Author Archives: marketing

The value of belonging to a professional body

By Margaret Hunter

quality control assuredThe Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has just published a report on how the public view professional bodies. In a survey of over 2,000 people, these are the 3 statements (out of 11) that were most commonly agreed with:

  • Professional qualifications help people to earn more.
  • Professional qualifications raise standards.
  • I would trust a professional more if I knew that they were a member of a professional body.[1]

Does this apply as well to editors and proofreaders as to builders, lawyers or doctors, I wonder? I think it does, especially when we are now competing in a global marketplace. Having an association with a professional body such as the SfEP shows that we care about our credibility, our skills and how we do our jobs. It says to potential clients that we care so much about doing a good job for you that we’ve taken steps to learn how to do it properly, and to abide by the standards and good working practices set by our peers.

In return, our professional credibility raises trust among people who may want to use our services. Awareness of the existence of our training efforts and professional membership creates positive perceptions of the jobs we do. Potential clients can begin to see what we do as a real thing and can start to envisage how it could benefit them.

However, to gain these credibility benefits from our professional membership, the professional body itself needs to have credibility. It’s one of my tasks, as the marketing and PR director for the SfEP, to help make that happen – to raise our profile and get us known for being the go-to place for quality editorial services and training. But all of us have a hand in raising that profile too. When we’re asked what we do, do we take the opportunity to mention the SfEP?

To quote the CIOB report, ‘for professional bodies, familiarity leads to favourability’,[2] so the more people hear about the SfEP, the more they are likely to see it as a professional body that knows its stuff and consequently are more likely to hire an SfEP member rather than an editor who doesn’t have that association.

So, my fellow editors, to mangle JFK’s well-known call to action:

Ask not what the SfEP can do for you, [but also] ask what you can do for the SfEP.

 

Margaret HunterMargaret Hunter is marketing and PR director of the SfEP.

[1] Understanding the value of professionals and professional bodies, The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) 2015, p. 28

[2] Ibid. p. 29.

 

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

What I learned from the pre-conference editing fiction course

By Sara Donaldson

Three Little Pigs and a (not so?) Big Bad Wolf

Three Little Pigs and a (not so?) Big Bad Wolf

This year is the first year in a very long time that I have been able to even contemplate attending an SfEP conference; usually conference time falls during term-time making it virtually impossible for me to attend. However, when I saw the dates for the 2015 conference at Derwent College in York, attendance became a possibility as I knew my daughter would have recently left school and York is close enough to ‘home’ that a visit, plus conference, was feasible. And once I saw the topic of the pre-conference course, I knew I had to attend. This was my chance to gain face-to-face basic training on something I have been toying with for years – fiction editing.

By the time I arrived at the York campus on the morning of Saturday 5th September I was slightly frazzled. A 12-hour drive from the far north of Scotland the previous day, followed by an early morning drive from Whitby to the one part of York I didn’t really know, meant that I was too tired to be nervous about jumping in at the deep end and meeting a bunch of professionals I didn’t really know. By the time I sat down in the well-hidden tutorial room all thoughts of imposter syndrome had vanished. I’d fluffed the hoped for brilliant first impression I’d make as I didn’t so much introduce myself to the first person I met as headed off in the opposite direction back to the car park to collect some forgotten items. Thank goodness there was plenty of coffee!

The group was comfortably small, with around 10 attendees, and as we all sat at desks in a horseshoe formation (much better than in groups), we introduced ourselves to the room and to Gale Winskill and Stephen Cashmore, our tutors for the day. By this time I was a bit apprehensive – my route into editorship was a bit convoluted, so who was I to sit in a room among ‘real’ editors when I’ve only really worked on non-fiction and still find it hard to actually say I’m an editor? But the worry soon subsided as we started the course and my brain kicked in.

Gale started off by going into detail about the different types of client we should expect to work for as fiction editors, and what they actually expect from us. She also explained how self-publishing does not necessarily mean that the author cannot get a publishing deal; they may simply prefer the hands-on approach and want to feel in control of their creations. We then discussed how to quote for a job (this course concentrated on copy-editing of fiction, not structural editing), what to look out for and the different ways of working on a text. It had honestly never occurred to me that self-publishing authors would not like tracked changes on a Word document, and that they may not care about the changes you make to spelling, punctuation and grammar. It really brought home to me that working on non-fiction has spoiled me somewhat; I tend to take some of my working practices for granted and assume they are the norm, although my meticulous style sheet habit will stand me in good stead.

We moved onto plot and structure (with more coffee), and discovered the differences between premise, theme and plot, before moving into more detail on structure and what we, as editors, should be looking out for. The first exercise of the day had us writing premises and a theme for the Wolf’s Story from the Three Little Pigs. Loved it! By the end of the day I had become particularly fond of Mr Wolf.

While Gale was having a well-deserved rest we moved onto dialogue with Stephen. I found this really interesting, especially as it showed me that I actually know what I’m doing. I loved his take on fidgets and throat-clearing. Erm … well … yeah, like … I really did actually.

I know we stopped for lunch at some point … then came voice, style and point of view. Now POV is something I really need to practise – internal, external, first-person, third-person … it’s enough to make your head spin when you think about it. Luckily our handout is great for explaining it in more detail, better than my scribbled notes, so I shall be going back to that frequently.

Consistency was great; plot-holes, timelines and setting appeal to my inner perfectionist. Feedback among the group reminded me of a time when I noticed a helicopter travelling a LOT further than it was capable of in one of the novels I was reading for pleasure. Glad it’s not just me who notices these things when they’re not working!

We worked through character, style and how books in a series should be treated, then finally looked at critiques, synopses and blurbs. Now critiquing is something I’ve been curious about, as it’s always been a mystery to me how an editor actually moves into critiquing, and by the end of the session I came away believing that, far from being something I could never do, this was something I really could do. And the blurb discussion showed me that I’m doing things right (I often write the blurb for a regular client’s books).

So what did I get out of this pre-conference editing fiction course? Lots!

The exercises scared me at first (what if I really wasn’t good enough?), but they showed me that my training has been good, my experience has counted for something and that I really can call myself an editor. I’ve also come to realise that, rather than being a leap too far, I can move into fiction editing if I want to. I just have to take it slowly and use what I have learned (and continue training). Finally, this course gave me my first real-life meeting with real editors and I loved every minute of it. I’m glad to be associated with such a lovely bunch of people, and this course has given me the confidence to look further at fiction editing without the horror of the unknown.

If you are interested in training for editing fiction, look at the SfEP online course Introduction to fiction editing

Sara DonaldsonSara Donaldson is an editor with an eye for a mystery. When not editing a range of projects she can be found with her Sherlock hat on as a professional genealogist, or in the theatre doing what needs to be done. You’ll find her at northerneditorial.co.uk.

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

 

Posted by Margaret Hunter, SfEP marketing and PR director. Proofread by Carina Bailey.

Conferences can be for oldies too

By Rod Cuff

I have a couple of vivid memories of the first time I went to a conference of what was then in 2000 the SFEP (capital F for ‘[of] Freelance’, as distinct from today’s lower case f for … well, ‘for’). The previous afternoon’s AGM had been dull for a newcomer, everyone seemed to know everyone else and no one had spoken to me, so I was pretty apprehensive as I waited for the conference to start.

But then the chief organiser, John Woodruff, positively bounced onto the stage wearing a T-shirt that read ‘Daily sex Dyslexia rules OK!’ I just might enjoy this, I thought.

Soon I was sitting in a big circle of chairs for my first workshop, on time management and ways of becoming more efficient. As others responded to the workshop leader’s questions, my height shrank by a few inches per minute until I had almost disappeared from sight. But finally, a question I could answer: is there one thing you could do that you know would improve your productivity? ‘Yes!’ I squeaked. A thousand eyes turned on me and glared. ‘I could delete Solitaire from my PC.’

Suddenly, twenty beaming, laughing faces turned to me. ‘We love you!’ they chorused. ‘Please be our friend!’ I drew myself up to six foot one again. I was in.

Some of that may be slightly exaggerated, but what is true is that speaking truth to power (well, the facilitator) turned a key for me, and I learned that, to get the best out of anything, it helps to put in something in the first place.

But, a dozen or so conferences later, I was feeling uneasy about what York 2015 might be like. Old hands tend to fade away from the conference scene eventually because in previous years we’ve done something similar to all the workshops likely to be on offer this time around. The pull then tends to be people rather than learning – meeting up with old friends and contacts, striking up conversations with new people, propping up the bar, singing in the Linnets, enjoying the conference dinner.

I’m no different, but very much to my surprise I found that this year’s conference turned out to be full of delightfully informative events. Three workshops/sessions, all short ones, are likely to have a direct bearing on how I work, whether on the few paid jobs I still do or for voluntary or recreational projects such as editing the concert programmes for a choir:

  1. practical uses of corpora for checking when particular words, phrases or spellings began to be used or go out of fashion in various kinds of media context
  2. a bracing critique of various ‘rules’ of grammar, which has made me rethink my approach to style guides
  3. a long list of software tools useful for editors, bound to improve my time at the computer in all sorts of ways.

But (sentences in unimpeachable English literature have begun with ‘But’ for centuries – thank you, workshop 2) the really memorable sessions were quite unexpected:

  • the Whitcombe Lecture by John Thompson was the most thought-provoking one I’ve heard for years
  • a hands-on session on simple paper-book making and paper engineering was just a total delight (you rarely see so many happy faces at a workshop)
  • a two-hour run through the development of typefaces and methods of printing made a whole lot of past evolution, practices and technologies clear to me for the first time.

paper-book making at the 2015 SfEP conference

The lesson for me from all this is that you can teach an old dog new tricks, and moreover you can rejuvenate the old dog in the process. Needy spirit Serendipity rules OK!

Rod CuffRod Cuff took up proofreading and editing as a second career after a maths degree, thirty years in computer software development and a lifetime interest in astronomy. Naturally, he spent most of his time copy-editing books on the history of ballet and the maintenance of Swedish reservoirs. He is the SfEP’s Judith Butcher Award winner for 2015.

 

Proofread by Karen Pickavance.

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

10 tips for building a freelance business website

Build your online presenceIf you don’t yet have an online presence, in the form of even a simple website, then it’s time to consider setting one up. It needn’t be anything complicated, but potential clients are increasingly looking to the web to find editors and proofreaders, even if it’s just to confirm that you look like a real person they can trust!

Here are my top tips for planning a simple business website.

1. Do it yourself if possible – you can learn skills that are helpful for your editing…
… such as basic html and good copywriting. If you’re not a techie whizz, use one of the easy free website builders such as WordPress, or a hosted service such as Weebly or Wix (why are they all ‘Ws’?). With the last two you don’t need to worry about all the back-end admin or backing up your site or the software as it’s all done for you. The downside is that it’s more difficult to move your site if you later decide to use a different service.

2. Register your own domain name
It doesn’t cost much to register a domain name (under £10 per year), so get your own. You can use it with hosted services such as Weebly too, and your web address will look more professional than the free option (such as www.[name].weebly.com).

3. Picture yourself!
Add a photo of yourself. It will help potential customers ‘connect’ with you and you will seem more approachable. But make sure it’s a good photo, and nothing too quirky! It’s OK to reflect your personality, but you still need to look professional. Would you do business with the person in the photo?

4. Keep a consistent look
If you have information about your business in various places online – your website, social media profiles such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, or directories such as FreeIndex – then try to keep the look consistent. Use the same photograph and page header and similar descriptions. It will make it easy for people to recognise you, so getting you noticed more.

5. Keep it simple
Remember that (potential) clients just want the facts or a quick answer to whether you can do a particular job for them, so make it easy for people to quickly suss you out. Don’t be too wordy, and provide clear links to different information about you and your business.

6. Use plain English to explain what you do
While you may call what you do copy-editing, proofreading, structural editing, applied linguistics, or whatever, most people won’t know what that means. You can (and should) use those terms somewhere on your site, but also try to explain your services in plain English.

7. Blow your own trumpet (nicely!)
You need to quickly stand out from the crowd these days as you are now competing in a global marketplace. Don’t be shy about pinpointing how you can make a difference to clients. Be creative about how you sell your skills, experience and knowledge. Put up some testimonials from happy clients too. An easy way to do this is to ask for a client’s permission to use something nice or positive they’ve said in an email to you.

8. Make it mobile
Nowadays you must make a website that is mobile-friendly if you want to rank highly with search engines such as Google. If you use the free tools mentioned above then you don’t need to think about this as it will magically be done for you.

9. Don’t pay for SEO
Don’t be lured in by offers of expensive SEO (search engine optimisation) services that guarantee to get your site to the top of the search results. Once you know the ‘rules’, SEO is just common sense. The most important rule is write good copy. Think about the phrases people will use to search for you and incorporate them into your text, but it must sound natural, and definitely don’t ‘keyword stuff’ the pages (or you will be penalised by Mr Google!). Make sure you complete all the ‘behind-the-page’ meta stuff – good page titles, alternative text on your images, page descriptions, etc. The site-builder tools usually have ways to do this built in. (One of the best ways to learn SEO is to use the Yoast plugin in WordPress.)

10. Have it proofread!
Be your own best friend and have someone else proofread your website. You know it’s not going to look good if your site has glaring typos! Maybe offer a site-proofing swap with another member of your local SfEP group?

Margaret Hunter

Posted by Margaret Hunter, SfEP marketing and PR director.

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

The English language is both an art and a science

Since entering the world of professional proofreading, writing and editing, I have thought a lot about how we use the English language.

Language as an academic subject is generally considered to be an art or a humanity. It is subjective. We can use it in different ways when communicating with different people. We can use it to paint pictures and arouse feeling. We can be creative with it.

I only have to listen to my children to find lots of examples of this creativity in motion. We were recently walking along and my three-year-old said to his big sister, ‘Oh no – you’ve unclupped my shoe!’ Now, ‘unclupped’ clearly isn’t a word, but we all knew what it meant: she had accidentally stepped on the back of his shoe and it had come off his heel. It was well and truly unclupped. He couldn’t find a word to describe what he meant, so he made one up. I hear this happening all the time, and some of them are great words!

My daughter is reading Roald Dahl’s The BFG at the moment. Now there’s creativity and colour for you. One of the most prolific children’s writers was brave enough to have a main character who, for the whole book, uses ‘is’ for any form of the verb ‘to be’. The Big Friendly Giant eats scrumdiddlyumptious snozzcumbers rather than school chiddlers like the other giants eat. The book is full of these seemingly nonsensical words, which somehow do still make sense to six-year-olds and adults alike.

The flipside of this is that language also has rules. Grammar can be approached scientifically or mathematically and there are still many aspects of language that can be considered objectively right or wrong.

Take, for instance, the commas in this sentence. I have used them parenthetically so they need to come as a pair. If you take one of them away, the sentence doesn’t work. If you take them both away, it is OK. For me, this echoes mathematical equations: symbols can cancel each other out and where the parentheses (or brackets in maths) sit can really alter the meaning (or answer) you get at the end.

Another example is the conjugation of verbs. The verb form is often different depending on who is doing the doing. Again, I think this reflects mathematical statements where certain numbers or parts of an equation are affected by a function, whereas other numbers stand up in their own right. In languages like German, where there are different genders for nouns, there is an even greater choice of conjugations for different cases. These can be taught in tables, so we can, for example, look up the correct form of the article for a masculine noun in the dative case.

We can also see maths in the way reading is currently taught in British schools. Children are taught to ‘chop and blend’ phonics in the same way as adding and subtracting numbers. They learn that c+a+t=cat just as 2+3=5. But at the same time, they learn the exceptions to the rules: the spelling and pronunciation of common but phonically irregular words like ‘the’ and ‘me’.

So, on balance, are we working with an art or a science? I think it’s both and, in that respect, what a great thing it is. Some of us will be sticklers for certain rules: I was taught to never split an infinitive but I understand many people will accept this now. There, I’ve done it – but it was only for effect, and I won’t do it again. But I will quite happily bend other ‘rules’ I once learned (like allowing myself to start a sentence with the word ‘but’). The Oxford English Dictionary paves the way in this evolution of language, with new words being added to each edition as they reach common usage. The June 2015 update has around 500 new words, phrases and senses, including ‘twerk’ and ‘yarn-bombing’. One day, someone made up these words and they caught on. Personally, I’m hoping to make a case for the verb ‘to unclup’ to be included in next year’s update.

Face_May2015 smallLisa Robertson set up Editwrite in April 2015, after working for a local authority for over 14 years in various children’s services planning and commissioning roles. She offers a range of editorial and writing services, including document writing consultancy. Her specialist areas are children’s services, the public sector and charities. www.editwrite.co.uk

 

Proofread by Susan Walton.

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

Reference editing solutions for copy-editors

This is a guest post by Inera, who are hosting a workshop on their online reference editing tool Edifix at the SfEP/SI conference.

We’ve all been there. Eager to get started on a new project, you open the first document only to find yourself staring at a long list of poorly prepared references. You are now charged with the task of scrubbing the reference items clean so that they conform to a style (Chicago, AMA, etc.), and you begrudgingly come to terms with the inevitable long days and nights of work ahead before you even begin working on the text itself. Fingers crossed that the reference editing will go smoothly, you pull out the required style manual, take a deep breath, hunker down, and get to work.

Although many of us use time-saving macros to programmatically and quickly address some of the more routine reference editing tasks (see, e.g., the helpful tools offered by Editorium), it doesn’t take long to do some simple maths and come to the conclusion that even at your best, you will perhaps spend more time on reference editing than anything else pertaining to the manuscript. Further to this, if you are being paid a flat fee for the project, your hourly rate decreases dramatically the more time you spend on reference editing. You may find yourself wondering: ‘Aren’t my skills and attention better spent on polishing the author’s writing and correcting for grammar, spelling, and usage errors?’ The answer is yes, yes they are.

Fortunately, there is an online reference editing tool that successfully takes on the task of editing references – whatever their condition. Edifix, a cloud-based solution from Inera Inc., identifies the elements of a reference entry of any style, edits references to conform to the conventions of a selected editorial style, and corrects references with data retrieved from PubMed and CrossRef, automatically inserting PubMed IDs and CrossRef DOIs in the process.

The challenge of efficiently and accurately copy-editing a reference list or bibliography is not a new problem. For years both freelance and in-house copy-editors and managers have struggled with how best to structure a workflow that either reduces or removes entirely the process of reference editing from the copy-editor’s list of tasks. Various (good) online reference authoring tools are on the market (e.g., EasyBib and BibMe), and these have been reviewed on editorial blogs such as Copyediting. But these tools are only useful for the editor who is compiling a bibliography or reference list, and the results still need to be carefully reviewed and copy-edited. Further, these tools do not assist a copy-editor who needs to clean up an untidy reference list or, heaven forbid, transform references that were authored in one editorial style to another. Although there are some tools that assist in editing text content (see, e.g., PerfectIt), none address references/bibliographies.

Edifix allows you to simply copy and paste your unedited references into a web form, and with the click of your mouse retrieve those same references, edited to the style of your choice. The team responsible for Edifix includes not only software developers but also editors with decades of professional and freelance experience. The Edifix tools they’ve created are quick and user friendly, and the results not only save you time but also improve the accuracy of the reference data and your copy-edit.

Achieving accuracy in reference lists and bibliographies is no small challenge. For example, one study published in 2004 sampled three anatomy journals and found that of the references studied 27% contained errors, and of those 38% were major errors. By collecting PubMed and CrossRef data on the references processed, Edifix is able to quickly identify and correct errors in the source that may have been inadvertently inserted by the author.

Edifix gives you multiple options for viewing the results, which include a tracked layout so you can see exactly what Edifix corrected. Results can then be copied and pasted back into your Word document, or they can be exported to JATS XML or converted to RIS for integration with popular reference managers (such as EndNote).

Edifix

Dr Robin Dunford, of Inera Inc., will host an Edifix workshop on Saturday 5 September, at the SfEP/SI first joint conference. Be sure to sit in on this session to see how Edifix can help you save time and increase both your editing accuracy and bottom line! Also, join us on the SfEP Twitter feed to discuss your approach to editing bibliographies:

  1. Do your clients require that you perform fact checking to ensure the accuracy of reference/bibliography entries?
  2. What are the most time-consuming and challenging tasks related to reference/bibliography editing that you encounter in your daily work?
  3. What solutions have you developed or explored to ease the burdens of editing bibliographies?

Since 1992 Inera’s seasoned team of publishing and software professionals have pooled a unique set of skills to bring transformational change to the publishing industry. We develop and license the eXtyles family of Word-based editorial and XML tools, and the new Edifix online bibliographic reference solution. Learn more at: www.inera.com | www.edifix.com | @eXtyles | @edifix.

If you would like to join the discussion on editing bibliographies (in response to the questions above), please use the conference hashtag (#sisfep15) and tag @edifix. 

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

Supporting sentences and each other

The other day, I was discussing the concept of bullet points with my six-year-old daughter.

‘Part of my job involves checking the punctuation of bullet lists,’ I told her.

She looked at me pityingly. ‘Sad job,’ she said.

She had a point of course. But, on the other hand, a commitment to consistency and clarity can in fact make for a very happy job, especially when you find others who feel the same way. And they’re certainly out there, especially online. Follow any thread on The Editors’ Association of Earth Facebook group, for example, and you’ll find eloquent international specialists eager to share their knowledge, united by their passion for the English language.

Lunching with like-mBlog post pubinded locals

Here’s another scenario. A group of professionals listens as a potential client describes her requirements for contractors. She explains the type of work she offers, the skills she’s looking for and the rates of pay on offer. Does her audience size each other up, ready to betray their competitors’ weaknesses, Apprentice-style, with a clever put-down or underhanded action?

Of course not. This is a group of editors and proofreaders, and, perhaps because we’re used to working alone, we find our strength in numbers.

The professionals in question were the Norfolk SfEP (now CIEP) group on a tour of a local typesetter. In the pub afterwards (what better excuse for a rare business lunch?), veterans of the battle for clear prose offered advice to nervous newbies, and we all openly discussed what we thought of the rates on offer. They were on the low side – acceptable to those looking for a route into editorial work but less attractive to those with a larger network of contacts. There was no sense of rivalry; some of us were simply keener to work for the typesetter than others. Talk moved on to more typical pub chat – weddings, construction and the City of London Corporation.

I don’t get to local meetings as often as I’d like but, when I do, I’m always welcomed warmly and come home brimming with inspiration and motivation. The Norfolk group (or chapter, as I like to call it) is one of the local CIEP groups throughout the United Kingdom that give editors and proofreaders a welcome opportunity to discuss sentence structure, spelling and standing desks with others who care about such things. CIEP members further afield can join the Cloud Club – there’s no reason to feel isolated even if you normally work by yourself.

The perils of going it alone

Here’s a third example, which I hope isn’t typical. I was telling a designer at a networking event about my strong editorial community – the friendly conferences, the funny Twitter chats, the engaging Facebook posts. He stared at me in amazement. ‘I don’t speak to other designers,’ he said. ‘They’d only steal my clients.’

‘So you always work in isolation?’

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘It’s the price you have to pay for being a freelance designer.’

Sad job, I thought.

TSO group and

Julia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications (www.wordfire.co.uk) has more than 15 years’ experience of publishing and marketing. When she’s not hanging out with other editors (virtually or otherwise), she authors and edits textbooks, writes digital copy, proofreads anything that’s put in front of her, spends too much time on Twitter (@JuliaWordFire) and posts short book reviews on her blog, Ju’s Reviews.

Proofread by Susan Walton.

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

Eight tips for editing cookery

photo (9)Perhaps cookery is already one of your editorial specialisms, or it may be an area you’d like to try. In many ways, the same rules apply as for editing any other material – the text needs to be clear, accurate and consistent. However, there are some particular things to watch out for. Here are some tips for editing or proofreading recipes.

1. Know your way around a kitchen/Enjoy food

As with any other specialist area, how deeply you need to be immersed in the subject as an editor or proofreader is open to debate. I would suggest that it is necessary to be a competent and reasonably adventurous cook yourself, though, and a love of food definitely helps. You will often need to imagine carrying out a particular task as you read the recipe to check for sense, and it is useful to have a good awareness of kitchen equipment and how to use it, as well as a wide range of ingredients.

2. Have a feel for measurements

Although as an editor you are not required to test the recipes (unless you want to, which does happen; see number 8), you do need to sense-check them as you go, and this includes spotting any silly quantities. Can you picture 100g of various different ingredients? Do you know what 2 litres of liquid looks like? Do you understand the relative proportions of ingredients that usually go into a cake, or pastry, or a stew?

3. Account for every single ingredient

Every ingredient that is listed needs to be used – even if not all at once. In the same way, every ingredient that is mentioned in the instructions needs to be listed. Usually, publishers will want the ingredients listed in the order in which they are used, but the house style may specify exceptions to this. For example, salt and pepper often come at the end of the list.

4. Tie up loose ends (or ask the author to do so)

As well as making sure every ingredient mentioned in the instructions is listed (and vice versa), you need to make sure every ingredient’s story is followed through to its conclusion. Don’t leave the reader wondering what happened to that pastry that was rolled out two steps ago, or the egg that’s been beaten and set aside … forever.

5. Apply logic

The oven is often preheated at the start of the recipe – but this makes no sense if the preparation begins the day before the actual cooking. And some ingredients need to be prepared far in advance, while others would suffer. Although consistency is extremely important (see the next point), you also need to apply a generous dash of common sense when it comes to expressing a recipe sensibly. You can’t apply a blanket rule to every eventuality. This is where it helps to be able to picture the process that is being described.

6. Maintain consistency

Editors are always concerned with consistency. In cookery, particular things to watch out for include descriptions of ingredients (is it chopped onion – or onion, chopped?); instructions for particular processes that crop up again and again (such as steaming a pudding); use of measurements (obviously metric and imperial are not used interchangeably, but also make sure you don’t switch between teaspoons and 5ml, for example); names of things (capitals can be tricky; think of cheese or wine) and naming of recipes (does the recipe actually contain all the things mentioned in the title, and in what proportions?).

7. Tread the fine line between preserving voice and adhering to house style

Many cookery book publishers will supply an extensive house style (which is helpful, but do allow time to absorb it). At the same time, many cookery writers, in common with all other writers, will have their own particular way of expressing themselves. If you’re copy-editing, it can be a real challenge to strike a balance between toning down the wildest authorial excesses while maintaining that distinctive voice (it may be a voice that readers are familiar with the sound of, too), and also beating everything into style guide submission as far as possible.

8. Work as far away from the kitchen as possible

Trust me – you will get hungry. Especially if there are pictures …

This list is not exhaustive – it’s a starting point. Perhaps you have other suggestions of what to look out for?

Photo on 28-05-2015 at 13.51 #2Posted by Liz Jones.

Proofread by Susan Walton.

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

Different types of editing – do the labels matter?

pigeonholes

Sometimes what we do fits neatly into a category of editing … and sometimes it’s less clear.

Recently I’ve seen (and participated in) a few discussions about different types of editing – what they involve, how rates of pay work out for each, and the level of skill or knowledge required to undertake them.

In terms of ‘editing’ (from the perspective of many members of the SfEP), there are several commonly understood types or levels of editing:

  • structural or development editing
  • copy-editing
  • proofreading

The SfEP provides useful descriptions of what is meant by ‘copy-editing’ and ‘proofreading’ – tasks that occupy many of its members for much of their working time.

Then there is also a hybrid we sometimes talk about: proof-editing. This often seems to refer to a job described and commissioned by the client as a proofread, but that actually involves a greater degree of intervention than we might strictly expect of a proofread. There can be various reasons for this, not least of which is the possibility that only one editorial professional has ever laid eyes on the material about to be published – you.

Dialogue with clients

In terms of talking to each other, and to publisher clients, these labels (especially the first three) can be highly relevant and useful – they provide a kind of shorthand to help us understand the parameters of a particular job. Proofreading involves making essential corrections only; copy-editing involves a higher level of stylistic decisions but is still constrained by the client’s requirements and the need to respect the author’s voice, and so on. By using such labels, we have a good idea of what the client wants, and the client in turn knows what they are paying for, and what they should expect to get back from us.

However, being too fixated on these labels can cause problems when we work with people who are not familiar with the traditional book publishing process, which might include a huge range of clients: from self-publishing authors, to students wanting their theses proofread, to business clients, to government departments and various international organisations.

Labels as barriers

How do you deal with editorial work that resists categorisation? Should you try to make it conform by rigidly carrying out the tasks that you would associate with the level of work ostensibly being asked for? Should you reject it on the grounds that you have only been trained to proofread, but it actually looks more like a copy-edit? Or should you adapt to fit the needs of the client? It’s possible that by clinging on to very rigid notions of the prescribed nature of proofreading, or copy-editing, we will fail to provide the service that a client actually requires … and both sides can lose out.

A business client might, for instance, ask you to ‘proofread’ a document. However, it may not mean much to this client if you return the ‘proofread’ document marked up with perfectly executed BS 5261C: 2005, having made only very minimal interventions. It’s highly likely they were actually expecting you to perform major editorial surgery, and provide them with changes clearly set out in such a way that a layperson (not another editor or a typesetter) could understand.

This is where communication with the client is paramount; this applies whatever kind of client you are working for, but is especially important when it comes to assessing the type of work that is required for a ‘non-publishing’ client – you need to understand what they want you to do, and how far they want you to go … and they need to understand the service that you will be providing. As Kate Haigh said when she discussed working for business clients on this blog: ‘business clients want to know that you understand their needs and their material’.

Labels versus rates

The SfEP also suggests on its website minimum rates for the different types of editing, with proofreading seen as commanding a lower hourly rate than copy-editing, and development editing tending to be paid at a higher rate than copy-editing. Project management (which may or may not involve hands-on editing) is expected to command the highest rates. How these rates actually work out in practice is often the subject of hot debate. And many editors will choose to take the line that their time is their time, and should be paid for accordingly, no matter what specific editorial task is being performed.

In short, labels for the types of work we do can be helpful when we talk to other editorial professionals, when we communicate with publisher clients (although all publishers are different, and the exact requirements of a ‘proofread’, say, can vary), and when we assess for ourselves the level of work a job requires. Where the labels can be less helpful, or perhaps where we need to be prepared to be flexible, is when it comes to selling our services to a diverse range of clients, and when it comes to adapting our working methods to fit a client’s requirements – such important parts of winning business, and securing repeat commissions.

Photo on 28-05-2015 at 13.51 #2Posted by Liz Jones, SfEP marketing and PR director.

Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Christine Layzell.

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

Working at a treadmill desk

One of the benefits of being a freelancer and working from home is having more control over how I use my time. This presents numerous opportunities for optimising my work–life balance, and recently I started considering practical solutions to the problem of fitting regular exercise into my working day.

I wondered whether a treadmill desk could work for me: I loved the idea of getting exercise while working and not using my free time running or going to the gym (activities I don’t find particularly enjoyable), and was also keen to get away from a sedentary lifestyle slumped over a computer. I now finish each working day having walked around four miles, and it’s a great feeling to relax in the evening guilt-free knowing that I’ve already had a workout!

The first thing to consider is which type of treadmill is right for you: resistance (magnetic) or electronic. I decided that a resistance running machine would be the best option for me, as they are cheaper (my one cost around £90) and more robust (there is no motor so there is less to go wrong). It is also relatively small, and I can fold it away once work is over.

Resistance treadmills are not the typical choice. Stopping/starting and the speed you are walking is driven by you rather than the machine, and you need to steady yourself with at least one hand in order to maintain momentum, but I have found that it is ideal for copy-editing as so much time is spent reading.

While in motion I can do small interventions (a macro shortcut for example) and use a mouse, but for anything that requires two hands or more sustained attention (including drinking a cup of tea) I stop. Much like driving a car or riding a bike, after a while your brain is so used to the motion that you balance and walk quite naturally. A resistance treadmill desk also turns easily into a standing desk, although I find that (perhaps surprisingly) it’s actually more comfortable to walk than to stand for long periods.

If you do a lot of typing then an electronic treadmill might be more suitable. These are more expensive and have motors that eventually burn out, and you need to turn the machine off manually every time you want to stop walking. They are also a lot heavier and bulkier than resistance treadmills.

In setting up my workspace I simply pushed the treadmill up to my desk and raised the laptop, monitor, and mouse using whatever I had to hand. Using a high-resolution monitor and zooming in further than normal I can read just as well as before. If you like DIY then customising your desk more substantially shouldn’t be a problem, and there are plenty of online resources. You can also buy ready-made desks if money is no object.

As well as the obvious health benefits from regular cardiovascular exercise, once I got used to walking all day my posture and flexibility improved and shoulder and back pains abated. However, depending on how enthusiastic you are it can be quite tiring, and it’s advisable to wear loose-fitting clothes and running shoes – this is not the kind of thing you want to do in your slippers!

There is also evidence that treadmill desks help you to concentrate. I have certainly found this to be the case, and as the treadmill is fairly loud it works particularly well with another method I use to improve my productivity – listening to white noise (free noise generators are available online). The impact of low-level background noise is not always obvious, but it constantly (subconsciously) distracts your brain from the job in hand, and by blocking it out my concentration levels are much higher.

In summary, I won’t be going back to a sitting desk. Making this change has proved an effective antidote to the physical stagnation that freelancers working from home can feel – quite frankly it would look out of place in an office, so we are in the perfect position to give it a go!

11663890_10153381080045450_802605348_oDan Harding is a freelance copy-editor, proofreader and digital production specialist. He works with authors, publishers, NGOs and professional societies on subjects across the humanities and social/political sciences – please visit the Spartan Eloquence website for more information.

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