 416 pages, £9.99 (paperback)

Inspired by all the countries arriving at the London 2012 Olympics, Ann Morgan decided she would read a book from every independent nation. That’s 196 plus one – you’ll have to read the book to discover the story behind the extra one. Morgan’s literary journey is full of unexpected difficulties and wonderful finds, and this book is bound to inspire you to broaden your own reading horizons. Reading the World was originally published in 2015, with the paperback version released in 2022, so there are now years’ worth of stories about the project itself. You can find these on Ann Morgan’s website.

Buy this book.

9. Index, A History of the: A bookish adventure by Dennis Duncan (Penguin, 2 October 2022), 352 pages, £10.99 (paperback)

This is a ‘mesmerising’, ‘fascinating’ and ‘often humorous’ book, according to the delighted CIEP reviewer of Index, A History of the, who says: ‘This book should be on the reading list of every one of the (few) library schools that are left, and in the break room of every publishing house too. In fact, it should be in the home or office of anyone who has ever used an index.’ And the treasures don’t end with the body text. The index for the book – ‘excellent … beautiful as it is useful’ – was created by CIEP Advanced Professional Member Paula Clarke Bain, who in 2020 wrote a CIEP blog article on her typical week.

Read the CIEP review. Buy this book.

10. Why Is This a Question? Everything about the origins and oddities of language you never thought to ask by Paul Anthony Jones (Elliot & Thompson, 13 October 2022), 320 pages, £14.99 (hardcover)

Finally, dive into the nuts and bolts of letters, words and writing systems, grammar and language, and how we communicate and understand each other’s communication, with this entertaining book. Guaranteed to ask questions you’d never thought to articulate, Why Is This a Question? provides gems on every page. Quick, fun facts throughout for friends and family, or for enthralling your own word-loving brain.

Buy this book.


By the CIEP information team. Compiled with the help of Nik Prowse, CIEP book reviews coordinator. Read all our book reviews at: ciep.uk/resources/book-reviews/. With special thanks to our amazing web team, who post reviews with swiftness, good humour and unfailing attention to detail.

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: header image by Taylor on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Powers, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

A week in the life of a broad-spectrum editor and trainer

Gale Winskill is an editor with a varied workload: she edits fiction and non-fiction for publishers and indie authors, as well as providing training and tutoring for authors and editors. In this post she explains why she embraces this variety, and describes a (more or less) typical working week.

Keeping outside the box

I’ve been a freelance editor twice in my career: first, in Hong Kong back in the 1990s, when I wrote and edited school and university textbooks; and second, since 2008 in the UK, when my interests rather diversified.

In between, I worked in-house for ten years, primarily as a children’s editor, but also editing general adult non-fiction. Now, although my specialism is undoubtedly fiction (adult, YA and children’s) – which is what some of you possibly know me for – you might be surprised to know that I still dabble regularly in non-fiction and also do various bits of training.

I understand why some editors might find working exclusively on non-fiction to be more reassuring than the vagaries of fiction. Conversely, others prefer the flexibility of fiction to the rigours of reference systems or weighty topics. But for me, an assortment of fiction and non-fiction titles is infinitely preferable. I function better with a variety of things to work on, to ensure I don’t become complacent or bored.

Moreover, although known as a fiction editor, my refusal to be put in a subject-specific box also means that skills I learned in-house some time ago are still relevant today. I can apply my knowledge of references, bibliographies, permissions, captioning, illustrations, and so on, to non-fiction titles, or to certain types of memoir. And although my main area of work these days is general adult fiction, I still love working on children’s or YA novels, as well as picture books, which rely heavily on my previous experience as a children’s editor.

Then there’s the training. Alongside tutoring on the CIEP’s Introduction to Fiction Editing (IFE) course and writing/presenting the occasional course for other clients, twice a year I teach on the HarperCollins Author Academy. This course is specifically for authors from under-represented backgrounds, with the aim of helping them to negotiate the publishing industry.

Consequently, there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ week for me, as it really depends on my workload, client list or the time of year. That said, some things are set in stone. When the weather allows, I play tennis four mornings a week before work, in order to get some exercise and fresh air and vent any frustrations on a tennis ball rather than someone’s text. Then I’m at my desk and ready to go.

An atypical, typical editing week

So, let me introduce you to a fairly recent, but not-untypical week. It started with the copyedit of a substantial historical novel, written by an author whose previous work had just won a prestigious national writing award. But I didn’t know this when I accepted the work and confess to never having heard of the author before then! It was the first time I had worked for the publisher in question and the brief was short and to the point: copyedit the text; check the historical details and language idiosyncrasies; liaise directly with the author; send it back when it’s clean.

In my experience, it’s unusual to have direct contact with an author, particularly when the publisher has never worked with me before and the author is undeniably successful. So, to be handed the author’s personal email and told to return the text when the novel was clean was decidedly daunting.

At this point in the commission, at the start of the week, the main editing had been done, and the author and I were debating my queries and comments. These included the use (or not) of certain expressions at a specific moment in time, aided helpfully by the Historical Thesaurus, as well as the use of the ampersand (or not) in some historically extant company names – thank you, Mr Google!

The edited text went back and forth from Monday to Wednesday. The author capitulated on some queries; held their ground on others. Emails were exchanged at strange hours of the day and night, full of hilarious, sweary exchanges about everything and nothing, some of it even related to the work at hand. And then the novel was returned to the commissioning editor. Job done.

Laptop, coffee, notebook

During the same days, when waiting for responses to outstanding queries and comments on the above, I started work on a non-fiction book for a different publishing house. The original editor was on maternity leave, so my brief spanned both project management and editing. I was to wrest the work into a solid publishing proposition and guide the inexperienced authors along the way.

The text had been written in several disconnected incarnations that had eventually been cobbled together to form a vaguely complete text. But it still lacked an introduction and a conclusion to explain the authors’ aims and deductions. To complicate things further, a few of the original draft chapters had been looked at by another editor, so the text was littered with their comments, which also needed to be taken into account.

Before editing started, various behind-the-scenes discussions had taken place between me and the publisher to clarify what the imprint expected and wanted, the authors’ limited understanding of the publishing process and how it worked, and the specific issues that needed to be addressed in the text itself. These included:

  • Language and context considerations incurred by one of the authors being British and the other American.
  • Sensitivity issues related to the subject matter.
  • Cited text (of which there was a lot) requiring permissions not only from people who had contributed to the authors’ own podcast, but also from various publishers. The authors hadn’t yet addressed this and cited text comprised a considerable chunk of the narrative.
  • The lack of a recognisable referencing system for the incomplete, or non-existent, text citations.
  • And more worryingly, there was no visible, coherent narrative structure to present the book’s concerns to readers in a clear and accessible manner.

I have worked for this publisher for many years and generally, the texts they send me are in reasonable shape. But not this time!

The editing was very slow, as the authors’ meaning was often obfuscated and needed to be teased out. Over the next few days, a series of emails to my in-house contact, based on unexpected findings within the text, then led to a major rethink and completely different approach to the edit. My self-imposed deadline to return the text to the authors looked increasingly unachievable.

On Tuesday evening I escaped briefly to the monthly meeting of the Edinburgh Writers’ Forum (EWF), where I met up with another CIEP editor to enjoy an entertaining talk by Canongate’s Francis Bickmore about his publishing experiences. The EWF are a friendly lot, who kindly tolerate interloping editors, and abandoning work for a few hours of social interaction allowed my brain to power down and recharge.

Work continued throughout the rest of the week on the non-fiction text, interrupted only to field a few enquiries from private individuals, rather than publishing houses. On receiving sample texts, I duly drafted four quotes, two of which were accepted. One of my IFE tutees got in touch to ask for an extension, which I granted after consulting with the CIEP office.

Tutoring

And then it was Thursday and my final tutoring obligation for the fourth cohort of the HarperCollins Author Academy. The course is all online and covers fiction, non-fiction and children’s writing. I teach the fiction stream.

Weeks 1–4 encompass webinars on writing craft, which I present from an editorial perspective, based on the common issues I am always addressing in clients’ novels. There is also a session on the publishing industry in general. I love the class interaction with my students, but my favourite part is definitely the author panels in Weeks 5 and 6. Here, I get to meet and chat informally to some of the UK’s most successful fiction authors, as well as some newer, up-and-coming authors, who encapsulate a wide range of fiction genres. I facilitate a question-and-answer session in which no topic is off-limits, and let the students choose the direction of the conversation. Today – Week 6 – included one panel with two thriller writers and another with two fantasy authors, so there were lots of different considerations up for discussion.

I am always reassured that, despite some of these authors having sold 20–30 million copies of their books in multiple languages, they still have the same writing concerns and insecurities as the students. Without exception, they are all very generous with their time and advice to those starting out. It also helps that, without prompting on my part, they often reiterate the things I have spent the previous four weeks telling the students, which definitely bolsters my credibility!

As some of the Academy’s previous students have since gone on to win various literary prizes or to obtain publishing deals, my affiliation with the course is one of the most rewarding things I do professionally.

The end is nigh

And so to Friday. The non-fiction book is progressing, but the chances of getting it done before I take a week off look slim, especially as my weekend is full of family commitments. The publisher knows this and we will see where we are next Tuesday before I head to the airport on Wednesday.

The above might seem like a fairly frantic week. Admittedly, depending on my deadlines, I don’t always work on more than one text at a time, and my teaching commitments are spaced out across the year. But at the same time, it still isn’t that unusual to find me swapping between fiction and non-fiction projects, finishing one while starting another, and teaching in between.

Some might find my seeming ‘lack of focus’ perplexing and the above week exhausting, but the variety keeps my mind sharp as I switch between the requirements of different genres. It’s not for everyone, but the mixture of work also enables me to retain skills learned long ago, which might otherwise fall by the wayside if I focused purely on fiction.

Finally, such a broad-spectrum workload means that I don’t get fed up or bored with what I do, so overall, work is a pleasure, not a chore. And, for the most part, I can hit that early morning tennis ball without imagining it’s one of my authors or their text.

Update

Incredibly, after a major epiphany, a resultant increase in editing speed and a couple of very late nights, the non-fiction book was delivered on time before I went on holiday. It is currently with the authors, but will return to me sometime in the next few weeks. The next round of non-fiction editing will then continue into the start of the New Year … when I will also work on a fiction critique, teach again, attend a publishing event in London and copyedit another novel for a major publisher.

About Gale Winskill

Gale Winskill has been an editor since 1993, and has a wide range of experience across fiction and non-fiction. She is a judge for the Page Turner Award, and counts various prize-winning authors among her clients. She also provides training to both authors and editors on various elements of fiction writing and editing, and tutors for the CIEP and the HarperCollins Author Academy. Her clients hail from all over the world and encompass traditional publishing houses, private individuals and publishing training organisations. Whatever its genre, Gale enjoys spotting a manuscript’s potential and considers helping an author to develop and find their voice one of the best parts of her job. She is an Advanced 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: Tennis balls by cottonbro studio, laptop and coffee by Content Pixie, both from Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

A Finer Point: Make it count

Not everyone gets on with numbers, but they’re part of most documents. Cathy Tingle gives us eight(ish) points on number editing.

Numbers have the reputation of being solid. Words, people sometimes say, can be slippery and subjective in their meaning, but at least you know where you are with numbers. For me, at least, this idea originated at school, from the idea of maths being either right or wrong, and there being no comparable certainty in the arts or humanities.

But as you grow up you realise that there are few absolutes, and things become less certain even for mathematicians as their knowledge of their subject grows.

As an editor, I’ve found words, not numbers, by far the easier part of editing. Much of this is down to a lack of aptitude with numbers. Despite the Chicago Manual of Style’s proud claim that their rules on the elision of number ranges (17th edition, 9.61) are ‘efficient and unambiguous’, I find them utterly baffling, unable to see a pattern or a logic to them. I’m sure it’s there; it’s just too much for my brain.

But I can argue as long as I want that I’m only here for the words and punctuation. It’s a rare text that doesn’t contain at least some numbers. Here are a few principles that I cling to in order to deal with them. Should I number these points? Are they instructions to follow in a certain order, or a ranking of any sort? Would the numbers help you, the reader? No? OK, then, let’s stick with unnumbered points. (There’s your first principle.)

Make sure all sequences are complete and correct.

It’s such a basic point that you might not automatically think to check this, but if you see any consecutive numbers (or letters, come to that), check carefully that they are all there, in order. I came across a numbered list the other week with a missing number four. After doing a little air punch to celebrate finding it, I queried the author about whether we needed to renumber the points or whether point four, in fact, still needed to be inserted. Either might be the case – don’t just renumber and forget it, folks.

If a number is mentioned, cross-check it.

A number in text is often a part of:

  • a citation, in which case you cross-check its date or page number against a full reference
  • a cross-reference to a numbered illustration, page, section, chapter or part, in which case you check that what the author is claiming matches what’s there
  • a declaration of what’s about to be delivered, in which case you check that if the author announces they are about to make four points, that promise is fulfilled.

Understand the role of style.

Ah, consistency. It’s a wonderful thing. With numbers, however, style points tend to assemble like the stars in the sky on a clear night. You start with ‘zero to ten, 11 and over’ and ‘maximum elision of number ranges’, and then before you know it you’re noticing exceptions, like never starting a sentence with a figure, spelling out hundreds or thousands, and never eliding a teen number. These exceptions might seem so obvious that they don’t need to be mentioned, but I would advise trying to articulate them somewhere on a style sheet, or citing a style guide that covers them. You can’t guarantee the next person in the process will know what you know.

If you can, tot it up or fact check it. If you can’t, ask others to do it.

Do the numbers in a table look about right? Can you whip out your calculator to check or paste the figures into Excel and let it do the sums? If it’s possible, do a bit of basic maths. If you can’t, declare it. Tell the author and your project manager what you’ve checked and what you haven’t, so they can pick it up if they need to. If your brief includes a request to check all numbers and you really think this is beyond you, you should declare it at that point.

Similarly, if you can google the veracity of a widely available figure, do so. If you can’t, mention that you haven’t.

Compare (or contrast) the right things, and don’t mix measurements.

One in eight people with a dog owns a Labrador, with 25% owning a poodle cross and almost a third some type of spaniel. In total, 34% of the British public own a dog. In contrast, 47 people out of every 314 feel that there should be dog-free areas in parks.

Argh, what a mess of figures, ratios, percentages and proportions. Choose the most meaningful measure and stick to it. Make sure, too, that the comparison or contrast of figures doesn’t mislead. The people referred to in the last sentence could still be dog owners: no contrast at all.

Consider creating a table. Or two. (Sorry.)

There’s some great advice in the sensible and reassuring Presenting Numbers, Tables, and Charts by Sally Bigwood and Melissa Spore. One thing they suggest is to present comparable numbers in a table rather than in text: ‘Numbers in columns are easy to add, subtract, and compare’ (p16).

It’s a good idea to order tables with the largest numbers at the top because people find it easier to perform the quick sums required to understand them: ‘By listing numbers from largest to smallest, readers are able to subtract the figures in their heads’ (p11). But, equally, ‘In some cases alphabetical, chronological, or another natural order will be right. Consider how readers will use the information’ (p13).

Most importantly, always keep it simple: ‘If your readers need both the numbers and their proportions, give them two simple tables rather than one complex one’ (p16).

Don’t use ‘approximately’ with exact figures (like 5,989,348).

In fact, consider rounding down or up (to six million, in this case). People find round figures so much easier to process and remember. Consider the context and the purpose of the document, and if it’s appropriate, suggest it.

Treat numbers like the rest of the text.

In the end, dealing with numbers is about applying the usual principles of editing: clarity, consistency, correctness and completeness, and whatever other ‘c’s you usually use. But if we think carefully about how the reader will read and receive the figures, sometimes we need to prioritise clarity. Martin Cutts, in his almost unbelievably excellent Oxford Guide to Plain English, remarks that, online, figures for numbers are sometimes best, because ‘eye-tracking data shows that “23” catches more attention than “twenty-three”’ (p245).

No matter how much we shy away from them, making numbers clearer is well worth doing. Iva Cheung has published an article about power dynamics and plain language in healthcare, making the point that in a vulnerable situation people feel powerless in the face of the sort of jargon that says ‘I know more than you do’. Well, an opaque set of numbers can do the same. Let’s do everything in our power to make them easy to understand.

Resources

Bigwood, S. and Spore, M. (2003). Presenting Numbers, Tables, and Charts. OUP.

Cheung, I. Power dynamics and plain language in healthcare. Wordrake blog. wordrake.com/blog/power-dynamics-and-plain-language-in-healthcare.

Chicago Manual of Style. 17th edition. (2017). University of Chicago Press.

Cutts, M. (2020). Oxford Guide to Plain English. 5th edition. OUP.

Hughes, G. (2021). Editing and proofreading numbers. CIEP fact sheet. ciep.uk/resources/factsheets/#EPN.

New Hart’s Rules. 2nd edition. (2014). OUP. Chapters 11 and 14.

About Cathy Tingle

Cathy Tingle, an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP, is a copyeditor, proofreader, tutor and CIEP information team member.

 

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: number blocks Susan Holt Simpson on Unsplash. Dogs by Barnabas Davoti on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

CIEP forums: Director update

The forums are one of the CIEP’s most valued networking resources, and they were as busy as ever in 2022. Community director John Ingamells gives his perspective on the CIEP forums this year, and gives us a glimpse of what’s to come in 2023. John covers:

  • our forums as a virtual meeting place
  • changes to our moderation team
  • setting professional boundaries
  • nurturing a supportive atmosphere
  • our plans for 2023.

You will only be able to access links to the posts if you’re a forum user and logged in. Find out how to register.

This is the time of year when many of us look back and assess what has happened in the 12 months just gone: the good, the bad, our successes and slip-ups. For the CIEP forums, it has been a busy year, with the usual abundance of professional advice covering every imaginable aspect of proofreading and editing, alongside our almost daily dose of exquisite speeling misstakes and general malapropisms in the evergreen Typo of the Day.

A virtual meeting place

The forums have gone from strength to strength as one of the CIEP’s most valued offerings to members. They offer a place for members to meet virtually, ask questions, share ideas, and offer helpful tips and useful pointers on anything from the placement of a comma to how to avoid backache from sitting at a screen all day. In many ways, the forums serve as a virtual water cooler for so many of us who work in isolation without the human contact taken for granted in a traditional office space. Many members cite this as an important aspect of their appeal.

They thus act as an important addition or continuation to those opportunities that members have to meet each other in person. Alongside the annual conference, many local groups have traditionally been able to meet in person as well. Of course, that all came to a halt during the pandemic and we saw that, alongside Zoom meetings, the forums provided an important way to stay in touch. Now that COVID restrictions have eased, some groups have arranged in-person meetings again.

Changes to our moderation team

As most members will be aware, the forums are overseen by a team of moderators and, with a couple of long-standing members of the team looking to stand down after many years of service, the Council decided early in 2022 to instigate a formal recruitment process to find new members for the team.

This reflected the Council’s broader wish to professionalise the organisation as well as a recognition of the fact that forum moderation fell squarely within our legal obligations to ensure that our activities and events are free from any form of direct or indirect discrimination. Part of this change was to begin remunerating the moderators. Four new members were duly recruited to the moderation team and joined over the summer.

Setting professional boundaries

This last year has proved to be a busy one for the moderators. The vast majority of traffic on the forums is informative and helpful and, more importantly, is carried out in a friendly and collegiate atmosphere. But we are only human, and it is perhaps to be expected that on rare occasions, when opinions differ, discussions can become more direct.

Now, there is nothing wrong with some robust debate with members expressing opposing views on a topic. But here it is important that we remember what the forums are, namely a closed professional space. Or, to turn that around, it is important to remember what the forums are not – they are not a public social media setting with an anything-goes attitude to what people can post and how they behave. We all need to bear in mind that we are in a professional setting, dealing with colleagues and counterparts.

This is particularly important when discussions are begun around sensitive issues such as race, cultural appropriation, gender and many others. We have no wish to stop discussion of such issues – there are many legitimate questions of an editorial nature that crop up about, for example, how to advise clients on appropriate language or usage when handling a sensitive topic. Language changes, sometimes very quickly, and clients will often welcome up-to-date advice from a professional editor.

Nurturing a supportive atmosphere

As long as the forum threads handle sensitive subjects with care and with a sympathetic regard for all members, discussions can continue. But we know from experience that members have sometimes felt harmed by the way one or two threads have taken things beyond purely editorial contexts.

There are plenty of places out on the internet where issues can be debated full throttle. But in our closed professional space, where we have a responsibility to our diverse membership, we ask members to stay within certain boundaries. If you would like to see more on this topic, it is worth rereading the notice that the chair, Hugh Jackson, posted in February outlining the CIEP’s position.

In this context, it is also worth reminding ourselves that the CIEP has a core aim to listen to and learn from perspectives that may have struggled in the past to be heard in organisations like ours. What we are really trying to do is nurture an atmosphere in which everyone has the confidence to participate actively in the forums.

Into 2023

How we handle the more challenging threads on the forums has itself been the subject of some debate. We have already announced that we are in the process of drawing up new guidelines for the moderation process which we will be sharing with the wider membership in the weeks ahead and welcoming your comments.

Of course, the big challenge for the year ahead will be the move to the new online platform. Like everything on our website, the new forums will look very different, but we will be working hard to ensure that they will continue to be the useful, informative and friendly place that so many members have come to know and love.


Register to join the CIEP forums.

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 credits: header image by Norbert Levajsics on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.