Author Archives: Harriet Power

An author’s experience of being edited

Aaron Wilkes is a prolific school textbook author. In this blog post, he talks about his experiences of being edited and shares the things that have made the editing process easier for him.

I’ve been in the ‘writing game’ for quite some time now, perhaps nearly 20 years, and I’ve been either the sole author, co-author or ‘series editor’ for over 80 student textbooks, revision guides and online resources, from Key Stages 1 to 4. I’m a history teacher by trade – it was my full-time job up to a few years ago – but, in my spare time, I’ve written for Stanley Thornes (that then became Nelson Thornes), Folens and, most recently (for the last ten years), Oxford University Press. Over the years, I’ve worked with lots of editors, both in-house and freelance, and thought I’d share my experiences of being edited and how some editors have really helped make the whole editing process easier (or in some cases, harder).

Friendly introductions

Firstly, it’s just really nice to get a friendly introductory email. I don’t expect War and Peace, but a simple ‘Hi, I’m … and I’ll be working on … etc, etc’ with a phone number is always appreciated. A quick chat over the phone can be lovely too. In fact, a quick chat is often worth its weight in gold because it gives me a chance to put a ‘voice’ to the comments and feedback I’ll get.

Now I completely understand that both writers and editors are really busy, but sometimes it can be helpful to just have a 10–15-minute conversation about things. I’m sure we’ve all received text messages that we’ve looked at and thought ‘I’m not sure how to take that’. It can be the same with feedback on manuscripts. Depending on the day I’m having, the feedback can sometimes be taken ‘wrongly’. This is where an initial chat on the phone can help, just so I feel more familiar with the editor and ‘get them’ a bit more. Writing is quite a lonely profession – you tend to sit on your own, in the quiet, for long periods of time – and when it comes to making revisions, the offer of a chat is sometimes really nice.

I’ve been working with an editor who is new to the team at OUP and she always signs off her emails by saying if you don’t want to spend lots of time answering via email, just give me a call and we’ll chat things through. Most of the time I respond by email, but sometimes it’s really nice to talk. Open lines of communication are a really important part of the process.

Woman talking on a mobile phone at her office desk

Solution-focused feedback

Another part of the process that I really value is the way I get my feedback. Personally, I don’t mind at all if an editor makes minor changes (though I still want Track Changes to show me what they are!). I write lots of words that make up lots of sentences, so will sometimes mess up the way I structure a sentence, or simply ‘overwrite’ something that can be expressed more succinctly. The editors I find easiest to work with simply fix these problems with minimal fuss. I like it when that happens – I trust the editor to get that right. And when I’ve had a conversation with the editor already, when I’ve chatted on the phone, it makes me value their changes more because I think that they understand me a little.

With slightly larger changes, in my opinion, the best editors are the ones that help you out! They throw me a bone when something reads a little ‘off’. I might have pored over the paragraph for over an hour, and in my eyes I’ve made it as good as it can be. If an editor thinks there should be a change to the ‘thrust’ or shape of the paragraph (or perhaps the whole spread itself), it is so incredibly helpful if they help out a little and shape it how they want to. It’s so nice when I read in the comments at the side of a Word document, ‘I think this might read a little better like this: [and then they construct, or part-construct the text] – have a look and let me know what you think.’ Most times I will just accept these changes.

Feedback that doesn’t overwhelm

When I get an edited manuscript back it’s usually accompanied by a load of mark-ups and comments via Track Changes. If there are loads of comments and changes – and the manuscript is awash with different coloured text where revisions have been made – it can be a little daunting (and demoralising). In recent years, I have asked my editors to clean it up a little before I get it back. Especially if the manuscript has gone to two or more people, and they’ve all made comments – do I really need to see the whole discussion? As I mentioned before, I’m happy for the changes to be made and sent back to me for a final ‘yes’ (it’s nearly always ‘yes’).

In a similar vein, feedback from OUP arrives in two forms – and I like it. The manuscript is edited and I get feedback via comments and Track Changes. All good. Then, at the next stage (when the first proof is ready), I get a ‘queries grid’, which is a Word document that acts as a conversation between reviewer, editor(s) and me. This is the part of the process that is sometimes done over the phone, and is where the quality of the relationship between editor and author is important. These grids are used to track decisions made together about queries.

Typewriter typing the text "rewrite... edit... rewrite... edit... rewrite"

Concrete examples

Another particularly powerful idea is to actually show an author the direction you want them to go in. I’ve just undertaken a new project in which the style of writing is a little different to what I’m used to. The editor simply exemplified what was required – she gave a WAGOLL. This is something that most teachers are familiar with – What A Good One Looks Like. I think this is key for getting the best out of an author – model what you want them to do.

I think this is especially important with new authors. I regard myself as a bit of an ‘old lag’ now. It’s never my first rodeo when I get a new book contract, but I know (because they’ve told me) that new authors find it really helpful to be shown what needs to be done. I’m not entirely sure that sending them a ten-page document covering what needs to be included is particularly helpful – it’s just a ‘wall of words’ – so in my experience the most productive new author meetings are the ones where you sit round a table (or on Teams) and have an experienced author come up with five, eight or ten top tips or ‘golden rules’ for writing spreads. I’ve done this several times with new author teams where I’ve sat with them and explained how a spread is formed and how the process works for me.


I enjoy and value working with editors, and have always embraced the process. I’ve become really friendly with several editors, and have even phoned them to pick their brains on little issues that have cropped up when working on other projects. To their credit, they have always been most helpful, and I have returned the favour several times when I’ve been contacted by editors who wanted a chat about something that they were struggling to get their head around. I realise that every editor–author relationship will be different, but I hope the things that have helped the editing process to go more smoothly for me might help other editors and writers out there too.

About Aaron Wilkes

Headshot of Aaron WilkesAaron Wilkes has over 20 years’ experience in teaching history and writing school textbooks. During this time he’s written or contributed to over 80 textbooks, revision guides and online resources. He leads the PGCE Secondary History course at the University of Warwick and is the co-creator and owner of the online history journal practicalhistories.com.

 

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: pencils by Agence Olloweb on Unsplash, woman on phone by Vlada Karpovich, typewriter by Suzy Hazelwood, both on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Flying Solo: Facts for fiction editors

In this Flying Solo column, Sue Littleford looks at how the Going Solo toolkit’s work record spreadsheet can be modified for use by fiction editors, and finds out how three fiction editors keep records about their work.

Fiction editors can’t avoid diving into non-fiction when they’re running their businesses rather than editing. The Going Solo toolkit’s work record spreadsheet (available as a member benefit – you’ll need to be logged in to the CIEP website to download it) is heavily geared towards the kind of breakdown of jobs that a non-fiction editor will find useful. Those categories don’t really work for fiction editing, beyond word count, time taken and fee charged, so I’ve been talking to three fiction editors about their own record-keeping.

Why keep records about completed work?

Editors and proofreaders in all niches need to keep track of their work and the time it takes them if they’re to have a solid basis from which to calculate quotes of cost and time. In June 2021, I looked at how to use the filter with a spreadsheet of data about the work you’ve done to get the best use of it when it comes to preparing a new quote or estimate.

Another benefit of compiling records of your work (for CIEP members and prospective members) is that you can send in a spreadsheet of the relevant details with an upgrade application instead of having to type out everything again on the application form, and it’s easy to see when you’ve achieved the necessary hours of experience.

But the main and ongoing benefit is not having to snatch figures out of the air when it comes to your pricing, and knowing the answer to the eternal question ‘How long will it take?’ You can also see if you’re getting faster or slower overall, see the impact using a new tool makes on your speeds (or a change in the material you’re working with) and, especially with repeat clients, ensure consistency in your pricing approach, and see how jobs from a particular source compare.

If you provide several services – manuscript assessment, development editing, structural editing, line editing, copyediting, proofreading – you can also see which is the most rewarding in a financial sense, which gives you best return for your time, and it helps you to tailor bundles of services at a sensible price for your business.

And now, a warning! You may be tempted to keep minimal records, perhaps just your invoices, but you really should be keeping full records: anyone planning on upgrading (and all members will need to achieve PM status to remain in the Institute, which means applying for at least one upgrade: see p4 of the Member Handbook for time limits) will need a record of the work they’ve done to show that they have the requisite hours of the right type.

In addition, in the UK, you will need to be able to show HMRC evidence of the hours you work, in order to support your calculations for tax relief on the costs of working at home. If you live (or at least pay tax) elsewhere, be sure to check your own country’s requirements – but if you still have CIEP upgrades to do, you’ll need your breakdown of hours worked available and categorised.

Facts for fiction editors is definitely A Thing!

Three editors, three approaches to record-keeping

Here’s how three editors handle their records.

1. Going Solo toolkit with modifications

Now an editor of fiction and creative non-fiction, APM Jill French started her business mainly focused on non-fiction, and finds the Going Solo toolkit’s work record spreadsheet works well for her way of thinking, with the addition of ‘manuscript assessment’ as a category of work. Each round of editing the same book is logged as a separate job, which gives her enough data to analyse when it comes to pricing another job of the same stage.

2. Combining two off-the-shelf systems

IM Katherine Kirk uses both the work record from the Going Solo toolkit and Maya Berger’s TEA system (CIEP member discount available). Katherine is working towards PM status and finds the analysis and tracking offered in the jobs spreadsheet helps her to maintain a good record to support her application in due course. But she finds that TEA works better for her for financial records, and so she maintains both, having simply hidden the columns that are irrelevant to her business (columns N–S from the Going Solo spreadsheet).

Katherine uses the average words per hour for that particular kind of work to inform her estimates, but, depending on the client, may also do a sample edit to check. She records these sample edits in TEA in order to be prepared if that client comes back. If the client doesn’t return, Katherine has data ready to hand on the price she quoted, and can see what impact changing the price has on landing the client.

3. Tailored record-keeping

Nicky Taylor, an APM, has developed her own record-keeping system over the years. Like Jill, she records each type of work for the same book as separate jobs, so a development edit and a copyedit get their own rows in her spreadsheet.

Nicky said to me, ‘Looking at all my data made me realise that manuscript critiques on their own were simply not financially viable, so I stopped offering that service; if I hadn’t recorded everything, I doubt I would have known.’ Music to my ears about the real-world value of keeping business data.

For a development edit, Nicky records the onboarding time, reading time, report-writing time; for a copy- or line edit, she will record the time spent on each pass – she always does a full read-through and two passes, and has a column in her spreadsheet for each of these.

Included in her records are columns for pre-returning the job, which covers time for checking comments, checking over the style sheet and completing the handover tasks. Another column captures the time spent on post-edit revisions, post-edit discussions with the author, and emails. If a PDF conversion or layout work is required, this time also goes into that post-edit column.

Most of the time, the production of the style sheet is absorbed into the two passes, but may be recorded separately if the occasion demands. Production of a bible, perhaps for a planned series, will be logged separately.

Nicky includes an ‘Other’ column in her spreadsheet for different kinds of jobs, such as consultancy and other requests, recording the exact nature in the job description column. Like Katherine, Nicky also uses TEA for her financials.

The Going Solo toolkit: Work record spreadsheet

The CIEP has decided to follow Jill’s recommendation, and has added manuscript assessment to the dropdown list of types of work, which would include the kinds of tasks covered by Nicky’s ‘Other’ column. If you’re already using the spreadsheet and would like to add this to your own records, you can either download the new version (be sure to be logged in to the CIEP website first) and copy your records across, or extend that dropdown list yourself. It’s easy!

NB: All screenshots show Excel 365 on a PC. The instructions apply to PCs but Microsoft tells me they also work for Macs.

1. Select column ‘Type of work’ by clicking on the column header (D), which turns the column grey. A black down-arrow shows when your cursor is in the right position to select.

2. On the Data tab …

… open Data Validation in the Data Tools group by clicking the little down-arrow:

3. Select Data Validation from the dropdown menu:

4. You’ll see this:

Click Yes.

5. You’ll see this:

Now you can type a comma, a space and MA into the end of the Source box.

Check the ‘Apply these changes to all other cells with the same settings’ box if you’ve added other tabs that have this same list, otherwise you can leave it blank.

It will look like this:

Click on OK.

You’re done! You can now use the new code, and you can, if you like, add others that suit the work you do. You might want to add consultancy as a category, for instance, if that makes sense for the work you do. You don’t have to use codes – you could spell out the entire word, or use a fuller abbreviation. Once you’ve got the hang of this, you can personalise your spreadsheet exactly as you like. That said …

Four reminders

Reminder #1

The Admissions Panel explained to me, when I was developing the Going Solo toolkit, that they want to see your copyediting and proofreading hours on your upgrade application, so remember to keep recording these clearly and separately, no matter what else you decide to record.

Reminder #2

If you’re not sure how to get the best use of the data you’ve gone to the trouble of collecting, see my earlier ‘Flying solo’ post on using the filter functions.

Reminder #3

The sooner you start keeping detailed records, the sooner you’ll have compiled a useful bank of data to help with price and time estimation for new jobs.

Reminder #4

If you’re inspired by Nicky’s level of detail, don’t forget that you can continue to personalise your own copy of the Going Solo toolkit work record. Inserting additional columns is easy!

1. Click on the column letter immediately to the right of where you want to insert a new column.

Here, I’ve highlighted column I – see the colour change where the column’s label is, and the column itself has turned grey.

2. Right-click, then select Insert and a column will arrive between, in this example, Author name(s) and Total time taken (hours).

3. … and you will get this:

4. The Author name(s) column is still H, but Total time taken (hours) is now column J and we have a new, blank column I. Type in the name you want for the heading. Repeat as often as you need to add new columns, always clicking at the head of the column to the right of where you want to add a new one.

5. Columns in the wrong order? Move them with cut and paste. The column will always paste in to the left of where you click, as creating the new column did.

6. Unneeded columns? Instead of clicking on Insert, click on Delete if you’re sure you don’t want that column, or Hide, if you think you may need it at some point. (To unhide, select the columns on either side of the hidden column(s) and right-click; click on Unhide.)


Buy a print copy or download the second edition of Going Solo: Creating your freelance editorial business from here.

About Sue Littleford

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

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: office desk by Jessica Lewis Creative, laptop by Karolina Grabowska, both on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Working through the (peri)menopause

Recently I put out a call in the CIEP forums for people to submit their experiences of working through the menopause, and the perimenopause (the years leading up to the menopause). This post is a collection of those responses, with some links to helpful resources at the end.

Coping with menopause

Menopause is a subject that’s being talked about increasingly in the context of work: in the media, and by employers and the government. It’s a major change to go through, and for many people – both those to whom it is happening, and their family, friends and colleagues – it presents significant challenges that require lifestyle adjustments.

The contributions I received are published here anonymously. The public conversations that are happening now are obviously a good thing, because they help to remove the stigma surrounding menopause, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that some of the symptoms can make aspects of full-time working more difficult. It’s clear that for now it’s still easier to discuss menopause confidentially in a professional context – none of us can afford for our clients to think we’re giving anything less than our best.

The responses below share some common themes. There are physical symptoms, as well as mental and emotional ones – with some better known and understood than others. All can make work more challenging. For those of us who work for ourselves, we at least have the option of managing our time differently to cope, to some extent. But more understanding of the difficulties faced at this time can only benefit all of us. It’s also refreshing to read of the positives that can arise from this life stage … and of course, some are lucky enough to suffer few negative symptoms at all.

After the testimonies, there are links to sources of more information on (peri)menopause.

Personal experiences

The effects of ‘emotional disinhibition’

I’m having quite a late menopause – I’ve just turned 58 and was still having regular periods until about a year ago, which of course was in the middle of the pandemic. So it’s really difficult to disentangle the physical and psychological effects of increasing age (including lingering pension-age-change trauma), hormonal changes and lockdown stress. In relation to work, the biggest combined impact has been on my energy levels, my ability to concentrate for long periods and my motivation. I’m working very much part-time and I haven’t accepted any full-length books for well over a year because I know I just can’t manage them at the moment (whether this is temporary or permanent, I do not know); luckily, though, I’ve been getting enough shorter jobs to get by on.

Another change I’ve noticed is what you might call ‘emotional disinhibition’, which I suspect can be put down to hormones. This has caused constructive chaos in some specific pre-Covid overcommitments in my personal life, but, so far, no clients or colleagues have been exposed to it. I suppose that might eventually happen, but I am inclined not to care: whoever provokes it is likely going to deserve whatever they get.

Physically, apart from energy etc, and the odd hot flash, I’m just dealing with the fact that my periods are currently entirely unpredictable in all respects. In that context, and overall, I’m really grateful at this point that I am working at home and managing my own time. I just stop when I need to and transfer to the sofa via the kettle. I can’t help thinking of some of my previous jobs in which this whole process would have been much harder to cope with.

Enjoying the pleasant warmth!

I noticed not the slightest difference … all I had (and we’re looking at 20 years ago, now) was the occasional warm flush (very pleasant indeed) and no other effects that I was aware of. So I just carried on as usual. 🙂

Living with disturbed sleep patterns

I started experiencing symptoms of perimenopause around five years ago. The most significant symptom – and the one that had the greatest effect on my work – was insomnia. Although I usually didn’t have difficulty falling asleep, I would keep waking at 2am, heart and mind racing, often drenched in sweat, and be unable to get back to sleep again. The next day, exhaustion, brain fog and sometimes a throbbing headache would make it difficult to concentrate, and my efficiency and accuracy in editorial tasks suffered as a result.

The two GPs I had during this time offered no support, dismissing me as being ‘too young’ for menopause (meaning under 50) and suggesting that I should improve my sleep hygiene and perhaps try antidepressants. I resolved to educate myself as much as possible about how best to manage the menopause transition. Fortunately, I could take advantage of the burgeoning number of books, websites, videos, podcasts, blogs etc in the past few years that provide evidence-based information about the perimenopause and menopause. Often, just knowing I wasn’t alone in having myriad ‘weird’ symptoms was a great comfort.

Although none of my clients knew anything of what I was going through, I had to make various adjustments to my work schedule. For example, I used to do an hour or two of editing in the evening, but have since cut that out; now the hour before bedtime is reserved for ‘winding down’, such as doing gentle yoga, meditating and listening to music. The elimination of evening work has forced me to become more efficient and focused earlier in the day, which is a benefit overall. I have also become more choosy in the kinds of jobs I accept, opting for those with greater flexibility – such as more journal articles and fewer books, more proofreading and less substantive editing – and trying to negotiate more generous timeframes for projects where possible. This has led to a decrease in business income for a couple of years, but I needed to respect what my body and mind could cope with at the time; besides, taking on the same volume and types of work as I did pre-menopause would almost certainly have meant lower quality of output.

Now postmenopausal, I have found a gynaecologist who is willing to trial hormone therapy with me, and it is working quite well to alleviate the insomnia and relieve other symptoms including hot flushes, water retention, skin itching and joint pain. The prescription costs are significant but worth it for the much-improved functioning and restored productivity. I am aiming to gradually scale up my workload as I feel better physically and mentally.

Finding ways to cope with a range of symptoms

My experience with working through the (peri)menopause is very recent, and started with a bang and not a whimper. I was on my daily walk, back in March, when I was suddenly breathless, my heart was racing, and I thought I was having a heart attack. After months of tests, observations and specialists, we have come to the conclusion that my racing heart is the by-product of hormonal fluctuations – perimenopause.

Looking back, I did have other symptoms, which I discounted as regular steps in the ageing process: sore joints, itchy skin, tinnitus, hot flushes, extreme tiredness, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating and breathlessness when exercising. I found out my body – a woman’s body – has oestrogen receptors all over, in my ears, eyes, skin, other organs (heart) and gastrointestinal tract. Oestrogen also plays a role in maintaining the cardiovascular and central nervous systems, and regulating bone density, brain function and cholesterol levels. So when oestrogen levels drop, it can play havoc with almost every system.

The symptoms that most bother me are the racing heart, and the forgetfulness and trouble concentrating. I’ve taken a multipronged approach to dealing with these symptoms. I take medication that slows my heart rate (which unfortunately also makes me more forgetful), and I have started hormone replacement therapy to deal with the heart and the other symptoms. I have also stepped back to part-time work so that I can go to the gym and exercise for one to one and a half hours each day.

It is early days, but I think the combination of medical intervention and exercise is starting to help.

I am also changing how I work, to address the issues of concentration and editing accuracy. I’m updating and expanding the checklists that I use when editing and proofreading, to make sure I don’t forget any steps in my editing process. I’m using software tools and macros more frequently in my editorial practice. For example, I use PerfectIt at the start and at the end of an editing job, to help make sure I pick up on any inconsistencies in the documents I’m editing. I also work for shorter periods of time, 45 minutes to an hour, and then take a 15-minute break, and I work shorter days. I don’t get as much work done each day, but I am more confident that the work I do complete is of the professional standard that I expect of myself.

I’ve heard that perimenopause can last for years. I’m prepared to continue changing my approach as my hormones continue to change. I do hope though that once they settle down, it comes as less of a shock than when it started.

Understanding menopause as a process of transition

The further you go into the perimenopause the more you realise it’s a transition. By necessity, you must change your previous habits because they probably won’t work for you any more. For me, gone are the days when I could keep 20 things in my head at once. After having kids, I thought I was exhausted, but at least I could work for hours on end, given the chance. Now I am too tired all the time to do that. I also have to make sure I have back-up, mostly in the form of detailed lists, so I don’t forget things. I have to take longer breaks from work during the week, and have a proper weekend. I really can’t take too much on, and this is a change from before.

Fifteen years ago, I could exercise for long periods. I gave that up as I realised that my body wasn’t springing back from the exercise I was doing. I was getting injured. My joints were suffering. I had resigned myself to brisk walking for the rest of my life, but just recently I’ve discovered that a really short run every day perks me up but doesn’t injure me. (So far.) I’ve also started taking a dip in the sea now and then, and I’m hoping to make more of a habit of this, because the shock of the cold (and it is cold) resets your body for a time. When I go down to the beach it’s mostly ‘ladies of a certain age’ that I see in their swimsuits, and I’m just beginning to grasp why. You find new ways to be. You do what helps.

So it’s a cliché but you have to listen to your body and you have to look after yourself. It’s no good fighting it. Work with it and watch to see what you’ll become. I felt grief when I realised my young self was gone, but being older makes me feel more connected to other people and makes me appreciate the smaller, everyday things.

Two women walking down to a beach

Dealing with sudden menopause

Thank goodness the menopause conversation is finally public. It felt like the last big taboo only two years ago. And I’m glad to see this discussion in editorial circles – I hoped it would come soon.

Before I started my editorial business, I had left full-time employment and started some part-time casual work while deciding on my next move. Once I’d decided on proofreading and editing, I joined the CIEP and started training and getting editorial experience. So far so good …

Unfortunately, I was advised that I needed an emergency full hysterectomy in the early part of the pandemic. It turned out that this was absolutely the right decision, so phew. The flip side of this was, of course, being propelled into surgical menopause. So I had no perimenopause to speak of – just a very sudden onset of various physical and mental issues, which I’ve had to tackle without HRT for medical reasons. My recovery from surgery was fairly straightforward. The difficult part was after those first few weeks. My biggest and most persistent problem is poor sleep – this affects my mental focus, decision-making and energy levels, and means that I can’t progress individual editing projects or my business or my training as fast as I would like. It is very hard to accept a certain level of reduced output each day, but I have no choice. It’s an ongoing battle to build and sustain a sense of myself as a new business owner, a new freelancer, a new editor, and a woman newly coping with menopause. Lots of emotional stuff. Some days I feel very lost, negative or angry; some days are middling, just plodding along OK; other days there are rewarding highs when I feel confident, liberated, and that I can actually do this.

What helps me to cope? First and foremost, a supportive partner and enough funds between us to weather this – I have no idea how I’d be surviving financially if it wasn’t for him. (And I doubt I could still function in my former full-time job, either.) I’ve also got family and friends who I can talk to openly, and I had good support from my NHS surgical team. Beyond that, I’ve had to find resilience at much deeper levels than I’d been aware of previously. I’ve read carefully chosen, reliable sources to learn about menopause. I’ve had to get much more practical and concrete about self-care. I take daily non-prescription supplements approved by my surgeon. The privacy and flexibility of freelancing from home has certainly made some things easier and less stressful to manage. Being a member of the CIEP has been a supportive lifeline in so many ways. On a more fundamental level, I am motivated by enjoying the learning and the work – because I still feel I’ve chosen the right new profession for me.

For anyone who’s not yet at this stage in their life, I would encourage you to learn about menopause now so you’ll have some idea of what’s going on and be able to plan your life accordingly. And for those who won’t personally go through it, learn about it so that you’ll understand your loved ones’ experiences.

Managing mood swings

Over the last three years, the peri symptoms I’ve grown most concerned about are the mood swings, irritation and anxiety that get worse in the final half of my cycle (or they did until my cycle started skipping months). I didn’t want these symptoms to adversely affect my clients or the people I teach and tutor online, or my family and friends. My doctor suggested meditation first thing in the morning, and yoga in the evenings as well as anti-anxiety medication.

I keep a daily work diary and mark off the ‘danger’ weeks that come once I notice the signs of ovulation. I use Post-it notes as they can be moved around the diary or to the edge of my computer screen: WATCH 4 SNARKY. They may need to become a permanent fixture now.

The positives of menopause

I am unreservedly happy to have menopaused. I don’t mean I’m glad I’m past that time that’s called the menopause or perimenopause. I mean I rejoice in the knowledge that I need never again have to menstruate or worry about contraception. I feel free, and well, in a way I never did before.

I don’t remember what work I was doing when I realised that unless I came off the pill I wouldn’t know when my periods would have stopped. I know that that concern, and dealing with it, didn’t affect my work. Earlier in my life, period pains had most definitely affected my concentration.

Finding renewed purpose

Looking back, I’m convinced that I’ve been experiencing perimenopausal symptoms for the last few years (I’m in my mid-forties), but I’ve only been fully aware that’s what they are for about the last 18 months. I got very depressed, and like so many people, I was initially put on antidepressants. Gradually I began to realise, with the help of my partner, that it might be menopause-related (waking up every night covered in sweat was a major clue), and I asked my doctor for HRT. Fortunately, he prescribed it for me straight away. I know I was lucky. I was able to come off the antidepressants after that.

Since I started taking HRT I have tried various doses and types, and now I seem to have a combination that works. I have few night sweats, not many hot flushes, and my moods are more stable. (Until we got the dose right, I was still suffering from terrible, black moods in the week or so before my period, and immense tiredness.) As well as the HRT, I eat quite healthily, don’t drink alcohol, have reduced my caffeine consumption, and exercise regularly (walking, running and yoga), which all seems to help a bit. I can completely understand why so many relationships falter around this time. Mine almost did, but my partner has been really supportive.

A woman sitting on a mat doing yoga

Cutting back on work is not an option, and won’t be for the foreseeable future. I am fortunate in that I have not yet felt the need to do that. The symptoms so far have affected my personal life much more than my working life, although at certain times I must remind myself not to take perceived criticism of my work personally. I do have more problems with memory than I used to, but it’s unclear how much this is to do with menopause and how much is to do with ageing in general, and also the collective trauma we have all been through in the last couple of years. The memory problems tend to be about remembering what I went upstairs for rather than anything that affects my editorial work, which I am thankful for.

In terms of work, I am really happy that a more positive conversation is happening about the menopause. People going through the menopause might suffer some debilitating symptoms, but in so many other ways they are at the height of their powers, professionally speaking, with decades of experience to draw on, and often a renewed sense of purpose and energy. Personally, I feel more at peace with myself than ever, and like I have so much to offer. In some ways I feel as if I am just getting started.


Resources

NHS – Menopause: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/

British Menopause Society: https://thebms.org.uk/

CIPD – The menopause at work: https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/culture/well-being/menopause/printable-resources#gref

Talking Menopause: https://www.talkingmenopause.co.uk/resources

About Liz DalbyHeadshot of Liz Dalby

Liz has been an editor since 1998, and freelance since 2008. She runs Responsive Editing, offering editorial services to publishers, businesses and other organisations, as well as academics and self-publishing authors. She also works on the CIEP’s information team.

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: clouds by eberhard grossgasteiger, beach by Rachel Claire, yoga by Marcus Aurelius, all on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Levelling up style sheets for role-playing games and fiction

The style sheet is an essential part of any copyeditor’s arsenal. In this post, Rachel Lapidow explains how she expands her style sheets to help her edit complex role-playing games. Though some of the extra sections she adds are designed specifically for RPGs, they could be useful for fiction too.

I love creating style sheets for projects; in fact, it is one of my favourite parts of copyediting. This is fortunate because the style sheet for my current project, a 600-page role-playing game (RPG), is over 60 pages long.

When I was first learning how to be a copyeditor, I took a certificate programme online through the University of California, San Diego. One of my instructors gave us a style sheet template, and over the years, I’ve modified and added my own categories to that template.

I’ll be discussing how I set up certain aspects of the style sheets that I use for RPGs in the hopes that you may find some of these sections useful for your own projects, including non-RPG works. Some of these I learned from fellow editors, and some are my own invention.

One of the best tips I can give when dealing with a longer style sheet is to make use of Microsoft Word’s Styles section (I’m assuming that Google Docs and other word processing programs have something similar). When you click on the Home tab in Word, you will see the Styles box to the right-hand side. By using different styles for your headings and subheadings, you will be able to use the Navigation pane. Open the Navigation pane by hitting Ctrl+F and selecting the Headings tab. By using different levels of headings, you will be able to nest subheadings under headings. This will allow you to easily navigate to different sections of the style sheet without having to scroll or search.

One, two, or hyphenated words

I spend a lot of time checking to see if words should be hyphenated, one word or two words. On the advice of another editor, I created a separate section of my style sheets to list those words and phrases. Anything that I need to look up in The Chicago Manual of Style hyphenation table or the dictionary is included. I list the word(s) along with what part of speech it is – adjective, noun, verb, etc. Plenty of words are open in one instance but closed in another (eg ‘take out’ as a verb, ‘takeout’ when referring to a food order).

Abbreviations/acronyms

RPGs, especially militaristic RPGs, tend to have a lot of acronyms in them. Many of these will exist outside the game, like VTOL (vertical take-off and landing), and a number of them will be unique to the game, such as the names of guilds, armed forces, fictional companies, etc. When proofreading the encyclopedia for a video game series, the acronym section included things like HEDP (high-explosive, dual-purpose) and MARFOR (Marine Corps Forces). There were simply too many abbreviations and acronyms to remember. By listing them all in one place, I saved myself a lot of time instead of having to look up each instance.

Italicised words

Vessels, like ships, planes and spacecraft, are often in italics, depending on what style guide you are following. So too are the names of magazines, newspapers, plays and movies, whether or not these works exist only within the RPG. It’s far too easy to miss a name that should be in italics. By listing all italicised words together, I’m less likely to pass over a term that should be in italics.

Role-playing dice and character sheet

Game mechanics

Should game terms, like character attributes, skills, spells and more, be capitalised? Should they be in bold font? Should these terms be in italics or quotation marks? Here’s the place to record that information. For example, in the game I’m currently editing, character attributes (the qualities of a character) like Awareness and Physique are capitalised. In a game like Dungeons & Dragons, spell names, for example cure wounds, are written in lowercase italics. For the current game I’m working on, I have a section that lists all the attributes and skill sets so I know how those terms need to be formatted.

Characters

Here’s where to list details about characters, historical figures and divine entities in the RPG. If given, I will note a character’s pronouns, age, physical appearance, location, unique traits and relationship with other characters. An entry may be just a few words for a background character to as much as several paragraphs for a character who drives a lot of the plot. There have been instances where a character has been misgendered or their name has been misspelled. By referring to my character section, I help ensure that characters appear and behave consistently throughout the RPG.

Locations

For the game I’m currently working on, there are towns and cities spread across an entire planet, but that planet is just one place inhabited by humans. In the world of the RPG, people live on multiple planets, moons and space stations located within two solar systems – so it’s easy to forget where places are in relation to each other. Because earlier versions of this game have been published, I was able to copy and paste a map of one of the planets into my style sheet. In addition to this map, I have created a list of towns, cities and settlements. I like to add the key features of each town, its population if known, and any nearby geographic features.

A dragon sitting on top of a building breathing fire

Timeline

Creating a timeline for my current project was a considerable upfront time investment, but it’s helped me so much to keep track of when major and minor events happened. Because of the game’s sprawling nature, I’ve also colour-coded entries depending on where they occurred. I’ve caught a number of errors in the manuscript because of this timeline, such as events happening in a city that hasn’t yet been discovered or settled. I use Microsoft Word’s highlighting ability to indicate certain planets, moons and continents. When I ran out of colours (there are a lot of locations) I used coloured typefaces. Another option is to enter your timeline into an Excel spreadsheet. This allows you to easily sort by year, place or some other attribute.

And then of course the style sheet includes more standard sections, such as punctuation, spellings, how bullet lists are treated, how numbers are dealt with, etc.

I hope you’ve found this article helpful and that you’ll find one of these sections worth incorporating into your next style sheet. In a full circle moment, one of my instructors from UC San Diego asked me to share one of my RPG style sheets for her to use in her class. It’s a bit surreal to imagine future copyeditors looking at a style sheet I created while they’re learning how to utilise this tool. But it’s also pretty darn cool.

About Rachel LapidowHeadshot of Rachel Lapidow

Rachel Lapidow is a freelance copyeditor and proofreader who works on RPGs, board games, comics, manga and fiction. Visit her website at www.rachellapidow.com.

 

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: blue and gold role-playing dice by Timothy Dykes, role-playing dice and character sheet by Gian Luca-Riner, dragon by Jimmy Blackwell, all on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

A week in the life of a freelance editorial project manager

What does editorial project management actually involve and where do copyeditors and proofreaders fit into the process? In this post, Julia Sandford-Cooke describes some of the typical tasks she undertakes as a freelance editorial project manager working on educational projects.

The week begins with a review of my To Do list and a check of schedules because To Do lists and schedules are at the core of editorial project management. I’m currently an editorial project manager (EPM) on two large educational projects and I spend a lot of time checking, updating, ticking off and fretting about dates. These days, the scheduling software Smartsheet defines the work of the whole team; some projects have five or six separate schedules for different components, all feeding into each other, dates turning red if one of those components begins to run late.

In fact, if you run your own editorial business you’ll already have skills in getting tasks done on time and within budget for external clients.

I’m drawing attention to this straight away because newer editors sometimes feel that they lack the experience to take on a project management role, that they don’t have the right qualifications or enough in-depth knowledge of how publishing works. But, looking back at my early days as an editorial assistant at an educational publisher, I realise that I’ve been a project manager for most of my career – certainly before I began to define myself as a hands-on ‘editorial professional’. If you’re able to organise, schedule and write polite emails, you’re halfway there – in-house experience isn’t necessary, although admittedly it can make finding project management work easier, not least because of the network of contacts you’ll have built.

What does an EPM do?

So what do I do in a typical week? Well, it depends on the project – I work in educational publishing and a teacher resource is quite different to an online lesson or a printed textbook – but, in general, an EPM is expected to:

  • maintain schedules
  • keep track of spending, including maintaining budget records and raising purchase orders for freelance work
  • commission freelancers, such as copyeditors, proofreaders, fact-checkers and indexers
  • communicate with typesetters or digital teams and make sure they follow the brief and stick to the schedules
  • keep the client informed of progress, via emails and meetings (yes, an EPM does have to be prepared to attend and contribute to weekly or fortnightly video meetings)
  • collate proof comments from the project team – it’s not uncommon to bring together and streamline corrections and queries from the publisher’s content manager, designer and commissioning editor, the awarding body (if the resource is being endorsed), the proofreader, the author, the fact-checker and an internal peer checker, all within a single PDF proof.

I have to fit all this in among other, smaller, editing and proofreading jobs for other clients – yes, back to scheduling again!

Who do EPMs work for?

Most EPMs either work directly with a publisher or – more often these days – work for a ‘packager’ or publishing agency that is contracted with the publisher and completes the projects using a mixture of their own employees and freelancers like me. Examples of UK-based educational publishing agencies (who, incidentally, all have friendly and supportive staff) are Haremi, Just Content and Newgen.

EPMs may be given a company email address while they work on their projects, which I have to admit goes against my sense of being a self-employed person with my own brand identity. However, it does reinforce a feeling of teamwork with colleagues on the project – whether in-house or freelance – and means that people you contact know which business you are representing.

Typical task: commissioning and briefing freelancers

Which brings me to today’s pressing task. I need to commission a proofreader to start next week. As a freelancer myself, I know that ideally jobs should be arranged a few weeks in advance but, of course, the unexpected often happens – projects run late, someone gets Covid – so unfortunately I’m finding it a challenge to identify someone suitable at short notice. I prefer to use an editorial professional who I know will do a good job, who I’ve worked with before or who is recommended by a colleague. When I was looking for an indexer, a team member said, ‘Use this person – she’s awesome!’ And indeed she was. That’s the sort of recommendation project managers look for, and that gets freelancers repeat work.

In this case, the proofreader also has to fulfil certain criteria. They must:

  • have access to, and have previously used, the client publisher’s online systems. Getting set up is a long and complicated business, even before you are confronted with what could be a new and bewildering interface, and time is not on our side.
  • be on the packager’s freelance database. This means they’ve (probably) passed the editorial test, signed a confidentiality agreement and been added to the finance systems so that a purchase order can be raised and they can invoice.

I only contact one person at a time – it’s probably not the most efficient way of working but I don’t want to ask several people and then have to let them down in the admittedly unlikely event of them all being available for the job. It’s made me realise, with my freelance editor hat (tiara?) on, that EPMs value a quick response, whether it’s yes or no, so that they can keep their project moving.

I have adapted the brief to meet the needs of this resource and contact three potential proofreaders. The first is too busy, the second will be on holiday and the third is going on maternity leave. I make a cup of coffee and collate some proofs while I consider who to contact next.

Typical task: collating proofs

This is one of my favourite jobs, especially now it’s done on PDF on my screen and not on a desk covered in reams of A3 pages from five different sources. It’s where my editorial skills come in handy, as I assess all the comments, take out duplications and make a judgement on which corrections to ask the typesetter to make. As I work through, I compile a query log where, for example, the fact-checker has raised author queries or where the designer and the content manager of the publisher have suggested different solutions to overmatter. I upload the PDF and query log to their online system and let the content manager know it’s ready for her to check. She is very efficient so I know she will consider it carefully and get back to me with any questions.

Typical task: checking a digital project

Now I need to check that corrections have been made to my other project, a digital resource, so I log out of one system and log into another. This type of resource is new territory for the whole team so there’s been a constant stream of online messages as colleagues ask for advice. Digital projects will become more common as publishers innovate to meet the needs of the market (in this case, blending remote and classroom learning), and publishing agencies often put out requests for people with skills and experience in digital publishing and associated platforms. Freelancers who have worked on this project and others like it – whether over the longer term as EPMs, or on specific tasks such as proofreading – will be in demand for similar jobs in the future.


Editorial project management can be tiring, frustrating and stressful. On the other hand, it’s exciting and satisfying to see a project through, to watch it develop and to help shape it to be as good as it can be for the market and for the client. If you like a challenge – and what editorial professional doesn’t? – and, of course, if you thrive on schedules and To Do lists, it’s definitely worth considering. Check out the CIEP’s Editorial Project Management course if you want to learn more.

About Julia-Sandford CookeJulia Sandford-Cooke

Julia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications has 20 years’ experience of publishing and marketing. She has written and edited numerous textbooks, specialising in vocational education, media studies, construction, health and safety, and travel.

 

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: calendar by rattanakun on Canva, laptop by Jessica Lewis Creative on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Agile approaches to publishing

Many publishers use a traditional model of project management that can make the publishing process slower and less responsive. Steve Martin argues that adopting an Agile approach can benefit both editorial professionals and their publisher clients.

The benefits of Agile approaches

Most publishers use a traditional project management model. Although there are benefits to this approach, there are drawbacks, such as:

  • complex, difficult to understand plans
  • enforced long-term commitments that set rigid expectations
  • a lack of autonomy and empowerment for project managers
  • inefficiencies, especially at scale, including:
    • work passing through too many hands, resulting in miscommunication and rework
    • people doing too many concurrent tasks, leading to mental overload
    • multiple documents doing the same thing
    • problems getting sorted after the fact rather than before
    • difficulties changing direction
    • lots of ‘wait time’.

These issues are usually coped with (at the cost of money, time and quality) and this approach has been around for a long time so isn’t going away. But alternative approaches have evolved over the last few decades, moving away from fixed plans and rigid control structures to a more dynamic approach to change.

One of these is an ‘Agile’ approach to change. It isn’t just a project management methodology – it is a philosophy for effective teamworking. It is described in the ‘Agile Manifesto’, which was created by a number of thought leaders in the technology world. Its principles are as follows:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  • Working deliverables over comprehensive documentation.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  • Responding to change over following a plan.

Underpinning these principles are more detailed and useful mechanisms, such as TIA:

  • Transparency – ensure the information about a project, for both assets and performance, is continually captured and accessible.
  • Inspection – analyse and understand the state of the project at any point in time.
  • Adaption – make remedial changes in real time, ideally proactively, to keep things on track.

Agile doesn’t mandate what is done but how it is done. Examples of implementations are ‘Scrum’ and ‘Kanban’, which will be explained below.

The Agile approach goes a long way to minimising the drawbacks of traditional projects. It was, after all, one of the reasons why the Agile Manifesto was created in the first place!

Traditional projects tend to deliver in large chunks, often after long periods of time, meaning customers only start to profit at the end of a project or phase. Agile projects deliver rapidly and incrementally so that customers can start profiting far more quickly.

Finally, given that one of the fundamentals of the Agile Manifesto is empowerment, people who work on Agile projects often get a greater sense of ownership and job satisfaction.

All in all, it is an approach that has potential for the publishing world.

How can editorial project managers, editors and proofreaders benefit?

The publishing world tends to use traditional project management, often working with packagers and third-party service providers. There are reasons why things are as they are, and these evolve in the long term, but for now, a sensible attitude for anyone interested in Agile approaches is to ask: ‘What can Agile do to help me, within wider industry constraints?’

Here is an explanation of a couple of terms mentioned earlier:

Scrum

This uses timeboxes (short periods of time, for example two weeks) by breaking up work items (the backlog) into batches that the team focuses on as their primary goal while also refining requirements for the next time box. The work items as a whole are also looked at in the background to maintain their priority and relevance.

Kanban

A Kanban (or Kanban board) is a pipeline-based approach (like a car production line). Teams pull work items from a backlog in priority order and push them through various customisable work stages until they are done. The backlog is maintained in a similar way to the Scrum one. Free tools such as Trello can be easily set up to operate a Kanban. The picture below shows how a Kanban might look (in this case for someone taking on too much work!).

Personal workload

One of the challenges for a publishing professional is how to track work in a simple way. A to-do list is OK, but a Kanban has advantages. A simple ‘To Do, Doing, Done’ Kanban would show at a glance what is on the go at any time and what stage it is at. A more elaborate Kanban may add workflows that cover each process step – there may be a need for separate boards for editing and proofreading, as their workflows may differ.

It is possible to flag work items as blocked, as a reminder to chase people. To track the personal financial side, project managers can add additional terminating columns for (eg) ‘Send invoice, Awaiting payment, Paid, Done’. Horizontal ‘swim-lanes’ can be used to divide up the work between, for example, different clients.

Work in progress (WIP) limits

A Kanban can help manage overload. One way is by tracking WIP limits. It has been proven that the ‘keep chucking new work in at one end and get it moving to appear busy’ approach is a terrible idea. Finishing work, not just starting it, is what adds value. High WIP means swapping between different tasks (‘context switching’), which has a negative impact on productivity and quality. It is far better to finish five jobs in sequence effectively than five at once badly. Unfortunately, the second approach is sometimes necessary, but a Kanban highlights this and allows time to be better managed and, perhaps, trigger negotiations with clients. Over time, sensible WIP limits will become clear, and when to say ‘no’ or ‘not yet’ will become a more empirical decision.

Throughput

In Kanban, throughput – the amount of work delivered over a given period – is as important as deadlines. Monitoring throughput and proactively fixing problems improves the chance of hitting future deadlines. More advanced Kanban tools provide reports such as cumulative flow diagrams to show at a glance whether someone is productive or ‘stuck’, and if so, where. These have a learning curve so a simple ‘green’ or ‘red’ flag, or counting task completions per month, might give the project manager insight while they learn how the graphs work.

Project management

A client may permit the use of a Kanban tool, even if it is to simply mirror their main Gantt chart. If so, once such a board is created, team members can be invited to join it to collaboratively manage work and update progress. Most Kanban tools allow attachments, comments, sign-offs and more. Having everything in one place reduces email chatter. This gives a holistic view of where people are, who is overloaded, who is stuck and what is going slowly.

If the project involves sensitive documents, it will be necessary to talk to the IT department about what can and cannot be stored externally at online providers to ensure security requirements are met (one could store links to internal document libraries as a compromise).

Collaboration opportunities

The collaboration aspect of Agile methods can also bring benefits. Here are some examples:

  • Progress coordination – in a fast-moving environment where many people are concurrently involved, having a daily ‘stand-up’, in person or online, works far better than written progress reports in terms of keeping people on track. All or some of the team assemble every morning to share what they have completed, what they are working on and what impediments they face. The meeting should be no more than ten minutes so any detail would be discussed away from the stand-up.
  • Key delivery meetings – Project launch, planning, and other meetings (face to face or online) should include as many involved parties as sensibly possible, even if just for scheduled timeslots within the meeting. This means that queries and issues can be discussed in person and written communication should, where possible, be relegated to confirmation and follow-up.
  • Quality management – Regular (eg fortnightly) retrospectives (QA reviews) reviewing what went well, what did not go well and what can be improved are recommended to ensure lessons are learned while they are fresh in the mind as opposed to waiting until the end-of-project review.

Hopefully, this gives a flavour of what Agile is and how it can help publishing projects. The best way to start is to do a little more research and dive in. Good luck!

About Steve Martin

Steve recently moved into the publishing world after many years gathering experience in Project Management, mainly in and around the IT industry. He has completed the CIEP’s first two proofreading courses and the Editorial Project Management (EPM) course, and as well as now being able to engage in a fresh and interesting career where he can make use of new and existing skills, he is very, very pleased to have finally understood why MS Word kept auto-replacing the hyphens that he typed with long dashes without asking it to.

 

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: cranes by Mike van Schoonderwalt on Pexels, Kanban board by Dr ian mitchell, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons, team meeting by fauxels on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Copyediting and translation editing: What’s the difference?

Gwenydd Jones, an experienced translator, introduces us to the field of translation editing and considers how it shares similarities with copyediting.

I became a freelance translator in 2009 while I was still completing my first master’s degree. As the early ‘translation editing’ orders started trickling in from clients, it soon became apparent that editing was being used as a very loose term. In fact, I’d receive all sorts of requests to correct, edit, revise, review and/or proofread translations produced by others.

This initially confused me. But I soon figured out that, regardless of word choice, these clients were mostly asking for the same service: check the translation for accuracy against the original text, make sure the translation is idiomatic and grammatical, and then proofread it.

Where does copyediting come into this?

After promoting my services as a translator, editor and proofreader for some time, I eventually heard of a job called copyediting. I was intrigued. Here was another activity commonly referred to as editing that was in some way different to the editing work I was used to.

There was nothing else for it: I joined the CIEP and signed up for the Copyediting 1 course to figure out what it was all about. In this article, I’ll share with you some things I discovered about the similarities and differences between translation editing and copyediting.

What’s the right word to use for translation editing?

The ISO 17100 Translation Services standard defines the terms translation, revision, revise, proofreading and final verification. It identifies each one as a different task in the process of producing a quality translation.

Of these jobs, the reviser is the one who checks the translation for accuracy, idiomaticity, grammar and related issues. So, while the word editing is regularly used in the translation world to refer to this task, in this article, I’m going to refer to revision and the reviser.

Similarities and differences between copyediting and revision

Without further ado, here are some of my thoughts about what the copyeditor and the translation reviser have in common, and where the similarities end.

1. Role expectations and skillset

Both the copyeditor and translation reviser may have a broad set of skills and offer writing and proofreading services. However, being a copyeditor can be a standalone job, while revisers are normally translators by trade, with translation clients generally viewing revision as a subskill.

Translators tend to have language qualifications and often a postgraduate translation qualification like the DipTrans or an MA in translation studies. If they’ve been properly trained, they’ll know how to edit and proofread their own work to a reasonable standard. But most translators probably won’t have received specialist training as copyeditors or proofreaders.

This means their skill set is different to that of a copyeditor, even though they perform some aspects of copyediting as part of their job.

2. Knowledge of punctuation and style

Both copyeditors and translation revisers may be asked to follow a house style. It’s my impression that this is more likely to be the case for copyeditors. Also, while some revisers are very well versed in the different style guides, overall, the expectations regarding breadth of knowledge of style are lower for a reviser than for a copyeditor.

This is also true of punctuation knowledge, which is sometimes terribly lacking in translators. This expectation I mentioned in point one, that a translator knows how to edit and proofread, is problematic. In my experience of teaching early-career translators, many of them don’t have professional knowledge of the rules of punctuation. This is often reflected in the readability of the final text, with misused semicolons and commas placed where the translator thinks they might take a breath.

3. Respect for the creator

Both copyediting and revision involve texts created by other people. In copyediting, you have to respect the writer. In revision, you have two creators to contend with: the writer of the original text and the translator.

In the CIEP Copyediting 1 course, it was underlined that the copyeditor should be respectful of the writer’s voice and their decisions. This is true even if the copyeditor doesn’t necessarily like or agree with them.

This is very similar to what a good translator should do. When transferring the original text (source text) into the new language, the translator has a duty of loyalty. This means they should respect the writer’s choices. When translating, it’s very easy to try to ‘improve’ on the source text. The translator can easily stray into editing and even rewriting.

The reviser has to think about both the writer and the translator. They have to check the translation against the source text to make sure it’s accurate, and change it if it isn’t. But they also have a professional duty to respect the translator’s choices as long as they’re correct and appropriate. Just like the copyeditor, the reviser doesn’t have the right to change the translation on the basis of personal preference.

4. Error elimination

The reviser’s job is to eliminate errors in the translation but not in the source text. While revisers may notify the client of mistakes in the source text, they’re not expected (or paid) to do it. This is very different to the copyeditor’s task, where correcting the writer’s mistakes is a key part of the job.

Sometimes, the source text is poorly drafted and hasn’t been edited or proofread before being sent for translation. This can be very challenging for the translator and reviser. Do they carry errors over into the translation? How much can/should they change in the translation when the source text is poor? And how much are they being paid for all this extra work?

If a copyeditor is involved in the process of creating the original text, many of these problems will be eliminated. This reflects how crucial the copyeditor’s role is in the production process for texts that are going to be translated. Imagine the financial impact of omitting a copyeditor for a badly written text that then gets translated into ten languages.

5. Reader on the shoulder

Copyeditors and revisers are part of a process designed to serve a figure they’ll probably never meet: the reader. Both roles involve making decisions with that person in mind. The difference lies in the knowledge the reader is expected to have. Translation isn’t just about changing languages. The text is also going to be presented in a new cultural context.

The original writer will have created their text with a ‘local’ reader in mind. They would have expected this reader to have certain cultural knowledge, like automatically knowing what Barça is. When revising a translation, it’s important to consider how the new reader’s cultural knowledge is different from that of the original reader. Additions and changes may need to be made to ensure that the new reader can understand the text.

6. Typesetting

The CIEP Copyediting 1 course explained that editors are expected to mark up the text to help the typesetter identify headings, figures and the like. The reviser isn’t expected to do this job. The brief (where one exists) is almost always to respect the formatting of the original text and change nothing in that regard.

This makes sense because the copyeditor of the original text, assuming there was one, has already done that work. In fact, if the client didn’t plan the translation properly, they may well have already completed the typesetting.

7. Impact of artificial intelligence

Both copyeditors and revisers have a range of software they can use to help them ensure quality, check spelling and grammar, and maintain consistency across the text.

Developments in artificial intelligence have led to new types of editing. Writers sometimes produce texts with the help of AI writing tools. These texts can then be edited and improved by a human.

In the world of translation, the same neural networks can be employed to produce a rough translation for subsequent checking and editing. The translator-cum-reviser is now expected to also offer a service called ‘machine translation post-editing’.

Within this panorama, the skills of both professionals require adaptation. A text produced by artificial intelligence presents different types of errors and challenges to a text produced by a human.

To sum it all up …

As a translator, I’ve found my explorations into the world of copyediting fascinating. If you don’t have much contact with foreign languages, I hope I’ve managed to share something here that’s piqued your interest in translation.

About Gwenydd Jones

Gwenydd Jones is an experienced translator, course creator and copywriter. She blogs about all things related to her field and offers courses for translators at The Translator’s Studio.

 

 

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: globe by Adolfo Felix on Unsplash, Arabic text by Serinus, woman reading by THIS IS ZUN, both on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

The basics of SEO for editors and proofreaders

Have you come across the term ‘search engine optimisation’, or SEO, and wondered what it means? Or perhaps you have a vague idea of what it is but you’re not sure how or when to use it? If you write or edit copy that will be published online, it’s useful to know some SEO basics to make sure your content ranks well on search engines. Rosie Tate explains how you can add value to copy that’s destined for the web.

What is SEO?

You edit or write the most fabulous copy and it’s published on a website. That’s great. But if it doesn’t appear in search results on search engines like Google or Bing, it’s unlikely to get much interest. Few people are going to simply stumble across it.

Search engine optimisation, or SEO, involves ‘optimising’ web pages to improve their position in search engine results. It can make the difference between a web page being found – and therefore read – and simply lurking in a lonely corner of the web. This is why SEO is such a big deal: the higher a website appears in the search results, the more people will see it.

So how do we optimise online content? There are several things you can do to increase the chances of a page being ranked well by search engines. If you want to give it a go without getting too technical, the following tips are a good place to start.

Use keywords

Let’s say you’ve been asked by a client to work on their website copy. They sell organic chocolate. The first thing to do is identify the main search terms, or ‘keywords’, that people actually type into Google when they’re looking to buy this product.

There are lots of free tools you can use, such as Keyword Generator. If you type in ‘organic chocolate’, it tells you that there are 700 monthly searches for this in the UK. It also gives you related search terms, such as ‘organic chocolate bar’ and ‘raw organic chocolate’. Choose one main keyword per web page and make sure this is used in the copy. You can also embed other keywords throughout your content.

Include your main keywords in headings

Headings act as signposts that guide a reader through a web page and make it easier to read. They also help Google to understand what the web page is all about, so include keywords in headings to help your page rank well.

You’ll need to strike the right balance between using keywords and ensuring the copy reads well. Beware of ‘keyword stuffing’, or copy crammed with keywords to please search engine algorithms. Headings should summarise the content on the page in a clear, informative way, and content should flow naturally.

Use links

An external link is a hyperlink that directs the user to another website. As well as being useful for readers and helping to give your website credibility, these can also give SEO a boost. External links help search engines determine the usefulness and quality of a web page. The search engines use metrics to determine the value of external links, including the trustworthiness and popularity of the site you’re linking to, and how relevant it is to the page you’re linking from.

Coming back to our organic chocolate example, if you link to an interesting article about how cocoa is grown, this can help Google figure out that your web page is about chocolate – and will therefore help to rank the content more favourably.

If you’re working on a whole website, it also helps to use internal links, or links between the different pages on your websites, where relevant. These help search engines determine how the content on your site is related and the value of each page. If there are lots of links to a particular page, search engines will see this as important and prioritise it when it comes to SEO.

Backlinks

Backlinks are links from other websites to your website. For instance, someone might advertise your services and include a link to one of your web pages, or you might write a piece of content for someone else that includes a link to your site. Backlinks are important for SEO because they help give your site authority, and search engines will favour pages with lots of quality backlinks. A backlink from a respected, high-authority website is better than one from a site that receives very few visits. So if you’re involved not only in editing or writing a website but also in promoting it, do some research on how backlinks can help to get your site found.

Play around with some online tools

There are lots of online tools you can use to make sure content is optimised. Here are three of my favourites:

Google Trends: This is a great free tool that shows you how much a term is searched for on Google over time and suggests similar trending topics.

Answer the Public: Enter a keyword to see what people are asking about around this topic. This can give you some great ideas if you’re planning content (and some interesting insights into the human mind).

Surfer SEO: OK, so this one isn’t free, but if you’re serious about SEO, you might want to give it a try. It includes a content editor where you paste in your copy and it tells you exactly what you need to do to optimise it.


The above merely scratches the surface of the world of SEO. If you want to dig deeper, there’s a wealth of free information out there. Good luck getting that content found online!

About Rosie Tate

Rosie Tate is co-founder of Tate & Clayburn, a London-based company that offers copyediting, proofreading, copywriting and translation services to clients worldwide. A first-class Oxford University languages graduate with an MA in Documentary Filmmaking, she’s an experienced editor, writer and producer, having worked for Oxford University Press, the BBC and Save the Children.

 

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: SEO letters by NisonCo PR and SEO on Unsplash, chocolate by Vie Studio on Pexels, Google by Souvik Banerjee on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Why listening to audiobooks has made me a better editor

Audiobooks have seen a steep rise in popularity over recent years, particularly since the pandemic. In this post, Clare Black discusses why she is passionate about audiobooks and explains why her love of listening has created an opportunity for CPD.

A lifelong love of books

Like most editors, I have an enormous love of books, and I am proud to say I am a lifelong bookworm. My fondest childhood memories relate to books and visits to the local library with my mum and sister for the weekly storytime session. I vividly recall sitting cross-legged on the parquet floor, captivated by the austere librarian and the story they were reading.

Audiobooks are accessible and convenient

Ten years ago I had major eye surgery. Before surgery I usually read a novel a week, and one of my big worries was how I could read while convalescing. The obvious answer was to listen to books instead. I can honestly say that listening to audiobooks got me through those first few tough weeks following surgery. Audiobooks helped to fill the long days and transported me to other worlds when the prospect of being able to read ‘normally’ again seemed a lifetime away. I discovered that listening to a story really brought it alive and gave a deep connection to the characters.

Once I had recovered and was able to resume normal life, I wanted to get back to reading print books again, so my love of audiobooks was put on hold.

Making time for reading can be difficult

After I became self-employed as an editor, I started to read less for pleasure. This happened unconsciously at first, with realisation dawning when I couldn’t recall the last fiction book I had read. At that time, I think reading for enjoyment seemed like a chore rather than a pleasurable activity. This was due mainly to the amount of screen time editing requires, which is inevitably very tiring on the eyes. And I was also guilty of thinking that spending time on business-related activities like admin and marketing was more important. I became aware that the book-shaped hole in my life was making itself more obvious.

I am lucky to have a wonderful little library ten minutes’ walk from my home, so I made an effort to visit more regularly. Borrowing books from the library helped me to get reading again. But I still didn’t make enough time for reading for pleasure as I ended up renewing books several times.

Listening with Borrowbox

On one of my visits to the library, I saw a poster advertising Borrowbox. Borrowbox is an app that allows library members to borrow ebooks and audiobooks through a smartphone or tablet. Books are automatically returned after the loan period, and users can also reserve and renew, just as with conventional library books.

My passion for reading for fun has been rekindled by borrowing audiobooks through Borrowbox. Although the range of audiobooks is not as wide as with ebooks or print books, there is still a broad selection to choose from. This has provided the opportunity to listen to books from genres and authors that I would not have discovered otherwise. One to mention is Gone Fishing by Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer. I love the television series of the same name for its tranquillity and the companionship of this hilarious duo. But I am not a fishing buff, and probably would never have read the printed version of this book. The audiobook appeared as a recommendation on my Borrowbox account, and I am glad that I decided to listen to it. The book is narrated by Bob and Paul, which makes it very entertaining and deeply enjoyable. Reading the print version would not have given me so much laughter.

Audiobooks improve mental and physical health

I would go as far as to say that audiobooks have revolutionised my life, and I take every opportunity when I’m not at my desk to grab a few audio moments. The big win for me with audiobooks is that I can combine listening with other activities. Daily fresh air and exercise are very important to me, and I usually go out for an hour each day. Not only does this help my mental and physical health, but it also means I get to listen to my latest book. And sessions on my cross-trainer are now that bit more bearable.

I still appreciate conventional books and usually have an ebook from Borrowbox or a Kindle book in progress as well. But I tend to get through several audiobooks to one ebook.

Audiobooks can improve editorial skills

Although I have been an audiobook fan for quite some time, thinking of them as a form of CPD occurred to me only recently.

When reading solely for pleasure, I tend to be quite a quick reader, but when listening to an audiobook, I listen at normal talking speed. There is always an option to speed up the recording. but I never choose to do that. As with listening to someone else speak, you need to focus completely on what is being said. For me, hearing the words spoken allows me to immerse myself more deeply in the book.

Listening to audiobooks is a positive learning experience that has developed my critical listening and line-editing skills. I am presently studying a developmental editing for fiction course, and listening to published books is proving an excellent way to apply the theory.

A book I recently enjoyed is Platform Seven by Louise Doughty. I’d describe it as atmospheric, beautifully sad and tinged with joy, and it moved me to tears several times. Reading the print version would not have had the same poignancy. The book uses omniscient point of view, which I didn’t realise before listening. Being able to listen to an omniscient narrator has helped me to understand more about how this point of view is used.

All audiobooks offer opportunities for learning or reinforcing editorial knowledge. I regularly notice elements that I think are handled well. Good pacing and rhythm and flow of sentences are particularly obvious in the narrator’s change of tone and tempo. I also think about how I might have handled some aspects differently if I were the editor. As most editors know, many aspects of editing are subjective and not all editors will handle issues in the same way. Occasionally, I note things that I think are wrong. I would notice some of these issues if I were reading purely for pleasure, but listening means I can enjoy a story and learn at the same time. And, of course, when listening, there are no distracting spelling or punctuation issues.

Many editors, including myself, read aloud when they are editing. We all generally read aloud more slowly than we do when we read silently. I find that reading aloud is effective as it gives a better feel for the text and makes any problems or issues more obvious. It makes sense that this applies when listening to audiobooks.

Another reason I love audiobooks is the way that narrators vary accents and speech patterns for the different characters. Bringing the characters alive in this way makes me feel like I really get to know them. And listening provides an excellent way to note how authors handle characterisation.

Audiobooks are proper books

Some people believe that listening to audiobooks is cheating or not proper reading, but I don’t understand that. By listening to a book, I am still consuming and enjoying its content. As I have mentioned throughout this article, listening to a story really brings it alive for me.

Audiobooks are an ideal solution for anyone who is unable or struggles to read print books. Audiobooks are convenient, allow multitasking, can make a story more poignant and provide an immersive way to enhance editing skills. They are growing in popularity and are here to stay!

About Clare Black

Clare Black is a Professional Member of the CIEP. She is an aspiring developmental editor, line editor, copy-editor and proofreader specialising in crime, thriller and contemporary fiction. Clare had a varied career before becoming an editor, including working as a solicitor and running a dog-washing business. When not editing, she is usually listening to an audiobook!

 

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: red headphones by Yarenci Hdz, headphones and phone by Jukka Aalho, both on Unsplash, woman with phone by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Talking tech: Can a machine use conscious language?

In this Talking tech column, Andy Coulson delves into the world of artificial intelligence to find out how it might be able to consider the use of conscious language or edit text in the future.

For this issue of The Edit my column is going to be a little different from normal. Usually, I try to highlight how technology can help you with the theme of the issue. This issue’s theme, conscious language, proves to be a bit of a challenge on that front. What I am going to do instead is to get the crystal ball out and do a bit of speculating about how technology might develop to help ensure more conscious language use.

Natural language processing

Natural language processing (NLP) is the term used to describe a field of computer science that covers developing computer systems to understand text and speech in a comparable way to a human. This is a branch of artificial intelligence (AI), and I will get into some more detail about that later. This enables tools like Google Translate or the digital assistants Siri or Alexa to work. This is the field from which any tools (or indeed our competitors!) will come that will be able to improve how conscious the language in a text is.

Just to simplify things (slightly) I am going to ignore speech and all the computational issues that speech recognition brings. Let us concentrate on text and look at how machines are taught to understand that and make decisions about how to respond to it. To date, a lot of the NLP development has focused more on teaching a machine to respond to some text, whereas what we are trying to think about is how a machine would understand and amend a text. Microsoft and Grammarly both use AI to help improve their editing tools, so you can be sure there are other tech companies experimenting with this.

While language is to a degree rule based, it is also full of subtleties and ambiguities. The rules allow tools like PerfectIt to work – we can describe and recognise patterns and so teach a machine to do this too. This only takes us so far, as NLP then needs to pick the text apart to find the meaning within it. It must undertake a range of tasks on the text to enable the computer to ‘understand’ it. These include:

  • Speech or grammatical tagging, where the computer figures out the role of each word. This would be where it would identify ‘make’ being used as a verb (make a jacket) rather than a noun (the make of jacket).
  • Recognising names, so it can identify a proper noun. It knows Lesley is likely to be someone’s name rather than a thing, so ‘picking Lesley up on the way’ can be interpreted in the right sense.
  • Resolving co-references, where it relates a pronoun to a previously named object, so it recognises that ‘she’ is ‘Kathy’ from a previous sentence. This task can also be involved with dealing with metaphors or idioms – recognising that someone who is cold may not want an extra jumper but might not be much fun to talk to.
  • Sentiment analysis, which is also known as opinion mining. Here the computer is attempting to recognise more hidden aspects of the text, such as whether the tone is positive or negative.

All of these, and other functions we would need in order to make judgements about how conscious the language used in a text is, do not lend themselves to rules. Rather, they rely on a knowledge of context and conventions. Acceptable language in a novel set in 1960s Alabama would be quite different from that used in a modern social sciences paper about the same city and its inhabitants, but understanding the context will frame and shape language choices.

How machines learn

So, we have realised we are not going to be able to fix this one with a clever macro. What sort of computation do we need? Step forward AI – a term that covers a number of fields that involve machines that mimic human intelligence. One of the main aspects of this that NLP uses is machine learning, a field of computing covering machines that learn a task or tasks through different approaches.

One of the best-known AI companies is Google’s DeepMind division. They have made a name for themselves by approaching AI from the perspective of learning to play games using machine learning. To understand how they have progressed in the field we need a bit of a history lesson.

In 1997 an IBM project called Deep Blue beat the then World Chess Champion, Garry Kasparov. What Deep Blue did was to search all possible moves in the game and then pick the best next move. What is different about DeepMind’s AlphaGo is that they had to follow a different approach, as the game of Go has so many more possible moves than chess. This version of AlphaGo used neural networks (a brain-like arrangement of computing elements with lots of connections between each element) to compare the best move from the current position and the likelihood of winning from that move, which gave a more efficient way of narrowing down the choice of moves. AlphaGo was trained by playing vast numbers of games of Go to improve its ability to select moves and predict its current chance of winning. Eventually, in 2016, it beat Lee Sedol, widely regarded as one of the best players of all time.

DeepMind have since developed AlphaGo further and, instead of playing against experienced players, it learns from scratch by playing against itself. It uses a technique called reinforcement learning, where the system tries to optimise a reward called a Q-value. It has been able to play and master various video games from scratch (the Atari benchmark). Here AlphaGo tries to gain positive awards (and avoid negative ones) by, for example, collecting a game’s currency or surviving for a certain amount of time. It can then use the information about what it did and what reward it received to alter its strategy and see if that improves the Q-value.

Why is this important? It shows a progression from a very controlled environment with a limited (although large) number of variables, to a more complex one (Go) and then to a more generalised one (more varied games). We are still not at the point where this could be applied to a problem (like our language one) with very few constraints, but this certainly shows a progression. The latest version, AlphaZero, has apparently taught itself chess from scratch to a world champion level in 24 hours.

This technique of using neural networks and reinforcement learning seems to me to offer the potential to create tools with a more subtle understanding of learning. One issue that can cause problems is that AI often uses huge datasets to train the systems, but using already acquired data can bring with it historical problems. Microsoft created an AI chatbot for Twitter called Tay, designed to mimic the speech patterns of a 19-year-old girl, which it did very well right up to the point it learned to be inflammatory and offensive and had to be shut down. Microsoft believe that the trolling the bot experienced taught it how to be offensive. Similarly, Amazon developed an AI system to shortlist job candidates, and this showed a distinct bias against women. Amazon tracked the problem down to an underlying bias in the training data.

Given the increasing pressure on social media companies to filter offensive content, platforms like YouTube and Facebook are undoubtedly trying to use AI to recognise problematic language, and some of this may lead to tools we can use to highlight issues. However, as editors and proofreaders we are looking to improve poor language choices and make it more conscious. Looking at how the Editor function in MS Word and Grammarly have developed, they certainly point to a way forward. While I am not convinced a machine is going to take my job for some time, I can certainly see where it could make progress. I think the challenge of issues like conscious language is that they have too many subtleties, and the human ability to make judgements about these, and even to have a productive discussion with an author about a passage, means a human editor will continue to be able to add something a machine cannot to a piece of writing, for the foreseeable future.

About Andy Coulson

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

 

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: chess by Bru-nO on Pixabay, robot by mohamed_hassan on Pixabay, Go by Elena Popova on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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