Monthly Archives: December 2020

To infinity and beyond – delving into PerfectIt’s possibilities

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 2 to 4 November. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Suzanne Arnold reviewed Enforcing house styles: Customising PerfectIt for advanced users, presented by Daniel Heuman.

Delegates at the 2019 SfEP conference.

PerfectIt is a Word plug-in that checks for possible consistency issues – eg ‘realise’ and ‘realize’. This was a practical session to help attendees edit style sheets in PerfectIt, with tips for beginners and more experienced users.

My key takeaway: the screens may look intimidating at first, but it’s worth pushing past the fear to see what’s possible.

Getting started

  1. In PerfectIt 4, you can customise style sheets and create new ones; in PerfectIt Cloud you can’t (yet).
  2. The drop-down menu offers built-in style sheets: eg US English, UK English, Australian Government Style.
  3. ‘Check Consistency’ in the drop-down menu means PerfectIt will simply check for potential consistency issues within the text, without looking for compliance with a particular style.
  4. To edit a style sheet, choose ‘Manage Styles’ in the toolbar. Use the drop-down menu by ‘Current style sheet’ to select the style you want to edit, then click ‘Edit Style Sheet’.
  5. To create a new style sheet, choose ‘Manage Styles’ and then ‘New’.
  6. The tabs on the left are the ones you’re most likely to use initially.
  7. Read each tab from left to right, top to bottom. The example below therefore reads, ‘When PerfectIt is running the check for spelling variations it should warn if it finds the phrase “whilst”. If it finds the phrase, it should suggest “while”.’ The top line has a drop-down menu and the other two you type into.
  8. Make separate entries for variations on a word – eg ‘e-mail’, ‘e-mails’, ‘e-mailing’ etc.
  9. And that’s the key to tailoring style sheets in PerfectIt. Yes, there are many other settings you can adjust, but this is all you need to know to get started.
  10. Good luck!

Tips for advanced users

  1. Searches are not case sensitive – so the example below would find ‘SFep’ and ‘sFEP’ etc. But clicking ‘Case sensitive suggestion term?’ ensures that the replacement term ‘CIEP’ is capitalised as specified.
  2. Use the ‘Style Notes’ column to give users more information (see next screen grab).
  3. ‘Except for’ in the ‘Style Notes’ column acts as an instruction to PerfectIt – in the example below, PerfectIt will suggest correcting ‘tennant’ to ‘tenant’ unless it is in ‘David Tennant’ or ‘Michael Tennant’.
  4. If the house style has certain terms that are always abbreviated – eg UK – use the ‘Never Find’ tab, select ‘Abbreviations Without Definitions’ from the drop-down and then type in the abbreviation that doesn’t need writing out.
  5. In the ‘Settings’ tab, scroll to the bottom and there are some options called ‘Style Points’. These are switched off by default, but you can switch them on in the same way as for other checks.
  6. The ‘Fine-Tuning’ tab initially looks pretty daunting, but all you need to know is that the words separated by pipes | will be treated in the way described on the left.
  7. If you only have a PDF, you can open some PDFs within Word and it will convert it to text. It may not look pretty but it will allow you to use PerfectIt.

Suzanne Arnold is an Advanced Professional Member who specialises in copyediting and proofreading non-fiction for adults.

 

 

 


Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Make your website earn its keep with just a few tweaks

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 2 to 4 November. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Phillip Scott reviewed Editor website foundations, presented by Louise Harnby.

Delegates at the 2019 SfEP conference.

When I was asked to review Louise Harnby’s conference session – Editor website foundations – the obvious preparatory step was to visit her site: louiseharnbyproofreader.com. After exploring the site’s every nook and cranny, which prompted a visit from the self-esteem monster, I was sorely tempted to resign my commission. (With only a single course under my belt, I am brand new to this world, and to the CIEP: baby-steps status.) The information team, however, quickly assuaged my self-doubt: ‘Just tell us what you thought of the session.’

Even for a newbie like me, the session could not have been more useful. Louise gave us Ten ways to make your website work harder for you, clearly laid out with the sections organised as follows:

  • What do you need to know?
  • What do you need to do?
  • An Effort and Outcome sidebar
  • Examples

The clarity of structure allowed us to concentrate on the practical content. Louise placed emphasis on keeping a beady eye on results: ‘Do this to keep the visitor engaged.’ ‘Is this feature about the potential client or is it about you?’ Primus inter pares: ‘Will this feature drive sales?’

Let’s consider the second section in a little detail: ‘Put testimonials everywhere.’ Who knew? Thinking back on websites near and far, whatever testimonials there may be are nearly always randomly tucked away somewhere, with little or no connection to products and services on offer. Not on Louise’s site. On her home page, there is a scannable (technical term for search engines can find it) encomium: ‘I’m a better writer because you edited my book’ … next to a sketch of the author’s book. Click on the Services tab and there are two more, boxed in for emphasis. On the Books tab, one finds a trio of testimonials from fans of three of her books, a few centimetres higher on the page, with front covers duly on display.

In good but challenging ways, Louise’s 50 minutes flew by and, given the amount of content in the session, the challenge to keep up was at times intense. If I may offer some advice to less-experienced editors, whether or not you already have a website: you would be unwise to address the demands of all ten steps at once.

My priorities will likely be … Step 1: Websites don’t rank (pages do)! Step 3: Make the page readable; Step 5: Tell visitors what to do; and Step 6: Mind your pronouns. The others are at least as important as these four, but I will need time to do the work which will generate testimonials, to create the valuable ‘useful stuff’ to offer free of charge in due course, and to learn the technical side of ‘meaningful metrics’. (First, I will have to learn the meaning of metrics.)

Once I have completed my next several hundred baby steps, I will turn my mind to creating a website of my own. It will not have the magisterial heft or functional virtuosity of the site of our illustrious colleague, but principles are principles, and I will apply what I’ve learned from Louise with alacrity and confidence.

Phillip Scott has enjoyed a wide-ranging career in music education and, once they emerge from lockdown in the spring, he will be pleased to pick up the reins of two of London’s youth orchestras, which he has conducted for the last few years. After basic training in copyediting and proofreading, he is looking forward to this new direction in his life.

 

Taking the mystery out of macros – one click at a time

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 2 to 4 November. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Kate Sotejeff-Wilson reviewed Macros for beginners, presented by Karen Cox.

At Conference Aston, for the 2019 CIEP conference.

Earlier this year, in a Saturday workshop with Paul Beverley, I enthusiastically learned how to use macros, but I still wasn’t integrating them into my daily editing work – despite knowing that macros can do things other software like PerfectIt can’t. So, this was a nice refresher session that I’d recommend to anyone who loves words but finds numbers and computer code slightly terrifying.

Learning macros is a bit like learning to touch type. It takes some time, but once you’re up and running, you will save yourself far more time (and money, as you will be able to edit faster). Karen clearly explained how Paul Beverley’s macros work, with Paul on hand to delve into the details.

A macro is a set of instructions to get your computer to do something for you. They do ‘subroutines’, or small repetitive tasks. Paul divides his into three main types: analysis, as-you-edit and global.

Analysis macros produce reports on your text. You can use the reports to spot inconsistencies and make decisions to incorporate into your style sheet. Run each macro, save the report, and change the document yourself or run other macros to do it. Karen introduced her top three of Paul’s macros:

  • DocAlyse counts instances of spelling, punctuation and formatting (such as whether a capital letter is used after a colon). Karen showed us an example of this using a children’s book she had proofread.
  • ProperNounAlyse shows up instances of place and personal names. Karen used this recently for a novel set in Wales.
  • HyphenAlyse shows up when prefixed words are written as hyphenated, as two words or as a single word (in a self-help book, Karen found anti-depressants and antidepressants).

Two of my personal favourites are CenturyAlyse, which is great for historians, and AccentAlyse, which is great for translators.

Use as-you-edit macros to make changes as problems (like these) come up:

  • ‘CommaInDialogue is great for fiction editors.’ Said Karen. This macro checks whether a full stop is used before a dialogue tag instead of a comma, and corrects it. So you get ‘CommaInDialogue is great for fiction editors,’ said Karen. You can change this with one keyboard shortcut as you work your way through your document.
  • SwapCharacters will correct ‘sepllings’ to ‘spellings’; SwapWords will turn ‘in as’ into ‘as in’.
  • Fetch Macros (GoogleFetch, OUPFetch, GoogleMapFetch) will check how a phrase is spelled, capitalised or located.

Global change macros will change every instance of something in the whole document. Think hard before you do this. These macros need to be used with great care; make sure you save a copy of your file before you start.

  • FRedit is a find-and-replace edit; you create a script for how you want to change these globally. You can use this to do things like turn double spaces into single spaces after a full stop. You can tell FRedit not to Track Changes that you want to make ‘silently’.

Karen closed by showing viewers how to install a macro; why not go to Paul Beverley’s website and try it? You can download a starter pack and book from the site, or go to the CIEP macros forum. Paul will be there to answer your questions.

Kate Sotejeff-Wilson has been editing and translating for academics since starting her history PhD in 1999, and she is happiest in the space between languages or an intercultural setting. Born in Wales to a Polish mother and English father, she is now a Finn. Kate is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP and vice-chair of Nordic Editors and Translators.


If you’d like to learn more about Paul’s macros, check out Christina Petrides’ summary of Paul’s Macro-driven book editing session.


CIEP members can download a Getting started with macros fact sheet from within their members’ area.


Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Susie Dent in conversation with Denise Cowle

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 2 to 4 November. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Anna Baildon reviewed Susie Dent in conversation with Denise Cowle, the CIEP’s marketing director.

Denise Cowle presenting a session at the 2019 SfEP conference.

In the words of our chair, Hugh Jackson, this was ‘perhaps the most eagerly anticipated and most talked-about [session] of the conference’.

Susie Dent became our honorary vice-president in January 2016, and 2020 is the first year that conference has not fallen on a Countdown recording day, thus freeing her up to join us. She must be the UK’s most famous contemporary lexicographer and etymologist, and is a familiar broadcaster and writer.

Denise Cowle, our marketing director, did a superb job of facilitating the conversation, drawing on questions submitted by members. She seemed calm in the hot seat, as if interviewing such high-profile folk is what she does every day.

Susie spoke about her pre-TV career, mentioning her ‘nerdy interest’ in language. She admitted to having ‘no clue’ about what to do after university, and that lexicography had not always been her long-term plan. In 1992, while working at Oxford University Press (OUP) on English and bilingual dictionaries, her OUP boss persuaded her to give Countdown a go. She had declined Channel 4’s invitation four times as she is more comfortable ‘flying below the radar’ than being in the spotlight. Perhaps there’s an interesting point here about serendipitous professional opportunities being won by going beyond your comfort zone.

Denise asked Susie to speculate on what path her career might have taken if she hadn’t joined Countdown. Susie thought she would probably still be in publishing, ideally working on the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). When asked if she had ever considered editing or proofreading as a career, Susie said that she wouldn’t be suited to these careers as she wasn’t particularly pedantic about language. But she did say she was most interested in focusing on clarity and eloquence and observing usage rather than adhering rigidly to established rules.

Susie Dent, honorary vice-president of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders

Susie Dent

The discussion turned to Countdown filming. It sounds pretty intensive; twice a month, the team gathers to do three days of filming to produce 15 shows. This gives Susie predictable gaps between filming, in which she can focus on her writing. Shorter pieces and those which can be written in chunks suit this timetable. Susie seemed apprehensive about writing fiction because of the pressure to produce a ‘linguistic wow’, but she did mention the possibility of writing under a pseudonym.

On the question of paper versus online dictionaries, Susie was firmly in favour of online for currency. She said she could envisage the demise of printed dictionaries, but interestingly she said there is a significant gift market in the US for the OED, despite the hefty price tag!

Denise asked Susie about 2020’s neologisms. A favourite of Susie’s is ‘quarantini’. After explaining the etymology of ‘quarantine’, she said she would not expect ‘quarantini’ (and many other COVID-19-related terms) to survive for long. She mentioned that some neologisms gain longevity if they are riffed upon and spawn new, related words, while others become dated and fall out of usage.

Susie talked about her word-of-the-day tweets. She usually avoids politics, aiming instead to choose something beautiful, amusing or topical. Her word for 3 November was ‘empleomania’, meaning ‘the overweening and manic desire to hold public office at any cost’. Make of this what you will! On the subject of word choices, her favourite word from her book How to Talk Like a Local is her selection for 1 January: ‘crambazzled’, a Yorkshire word meaning ‘prematurely aged from excessive drinking’.

Denise asked Susie about the hiccup with her latest book, Word Perfect, published in October. Susie explained that the book had been published using the wrong version of the text, with errors left in, after a pressurised production schedule owing to backlogs caused by COVID-19. She had questioned the title as potentially asking for trouble! I’m sure Denise’s sympathy was shared by everyone watching as Susie described how mortified she had felt. She wisely ‘decided to try to smile’ about it, tweeted to explain things, and in fact received no criticism. Nevertheless, she said that some lalochezia had been very useful!

It was interesting to hear about Susie’s broader experience of having her work edited, especially her view of the process as collaborative. She likes to work with copyeditors with whom she has an existing relationship, especially for book projects. She has had some issues when writing for newspapers, such as the addition of clickbait headings, or the meaning being twisted because the tone of voice has been changed.

Susie mentioned her work on the Something Rhymes with Purple podcast with Gyles Brandreth. She came to agree with Gyles, who told her that ‘it’s the most you thing you’ve ever done’. She thinks this is because it has a simplicity and intimacy, unlike studio work. I thought this chimed well with ‘flying below the radar’.

One of the final questions Susie answered was about her current reading. She is re-reading Our Mutual Friend and Tess of the D’Urbervilles for a forthcoming programme with Gyles on the language of Dickens and Hardy, but they are also two of her favourite novels.

I hope these selected highlights give a flavour of the event for those unable to attend. The session was a joy to watch, so let’s hope we have the pleasure of Susie’s company at future conferences. She was warm, professional and generous in sharing her love of language.

Anna Baildon is an Entry-Level Member and is relishing CIEP training to strengthen her expertise. She has worked in niche librarian roles in higher education and has significant experience in wrangling non-fiction copy into a publishable state. Anna has degrees in English literature and librarianship and a lifelong affinity with words. She plans to freelance, offering both copyediting and proofreading services.


Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Let’s stop and think to make sure all voices are heard

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 2 to 4 November. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Miranda K Lloyd reviewed Conscious language: making editorial decisions for inclusion, presented by Sarah Grey.

Delegates at the 2019 SfEP conference.

As a proofreader and editor with a disability, I was excited to attend Sarah Grey’s session, Conscious Language: Making Editorial Decisions for Inclusion.

I already knew a bit about the importance of person-first language and inclusivity in publishing, and I was excited to learn more from an expert.

What did I learn? And what can we do to be more inclusive?

Inclusivity is more than person-first language

In fact, there is some lively debate about whether person-first language helps promote equality.

Words shape our perception of the world, how we see ourselves and how we feel. Editing for conscious language emphasises kindness, empathy, justice, respect, inclusion and accuracy. The way language is used has a huge influence over people and events, especially in politics and public forums.

As editors, we have great power over, and responsibility for, how language is shaped and used.

Consider the last speech you heard on the news. How did it make you feel? How might it be perceived by others? What will the consequences of a piece of writing be? Will it do any harm?

Language is changing faster than ever before

Be aware of these changes and check how a word or phrase is used. I was shocked to find that a common UK word is considered a grievous slur in parts of North America, and many people were deeply hurt when it was recently used in a popular TV series.

Ask the right questions

Who is the author? Who is the audience? Who is mentioned in the text? Is their perspective included? Does the author’s perception of their audience match the audience’s perception of themselves?

Will the audience appreciate a cultural reference or turn of phrase? Will it add to their experience or alienate them? Is an author forgetting a section of their readership? And if so, what can we do to include them?

Be aware of your own lack of knowledge

Ask yourself: ‘Am I the right editor for this job? Do I have the experience and background to appreciate the cultural context, sensitivities, dialect and other characteristics around this text?’

Listen, read and seek out diverse perspectives. Follow different communities and debates on social media – Twitter is great for this – and consider consulting a sensitivity reader.

Check your (and your author’s) sources

If your author is using sensitive or outdated terms, is the reader made aware of this? If you’re working on an academic text, are the citations consistent? Alert your client if they’re citing female authors by first name and male authors by last name.

Academics’ reputations live or die by how often their work is cited. Citing works by authors from underrepresented backgrounds makes their work visible and draws them into the mainstream.

And finally …

If your client ignores your advice on inclusive language, credits you and publishes anyway, you can say, ‘I gave some advice that was not taken’ and move forward, confident you did your job.

Follow Sarah @GreyEditing on Twitter.

Miranda K Lloyd began working as a freelance proofreader and editor in December 2019. She has a disability and is committed to championing inclusivity in publishing, and making equality and diversity central to her business. Miranda is an Intermediate Member of the CIEP. She is currently taking on work and welcomes all enquiries. Contact her @mirandaklloyd on Twitter.

 

 


Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Consistency is key to building and keeping a ‘fan base’

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 2 to 4 November. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Emily Gleeson reviewed Digital marketing primer: making a big splash on your own, presented by Erin Brenner.

Coffee break at the 2019 SfEP Conference.

In a year of firsts for everyone, the CIEP 2020 conference brought many for me – my first online conference, my first CIEP event and, more pressingly, my first time nervously writing something real that people might read. My nerves may have been wasted, though, as the more sessions I attended, the more I felt I’d found a place where I could just … be.

Stage fright is my most loyal companion and extends to everything that’s visible to the public, which certainly affects my weak digital marketing efforts. So, it was with a sliver of excitement and loads of trepidation that I sat down to watch Erin Brenner (Right Touch Editing) speak, hoping to learn even a little something that might help.

For many, digital marketing conjures up frightening images of the conceptually impossible, but Erin soothed us quickly. She began by breaking it down into easy-to-stomach pieces. In doing so, she changed my perspective on successful marketing from an insurmountable mountain scaled only by interpersonal geniuses, into relieved acceptance of the clearly doable step-by-step processes defined by her tidy methods. With a heavy emphasis on building strategy, we were introduced to a clear, goal-driven structure that I’m sure will have even the most introverted and uncertain of us seeing small triumphs, if only we put in the effort. In a defining point about audience, Erin tapped into a reminder I expect all of us need to hear occasionally.

The problem we’re solving for our client is not their lack of clean copy.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the achievement that we find in polishing something to almost perfect, that we can forget that our clients come to us to make their product better, not cleaner or well-written. If they understood our profession – our passion, obsession, sometimes pathological need – enough to know that cleaner even exists, much less as a step towards better, they’d probably not look for us at all.

This comment about problem-solving, which took up only a single line in my hurried notes and is something we’re probably all theoretically aware of, carried us easily into the remainder of the session. Empowering and encouraging in her easy, collegial way of sharing, Erin took us on something akin to a journey of marketing enlightenment. She broke down everything – from defining the real problem we’re solving to how to use a strong marketing message and evocative keywords to get that across. So genuinely generous is Erin with her expertise, we were also treated to resources and suggestions to help us successfully develop a schedule and measure the result of our efforts. All we have to do is stick to the plan.

Erin Brenner’s Digital Marketing Primer rather convincingly conveyed this exciting idea that, with a little bit of patience and the creation of fluid, achievable goals, digital marketing success is not out of reach for any of us. In fact, if we can keep the excuses at bay and follow the guidance we’ve been given, we can pursue it with confidence and clarity and strive to make our businesses work better for us.

Emily Gleeson is a fiction editor based in Australia, who proclaims an eclectic taste and a preference for stirring subtlety, bold truths and vivid imagery, but whose real delight comes from the happiness her clients find in their achievement. Emily can be found at facebook.com/emilygleesoneditorial/, where she patiently awaits news of a CIEP membership upgrade.

 


Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Achieving a clean, polished edit is simply a matter of style

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 2 to 4 November. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. John Ingamells reviewed Mastering editorial style sheets, presented by Amy J Schneider.

Conference Aston, where the 2019 SfEP conference was held.

‘Anything you had to look up’ is a great place to start when thinking about what to put in a style sheet. If you have to reach for a reference book, others will too. So, save everyone the trouble and put in your style sheet.

Excellent advice from Amy Schneider in her conference session on style sheets. Anyone who thought a style sheet was just a quick list of whether to use US or UK spellings and whether to hyphenate things beginning with ‘multi-’ will have been impressed by Amy’s exposition of the breadth of things that merit inclusion in a style sheet and the level of detail involved.

Amy walked us through some key questions about style sheets: what they are for; who uses them; how to go about creating one, and what to include. She also touched on some of the differences between fiction and non-fiction (or is that ‘nonfiction’? Where’s my style sheet?).

Most publishers will have a standard sheet, but each project will still need its own to reflect individual requirements. The earlier in the process the style sheet is produced the better, since it can be useful at all stages of production. Copyediting and proofreading, we all understand. But how many of us have stopped to think that indexers and designers will also find a properly compiled style sheet just as useful?

When creating a style sheet and deciding what to include, Amy warned us of the danger of the whole thing becoming an unwieldy wall of text. Sometimes, there may be no getting away from the amount that needs to be included, so it becomes all the more important to focus on clarity of organisation and layout. She challenged us to think imaginatively about how we present the information. ‘Make it skimmable!’ One interesting idea was whether to list things alphabetically or thematically. For example, should Chardonnay and Merlot be listed a long way apart on an alphabetical list or grouped under a single heading of ‘Wine’? The answer will obvious if we follow Amy’s advice and consider the audience: who is using this list and what format will help them find what they are looking for efficiently.

Thinking of the audience will also help us decide how much detail to include. A publisher might be happy with a simple page reference to the relevant bit of the Chicago Manual of Style, while an indie fiction author might appreciate a more detailed explanation for a choice that the copyeditor has made.

In the case of fiction, Amy emphasised that the style sheet was the place for the editor to note down any continuity issues: for example, a character might have three brothers on one page, but four brothers a few chapters later.

Finally, Amy encouraged us to see the style sheet as a core product of the editing process.

Like any good conference session, Amy’s presentation gave us plenty of informative content but also left us with much food for thought on how we can develop and improve our own approach to style sheets.

After 15 years in the diplomatic service and ten years in the City, John Ingamells became a freelance editor in 2015. He lives on the North Norfolk coast with his wife. His work is mostly academic (journals and books), but he has tackled some fiction and business copywriting. When not working, he bakes sourdough bread and plays backgammon.

 


Style sheets work as a complement to style guides. The CIEP guide Your House Style outlines the value of having a house style and how to create such guidance if it isn’t yet in place for an organisation.


Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

How shared values helped the Quad harness their superpower

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 2 to 4 November. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Debbie Scott reviewed Editorial mastermind groups, presented by Laura Poole, Amy J Schneider, Sarah Grey, Erin Brenner and Lori Paximadis.

Laura Poole speaking at the 2019 SfEP conference.

Editing and proofreading can be lonely activities, but never more so than when the country is in lockdown and we can’t meet clients, friends and family face to face. It was encouraging, therefore, to hear from a group of North American editors who had formed a mastermind group called the Quad.

The Quad comprises seven like-minded women, not four as its name suggests. They are Laura Poole, Amy J Schneider, Erin Brenner, Sarah Grey, Lori Paximadis, Adrienne Montgomerie and Katharine O’Moore-Klopf. They excel in their fields and thrive in the sharing of knowledge and ideas, as well as supporting each other. Indeed, the Quad is based on the principle that the whole is smarter than the sum of its parts.

Many of us are members of online forums and social media groups, but a mastermind group is more tight-knit in that it is generally made up of people who share the same values and feel comfortable enough to form trusted relationships. There are no rules when forming a mastermind group, but when it was created, the Quad’s founding members were all at roughly the same stages in their careers. To start with, they communicated daily through Facebook chat; talk was predominantly professional and focused around dealing with clients, the sharing of technical advice and the all-important ‘tact check’ – as in ‘have I struck the right tone in this email?’

Talk is still largely professional, but the Quad’s members have grown together, and their careers have matured. Some members have been part of the Quad since the beginning, while others have come and gone. Yet the group continues to grow from strength to strength; its members have developed an entrenched respect for one another and hold each other to account. For Sarah, the Quad helps her understand what her work and skills are worth. She described the Quad as being ‘like a larger brain backing hers up’. Sometimes you need others around to make you appreciate yourself, especially when Imposter Syndrome creeps in.

In addition to daily communications, the Quad has monthly check-ins where goals, successes and plans are mooted and ways in which members can support one another are discussed. The group also appreciates the importance of taking time out to evaluate direction. Lori described the sort of ‘retreats’ the Quad has held, taking the form of in-person and virtual events. Some have been skills-based, others business-based, with the project and writing retreats proving particularly successful. Of course, you can go on a solo retreat and use the extra time to take stock of your business.

The session was a great start to conference. It left me wondering why I muddle through alone, especially in a year where COVID-19 has severely impacted my business. I am grateful to the Quad for sharing best practice and insight. Whether I join a mastermind group or not, I now know there are many other people with a wealth of knowledge ready to be shared – we just need to shout about it more and make the effort to collaborate.

Debbie Scott is the co-founder of Scott Communications, a provider of copywriting, copyediting and proofreading services, as well as public affairs and public relations consulting.

 

 


Keep an eye out for more session summaries arriving on the blog over the coming days, and do share your highlights with us in the comments or on social media.


Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Commissioning, editing and proofreading figures

By Liz Jones

‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’ We’ve probably all heard this said, and perhaps we’ve even said it ourselves. But – as so often in life – the truth is not as clear-cut as that. In the materials we edit, it’s not always a case of either-or, words versus pictures. Often text and images work together to convey complex information. But the figures that support a text (or that a text supports) can only function at their best if they are commissioned carefully to work as part of a complete editorial package, and if any text associated with them is written, edited and proofread just as carefully as the main or body text.

What is a figure?

In CIEP courses in the core skills of proofreading and copyediting, a figure is defined as ‘any piece of artwork (line-drawing, photo, graph, etc), together with its caption’. Figures appear in all genres of book, from children’s picture books and stories to textbooks, workbooks, technical manuals, and all kinds of non-fiction books – from practical to aspirational to academic. Aside from books, we encounter them in all sorts of written communications, from newsletters and press releases to websites, reports, white papers, advertisements … In short, where don’t we find them?

But editors are word people, you might be thinking. Aren’t images beyond their remit? Well, no. Considering the images that work alongside the text – and are often indivisible from its key message – is a crucial part of most copyediting or proofreading work.

Aside from the image itself, a figure will usually have a title or caption, which the CIEP defines as ‘the explanatory words that appear below (or above or beside) an illustration or figure’. There may also be annotations (very short labels) explaining specific parts of the figure, either placed in the relevant position or connected with leader lines.

If the figure is a graph or chart, the axes or sectors will also be labelled with text.

Purpose and function of figures

Figures might be used in text for various reasons:

  • They give the reader information that cannot be easily or effectively expressed using text alone.
  • They can be used to amplify or clarify the message of a passage of text.
  • They work as visual devices that break up large amounts of text and make it more readable.
  • If the document is about a visual subject, the figures might be more important than the text, even if both are necessary.

How to write a good brief

Sometimes editors are responsible for writing the briefs for figures, whether they are illustrations, photos or graphs. This is especially likely if the editor is project managing or development editing.

The person producing the image, or the picture researcher, will need as much information as you can provide on the following:

  • What information the image needs to convey – this might include a sketch, or it might be a list of points to cover
  • Size of the intended image
  • What colours to use
  • Guidance on the preferred style
  • Any cultural considerations, such as images that are not suitable for a particular audience
  • Visual reference materials, if available and helpful
  • The budget – most images are not free!

Reproducing or redrawing figures

If figures are reproduced from another source, or even if they are redrawn based on another source, then the copyright holder of the original image will need to give you permission to use that figure. They might charge a fee for this, or they might simply stipulate how they should be credited. Some credit lines must appear alongside the figure; others can be placed at the end of the document.

Make sure you allow time in the schedule for clearing image permissions.

Writing and editing figure text

Captions should ideally be written in such a way that that they could stand alone and provide useful information about the figure, even if the reader reads none of the other text. Of course, we probably tend to hope that the reader reads every word we write from beginning to end. But in the real world, we have to accept that this doesn’t always happen. People have short attention spans, and they skip about when they read. Captions should also not simply repeat body text word for word, but add to it, and give the reader specific information on the visuals. For a document to feel authoritative and valuable, it’s crucial to write captions that work hard.

Everyone’s life is made much easier if text that appears as part of the figure is editable, though this is not always possible. If it’s not editable by someone with easy access to the files, make sure to get it proofread early, to allow changes to be made by the illustrator, for example. Bear in mind that the more words appear as intrinsic elements in images, the more of a problem this will be for any editions of the publication in other languages.

When an editor is assessing the scope of their work, they should make sure they include the figures in their fee calculations – both checking their content from an editorial point of view and editing any associated text, which can add considerably to the overall word count and the time needed for the job.

Checklist of common problems

Finally, for anyone tasked with proofreading figures, here are some common problems that crop up time and time again:

  • Figure numbering – out of sequence, missing numbers, inconsistency
  • Annotations pointing to the wrong part of an image
  • Inconsistent capitalisation of captions or annotations
  • Inconsistent punctuation of captions or annotations – especially terminal full stops
  • Captions repeated, or applied to the wrong image(s)
  • Captions that seem to contradict the image (for example referring to a colour that looks different in the picture)
  • Figure is flipped, so text is back to front.

The most important message in all of this is that figures appearing as part of a document should be considered at every stage of the editorial process. They should not be dismissed as being mere design elements, or someone else’s responsibility. When authors and editors ensure that figures and text work together effectively, they are a powerful tool for communication.

Liz Jones has been an editor since 1998, and has worked on thousands of projects, involving millions of words and a whole host of other variables. She specialises in highly illustrated non-fiction for a range of clients, and also works as a commissioning editor on the CIEP information team.

 


Photo credits: flowers by Edward Howell; chart by Isaac Smith, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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