Author Archives: Harriet Power

How to earn more money in your freelance editing business

How can editors earn more money in their freelance editing business? Carla DeSantis discusses the advice presented by Malini Devadas at a recent Toronto CIEP local group meeting:

    • Common mistakes when setting rates
    • Mindset and strategy
    • Marketing your freelance editing business

One of the benefits of being a CIEP member is the option to participate in local group meetings – getting to know other local editors, sharing information and making collegial connections. As the global pandemic forced groups to meet online, one advantage for the Toronto CIEP local group has been the ability not only to include Canadian editors outside of Toronto, but also to host guest speakers from around the world at these local gatherings.

In January 2022, Toronto CIEP local group coordinator Janet MacMillan invited Malini Devadas, based in Australia, to speak to our group on how to earn more money in our freelance editing businesses. Malini Devadas coaches editors and academic writers; through her business Edit Boost she helps editors to find more clients and earn more money.

Common mistakes when setting rates

Malini began the Toronto CIEP session by outlining four common mistakes that editors make when thinking about their rates:

  1. Worrying about what others charge
  2. Assuming that you know what clients will pay, without basing that assumption on data
  3. Devaluing your own time and skills
  4. Underestimating how long a job will take, which could lead to overestimating earnings and underquoting.

Mindset and strategy

In order to counter these common mistakes that editors can make in their businesses, Malini suggested adopting the following mindset and strategy:

1. Be confident in your ability to help people

How do you help your target client? When content marketing, talk about the issues that are of interest to your clients, not necessarily to other editors. What are your clients worrying about? According to Malini, it most likely is not simply punctuation and word choice. Show your clients that you can solve their problems for them. Since Malini also coaches academic and scholarly authors, she emphasised the need to normalise the idea of academics being edited.

2. Realise that you cannot help everyone who contacts you

As an editor, you may be limited by your schedule, what you need to earn, and your expertise. It is important to determine when you do not have the subject expertise necessary for a project and to perhaps pass it on to a suitable colleague. If a client is not able to pay what you need to earn in order to properly complete a job, it is okay to say no. Conversely, if you do not really want the job or already have too much work on your plate, you can charge more.

3. You are allowed to earn whatever you want to earn

Frequently, editors figure out what this amount is by working backwards from what their expenses are. It is important to take into consideration any specialised skills or knowledge that you may have, professional designations or how long you have been an editor. While it is easy to assume that certain disciplines (such as academia) may pose an unspoken limit on acceptable rates, Malini suggested that editors should not generalise about a discipline’s ability to pay, as sources of revenue may exist, despite your assumptions.

4. Life balance is a necessity, not a luxury

Everyone needs sleep and rest, even (or especially) editors! It is important for freelance editors to adopt a mindset that allows them to plan for life balance within their work schedule.

5. Market your business to attract the people who value what you do

If you focus your message on your ideal clients, you will automatically repel the clients who are not right for you. And remember, you do not necessarily need a lot of clients per year, just the right number of key clients to keep you busy for the time that you wish to be working (this could work out to, for example, 12 clients a year, if your average project lasts a month – fewer if you factor in vacation time). If you focus on marketing to the right people, you will get more inquiries from those potential clients who have the budget to pay your desired rates. If you can increase the number of inquiries coming in, you may then be able to earn more money by working fewer hours (which leads to #4 above). And remember #2 above: you do not have to take every job.

Man relaxing on some grass

Marketing your freelance editing business

So, what should freelance editors’ marketing strategy include in order to increase inquiries and, consequently, their ability to raise rates? Malini suggested using some of the following sources:

  • Contacts and connections. Let your existing contacts know that you are offering editorial services. If your target clients are academic writers, for example, consider offering writing or publishing workshops at universities (which may come with some compensation); such speaking engagements will give you good exposure. If you wish to work with graduate students, contact the departmental person who coordinates graduate students or use one of your contacts for an introduction.
  • Social media. Find out where your ideal clients hang out on social media platforms: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn? In the case of academics, Twitter seems to be the preferred platform for engagement. Once you determine where your clients engage, work to develop relationships with people who can lead you to contacts. For example, consider whether you are targeting professors directly, publishers or managing editors. If you are offering workshops, remember that you need to sell your services to the university and departmental administrators, not directly to students.
  • Email marketing. Once you have provided content on social media that will get your ideal clients’ attention and people become familiar with you through those channels, consider moving these connections to email marketing. In this model, you will be providing content via email directly to the inboxes of people who have already decided that you add value.
  • Writing blog posts intended for your ideal clients (not for other editors) can also be a useful tool for driving new clients to your website. Hosting your material on your own website creates evergreen content that you can continue to share on social media. Once the blog post drives traffic to your website, you should have a call to action at the end of every blog post, which will encourage the potential client either to join your email list or to contact you.

The key, however, is to use whatever platform you are comfortable with, as long as you do some form of marketing.

I am grateful that the Toronto CIEP group provided a forum for our local group to connect with Malini at our meeting. The international editing community is lucky to have someone like Malini as a resource to constantly encourage us to value our skills, services and time. I have taken many of Malini’s suggestions into account over the past several years and have seen my business and income grow as a result. It is easy for freelance editors – frequently working in isolation – to undervalue themselves without cause. Malini’s main message, which is one that all freelance editors should embrace, is that editors running their own businesses offer significant value that should be properly compensated. Confidence to advocate for ourselves is key.

About Carla DeSantis

Carla DeSantis headshot

Carla DeSantis is an editor, indexer and translator based in Toronto, Canada. She specialises in scholarly humanities and social sciences, especially multilingual texts, and is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. Carla has published on medieval Latin topics and is the author of the blog Parchment to PDF.

You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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: money by nattanan23, man on grass by Pexels, both on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Editing in specialist areas

It can be easy as a freelance editor to be drawn into editing one type of material (or get stuck in a rut editing one type of material) and not realise what else is out there. This blog post brings together four editors working in diverse areas – cookbooks, school textbooks, RPGs (role-playing games) and construction – to give a flavour of editorial niches that may be new to you. We asked them why they particularly like working in a specific genre, and what they feel is unique about editing that genre.

Wendy Hobson: Cookbooks

Wendy Hobson specialises in cookery and lifestyle, and wrote the CIEP Guide How to Edit Cookery Books.

For me, a good cookbook is not ‘non-stick’; it lives in the kitchen and is used and abused until the pages are stuck together with egg white and dusted with cocoa. I get great satisfaction from the work involved in making sure each book is as good as it can be. Here are a few pointers on what is involved.

Eye for detail: All the usual editorial rules apply in terms of consistency, accuracy and clarity of ingredients, quantities, timing, techniques and the like. Many people follow recipes to the letter so it’s my job to make sure that letter isn’t a ‘b’ in the wrong place – think tbsp/tsp hot spice!

Experience: Each book is unique, cooks are seldom writers, they may be used to restaurant quantities and they rarely do international conversions, so there’s a lot to think about.

Creativity: A book is a unique expression of the author’s passion and I must make sure the reader can prepare food that showcases that passion. There’s a fine line between applying editorial rules and squeezing the life out of a text.

Pragmatism: I imagine rolling my sleeves up before I start and going through each step as though I am cooking the recipes. What is missing? Is the technique clear? How come I’m halfway through before I discover I should have soaked the ingredient overnight!

Market-led: The text needs to match the reader. How frustrating for a beginner to stumble on ‘heat to hard crack stage’! How infuriating for an expert to find a lengthy explanation of how to whisk!

I enjoy the challenge of making sure this is all seamless and the reader never stumbles as they reproduce the food as it was meant to be served.

For more information, see How to Edit Cookery Books, the CIEP Guide free for members to download.

Harriet Power: School textbooks

Harriet Power spent eight years working in-house for educational publishers, and school textbooks still form the core of her freelance business.

I never sit in bed at night and read textbooks for fun, but I do genuinely enjoy editing them. In a nutshell, what I like most about textbook editing (particularly for KS3 or GCSE) is the puzzle of explaining tricky topics in an accessible, objective, succinct but still accurate way.

One of the things that I think is fairly unique to school textbooks (at least compared to a lot of fiction or trade non-fiction) is the issue of space: there’s always a word count limit and there’s usually too much to fit into the space available. The GCSE textbooks I work on often have a rigid structure, where one double-page spread equals one topic.

So let’s say we’ve got room for 1,000 words on the topic of abortion in a GCSE Religious Studies textbook. Those 1,000 words have to work really hard to introduce and explain abortion, present religious teachings on it, then give arguments for and against it – all in a way that’s accurate but accessible enough for teenagers to understand, and as ‘objective’ as possible so the author (or publisher) doesn’t appear to be favouring any particular position. That takes a lot of skill, and I love working with authors to cram as much information as possible into those 1,000 words without sacrificing accuracy, objectivity or accessibility.

I also like editing textbooks because to me it feels worthwhile. I think knowledge is a really powerful way to make the world a better place and I get satisfaction from helping, in my own small way, to make it accessible to teenagers.

Rachel Lapidow: Role-playing games (RPGs)

Rachel Lapidow is a freelance copyeditor and proofreader who works on RPGs, board games, comics and manga.

When I first got into freelance copyediting over five years ago, I initially wanted to edit science fiction and fantasy novels. But after working on RPGs I discovered that they are one of my favourite types of projects due to their mix of technical writing and fiction.

Role-playing games (commonly referred to as RPGs) are games where you get to make a lot of decisions about how you want to approach certain tasks. For instance, when it comes to fighting do you want to be sneaky and stealthy, seeking out your enemies under cover of night? Or do you prefer to be brash instead, and boldly announce your presence to your foes? Tabletop RPGs (aka TTRPGs, the most popular of which is probably Dungeons & Dragons) are collaborative games often played in person. One person acts as the game moderator (aka GM) and the other people play as characters that they’ve created.

In RPG books there are sections, such as rules, equipment types and game conditions, where things are laid out in a simple, concrete manner. Other portions are written with more lyrical prose in order to better build the world of the game. Sometimes these latter sections read more like short stories. Because there are often a lot of different chapters, a style sheet is critical to make sure that language is used consistently. Many independent game creators don’t have house style guides, so it’s often the copyeditor’s responsibility to create and maintain one. Your style sheet should make it clear how game terms – like spells and abilities – are treated.

Getting to edit and proofread RPGs has led me to meet so many wonderful game creators, writers, illustrators and fans, and my love of science fiction and fantasy frequently comes in handy. While I wouldn’t say that editing an RPG is as fun as playing one, it is still a process that I really enjoy.

A bag of RPG dice

Julia Sandford-Cooke: Construction

Julia Sandford-CookeJulia Sandford-Cooke became a specialist in construction after working for the Construction Industry Training Board.

If you can build a picture of what someone is like from their CIEP Directory listing, I’m not sure what mine says about me. Clients don’t seem as interested in ‘escape rooms’ and ‘Norfolk’ as in the line that reads:

Construction: bricklaying, Building Regulations, built environment, carpentry, construction industry legislation, health and safety, planning/surveying, plastering.

This surprising specialism developed when I came to manage the publishing team at the Construction Industry Training Board in 2004. I had little knowledge of construction, but I did have plenty of experience producing vocational resources at Harcourt Education (now absorbed into Pearson).

Our bestseller was the weirdly named ‘GE700: Construction Site Safety’, at that time a 1,000-page ringbinder explaining the statutory health and safety duties of construction site managers. ‘The Yellow Book’, as customers fondly called it, was updated each year by our internal specialists, in line with changes to legislation.

Now, of course, it’s updated online in real time, but then we were constantly immersed in the details of vital legislation such as the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, for which we also produced guidance in partnership with the Health and Safety Executive.

From GE700 came spin-offs for all levels of site staff. We used to say if one life was saved as a result of our publications, it was all worthwhile. As a freelancer, this experience has informed my choice of project, including writing three books on plastering, and my attitude towards educational resources of all kinds. As an editor, it’s important to know I’m making a difference.

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: cookbook by micheile, dice by Alperen Yazgi, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

CIEP social media round-up: February and March 2022

In February and March we considered the importance of applying editorial judgement, promoted a new guide, and reflected on change: whether it’s small (the daffodils are out!), planned for (switching to editing a new genre) or hugely unsettling (Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), it’s something that’s hard to escape. 

All about editorial judgement

We shared some engaging new blog content from CIEP members in February and March with the theme of making editorial judgements. This coincided with the release of a new fact sheet on this very subject – free for CIEP members.

On any working day, an editor could be making several different types of decisions. At the most basic level, a common editorial judgement is deciding whether to make a correction or not. A more difficult decision can be whether something is good enough, which depends on client expectations, budget, time constraints, the needs of the end user and – as always – the context.

How important is the style sheet? Do we understand what the client wants, or are we second-guessing? What are the red flags to look out for before accepting or rejecting a job? The all-encompassing art of editorial judgement reveals itself in almost every thread on the CIEP’s member forums.

And we also have to guard against making unfounded assumptions, which might happen when a text you’re working on is outside your subject expertise or lived experience. Is the language inclusive, and how should we query it with the writer if it isn’t? Nicholas Taylor shared Alex Kapitan’s seven principles of editing outside our own life experiences.

Sue Littleford considered how the critical skill of editorial judgement could be applied to running your editorial business. Before you take on the work, you’re judging whether the text and the client are a good fit for you. What should you charge? How long will it take and will you be able to fit it around other work? Freelancers also need to make branding and marketing decisions. Sue’s article was a treasure trove of expert advice.

Can we rely on tech to help us in our judgements? We shared Andy Coulson’s considerations on the options available for automating style sheets. Computers are very good at following rules and recognising consistency, but editors have to make decisions based on those results.

In her Finer Point series, Cathy Tingle discussed how to navigate the nuances of title case in headings, and in the process discovered the importance of editorial judgement in these decisions. This was a popular post that really got our members debating and discussing capitalisation!

A new guide for science editing

We promoted a new guide on social media in February: Editing Scientific and Medical Research Articles by Dr Claire Bacon.

This guide tells editors all they need to know to help scientists get their research papers ready for publication, explaining how a research article should be structured and giving a step-by-step guide to editing each section, including tables and figures. The elements of scientific style are also explained, together with common problems editors may encounter and how to solve them.

Change

Change was a recurring theme in the CIEP resources that we shared on our social media channels in February and March. Any freelancer has to be prepared to embrace change and keep progressing in their work. We can hope the change is gradual and positive, but sometimes we’re presented with an opportunity that is less of a learning curve and more of a learning catapult. You at least hope for a soft landing.

A new direction

Advanced Professional Member Gale Winskill likes a challenge, and has changed direction in her own career. In a blog she talks of feeling the fear of fiction and doing it anyway! Gale also has some encouraging words for anyone wanting to switch to editing fiction: ‘If you can articulate your reaction to a piece of narrative prose, you can edit fiction!’ Gale has become a well-respected fiction editor and co-wrote the CIEP’s Introduction to Fiction Editing course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re interested in finding out if fiction editing might be for you, the CIEP also publishes a short guide that may help you to decide: Getting Started in Fiction Editing, written by Kat Trail. Kat herself has changed direction from journalism to fiction editing (and back again!).

Averill Buchanan works primarily as a fiction editor, and in February we shared a blog where she talks about her beginnings in graphic design and her decision to change direction and work as an editor. She explains how both skills have enabled her to help independent authors navigate the sometimes overwhelming process of self-publishing.

We promoted our Exercise Bank in February and March, and there are great resources in this collection to give you a taste of what it is like to proofread and copyedit fiction. One of them – a proofreading exercise by Jane Hammett – provides practice in proofreading a highly illustrated text, checking illustrations, checking layout and using Adobe Acrobat Reader DC commenting/markup tools. It is completely free for members.

Changing your processes for the better

How do you make your work more efficient? In an illuminating blog post, Margaret Hunter describes the process of streamlining workflow for regular and repeated publications such as journals and series. Before beginning she asks herself: ‘I’m going to have to do this again, so what will make it easier or more efficient next time?’ That’s a fantastic question. Before you begin any job it’s worth considering if there are any processes you can employ to speed things up for yourself, reduce drudgery and make the best use of your amazing brain by freeing up more thinking time.

Making sense of changing times

A new blog post from guest writer Rosie Tate of Tate & Clayburn listed five ways the English language has changed in the past two decades. It’s been an eventful 20 years, to put it mildly: words have come and gone, meanings have shifted, technical terms have become everyday, and the pandemic has introduced words and phrases from virology and medicine.

As certain as death and taxes

The most extreme example of change is something we don’t like to think of or talk much about … the subject of death. We shared this epically researched blog by Luke Finley and Laura Ripper which provides a practical and sensitive guide to what you should have in place for your clients and colleagues if you should pass away unexpectedly. Thanks for making us think about this subject.

Another subject we don’t like to think of or talk much about is … HMRC. Melanie Thompson described her experience of being inspected by the UK’s tax authority. The jolt of adrenaline from reading this was more than the effect of any double espresso, and had a lot of members asking for the number of Melanie’s accountant. We recommend you read it; it has a happy ending. You’re a trooper, Melanie.

And finally …

What if the change you are presented with isn’t a choice – and is life altering? How do you cope with that?

We’ve all had two years of getting used to a ‘new normal’, and now the world is experiencing another time of great uncertainty and worry. War is a constant fact of life for many people in our world, a fact that leaves many of us feeling rather helpless. One small way editors can contribute is through our work; to always challenge intolerance and disinformation where we find it.

Our most roundly supported social media post in February and March was the CIEP Council’s statement of solidarity with the Ukrainian Publishers and Booksellers Association, and support of a statement made by the Russian Alliance of Independent Publishers and Book Distributors.

Our CIEP social media output is the work of many hands. Thank you to the information team, the social media team, the writers, editors, proofreaders and everyone who takes time to engage with our posts.


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About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: blossom by Mitrey on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Editing for age appropriateness in children’s books

In this post, Lisa Davis discusses age appropriateness in children’s literature. She considers the very subjective question of how to tell whether vocabulary or content is appropriate for specific age ranges, and takes into account who is reading the book and how it gets into their hands.

When editing children’s books, the editor takes on an additional level of responsibility to their readers. This is a challenge to those starting out in children’s books as one can end up wondering if a word is too difficult for an age group, or if the content is appropriate. However, as well as the intended audience of the book, we have to consider who will actually be reading the story and the gatekeepers who will be selling or sharing it.

Children’s books tend to get lumped together as one genre, which isn’t ideal considering how much children develop and learn each year. Here, I focus on the 0–12 age group, as this is often when age appropriateness comes into question, particularly as adults still have some say in what a child is reading.

Age-appropriate vocabulary

Age-appropriate vocabulary is one of the first things that comes up with editing children’s books, and this refers to the vocabulary level of an intended audience. There’s sometimes an assumption that picture books need to be simple with limited vocabulary, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Picture books are designed to be read by an adult to a child, and this process helps expand a child’s spoken vocabulary. While I wouldn’t advocate using too many challenging words, I would also avoid oversimplifying the language so much that it ends up being dry.

A key element to consider is who is reading the words. For most children’s books for ages up to seven, adults are reading to a child. But vocabulary level is important for early reader books where a child is learning to read. In this case, the word choice is vital and usually tailored to use selected phonetical sounds. This is specialised writing and editing, which one would be trained for. So, unless you’re editing levelled readers, then just using common sense is fine – and remember that many children continue to be read to throughout primary school.

Swearing, of course, is another issue. Generally, for this age group swearing should be avoided, but there are some borderline swear words (‘bloody hell’, ‘damn’, etc) where some readers are OK with it and others aren’t. For this reason, I tend to advise avoiding them unless an author or publisher has a strong opinion on it.

Parents and two children reading a book together

Age-appropriate content

This subjectivity becomes more apparent when we start looking at content. If we think about what content is appropriate for children’s books, we initially paint with broad strokes. However, so much comes down to individual definition and the context in which content is presented. For instance, if I were to ask if violence were OK in a children’s book, I would expect most people to say ‘no’. Instead, it would be better to ask specifically what is happening, how it is presented and what age group will be consuming this content. Is one character slapping another OK in a picture book for ages 3–5? Or in a chapter book for ages 9–12? Why does the slap happen? Is this action glorified? Are there any repercussions for this action? We have to consider the overall message this content sends to the reader and whether potentially problematic content is the only way to achieve this.

While there hasn’t been a study done to examine age appropriateness of content within children’s books, Ipsos Mori and Ofcom did a study on offensive language in 2016 that examined if/when certain words were problematic on TV and radio. The study concluded that ‘it was not usually possible to decide on the acceptability of language and gestures without taking the full context into account’. It also stated: ‘The likely audience should be considered (noting that not all channels are the same) – but the potential audience is also important’.

These findings can be extended to all content within children’s books. For instance, we wouldn’t be OK with drug usage in children’s books. But any reference to drugs or alcohol in books for ages 9–12 isn’t as problematic, provided it’s shown as negative.

However, these considerations need to be put into further context of the gatekeepers.

Considering the gatekeepers

With children’s books, we have several levels of gatekeepers before a book gets into a child’s hands. There are parents and family members, but they are often last in a long line that includes teachers and librarians as well as bookshops or distributors, who get books into schools and libraries. And there are organisations that support or promote books, but only if they adhere to certain criteria.

I’m aware of certain children’s book prizes that won’t include a book that has any violence. Additionally, there are companies that sell books directly to schools, so they are cautious about which titles they select to ensure there isn’t anything problematic that could result in complaints.

The issue here is that ‘problematic’ is incredibly subjective, and people tend to have stronger opinions about content created for children. While many readers are happy to see picture books tackling important social issues, there are others who feel children are too young to be exposed to this content. This is why we always see greater censorship in children’s titles, where even individual schools are deciding not to include popular titles in their collections.

Illustration of a mouse

Context is key

This subjectivity is something that can’t (and often shouldn’t) be catered for. Just as with adult titles, we have to accept that some people won’t approve of every children’s title. But complex subjects such as war, death, mental health and gender identity are all being tackled in children’s books today in ways that are seen as accessible to children. It all comes down to how the content is presented.

While books don’t receive age ratings, we can look to films and the guidance around them. But even here it’s not as straightforward, with the British Board of Film Classification noting that their recommendations ‘consider context, tone and impact – how it makes the audience feel – and even the release format’. So even with guidelines, it still comes down to context. But they also note that ‘giving age ratings and content advice to films and other audiovisual content [is] to help children and families choose what’s right for them and avoid what’s not’, which means ratings can only apply to content at the very top level. While I don’t advocate for age recommendations on books, what we can do is use book blurbs and back cover copy to give a clear indication of what type of story the book is, so readers have a good idea of what they’re getting.

Ultimately as editors, we need to read with a sensitive eye to examine word choice and content, questioning anything that might be inappropriate, while raising anything that could be problematic for some readers, so that an author or publisher can make an educated decision.

About Lisa Davis

Lisa Davis (she/her) is a children’s book editor and publishing consultant who specialises in making children’s books more inclusive. She has worked at major publishers in the UK including Simon & Schuster and Hachette, and in departments including editorial, rights and production. Before going freelance in 2018, she was the book purchasing manager for BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, which gives over 3.5 million books a year directly to 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: pirate scene by Tumisu on Pixabay, family by cottonbro on Pexels, mouse by Victoria_Borodinova on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Wise owls: the best piece of client feedback

We asked our parliament of wise owls, all Advanced Professional Members, to tell us about their best piece of client feedback.

Sue Littleford

I’m a copyeditor working primarily for publishers, so my normal workflow is (broadly): the files arrive; I edit them; if the job includes it I resolve queries with the author; then the files go off for typesetting and that’s an end to it. So if I get an email from the author weeks later, I’m already nervous.

In 2010, I got one such email from an economist, co-author with an Italian colleague whose English was … convoluted. Further, he kept sending replacement chapters with no changes tracked, and my file was for the whole book, which made comparing files a pain. It had taken so much work to straighten out the language that more than a decade later this job remains my lowest hourly rate ever.

My nervousness increased. Eek! What had I missed? Despite earning a pittance on that book, I still had professional pride.

The email started ominously: ‘I have been checking the proofs, and you hardly seem to have done anything’ – I gulped – ‘yet somehow it reads so much better. I don’t know how you’ve done it, but thank you.’ Phew! Cue victory dance! Authors’ voices preserved? Tick-tickety-tick-tick-tick!

Liz Dalby

I love getting positive feedback from clients, and it’s one of the things, along with being part of such a supportive community, that makes me feel able to keep going – job after job, year after year. A compliment about my work, from someone who understands exactly what I’ve brought to a project, can make my entire week. But some of the best, most useful, feedback has in fact been the most painful. When clients take the time to tell me how I can improve my work next time, or more effectively meet their needs – that’s what really keeps me learning and growing. I haven’t always taken criticism well, but gradually I’ve learned to see it for what it is: an opportunity to do better in future. I always thank clients for fair criticism, because in a profession that can sometimes feel like fumbling in the dark, constructive feedback can really shine a light on the way ahead.

Sue Browning

This, from 2008, just three years into my freelance editing career, is still one of my favourite bits of feedback. It was a delightful book, and she was a lovely author to work with:

I fear I have proved to be a slightly hassly author [reader, she was not; just particular], and you have been brilliant in patiently hanging on to the detail with me. In your respect for the detail, and careful consultations with me on everything, you have been confidence-instilling at every turn. I have three other things at proof-stage at the moment, and I can say without hesitation that yours is the most reliable and sensitively attuned best copyediting I have encountered.

The words ‘sensitively attuned’ have seen me through many an episode of imposter syndrome.

Hazel Bird

I can’t say enough about how useful, important and affirming good feedback is, and I publish my favourites on my website. For freelancers, the affirmative aspect is crucial and not (all) about ego stroking: it’s a way of better identifying what our clients need and learning how we can give them more of it. For example, if a client mentions our ‘careful and thorough work’, they probably value accuracy and thoroughness. Or, if they thank us for making a process ‘smooth and stress-free’, they might place a premium on timely communications. Other clients need to feel they can trust us to protect their image, brand or reputation, which might come across in a variety of comments.

Good feedback is never an excuse to sit on our laurels – it’s an invaluable source of clues to be mined to understand how we can serve our clients even better.

Michael FaulknerMichael Faulkner

The most thoughtful and thought-provoking piece of feedback I’ve ever received was from a law publisher client over a decade ago, when I was still just proofreading. I continue to work for the same publishers, though now it’s mainly copyediting. Delightful clients, so long may it continue.

This is what they said:

Really chuffed with your approach to the text and the style. We appreciate proofers who will adopt an elegant scepticism to everything.

I thought then, and still do, that elegant scepticism was such a healthy aspiration for an editor. It will say different things to different people, but I took it to mean, Look sideways at everything but don’t go blundering in unnecessarily – and when you do go in, strive towards a clean and economical form of words that respects both writer and subject matter.

Much of my work involves multi-author law guides from different jurisdictions around the world. English is often not the authors’ first language, so there is much digging for the intended shade of meaning, and quite a lot of rewriting. In that context, elegant scepticism is the lodestar and I have it written on a Post-it below the window!

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: owl by MiRUTH_de on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Introducing … three new EPWG members

Back in September, we introduced members of the CIEP’s Environmental Policy Working Group. Three new members share their motivations for joining the group, and their thoughts on eco-anxiety.

Caroline Petherick

Until the Second World War, most people were aware that most resources were limited, and the mindset endured into the early 1960s. But then into the Western world came the brave new world of disposability – mostly oil-based products and fuels – with marketeers cheerfully generating in an ingenuous public a wonderful feeling of affluence in our ability to draw on, and pay for, unlimited resources. A growing number of families now had a car. Battery farms made chicken an everyday food instead of a Sunday Special. Freddie Laker invented the package holiday practically single-handed, and English people flew to the Med for their holidays. Those who holidayed in England were seen as deprived. Those who ate at Cranks (a pioneering vegetarian restaurant) were obviously feeble. Those who kept items to repair and reuse were clearly stingy.

Then in December 1968, six months before the moon landing, came ‘Earthrise’, which perhaps more than any other single thing – even Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book about the changes in the environment – raised awareness, clearly showing that our planet is a closed system with finite resources. After all, Earthrise was a photograph, easily understood by people worldwide.

I was born shortly after the war so I’ve lived through those events, and my brief summary of them reflects my own experience. What I find so unsettling now is how very effectively the powerful people who perceive that their interests are not served by the triple bottom line* have for the last half-century kept that early-1960s mindset alive – even at COP26, which ‘recommended’ voluntary action and self-policing, rather than making any attempt to regulate. This, despite the fact that we’ve seen how ineffective voluntary action and self-policing are.

The key to changing that mindset for the better is, I feel, going to be communication between those who are, and who will be, negatively affected by the short-termism that pervades our society, and that’s why I’m delighted to become part of the CIEP EPWG, spreading helpful information around the membership.

* Profit, people and the planet: a measure of not just a business’s financial performance but also its social and environmental impacts.

Frances Cooper

I’m not quite sure when I first became aware of the damage we have done, and continue to do, to our planet. In some ways it feels as though I’ve always known. I’d like to say that it was Rachel Carson who opened my eyes, but I think it was Dr. Seuss and his story of The Lorax. I think in terms of ‘thneeds’ every day.

My contribution to the planet has mostly been through my work in nature conservation, beginning with Scottish Wildlife Trust in the early 1990s. I volunteered alongside paid work. I joined Friends of the Earth and spent weekends encouraging B&Q customers to choose peat-free compost (many did!), but I never really became involved in activism (as I think of it, anyway). I am finally gradually starting to do so.

My final seven years of working directly for nature were spent developing and piloting blanket bog restoration on Dartmoor. I’m very proud of the work I did there. And the amazing capacity of peat to sequester carbon meant that my work was more specifically aligned with climate-change mitigation then than at any other time. The climate crisis is getting more of the headlines currently, but the ecological crisis is every bit as catastrophic. They are really two aspects of the same thing.

As an editor, I am still working for the natural world and the planet. I cheered when Robin Black asked his question about climate change at the CIEP AGM in 2019, and was ashamed I hadn’t done so myself. I’m a recent recruit to the CIEP’s Environmental Policy Working Group. I joined the group to help share ideas and understanding about changes editors can make professionally and personally that will makes a difference to our impact on the planet. Although editors possibly don’t have the highest carbon footprint among professions, that footprint is probably higher than any of us realise. Let’s try to make as many positive changes as we can.

Air pollution from a factoryAnne Turner

I’ve always had a deep respect for nature and – as a child of the 1990s and the era of the ‘hole in the ozone layer’ – an understanding that our actions have a real and direct impact on the environment.

My own growing eco-anxiety has taken me on a trail of discovery that has shocked and dismayed me. It’s opened my eyes to the savage exploitation of resources that goes into so much of what we consume.

I’d unwittingly sold myself into the ‘must have new’ consumerist society and brought far more things into my home than would be necessary for a lifetime. I’ve discarded things well before their time. I’ve left lights on, taps running, windows open. I have done many of the things all of us do – blindly – every single day, each of which leave a footprint on the Earth that we can’t take back.

It’s easy to think that, because we recycle, take our old (or not so old) clothes to the charity shop, and clutch our reusable coffee cups and no-longer-plastic straws, we are doing our part. We watch David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg and nod sagely. We are shaken by news of devastating floods moving ever closer, or forest fires consuming towns and villages in their path. But we carry on regardless. We have an inordinate ability to distance our thoughts and behaviours from the reality of the evidence in front of us, especially when it comes to climate change.

Over the past few years, I’ve embarked on my own journey towards more sustainable living, and it’s been overwhelming and revelatory in equal measure. Individual action is something we all need to take, but we also need communities working together to drive the systemic changes necessary to save our planet. That’s why I applied to join the working group: to contribute beyond the level of individual action and to be part of something more meaningful.


Lean more about the Environmental Policy Working Group and the CIEP’s environmental values here.

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: icebergs by Annie Spratt, pollution by Chris LeBoutillier, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

What resources does the CIEP offer?

The CIEP offers a wide range of support and professional development material on proofreading and copyediting. In this post the Institute’s information team summarises the resources available to our members and to the public.

Here’s what we’ll be looking at in this post.

  • CIEP resources
  • guides
  • fact sheets
  • focus papers
  • the CIEP blog
  • newsletters and
  • what’s coming up in 2022

CIEP resources

Our information team works with experienced editorial professionals and industry leaders to provide trusted advice and practical knowhow on working with English language texts. These range from tips on getting started, gleaned from practitioners’ years of experience, to the fine details of editorial markup and proofreading etiquette, plus insights into evolving usage and when to recognise it’s an ‘it depends’ situation rather than a rule of grammar.

Guides

Our guides provide a basic introduction to the various skills and knowledge needed to work as an editorial professional. Digital versions of all the guides are free for CIEP members. They encompass such diverse subjects as editing cookery books, pricing freelance projects, working with self-publishers, and editing scientific research articles.

 

 

Fact sheets

Fact sheets are brief introductions to a topic or issue related to practical aspects of editing or proofreading, or working as an editor or proofreader. They aren’t comprehensive but give tips related to the topic and a list of further resources. There are currently over 20 factsheets and the number is growing; topics range from macros and gendered language to scope creep and emotional wellbeing.

Editors work on all kinds of text, from marketing materials, theses and reports to blogs and websites. However, a core area of work for many editors is still books, for print or online publication. All books are different, but many adhere to a standard basic structure. This helps the author and the publisher order the information, but more importantly it helps the reader navigate the finished book, making it a truly useful and accessible resource.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Anatomy of a book

As soon as you agree to take on work for a client, or to complete a task for a colleague, you are under an obligation to ensure the work is completed as agreed. But whether you are a business owner or an employee you will always have other tasks on your to-do list: juggling expectations and moving deadlines, managing yourself and others, chasing invoices and marketing your services, as well as coping with personal matters that may have an impact on your capacity to work. Do you have a plan for how to cope if disaster strikes?

MEMBER RESOURCE: Building a business resilience and disaster plan

Focus papers

Focus papers explore an aspect of the English language or editorial practice that:

  • challenges assumptions
  • offers a new perspective on, illuminates or addresses a problem
  • helps readers better understand the value of professional editing, either their own practice or as potential users of editorial services (or both!).

They are written by well-known and expert names in their field, including CIEP honorary president David Crystal, linguist Rob Drummond and editor Sarah Grey.

If only the whole world had a language in common, war could be avoided. Thatʼs what LL Zamenhof thought when he developed Esperanto in 1887. Esperanto wasnʼt meant to replace anyoneʼs home language, but it would create a common ground for people from different backgrounds. It would make communication easier and more direct, reducing the need for go-betweens like translators and interpreters.

FREE RESOURCE: In a globalised world, should we retain different Englishes? by Lynne Murphy

Serendipitously, just hours after the CIEP asked me to write about whom, an email landed in my inbox. It included this: ‘Patients whom have already received notification …’.

MEMBER RESOURCE: To whom it may concern, by Jeremy Butterfield

 

The CIEP blog

The CIEP blog aims to provide useful and entertaining articles for anyone interested in editing, proofreading, the English language, starting and managing an editorial business, and publishing more widely.

Whether it’s race, sexuality, gender, disability, religion or faith, socio-economic background or any of the other many ways we describe ourselves, as editors, we are going to come across texts that describe people who don’t share the same backgrounds and experiences as ourselves.

Editing outside your experience, by Nicholas Taylor

 

Editorial judgement calls for an understanding of context, for knowing your stuff when it comes to technical matters (whether that’s the finer points of grammar or the finer points of Word or the finer points of inorganic chemistry, if that’s your niche), for knowing when to press ahead and when to leave well alone, and for knowing what resources you need and how to use them. Each of these skills can also be applied to the way you run your business.

How can we apply editorial judgement to our businesses?, by Sue Littleford

Newsletters

We produce two bi-monthly newsletters: The Edit for members, and Editorial Excellence for anyone who wishes to subscribe. Both highlight new resources and blog posts on a particular topic or theme.

Coming in 2022 …

And there’s more to come … In 2022 we hope to publish guides on developmental editing, legal editing, and corporate and marketing communications. There will be fact sheets on keyboard shortcuts, editing LGBT+ content and medical editing, and focus papers by Laura Summers and other well-known names. No doubt the wise owls will appear more than once on the blog, alongside regular contributors including Sue Littleford and Andy Coulson.

Wrapping up: CIEP resources

Now you know what CIEP resources are available, have a look at the ones that are relevant to you. Don’t forget:

  • You can download free fact sheets and focus papers (and even more if you are a CIEP member).
  • Guides provide handy introductions to the skills and knowledge needed to work as an editorial professional.
  • The CIEP blog is updated with new content regularly.

Which CIEP resource has been most useful to you so far? Which one are you planning to read next? Let us know in the comments. If you don’t already receive our Editorial Excellence newsletter, click on the button below to subscribe.

I’D LIKE THE NEWSLETTER

About the CIEP information team

Liz Dalby, Cathy Tingle, Julia Sandford-Cooke and Harriet Power are the CIEP’s information commissioning editors. If there’s a topic that you think could be covered in a blog post, fact sheet, focus paper or guide, drop the team a line at infoteam@ciep.uk.

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credit: man reading by Tamarcus Brown on Unsplash

What happens when the tax office wants to inspect your editorial business?

Do you really get through that number of red pens per year? And where were you going on the morning of 29 February? Melanie Thompson describes her experience of being inspected by the UK’s tax authority, HMRC.

This post covers:

  • Receiving notification of an inspection
  • What was requested and by when
  • Collecting and sending all the evidence
  • HMRC’s response

Many people dream of becoming an editor, proofreader or some other flavour of editorial service provider. They often declare their love of words or desire to help others communicate. I don’t recall ever seeing someone say they were going freelance or setting themselves up as an editorial business because they longed to number all their shopping receipts or to fill out the self-employment section of their annual income tax return.

But unless your editorial empire comprises a staff of more than one person plus office assistant (aka pet dog or cat), you will have to find a way – and the time – to manage the business end of your business.

In the freelance world, even getting paid can be a time-consuming process. So, developing some sort of system that suits your needs is unavoidable.

Questions about bookkeeping and accounting apps often crop up in the CIEP forums, especially from people who are new to freelancing. Certain topics recur, ranging from the benefits (or otherwise) of business bank accounts to whether editors can claim for new spectacles.*

One question that hasn’t cropped up, as far as I recall, is ‘What happens if there’s a tax inspection?’ Perhaps people are too terrified to ask!

If that’s you, hide behind the sofa right now. I’m about to reveal all …

The dreaded brown envelope: receiving notification of an inspection

Among all the many side effects of the Covid-19 pandemic was one very small useful thing: Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) gave us all a little breather with paying the summer instalment of tax ‘on account’ in July 2020 by six months, as well as some leeway with the date for submitting that year’s tax return. So, when I received a brown envelope from HMRC back in August 2021, I put it in my in-tray and carried on with my work, thinking it was just the usual reminder about filling in the tax return by 31 January.

A few days later when I’d met my work deadline and fancied a change from on-screen work, I started sifting through the heap of incoming post (mainly junk mail offers from competing credit card companies), opened the pending brown envelope and skimmed my eye down the left-hand side of the letter.

Check of your Self Assessment tax return for year ended …

A compliance check is …

We will be checking to see …

What we will be checking …

You now need to check your records …

OK, I got the picture (8/10 for plain English … on the first few paragraphs). But …

… please give us the information asked for in the enclosed schedule.

A big aggressive? Well, at least they said please. But the truly frightening bit was:

Please send us the information by ** September.

Less than four weeks away, and at the height of the summer vacation.

What HMRC wanted from me

I pinged an email to my fabulous accountant, Patsy, who had just received a copy of the letter direct from HMRC.

The three-page letter came with three attachments: the general information about compliance checks, the extra Covid-related general information, and a one-page ‘schedule’ explaining what I needed to send.

The general information included this warning:

You cannot choose to ignore an information or inspection notice if we give you one …

So far, so terrifying. The schedule did little to calm my nerves, as it requested the whole year’s worth of bank statements, credit card statements, invoices and receipts, and my financial statement drawn up by my accountant – all to be scanned in and sent on a memory stick.

That might not sound so bad, and it’s true I had collated a lot of that information when preparing my 2019–20 tax return. But there’s quite a difference (for me) between putting things on a spreadsheet with a column for notes to explain bits and pieces to my accountant, and compiling a huge bunch of scanned documents or PDFs from numerous sources to send off to someone who could send me a big fat fine if I made a mistake.

Pile of receipts next to a laptop

Collecting ALL the receipts

If you use an accounting app such as FreeAgent or QuickBooks, you may not appreciate the effort and stress I endured over the next few days. When I started as a freelancer in 2000, I created a spreadsheet for my accountant, and I’ve used the same system ever since. With only three or four invoices per month, and not many irregular expenses back then, there hadn’t been the need to do anything differently.

Now I was faced with corralling random bits of paper, emails linking to downloadable receipts, paper credit card bills, online banking documents and foreign exchange expenses. I shut myself in my office and switched my scanner to warp factor 5.

The trickiest task was reconciling the various online bills that are paid monthly by credit card (such as pay-as-you-go top-ups for my mobile phone, and the monthly £0.79 for cloud storage). When preparing my accounts I just noted the dates and amounts from my credit card statements. So I had to log in to each of these random small expenses accounts and download the actual bills – complete with remembering usernames and updating passwords. Once I had all the expenses scanned in, I numbered them all so that they were easier to cross-reference, while slapping my own wrist for not having done all this in the first place. (But seriously, is that really a good use of my time?)

HMRC’s interrogation

I did get everything together in time, and sent it all plus an explanatory covering letter by registered post. Our village postmaster, noting the address, wished me luck!

Then it all went quiet … for two months.

When I finally received a letter (including an apology for the delay) there were four questions arising from my documents. Only the first one was a mystery! That asked whether I was using ‘cash basis’ or ‘general accounting/accruals basis’.

At that point, I was so relieved to have an accountant. I had no idea what the question meant, never mind what system I was using. (Apparently, I use the latter.)

Questions 2 and 3 were clarifying exchange rates and bank commission fees for a few invoices in US dollars and were very easy to answer.

But the fourth question was my favourite. It was about two receipts for train travel to the CIEP (then SfEP) annual conference in Birmingham, where I had been a speaker. What the inspector hadn’t noticed – and I did enjoy pointing out – was that one of them was for my trip to the Society of Indexers conference in London the week before, where I was also a speaker. And yes, it was all listed properly in that list of numbered receipts I’d taken so much time over.

App-ily ever after?

By the end of November, it was all over. I had the all-clear, and there was nothing to pay. What a relief.

And within a few weeks, it was time to submit my tax return for the 2020–21 period. So no time to swap to a sparkly new app. I’ll be sticking with my spreadsheet for now.


Resources to help with tax

For everything to do with income tax in the UK, visit the gov.uk website.

Sue Littleford’s Going Solo: Creating your freelance editorial business  can help with record-keeping so the next tax return (or inspection!) doesn’t seem as daunting.


* As with most editing-related questions, the answer is ‘it depends’.

** Many thanks to my accountant Patricia Brady ACMA.


About Melanie Thompson

Melanie Thompson reading the SfEP guide 'Pricing your project'Melanie Thompson (APM) specialises in writing and editing materials relating to climate change, environmental topics and energy efficiency in buildings. She is a member of the CIEP’s Environmental Policy Working Group, and also a CIEP tutor for the copyediting, proofreading and web editing courses.

 

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: wallet by Steve Buissinne on Pixabay, receipts by picjumbo.com on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

The CIEP’s proofreading exercises: a preview

Annie Deakins leapt at the opportunity to review and proofread the exercises in the CIEP’s new Exercise Bank. In this post, she explains what she reviewed and how she did it.

I was asked by Jane Moody, the CIEP’s training director, if I was interested in reviewing a bank of resources being drafted for CIEP members to practise proofreading. I absolutely was interested! I would act as a guinea pig by reviewing the proofreading exercises in the Exercise Bank, and then proofreading the material as part of the job. So, what did the review involve, and what’s in the bank?

In this article, I’ll cover:

  • My role in the review
  • An overview of the exercise bank
  • How to proofread an exercise
  • Tips and support
  • Benefits

My role in the review

This was the sequence of the tasks I carried out:

  1. Do an exercise (as a practice proofread).
  2. Compare my answer to the model answer and note any differences.
  3. Read the commentary explaining the model answer.
  4. Compare the model answer with the final published version (if appropriate).
  5. Record how long it took to do the exercise.
  6. Repeat steps 1–5.
  7. Proofread all the materials – instruction/brief, exercise, model answer, and commentary – by finding typos and inconsistencies. Note down any queries for the training director to review.
  8. Provide feedback on each exercise: suitability, appropriateness of level, how easy/hard I found them, time taken and suggest changes for improvements.

An overview of the exercise bank

There are nine proofreading exercises in the bank. Permission was obtained from the authors and/or publishers to introduce errors for the purpose of proofreading practice. The exercises vary in difficulty from level 1 (reasonably straightforward, no complex elements) increasing to level 3 (complex, detailed exercises; may include complex figures/graphs/illustrations and/or references or other elements). The exercises are a variety of lengths, so I could pick and choose to fit them around my schedule.

The Exercise Bank covers a variety of topics including fiction and non-fiction, published through traditional channels, or by businesses and self-publishers. Examples include: a chapter from a business book that was traditionally published; an extract from a self-published novel by a first-time author; the programme for a conference by a medical organisation; a story from a traditionally published children’s magazine; and a market report for a technical industry (print finishing).

Each exercise includes background information and a brief which explains the task. Sometimes a house style is provided. If a house style is not provided, you are asked to compile a style sheet.

How to proofread an exercise

Open the file and check all the components are present. In the case of this bank of exercises there will be a brief or cover letter, exercise, model answer (or two), commentary, and final clean copy (if applicable).

Brief

Read what the brief requires. There might be a particular emphasis on layout, or a need for amendments to be kept to a minimum because of a tight publishing schedule. There may be a need to respect the author’s voice, particularly in fiction.

Errors

Examples of errors to be found range from a missing full stop at the end of a paragraph to erroneous capitalisation or the wrong word or term. Others include layout issues and tables that are incorrectly formatted, or wrongly entered numbers.

When something amiss jumps out at you, it’s okay to brag inwardly about the error caught (oh yes, that was sneaky). Add any errors missed (oh no, that was sneaky!) to your personal list of areas for improvement.

Queries

The model answers include examples of author queries to indicate where confusion is present in the text. Indeed, tips accompany the exercises on how to differentiate mark-up between instructions to the typesetter and queries to the client. So valuable. Model queries show how to be fair, polite and respectful.

Explanations

Checking the exercise against the model answer was the best part for me – I managed to resist the temptation to peek before finishing the task … When reading the explanations in the commentary, there were always learning points for the reasons behind the mark-up in the model answer.

Tips and support

  1. If the text is too distracting with, say, small font or too much colour in a leaflet, enlarging content by zooming in on the PDF can help identify errors.
  2. Prior knowledge of BSI symbols is useful. Guidance is given if you have not used proofreading stamps before. I recommend doing the CIEP’s Proofreading 1: Introduction course before proceeding with the level 1 bank of exercises.
  3. A range of model answers are given to show the variety of mark-up methods used and how the marks should appear.
  4. Support is given with resources, e.g. links are provided for the Adobe Acrobat DC video tutorials and help pages for assistance with marking up PDFs, whether that’s using commenting tools, sticky notes, or BSI symbols.

Benefits

The exercises are self-paced with no need for a tutor. They work in the same way as Margaret Aherne’s Proofreading Practice book which can be bought through the CIEP (with a discount for members).

Proofreading speed and accuracy increase with practice and confidence. Once you can calculate how many words you can proofread in an hour, it makes it easier to quote for work from prospective clients.

I had already completed CIEP’s suite of proofreading courses, but reviewing these exercises helped me further improve my proofreading skills and gave me confidence in my ability to spot errors and catch inconsistencies. Tackling the proofreading exercises also gave me the confidence to book my place on the CIEP proofreading mentoring scheme. I highly recommend them.


In addition to the proofreading exercises described here, there are seven copyediting exercises and three on grammar.

Visit the Exercise Bank

If you would like to add an exercise to the bank, please get in touch with the training director: training@ciep.uk.


About Annie Deakins

Annie Deakins taught in Essex (via Paisley) for 30 years. She started CIEP proofreading training in 2016 and is an Intermediate Member. She proofreads non-fiction, education, and children’s books. She is a Partner Member of ALLi. Her job portfolio includes tutoring, and she blogs as #TallTartanTalks.

 

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: colourful shelves by Maarten van den Heuvel; Practice/Practise by Brett Jordan, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Context is everything: how learning a language shed new light on my editing practice

In this post, which moves from Hollywood film stars to the hairdressers and Dutch language textbooks, Julia Sandford-Cooke explores how learning a new language helped her to reflect on her professional skills.

I often think about Antonio Banderas. Well, not the Spanish actor specifically, but rather his character in the 1999 film, The 13th Warrior. He plays Ahmad, an Arabic-speaking scholar improbably taken prisoner by Norse warriors whose chief interests are picking fights and gossiping around the campfire. In a famous (and possibly unintentionally hilarious) sequence, Ahmad quietly observes their chatter. It is initially unintelligible (the actors are apparently speaking modern Norwegian) but, as time passes, English words creep in, indicating his growing understanding, until he’s suddenly able to insult their mothers with astounding fluency and a confident grasp of complex grammar. Subsequent dialogue is in English, which now represents what we understand to be the language of the Norsemen.

These days, the movie is remembered almost as much for this scene as for being one of Hollywood’s biggest financial failures, allegedly making a $130 million loss. It’s a clever and memorable cinematic concept but, in my experience, not a very realistic way of learning a foreign language.

Gossip goal

I sit in the hairdressing salon, my face as fixed in concentration as Ahmad’s, while the stylists and customers chat in rapid Dutch. After just over a year in the Netherlands, I, like him, would love to decode the juicy gossip around me but merely listening to a new language will not miraculously make me fluent in it. I can make out the odd word but it certainly doesn’t pop out as English (well, apart from ‘Netflix’ and ‘weekend’). Instead, it just sounds vaguely familiar and by the time I’ve looked it up in my mental dictionary (‘“makkelijk” … I know that one … “Difficult”? No … “Important”? No … ah, I have it! “Easy!”’) the conversation has moved on and I still have no idea what they’re talking about. And as for speaking to them – well, I won’t be insulting their mothers any time soon or, more likely, complimenting them on such a flattering cut ‘n’ colour. But it’s my ultimate objective to be able to take part in their conversations.

It’s all about confidence

Antonio Banderas’ first language is, of course, Spanish, so it’s somewhat ironic that his character hears familiar words as English. My Amsterdam friends whose first language is Spanish all learned English at school and now speak it fluently and rapidly. If they forget the odd word, it doesn’t matter – they just keep on talking and we understand them just fine.

Significantly, they’re also much more likely than the first-language English speakers I know to have focused on learning and speaking Dutch since moving here. Yes, it is true that everyone can speak English here so there is an argument that it’s not worth the hassle, but personally, I feel that if you want to integrate in a country, you should at least make an effort to learn its language. In any case, I’ve found that just because they can speak English doesn’t mean they will, which is fair enough, I suppose. And it’s also pretty useful to understand what you’re being told in emergency situations, or on public transport.

Perhaps the habit of learning languages is more ingrained in those who do not speak English as their first language. It’s pretty common for these immigrants – both adults and children – to switch between three or four languages. Much of it is about confidence – going out onto the unforgiving streets knowing you’ll make mistakes and trying not to care.

My personal lack of confidence is mixed with an equally unhelpful stubborn pride. I insist on conducting business in bad Dutch in shops and cafés and while having my COVID-19 vaccination, even if waiters insist they don’t understand my slight mispronunciations or I get jabbed in the arm I sleep on. And then I go home and cringe at the fool I’ve made of myself. Speaking isn’t even my forte in English so it’s no wonder I struggle so much in Dutch. It’s some consolation that my Spanish-and-English-speaking friends admit that learning Dutch as an adult is hard because our confidence drops as we get older and we’re more aware of the implications of getting it wrong.

So how do these experiences affect my editing practice?

Learning Dutch has made me look at my work from several new perspectives.

Being a beginner.

It’s humbling to start from scratch. There’s so much I don’t know and I have to work very hard to know it. I’ve been in the conscious incompetent stage of learning for quite a while now. It simply isn’t easy, whatever Ahmad might think. I hope this awareness makes me more empathetic with writers and other people I interact with professionally. And of course, this doesn’t just apply to learning a language – it applies to learning any skill.

Being an expert.

At the same time, it reminds me that I’ve been through the editorial wilderness and emerged, after more than 20 years, with a huge experience and solid skills that clients value. It’s taken a lot of work and effort to get here but it has been worthwhile. I can prove to myself that persistence pays off.

Keeping me alert.

Editing is an intellectually stimulating profession. Learning a language before and after work often feels like yet another way to tire my brain. But it also exercises slightly different aspects of my mind, and just watching Netflix of an evening feels less and less of a constructive way to spend my time.

Brushing up on my grammar.

I have to admit that it draws attention to my tenuous grasp of grammatical theory. The argument that ‘children can learn a language without trying and therefore so can you’ just doesn’t fly. I have to consciously decode the word order following a coordinating conjunction or the effect of an inactive word form. My middle-aged mind has to consciously think ‘Ah, that’s a modal verb, which sends the second verb to the end of the clause as an infinitive’. That’s not a thought the average toddler has.

Understanding mistakes.

Anyone who has edited the writing of those for whom English is an additional language will have noticed particular mistakes relating to the authors’ translations of their thoughts into English. There are plenty of examples from Dutch speakers but recently I passed a woman trying to explain to someone that he could get the item he wanted from the ‘warehouse’ down the road. She meant department store – warenhuis in Dutch. It is illuminating to realise why certain errors occur.

Drawing attention to learning methods.

I’m a textbook editor but I rarely open my Dutch textbook, other than to check the grammar rules. Interaction is key (whatever Ahmad might think). Purists may sniff at the gamification of language learning in apps such as Duolingo and Babbel but actually, I find their bite-sized, repetitive and memorable methods convenient and engaging. I currently have a 467-day streak in Duolingo, meaning I’ve actively practised my Dutch on the app every day for about 15 months. But I combine it with watching (or trying to watch) Dutch movies, listening to Dutch music (Dutch rhymes in a very satisfying way) and having fairly regular face-to-face Zoom lessons. Julie, my lovely tutor on iTalki , is endlessly cheerful and patient, even when I’m clearly speaking complete nonsense. And, of course, there’s no substitute for immersing myself in everyday situations like, for example, going to the hairdresser. All of this suggests that those who produce learning materials should think holistically – no single method is enough – and, of course, no student approaches learning in the same way.

So I often think of Spanish-speaking Antonio Banderas as an Arabic-speaking scholar listening to Norwegian-speaking actors speaking English to represent speaking Norse. Learning a new language is hard. But one day I too will be able to decode the gossip and maybe even join in – without cursing anyone’s mothers. Not intentionally, anyway.

About Julia Sandford-CookeJulia Sandford-Cooke

Julia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications has spent more than 20 years in publishing and just over one year in Amsterdam. When she’s not speaking bad Dutch, she writes and edits textbooks, proofreads anything that’s put in front of her and posts short, often grumpy, book reviews on her blog, Ju’s Reviews.

 

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: Amsterdam canal by Ethan Hu; Dutch flag in Amsterdam by Luca Lago, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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