Author Archives: Harriet Power

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

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

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

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

Whatever you’ve defined as part of your service.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laptop and typewriter sitting on a desk

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

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

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

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

Generally, it comes down to this:

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

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

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

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

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

About Sophie Playle

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

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

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

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

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Reviewing and updating the CIEP blog

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

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

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

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

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

The good stuff

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

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

Time for change

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

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

Content review or deletion

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

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

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

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

Optimisation

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

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

‘Commas: The Chameleon Conundrum’ or

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

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

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

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

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

Wooden blocks spelling out 'SEO'

Progress so far

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

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

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

Next steps

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

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

These changes will include:

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

We will keep a log of all changes made.

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

Did you write an SfEP blog post?

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

Get in touch

About Andrew Hodges

Headshot of Andrew Hodges

 

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

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

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

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Developmental fiction editing Q&A part 1: Giving feedback

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Sophie Playle

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

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

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

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

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Curriculum focus: Meeting up

In this regular feature for The Edit, former training director Jane Moody shines a light on an area of the CIEP’s Curriculum for professional development.

Keeping in touch with fellow professionals is vital for all editors and proofreaders. This month’s focus of The Edit seems to fit neatly within Domain 1: ‘Working as a professional’, which covers the professional life of an editor/proofreader. These subdomains cover various aspects of personal communication. The table gives details about the competencies, skills and attitudes that you should be able to evidence under each of the criteria. I’ve listed some suggested supporting resources below the table.

Knowledge criteriaEditorial competencies, professional skills and attitudes
1.1.1 Role and responsibilities of an editor/proofreader within a publishing team• Is aware of own role within the team and able to work as part of a team
1.1.4 Professional communication and negotiation• Communicates politely and diplomatically
• Responds promptly
• Understands negotiating techniques and is capable of handling delicate negotiations appropriately
1.1.5 Continuing professional development• Recognises the need for continual learning throughout career
• Can demonstrate frequent continuing professional development and improvement of skills and knowledge
1.2.6 Marketing of services• Is aware of the importance of networking
1.2.7 Professional use of social media and internet• Understands importance and uses of professional directories and business website for marketing of services
• Understands and follows good practice in the use of social media

Resources to support your learning and CPD

Courses and meetings

Books, guides and general resources

Blogs

Networking

Have you come across Business Buzz? You might not meet another editor or proofreader but you will have interesting conversations and make local links that you might not otherwise have discovered. My local group meets monthly in face-to-face drop-in sessions. Why not see if there’s a group near you?

About Jane Moody

Jane has worked with books for all her working life (which is rather more years than she cares to admit), having started life as a librarian. She started a freelance editing business while at home with her two children, which she maintained for 15 years before going back into full-time employment as head of publishing for a medical Royal College.

Now retired, she has resurrected her editorial business, but has less time for work these days as she spends much time with her four grandchildren and in her garden.

 

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: counters by Pixabay on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Flying solo: Networking for business support

In this Flying Solo column, Sue Littleford looks at ways in which we can step outside the editing and proofreading bubble when it comes to networking and professional development.

Networking with editors is great – we all share similar interests and can support one another about editing and proofreading. However, what about networking with freelancers/small business owners/solopreneurs/sole traders in other fields, and the organisations that serve them?

Besides developing your editing skills, you need to keep up to speed with managing and marketing your business, and quite possibly stiffening your spine when it comes to pricing and negotiating.

Here are a few of the places I network for the business side of my business – as I live and work in the UK, these examples are going to be UK-centric but I hope they will spark ideas of what to look for, for those of you living elsewhere.

IPSE

For networking, IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) is my big hitter. The pinnacle of its networking is the annual National Freelancers Day one-day online conference, free to members and £40 for non-members (in 2022, with early-bird discounts also available). The next one is 15 June 2023.

Aside from a series of strands of presentations and workshops, there are plenty of opportunities to talk to fellow delegates in workshops and in the informal virtual meeting rooms. The related app also allows you to join up with people. Who knows – you may land your next client! And even if you don’t, you may find the ideal person to design your new website.

Aside from the flagship event, throughout the year there are webinars on everything from managing stress to making tax digital, plus offers and consultations; and IPSE continues to campaign for better treatment of freelancers, contractors, sole traders and the like. Until a recent government U-turn, they had successfully campaigned to ditch IR35 but for now their fight continues.

I’ve only known them during Covid times, so can’t comment on in-person events but local meet-ups are happening again. In the last 12 months, IPSE has held more than 100 online events and its events calendar gives a flavour of what is to come.

Small Business Britain

Small Business Britain has partnered with Lloyds Bank Academy to provide webinar training relevant to small businesses (including on finances, marketing and wellbeing) and has just launched a helpline to support sole traders, small businesses, freelancers and so on with specific and general confidential help and support.

SBB has also partnered with Oxford Brookes Business School to provide a Sustainability Basics programme.

Aside from supporting sole traders and small business owners, SBB campaigns on a range of issues, like equality, diversity and inclusion, and provides opportunities to act as a mentor, paid or unpaid, ‘within our campaigns and with our partners’.

Social media: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and so on and so forth

I’m no devotee of social media, being on LinkedIn and Twitter and that’s it, but there’s no doubt that editorial groups spring up there. But instead of just checking out editorial networks, look for those that relate to freelancing and small business owners.

Follow accounts that relate to marketing, freelance support and any other aspect that interests you, and see where that takes you in terms of active community and insider info.

Being Freelance

Steve Folland of Being Freelance offers all kinds of content on, er, being freelance. Here, editorial and business worlds collide, as he was kind enough to come to speak to the Berkshire CIEP local group in June 2022.

He hosts a community on Facebook (I’m not a FB user, so can’t comment on this – if you can, pop something in the comments for this post!), offers training by video for new freelancers, has a vlog and podcast, and a shop with freelancery delights (I have a non-employee-of-the-week mug and coaster) and he also has on his website a directory of freelancers.

BookMachine

BookMachine often partners with the CIEP and has an online community, discussions and training events online and in person for all things publishing.

Places I’ve heard of but not tried

Other non-editorial places to hang out

I get emails from a number of other organisations and people to keep me up to date with what’s going on with the business end of my business, although they don’t necessarily offer true networking opportunities, at least as a rule. Here’s what lands in my inbox:

Louise Brogan (on LinkedIn)

Louise is a speaker on all things LinkedIn, and provides video tutorials. She also offers one-to-one tuition and private coaching on using LinkedIn to your best advantage.

Karen Webber (on marketing)

Karen, of Goodness Marketing, doesn’t believe that marketing should make you cringe – if it does, you’re going against your personal values, so you need to change tack and align your marketing activity accordingly. She offers training (at astonishingly reasonable prices) and sends weekly advice emails on how to market comfortably but effectively, and she blogs, if you want even more.

Jeremy Mason (on video for marketing)

I’ve seen Jeremy speak at a couple of online events in the last year, and he is fun (as a freelance TV cameraman, he also works on Strictly!) and exceptionally knowledgeable about getting into video to support your social media and marketing with practical advice on the tech, good framing of your shots and the actual content. He offers downloadable resources and training so that you can make videos that get your message across effectively.

Robin Waite (on pricing)

I’ve seen Robin present, too (at the National Freelancers Day conference 2022), encouraging us all to be fearless with our pricing. He has books and courses, and has an emailing list that gets new content roughly once a month.

Janene Liston (on pricing)

Janene, AKA The Pricing Lady, is another who offers coaching, consultancy and resources to understand your attitudes to pricing (especially if you are timid around pricing), and her occasional webinars are incisive and thought-provoking to get your mindset on the move.

Hub Balance (business and wellbeing)

This is one I’ve not yet got to grips with, although it’s been on my radar since the summer. Hub Balance offers two strands of toolkit on its website, for business and for wellbeing, aimed at small business owners, freelancers, sole traders and the like, focusing on creatives (editorial counts as creative). It talks about community, but at the moment that just seems to mean account holders – if you know more, bring us up to speed in the comments. The toolkits look useful, and they’re on my CPD list.

In-person and other local networks

Check out opportunities for in-person events, if you like them. Chambers of commerce are often a good starting point, and organisations such as IPSE run local meet-ups, as I’ve mentioned.

Investigate local business support groups, too.

Finally, as part of managing your business is effective marketing, do consider going to conferences that relate to your subject niche, for three reasons: keeping the knowledge of your field up to date; being able to say so in your marketing materials; and networking with potential clients.

Where do you already network?

If you already have places to go, online or off, why not pop ideas and links in the comments, so people can join you? At the National Freelancers Day conference in June 2022, for instance, I did spot three other CIEP members. Why not make that many more of us next year? Non-UK folk are particularly welcome to add networking ideas and links for their own locations.

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: header image by Joshua Harris, presentation by Matthew Osborne, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

The editing workflow: Pre-editing tasks

In this blog post, three experienced editors explain what they do in between receiving a manuscript and properly getting stuck into editing the text. From running macros and styling headings, to checking references and making sure the brief is clear, tackling certain jobs before starting to edit the text can improve and speed up the whole editing process.

Hazel Bird

For me, the stage between receiving a manuscript and properly starting to copyedit the text is about two things: (1) ensuring I have a solid understanding of what the client needs me to do and (2) proactively identifying any problems within the manuscript so I can get started on fixing them straight away.

So, for step 1, I’ll do things like:

  • checking the manuscript matches what I was told to expect in terms of word count and components
  • checking I have all the necessary briefing materials and instructions from the client
  • checking I understand the context in which the project will be used (eg for an educational project, the level of qualification, the ability range of the students, where they will be geographically and any other resources they might use alongside this one)
  • reminding myself of the details of the agreed level of service and any special aspects of the work
  • getting in touch with whoever will be answering queries on the text (if they aren’t the client) to introduce myself and agree how the query process will be handled.

If there are any discrepancies, ambiguities or stumbling blocks, I’ll write back to the client straight away to open a discussion.

For step 2, I’ll start digging into the actual text but on a holistic, overarching basis. I have a load of macros that I run to clean up the formatting and highlight things I’ll need to check or fix later, during the in-depth edit. I’ll then style the text’s major headings so that they appear in the Navigation Pane in Word (I find this bird’s-eye view of the manuscript essential as it speeds me up and helps me to identify big-picture issues). At the same time, I’ll examine the structure and check it fits with any template or scheme I’ve been given by the client. Next I’ll run PerfectIt to fix some more style basics and begin to compile a style sheet with what I’ve found.

My final task within step 2 is to edit the references. A lot of my work is with clients whose authors don’t handle referencing every day, so I frequently find issues with reference completeness or even technical issues with the entire referencing system. Identifying such issues early on means there is time for everyone involved to discuss how to proceed in a relaxed manner, without time pressure. And, from an editing point of view, I find editing the main text goes so much more smoothly when I know the references are already spick and span.

The result of all of the above tasks is that once I get started on the main text, I should have minimised the number of surprises I’ll find and thus maximised the chance of the project being completed without hiccups and on time. I will also have fixed or flagged (to myself) as many routine, repetitive tasks as possible so that when I get into the actual line-by-line editing, I can devote the majority of my attention to flow, clarity, accuracy and whatever else the client wants me to refine – in other words, the parts of the editing where I can really add value.

Hester Higton

Exactly how I start work on a manuscript depends on the length: I’ll do things differently for a journal article and a lengthy book. But my rule for any project is to make sure that I’m batch-processing, so that I use my time as efficiently as possible.

If I’m working on an article for one of my regular journals, I’ll start by making sure that the file is saved using the correct template. Sometimes this will be one supplied by the client; if they don’t have a preferred one, I’ll use one of my own that eliminates all extraneous styles.

Then I’ll run FRedit. I have customised FRedit lists for all my repeat clients. These not only deal with the standard clean-up routines but also adapt the document to the preferred house style. I use different highlight colours to indicate aspects I want to check (such as unwanted changes in quotations) and I’ll run quickly through the document to pick these up. As I’m doing that, I’ll make sure that headings, displayed quotations and the like have the correct Word styles applied to them.

Next on my list is PerfectIt, which allows me to iron out remaining inconsistencies in the text. I use a Mac so I can’t customise my own style sheets, but the new Chicago style option has made my life a great deal easier!

After that, if the article uses author–date referencing I’ll cross-check citations and references, flagging missing entries in each direction. I’ll style the references list and either note missing information for the author or check it myself if I can do so quickly. If all the references are in notes, I will run a similar style check, editing the notes themselves at the same time.

Finally, I’ll look at the formatting of any tables and figure captions to make sure that they match the house style. I may well edit the captions at this point, but leave table content until I reach the relevant point in the text.

If I’m working on a book-length project that doesn’t have a fully defined style, I’ll start by running PerfectIt. That allows me to make decisions about spellings, capitalisation and hyphenation, all of which I note down on a word list which I’ll return to the client with the completed project. That’s followed by a more basic clean-up FRedit check. I’ll also format figure captions and tables throughout the book at this point. And if there’s a whole-book bibliography, I’ll check that and style it. But I’ll handle the notes separately for each chapter because it allows me to keep a sense of the subject matter in them when I’m working on the main text.

Katherine Kirk

The pre-editing stage is actually one of my favourite steps in the process, and I usually pair it with some great music to see me through. My whole pre-flight process takes about two to three hours, depending on the formatting and size of the document. I work mainly with novels from indie authors and small publishers, so I don’t have to worry too much about any references or missing figures and tables. Some publishers have their own template they want me to apply or some specific steps that they like me to take, but here’s what I do for most indie novels that come across my desk.

I start by reviewing our agreement and any extra notes the author has passed along, and I add them to the style sheet. I use a Word template for my style sheet that has all the options as dropdowns, and that saves loads of time.

The next thing I want to deal with is any bloat or formatting issues; these might affect how well the macros and PerfectIt run. I attach a Word template that has some basic styles for things like chapter titles, full-out first paragraphs, and scene breaks, as well as a font style for italics that shades the background a different colour (great for catching italic en rules!). Styling the chapter titles and scene breaks first makes it easy to find the first paragraphs, and check chapter numbering. Then I skim through for any other special things needing styling. I can set whatever is left (which should just be body text) in the correct style. The aesthetics of this template don’t really matter to the client; I use a typeface that is easy for me to read and makes errors like 1 vs l more obvious. I can revert all the typefaces to a basic Times New Roman at the end. I save this as ‘Working Copy – Styled’ just in case the next step goes horribly wrong …

Now that I’ve cleared up the clutter, I ‘Maggie’ the file (select all the text, then unselect the final pilcrow, and copy and paste it into a new document) to remove the extra unnecessary data Word has stored there. It can drastically reduce the file size and helps prevent Word weirdness like sudden jumps around the page or lines duplicating on the screen. If you’ve styled all the elements of the text properly beforehand, you shouldn’t lose any formatting, but be careful! That’s also why I do this as early as possible, rather than risk losing hours of work. I save this file as ‘Working Copy – Maggied’ so I can see if the file size has decreased, and if it’s all working smoothly, this becomes my working file.

I have a checklist of silent changes that I include in the style sheet. I usually start by doing some global replacements of things like two spaces to one, a hard return and tab to a paragraph break (^l^t to ^p), and two paragraph breaks to one (and repeat until all the extras are gone). Some authors like to make their Word documents look like the final book, and they might use extra paragraph breaks to start a chapter halfway down the page. This can cause problems later when the reader’s screen or printer’s paper size is different to what the author had, so it’s got to go!

I run analysis macros like ProperNounAlyse to catch misspelled character names, and I add them to the style sheet. I might also run HyphenAlyse and deal with any inconsistent hyphens in one big swoop. Then I run PerfectIt and work through it carefully, making note of decisions on my style sheet. I review any comments that might have been left in the text by the author, publisher or previous editors, mark them with a query if they still need to be dealt with, and remove the rest.

Finally, all systems are ready to go, and I launch into the main pass.


Resources

Sign up for the CIEP’s Efficient Editing course to learn more about how to approach an edit methodically and efficiently.

Check out the blog posts Making friends with macros and Two editors introduce their favourite macros to learn how to use macros before (or during) an edit.


About Hazel Bird

Hazel Bird runs a bespoke editorial service that sees the big-picture issues while pinpointing every little detail. She works with third sector and public sector organisations, publishers, businesses and non-fiction authors to deliver some of their most prestigious publications.

About Hester Higton

Hester Higton has been editing academic texts for publishers and authors since 2005. She’s also a tutor for the CIEP and currently its training director.

About Katherine Kirk

Katherine Kirk is a fiction editor who lives halfway up a volcano in Ecuador. She works on all types of fiction for adults, especially science fiction and literary fiction.

 

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: brick wall by Tim Mossholder, glasses on keyboard by Sly, coffee by Engin Akyurt, all on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Two editors introduce their favourite macros

Back in May 2022, Ben Dare wrote a handy beginner’s guide to macros that explains how to start using them. In this follow-up post, Ben introduces some of the macros he finds the most helpful when editing text. Fiction editor Katherine Kirk also talks about some of her favourite macros, and how she’s improved her efficiency by mapping macros to her gaming mouse.

Photo of water droplets on a leaf as a background image to the blog post title and authors: Two editors introduce their favourite macros by Ben Dare and Katherine Kirk

Ben Dare

When I begin with a Word document, I like to analyse it for style and consistency issues. Handily, there are macros to look for all sorts of things, without altering my document at all: spellings of names (ProperNounAlyse); hyphenation of words (HyphenAlyse); consistency of a whole selection of style choices (DocAlyse). Each gives a report in a separate Word document, helping me to understand where possible issues are and highlighting hard-to-spot errors.

But running each of those (and others) is a bit of a faff. So my first favourite macro is MegAlyse (yes, in my head it sounds like Megatron). This macro allows me to list the macros I’d like to analyse the document with and then runs them in an organised way (as long as I’ve installed them!), and it saves the results.

At this point I’ve got an idea of systematic things that I want to change or check individually, and I want to make those changes quickly and highlight things I know I’ll want to check. To do that, the second macro I use is FRedit. This macro has many abilities (there’s a manual!), but at its most basic it runs a list of global find and replace searches that I list in a separate document. It’s easy to experiment with – you can start with a small list and get to know this macro at your own pace – but it is important to know already what you can do with find and replace, including wildcards (and there’s a recent CIEP blog on that here).

Here’s a screenshot of a basic FRedit list, each line showing a find and replace with a vertical bar | separating them:

Screenshot showing the following five pieces of text each separated by a short vertical line: EM dash and EN dash; Navratilova with and without accents; amongst and among (highlighted yellow); Parliamentarians and ^& (highlighted green); ~[A-Za-z0-9]^13 and ^& (highlighted blue).

So with FRedit, in one go I can:

  1. Change all em dashes to spaced en dashes.
  2. Make a name always have the accents it needs.
  3. Change all ‘amongst’ to ‘among’ (the ¬ means it will do upper or lower case); it will also apply yellow highlighting, which is my note to self: ‘I’ve changed this but check it’ – I noticed some ‘amongst’ were in quotations and will need changing back.
  4. Retain ‘Parliamentarians’ (the ^& means replace with what you found, i.e. no change) but highlight in green, which tells me: ‘Not changed but needs checking for client’ – here the client wants lower case, but there were lots beginning sentences, so I’ve just marked them to check.
  5. Find any paragraph that ends in a letter or number, not punctuation (the ~ tells FRedit it’s a wildcard find to search for that range of characters in square brackets). It also adds blue highlight, which is my note to self: ‘Generic issue to check’.

This mixture of changes and highlighting makes things to do or check helpfully visible, but the highlighting does need to be removed. Cue the macro: HighlightMinus. Have the cursor on the appropriate line, or select some text, and the macro removes the highlighting. (Bonus mention: HighlightPlus is great for adding highlighting, to flag something for the client or that you want to come back to.)

Working through a text, some edits take a few mouse clicks/keyboard strokes to do. There are macros to do these tasks more quickly, saving seconds each time, adding up to many minutes over a project. An example is SwapWords: if the document has ‘it badly fell’ and I want ‘it fell badly’, I place the cursor in the first of the words to be swapped, run the macro, and it swaps the two words. It saves the time of manually moving or retyping text, and prevents those little slips of human error. (Bonus mention: SwapCharacters does the same for adjacent characters, handy for swapping quote marks with full stops and commas.)

I’m always reminded there’s stuff I don’t know. GoogleFetch takes the word by the cursor, or a selected phrase, and switches to a browser and searches Google (other providers are available!). It’s quick, easy and less clicking. (Bonus mention: DictionaryFetch does the same but searches an online dictionary.)

The above macros are written by Paul Beverley and are freely available to all. But many useful macros can’t be downloaded – I record them, or alter a pre-existing one, to suit my particular needs. Recording is great for repetitive, simple jobs. Altering doesn’t have to be scary: find a macro that does nearly what you want, tweak it and see what happens (on a spare doc!). For example, a client wanted me to follow the ‘Guardian and Observer style guide’ – so I changed GoogleFetch to open the appropriate Guardian style page for a word instead. It took a bit of learning, but it saved oodles of time in the end. You can even share your attempts and ask for advice on the CIEP macro forum. (Bonus mention: DictionaryFetchByLanguage came from such a process.)

Photo of a water droplet creating ripples on a lake

Katherine Kirk

Like Ben, I use a combination of analysis macros and look-up macros, like MerriamFetch, which searches the term I’m pointing at in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. But my absolute favourites are the ones that cut down on key combinations that I use all the time. If I can reduce a repetitive set of button pushes to a single click, then it adds up to hours of time saved, and it also reduces repetitive strain on my fingers. Even better, it frees up convenient key combinations for less frequently used macros!

The best thing I did for my efficiency this year was to get a gaming mouse. I use a Logitech G502, and as well as the scroll wheel and left and right-click buttons, it has five extra programmable buttons. I can also push the scroll wheel right or left to trigger more macros. This means I can have seven macros right there without moving my hand to my keyboard. Other editors swear by the Wacom tablet, which gives you much more functionality, but I personally love the satisfying click of the mouse buttons. Also, doing it this way eased the learning curve, which made it much less intimidating. And don’t tell my boss,* but outside of work, I use the mouse for playing games too!

I decided to set the programmable mouse buttons up to improve my workflow. I thought about the routine button pushes I use in every job and settled on the ones that I use most often. These are the macros that have made it onto the mouse:

  • StartSession does a simple search for ‘[]’ in the text, which is a kind of shorthand bookmark I’ve been using since my early days. I find Word’s built-in ‘pick up where you left off’ is a little deficient. I also use this when I need to pause my line-by-line editing to jump around for a global consistency check, so I can find my way back and carry on. I used Word’s macro recording tools to create the Start and End Session macros.
  • VisibleTrackOff4 toggles Track Changes on and off, and it changes the background to yellow when it’s off so I don’t make accidentally untracked changes.
  • GoogleFetch makes fact-checking quicker, since it saves me having to tab over to my browser.
  • MerriamUnabridgedFetch lets me stay on top of hyphenation, capitalisation and spelling much more easily. I mostly work with US texts.
  • Sliding my scroll wheel to the left finds the next instance of something I just searched for in the text. I matched it to the built-in shortcut in Word, Shift+F4, so I didn’t have to create a macro for it.
  • Sliding my scroll wheel to the right scrolls down five lines and moves the cursor back up four, which keeps the text I’m working on comfortably in the middle of the screen. I don’t remember who gave me the macro for that, possibly on the CIEP forums, but they called it TestScroll.
  • Finally, EndSession types my handy little ‘[]’ bookmark and saves the document, ready for the next work sprint.

Here’s how that all looks mapped to the mouse buttons. The labels with an M are macros I’ve assigned.

Diagram of a gaming mouse showing macros mapped to mouse buttons or the scroll wheel Diagram of the side of a gaming mouse showing macros mapped to mouse buttons

Besides the ones mapped to my mouse, the macros I use the most often are the ones that trim down the button pushes needed to make common changes. I work with fiction, so for me, that’s mostly things like changing ‘Yes.She said to ‘Yes, she said. I use Paul Beverley’s CommaInDialogue macro to change that full stop and capital letter into a comma and lowercase letter with a single key combination (CTRL+ALT+,).

As I explore more macros, I want to spend a little more time practising with Paul’s ‘speed editing’ macros. Minimising the time spent on repetitive little tasks means I work faster, and that makes my hourly rate go up without it costing my clients more and without sacrificing accuracy. But really, what I love most about using efficiency-boosting macros like these is that they make me feel like I’m the captain of my own spaceship. The control panel is only as complicated as I want it to be, and I can always add new magic buttons as I discover the need for them.


*I’m a freelancer. The boss is me.

About Ben Dare

Ben Dare is a Professional Member of the CIEP and copyedits/proofreads for projects on sustainable food systems and sustainable living (and almost anything else when asked nicely). Otherwise, he’s probably playing with Lego or Gravitrax, cooking, running, swimming or (regrettably) doing chores.

About Katherine Kirk

Katherine Kirk is a fiction editor who lives halfway up a volcano in Ecuador. She works on all types of fiction for adults, especially Science Fiction and Literary Fiction.

She also edits Tabletop Role-playing Game (TTRPG) content. Katherine can be found talking about macros on Twitter and Mastodon.

 

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: purple leaf and water droplet both by Pixabay on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Making time for marketing and CPD

One of those age-old questions for freelance editors and proofreaders is how to find time for marketing and continuing professional development (CPD) when other work keeps getting in the way. In this post, Philippa Lewis brings together some approaches that have helped her and other CIEP members.

When I started freelancing, I had no idea how much extra work would be involved on top of actual editing work. Words are my love and joy, and I’m more than happy to spend hours deliberating over every tiny aspect of punctuation, but I found myself completely unprepared for how much time marketing and CPD would take up.

Marketing in particular has been a challenge for me; I find the thought of promoting myself very uncomfortable, and marketing takes up time which I could be spending editing. And I would much, much rather be editing. It’s easy to convince myself that marketing is a waste of time when I could be spending that time completing paid work instead, so most of my attempts at marketing have been squeezed in out of slight desperation when I haven’t had any work booked in.

At the recent CIEP conference, Kia Thomas did an excellent talk about marketing. I really appreciated how matter-of-fact she was about it: as a freelancer, you have no choice but to market your business, so you might as well get on with it. Whether or not you enjoy doing marketing isn’t really relevant, because you still have to do it.

This was a bit of a wake-up call for me, and since then I’ve tried to come up with a system for regularly building marketing and CPD into my working week.

Find what works for you

Editors often talk about setting aside one morning or day a week for CPD and marketing. Having a specific slot for these tasks sounds like an excellent approach, but I always find that when I reach the time I’ve set aside, my latest editing deadline inevitably feels like a higher priority.

I’ve finally realised that a more flexible approach works better for me. I start my week by identifying the CPD and marketing tasks that I want to accomplish. These get written on a post-it and stuck onto my computer monitor; keeping them visible means I can’t forget to do them. I try to identify a mix of quick jobs (like sending a CV to a publisher) and longer ones (like drafting a blog post) for each week. I try to break tasks into smaller units where needed: ‘check pricing page on website’ feels more manageable than ‘re-do website’.

These tasks then got slotted in throughout the week. I find it useful to do them whenever I need a break from editing – often at the end of a work day, or before lunch. I might not have the mental capacity to edit another paragraph, but I can still manage to do a marketing task or read a blog post. Cycling through tasks like this means I’m more productive, as I’m ticking something off my list despite not feeling up to completing work for a client.

At the moment, this approach is working really well and allowing me to consistently complete CPD and marketing goals. But it’s freeing to remember that this might not be a strategy that works for me long term – I’ve found it really helpful to keep an open mind rather than trying to stick to a set routine that doesn’t feel like it’s working any more. We all work in different ways; don’t be afraid to try different approaches until you find a method that works for you.

Prioritise

Marketing and CPD both sometimes feel overwhelming: the list of things I could be doing can feel endless, and when the list is so long, sometimes it’s difficult to get started on working through it.

I’ve now got a list of CPD and marketing tasks that I want to complete, with the more pressing ones near the top, and I use this list to help me identify my tasks for each week.

CIEP member Eleanor Bolton has found it helpful to think about her long-term goals, then select CPD options that relate to this. She says ‘I had quite a long list of courses that all sounded interesting and potentially useful, but there was no way I could fit them all in. Over the summer I spent some time thinking about who my preferred clients were and ended up niching quite considerably. As a result, quite a few of those courses were no longer relevant.’

Be flexible

I’m currently doing a developmental editing course, and it wouldn’t be possible to complete the assignments for this in short bursts of time, or at the end of a day when I’m already tired. Likewise, if I’ve got a complex edit booked in, sometimes setting aside a chunk of time for CPD and marketing is more effective than trying to slot in extra tasks each day. On a different week with a different workload, a different approach might work better. It’s important to stay flexible, and to work with whatever your current circumstances are.

Anything is better than nothing

I’m aware that I could improve my editing speed if I improved my knowledge of using Word. I don’t have time to do a full course on it at the moment, so instead I’ve bought a book on the subject and I’m taking ten minutes every couple of days to work through a few pages. I’m not learning as much (or as quickly) as I would on a course, but I’m still learning something. Each tip I pick up is improving my editing speed.

Maybe you don’t have time to do a course at the moment, but could you listen to a podcast while doing the washing up or when you’re in the car? Again, this comes down to taking a step back and being willing to be flexible: what would be achievable with how your working week looks right now?

I regularly have to remind myself that anything is better than nothing. It’s really easy to get caught up in thinking all your marketing materials have to be perfect, which can lead to never finishing anything – but an imperfect website will reach more clients than a non-existent one.

Get something finished and sent off or published, even if you’re not completely happy with it: send a CV out to publishers even if you’re still completing a training course that you wanted to add to it; publish that blog post even though you’re not completely happy with one paragraph in it.

Reflect

And finally, set a moment aside to think about whether your current approach is working for you.

CIEP member Anna Baildon finds monthly reflections helpful to keep her CPD and marketing on track: ‘Each month I think about what’s gone well, what’s been more challenging and what I’ve learned. A brief look through my diary and my Trello board is usually enough to prompt my thoughts and form some analysis. It’s surprising how much insight this simple task provides. It’s like having a monthly meeting with my boss to bring clarity and focus to my work.’

There’s no ‘right’ way to tackle CPD and marketing; it’s just about finding an approach that works for you, sticking to it when you’re able to, and taking small but consistent steps forward.

About Philippa LewisHeadshot of Philippa Lewis

Philippa Lewis is a freelance developmental editor, copyeditor and proofreader. She works on a mix of speculative fiction and outdoors literature, and lives in North Wales.

 

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: unfocused lights and coffee both by Pixabay on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Editing text to make it more accessible

Making text accessible is about more than just using plain language; it’s also about making sure that everyone, including disabled readers, neurodivergent readers and other readers with distinct needs, can make sense of text on a website or screen. In this blog post, Andrew Macdonald Powney suggests some simple ways we can make our text more accessible, whatever its published format.

A pile of computer keys as the background to the blog post title and author: Editing text to make it more accessible by Andrew Macdonald Powney

Four simple ways to make text more accessible

There are many ways that text can be made more accessible (too many for this blog post). Here are four of the easiest and most impactful ways to get started. To learn more, delve into plain language principles (for example through the CIEP’s course Plain English for Editors), or investigate web accessibility (for example by learning about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).

Styling headings

In Word, an editor can make some text look like a heading by increasing the font size and putting it in bold. But a screenreader (software that reads out text on a computer screen, often used by blind or visually impaired people) cannot interpret that. Screenreaders need an unseen ‘tag’ or phrase of code which states that the following words are going to be a heading: they need the editor to style the text as a heading.

When you apply a heading ‘style’ in Word to what already looks like a heading on your screen, Word creates the code tags for you. All future readers will be told it is a heading. Meanwhile, at the editor’s end, the visual formatting to go with that ‘style’ has to be modified just once, and the change will be made to every piece of text to which the style has been applied.

These tags of code allow the screenreader to navigate from heading to heading, and they let the screenreader explain to their human reader that a title is coming.

Shorter and simpler sentences

Short sentences, front-loaded content, active voice: all good advice for writers, and good, too, for the users of screenreaders. A person can change the speed at which the screenreader speaks, but it is still easiest to digest a sentence when the subject and key point come first. And shorter sentences are simpler to hear.

Another advantage of short, direct sentences is that they tend to fit inside a line length. This reduces the chance of a line break mid-sentence – especially if you left-align, as you should for accessibility. Therefore short sentences work across a range of screens and devices. Reading a longer sentence on a narrow screen requires dexterity, concentration, and good vision that not everyone will have. Not everyone can zoom in and out, or scroll back and forth, and still keep track.

Writers and editors may forget that reading itself cannot be taken for granted. The conditions that make it hard to remember what you read – everything from cognitive processing issues to simple tiredness – make complex sentences more of a risk. When the very act of reading takes some effort, no more obstacles need be added.

A blind woman sitting at a computer wearing headphones and using a screenreader

Fonts and formatting

As a general rule, the fewer serifs in a font, the better. Sans serif fonts like Calibri and Arial do a better job of keeping letters distinct. There is less danger of overlap in the ascenders and descenders of adjacent letters. People read by pattern recognition, and when the patterns are easier to spot (because the individual letters are clearer), the text is easier to read.

Regardless of which font you use, don’t create constant mental adjustments with phrases in bold, words in italics and underlines. Displayed quotations, for example, are already pulled out; putting them in italics is an extra cognitive burden.

Alt text

Alt text is text which is an alternative to the image on the page. It is commonly used to stand in for images that visually impaired people can’t see; the sighted reader sees the image, while the screenreader reads out the alt text.

Alt text image descriptions need to be short; if there is too much to say, additional text next to the image would be better. Having said that, alt text still needs to provide useful information. The editor crafting alt text needs to think: what does the author need the reader to take away from this image, which this reader cannot see? ‘Picture of a graph of temperatures’ tells that reader nothing; ‘graph showing that temperature peaked in July at 31°C’ conveys information.

Remember that text may be repurposed

If you usually work on text that is going to finish up as a printed, physical object, then it may seem like certain aspects of accessibility are irrelevant – styling headings to aid screenreaders, for example, or using short sentences to reduce line breaks on narrow screens.

But this text could be repurposed at some point in the future. What you prepare for one format now may need to be repackaged for another medium, on another day. This is something worth bearing in mind when editing any text: can it be edited to ensure accessibility across different mediums? This could help to future-proof the text against whatever else your client may decide to do with it.

About Andrew Macdonald Powney

Andrew Macdonald Powney is an Intermediate Member of the CIEP and the content and quality team leader for APS Group (Scotland).

 

 

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: keyboard letters by Pixabay on Pexels, blind person using a computer by Chansom Pantip on Shutterstock.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Wise owls: how do you save time when editing?

We asked our parliament of wise owls, all Advanced Professional Members, to share some of the things that have helped them to become faster, more efficient editors over the years. Answers ranged from macros, checklists and templates to a healthier work–life balance and the confidence gained from experience.

Sue Browning

My main tip for speedy editing is to slow down and take a breath before you dive in. I find it helpful to approach large projects in phases, doing basic analysis (headings/structure/style), clean-up and formatting first, followed by my main text editing pass, then a final consistency check and spellcheck. This is all driven by checklists (and sub-checklists). While trundling through the initial, somewhat mechanical, stages may feel like delaying the core task of editing, I find it settles me into each project in a series of familiar steps so that even a new or challenging job feels more under control by the time I start looking at the text.

Another more obvious timesaver is my stylesheet template with combo boxes that contain the most common alternatives for each style point, making setting up my initial sheet very quick. Thanks to Hazel Bird and her helpful blog post for bringing this useful technique to my attention.

Next is keyboard shortcuts, both for frequent operations, like switching between windows and desktops, all the usual Word commands, and for my many macros. I have a lot of keyboard shortcuts, but I learned them slowly, converting the often-used ones to muscle memory, making room in my brain for the next batch.

But probably my biggest practical timesaver is PhraseExpress, a text expander, which I use for emails, author queries/explanations, and any bits of text that I find myself typing repeatedly, including things that I frequently mistype, like my email sign-off. PhraseExpress’s web look-up function also saves me ages when checking references.

Finally, there is the confidence that comes with experience. I know my major clients’ style preferences pretty well (and have PerfectIt stylesheets to help), my grammar and punctuation are pretty sound, and I no longer angst over every comma (just some of them 😉).

Liz Dalby

I’d say that three things in particular have made me a more efficient copyeditor.

  1. Learning to do the language editing late in the process. When I started freelancing, my instinct was to sit down at the text and work through it from beginning to end, reading every word and working on everything that needed doing all at once, as I encountered it. Over the years I have learned – by trial and error, and also by discussing best practice with other editors – to work in a series of passes. Broadly speaking, I start by styling the headings, which gives me an overview of the structure. Then I focus on some of the basic cleaning up I can do, and applying global style decisions based on my own observations of the text, plus the brief and the house style (if there is one). Once the text is in better shape, only then do I start to read it from beginning to end, smoothing out the language as I go, and continuing to add to the style sheet. The language editing isn’t the final pass, because after that there will be a series of checks (depending on the brief and the budget). But it’s nowhere near the beginning! This has made my process massively more efficient – and accurate.
  1. Working within my limitations. Like (probably) all freelancers, my initial instinct was to work ALL the hours in order to establish my business and make a good living. Now I know that I do my best work when I only do about four or five hours of pure editing per day, and take breaks at weekends. I hate working in the evening, so I hardly ever do it. This all keeps me fresh, and able to work quickly. It took me a long time to figure this out. I should have listened harder to advice from more seasoned freelancers! But it is hard to put this into practice until you have built up a steady stream of well-paid work.
  1. I’m passionate about this last one: I approach a text asking myself what can stay the same, rather than what I can change. This can save unnecessary work, and it can also help to build a better relationship with the author, who can see that you’re not making change for change’s sake. However – it’s still important to recognise when fundamental changes are required, and do all of the work that’s needed. Judging this takes experience, and even then it’s possible to get it wrong.

Sue Littleford

Chatting with other editors, I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one who’s slowed down a bit over the years! We think it’s because we know better what we’re doing, where our weak spots are, and we don’t skip things because of inexperience. But, of course, I’ve had to fund that time by finding efficiency savings.

I’m wedded to checklists. They save time by making sure I cover all the steps I need for onboarding or handover and can tick off each requirement as I’ve done it. I also have checklists where I’m required to nudge the English one way or the other (US to UK, for instance), for handling collected volumes and, indeed, for any repeated sequence of tasks.

As anyone who has done the CIEP Efficient Editing course will know, another key is to do things only once, and in the right order – checklists are your friend for this.

A second go-to is PerfectIt – I always, always run it at the end of the job (making it a game between me and it), but I also run its Summary of Possible Errors report at the start, a quick way to give me a good view of the condition of the manuscript, and start thinking about style decisions without making premature changes (discount for CIEP members – you’ll need to be logged in). PerfectIt works best on PCs, but a limited functionality version is available for Macs. I have style sheets for each repeat client.

Finally, I use templates (for my checklists, my style sheets, my word lists and so on, tailored for each repeat client, and a generic version for new clients, which then becomes the tailored template), and a text expander for frequent emails (handover, for example) or author queries text. No reinventing the wheel for me!

Michael FaulknerMichael Faulkner

These are my top tips for speeding up the mechanics of the editing/proofreading process:

  • Buy the biggest monitor, with the highest resolution, you can manage. When I moved from a 27″ to a 32″ monitor, my work rate greatly accelerated.
  • Download two amazing free utilities: AquaSnap and TidyTabs. Using them in combination, you can access and organise all open programs/documents with no clutter. I keep the largest part of screen real estate for the document(s) I’m working on but have everything else off to the side, tabbed and ever ready.
  • Download a (free) text expander to add frequently used words or even large blocks of text with a couple of strokes. I use FastKeys. You can also use it to build macros.
  • Create a Word template for every kind of project you work on (I have half a dozen fiction templates and eight templates for different types of legal publication); populate each template with a Word style for every conceivable character or paragraph element you’re likely to need for that particular type of project; and add a keyboard shortcut for every style you might want to invoke more than a couple of times. Using styles in this way I can tame a 15K-word chapter, which contains only direct formatting and is full of displayed quotes, different heading styles, lots of levels of numbered subheads and the like, in 15 minutes.
  • This one is a question of do as I say, not as I do 😊. Use macros. I’m scared of macros because they have caused unwanted (and unnoticed) wholesale changes in the past that have got me in trouble – but when you master them they’re incredibly powerful.

Hazel Bird

When it comes to speeding up the editing process, one thing I’ve found indispensable is master documents. This is a feature of Microsoft Word that allows you to combine many documents together and work on them as if they were a single document. Master documents have a reputation as being tricky to handle and unpredictable, but in my experience only the first of those characterisations is true. If you ever need to work on multiple related documents at once (such as multiple chapters in a book), it’s worth taking a course on master documents or reading up on how they work. Once you’ve learned their quirks (the ‘tricky to handle’ bit), the seeming unpredictability mostly becomes clear and they open up a paradise of efficiency. It was a revelation to me when I first realised that I could do a PerfectIt run or fix a problematic phrase on five, ten or even a hundred related documents all at once. I’ve found master documents most powerful in my encyclopedia work, where they have allowed me to seamlessly edit and check millions of words at a time. And, of course, this can lead to quality improvements too, as it makes implementing consistency easier.

It’s worth saying that this way of working doesn’t suit everybody and there are other methods (such as Paul Beverley’s FREdit macro) of tackling repeated issues across multiple documents. Also, if you want to use master documents on very large numbers of files, you may find your computer limits what you can achieve. However, if like me you feel most comfortable in your editing when you have everything visible all in one place, then master documents are worth a look.

About the CIEP

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

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Photo credits: owl by Hoover Tung  on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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