Category Archives: Conference

The 2021 CIEP conference: A surprising journey

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 12 to 14 September. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. It was Dayita Nereyeth’s first conference, and she didn’t know quite what to expect.

Hesitation

I’ll be honest. When I signed up for the CIEP conference I hardly knew what to expect. Before this, I had never attended a conference for editorial professionals. I was interested in some of the talks, but at face value, it was another commitment, another series of hours in front of a screen, another bunch of Zoom calls, another three points for my CIEP upgrade, another …

On hearing CIEP chair Hugh Jackson’s opening remarks, something in me shifted. He spoke about the community’s resilience and welcomed us home. I then let go of my initial hesitations and opened myself up to an experience unlike any other. In a place I never would have imagined – a symposium of editors – I found connection, balance, power, joy, and hope.

Connection

At the networking events, I was probably the youngest person in every breakout room – I gathered this from anecdotes about careers that had begun before I was born. I had much to absorb. In most cases, I chose to listen. While spectating was useful, I also discovered that a good way to break the ice was to ask a question.

Still, networking is never easy. And the Zoom format had its own challenges – the added constraint of the screen and the awkward dance of unmuting and beginning to speak only to hear someone do the same, followed by sheepish apologies and an uncomfortable pause before the conversation could continue.

Any awkwardness from Zoom networking dissipated on Twitter. Tweeting up a storm via #CIEP2021 was a fun way for delegates and speakers to connect. As I listened to talks, I tweeted what I resonated with, quite aware of my editor-proofreader audience.

Balance

A theme that emerged in many sessions and my personal approach to the conference was to find balance: in considerations of right and wrong, in prioritising the author’s voice, and in life.

‘Isn’t language amazing? Even when it’s wrong, it’s kind of right.’ With this, Ian McMillan summarised what it means to work in this profession. When we impose preference or style, we risk losing an author’s intention and charm. But precision in language is everything, so we traverse a middle way between the rights and the wrongs. In the same vein, Erin Brenner reminded us that there is no single correct way to teach editors.

Sophie Playle’s approach to fiction editing was eye-opening and applicable to any genre. One message stood out: what you edit is not yours. This is fundamental because it helps to weed out ego and personal preference from the editing process. Like Ian and Erin, Sophie invited us to find a working method rather than giving us a singular recipe.

Similarly, on marketing, Malini Devadas emphasised taking small steps, sitting with discomfort to understand it, and redirecting negative energy towards productivity. She also urged us to find a work–life balance, which I’ve been interested in for a while now.

I got creative with discovering this balance during the jam-packed conference. To be kind to myself (my eyes, in particular), I looked away from the screen during talks and took the opportunity to colour. I also attended some off-camera sessions horizontal, from bed. Still, I slowly yielded to Zoom fatigue. I didn’t follow speakers or other delegates into ‘Wonderland’ after presentations; I took breaks to recharge. No doubt, it was easy to make these choices because I knew that all the sessions were being recorded. I had to live with missing the more ephemeral interactions.

‘Fish fish fish fish fish.’ – Ian McMillan

Power

Several sessions emphasised the power that English speakers have. And as editors, we are responsible for shaping not just the what but also the how, of words. From making language accessible using Cathy Basterfield’s Easy English to incorporating Crystal Shelley’s invaluable insights on conscious and inclusive writing, we can effect change in many ways.

It’s easy to take literacy for granted. Before listening to Cathy’s talk, I hardly considered the amount I read every day; even a grocery bill or signpost can seem like a reading test to someone with low literacy. Importantly, as editors, we are gatekeepers, working on prevention rather than cure. ‘If we’re waiting to follow, we’re never going to catch up,’ Crystal told us. This is crucial. We are change-makers – we can discourage harmful trends (‘died by suicide’ instead of ‘committed suicide’) and encourage inclusive writing (using the singular ‘they’ to embrace all genders).

Joy

In addition to educational and profound moments during the conference, there was lots of good fun.

A highlight was the quiz, orchestrated by Beth Hamer. Despite knowing the answers to only four of the 60 questions, I ended up on the winning team (my teammates can take all the credit). I had heard great things about the quiz so even though I’m not a night owl, I stayed awake until about 3am to play (I definitely spent the last couple of rounds asleep with my eyes open).

The lightning talks were fun, bite-sized presentations, a refreshing change from the longer ones. It was incredible how much information the speakers packed into five minutes. Each one’s interests and personality echoed Ian McMillan’s words about the joy and excitement in language.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how happy Jill French’s play-by-play presentation of Word Styles in action made me. I’ve only recently begun to automate certain aspects of editing, so it was extremely satisfying to witness her logical process and put it to immediate use.

Hope

Listening to Benjamin Dreyer in conversation with Denise Cowle was an excellent way to wrap up the conference. On revealing that Penguin Random House has no house style, so each manuscript is dealt with on its own terms, Benjamin touched on these themes of connection, balance, power, and joy in editing. He encouraged editors to listen to authors rather than going in with expectations (exactly how I should have approached this conference). As other speakers did, he also reminded me about the people behind the words. It’s easy to forget about the humans when all we see are tracked changes, comments, emails, and tweets.

At the end, Hugh gave a moving speech that took us back to the CIEP of the past and offered hope for its future. Before I knew it, the conference had flown by. I stayed on Twitter for a while longer, unwilling to leave this space that I was initially reluctant to enter.

The links to recordings of the conference sessions arrived the following day, as promised, releasing me from my conference withdrawal. I now have the chance to revisit talks and dig into those I couldn’t attend live.

For now, I’ve gone (relatively) quiet on Twitter, and my engagement with editors I’m not directly working with is dormant. But my participation in this vibrant community will continue. I initially thought this conference would be a ‘one and done’ affair. But after attending, networking, tweeting, learning, listening and sharing, this time around, I think I’ll return. If only to listen to one of Hugh’s calming speeches, colour another sea creature, give a lightning talk, or win next year’s quiz (so long as Beth includes a ‘musicals’ section).

Dayita Nereyeth is an editor, a dancer, and an Alexander Technique teacher trainee based in Bangalore, India. She is a senior editor at The Clean Copy, where she has worked since 2017. Dayita primarily edits academic manuscripts in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

She is passionate about making text simple and clear. You can find her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Photo © Heui Song Son

 

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:

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

The 2021 CIEP conference: Benjamin Dreyer in conversation with Denise Cowle

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 12 to 14 September. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Cathy Tingle reviewed Benjamin Dreyer in conversation with Denise Cowle.

The plenary session of this year’s CIEP conference was particularly eagerly anticipated by those of us who enjoy Benjamin Dreyer’s expertly crafted Twitter posts and devoured his fun yet bracing book Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style. Benjamin Dreyer has a way with words, and in this short talk and longer interview with Denise Cowle, the CIEP’s marketing and PR director, he didn’t disappoint – even over a jumpy connection which added to the feeling that he really was speaking to us live from New York.

Like many of us, Benjamin Dreyer came to editing after trying other things. Following a casual-sounding introduction to the production editor of St Martin’s Press by a writer friend who spotted his talent, he was given some freelance proofreading work. It became an apprenticeship in copyediting. In those days, editing was done on hard copy. ‘I was seeing what sort of questions copyeditors asked. I saw there was more to this than “let me fix your spelling and let me see your subjects and verbs agree”.’ Asked by Denise whether he would tell new editors to start out by proofreading, Benjamin advised: ‘You should get your feet wet doing proofreading. It’s a lower-risk job, for us and for you. It’s one of the best ways to really learn how the editing works, to really see what the copyeditor does.’

Moving on to employment at Random House, Benjamin worked among some of the leading lights of editing including Bob Loomis who had been there such a long time that he remembered Faulkner visiting the office.

Random House has no house style: ‘Every book has to be approached on its own terms, with fresh eyes, with a fresh brain, to try to make the book into the best possible version of itself that it can be.’ This has been the mission of Benjamin Dreyer’s working life. He tells new editors: ‘Read the first 25 or 30 pages of a manuscript with your hands behind your back. Pay attention to what’s going on before you start working on it.’

As Random House’s copy chief, Benjamin famously only has one copyediting client these days: Elizabeth Strout, author of the Olive Kitteridge books, an arrangement that came about after Benjamin walked into her then editor’s office and pronounced her latest book ‘remarkable’. How did he find the experience of being edited when Dreyer’s English was in production? He asked for a particular copyeditor, much as Elizabeth Strout did with him, and described his editor’s method, of providing him with a better version of his own text, as ‘wonderful’. ‘You sound more like I sound than I sound’, he would say to her: a standard of editing for us all to aspire to.

You can’t interview Benjamin Dreyer without asking certain questions, and Denise did this expertly. One was about his outspoken disapproval of those who eschew the series (or serial, or Oxford) comma. I held my breath. But Benjamin protested a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek mischief, and explained: ‘There has to be this balance of truly, earnestly wanting to help and to get them to laugh, to pay attention.’ And so a stooshie – a great Scottish word that Denise used and Benjamin wrote down for future use – was avoided.

Right at the end of the interview – if there had been credits they would have been rolling – Denise posed the question suggested by Louise Bolotin but that we all wanted answered: ‘Why when Random House merged with Penguin was the new company not called Random Penguin?’ We weren’t the first to ask, it seems: ‘Everybody wanted and prayed that Random Penguin would be the way. People designed rogue logos. But we ended up being Penguin Random House. And that’s OK too.’

And then it was over, and so was the conference, and after we’d mopped ourselves up following CIEP chair Hugh Jackson’s closing remarks, those of us who tweet headed back to Twitter where we found a lovely message from Mr Dreyer: ‘I just had a spectacular time talking to the wonderful folk at @The_CIEP, and we didn’t come to cross-cultural blows! #CIEP2021.’ Utterly correct.

Cathy Tingle is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. She is a non-fiction copyeditor and proofreader, runs copyediting training for Publishing Scotland and is a member of the CIEP information team.

You can connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

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:

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

The 2021 CIEP conference: How to check text with The Chicago Manual of Style for PerfectIt

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 12 to 14 September. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Marieke Krijnen reviewed How to check text with The Chicago Manual of Style for PerfectIt, presented by Daniel Heuman.

In one of the most joyful announcements of the year, a perfect union was proclaimed: The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) and PerfectIt (PI) had been working together to integrate the former into the latter! Like anyone who uses PI and CMOS religiously, I was thrilled.

I adore CMOS. A client has called me ‘the Yoda of Chicago style’. I cite passages from the manual as if they’re from a holy book (‘Changing a dash in a quotation is permissible; CMOS 17, 13.7’). I say ‘Chicago’ when referring to the style, not the city (leading to interesting misunderstandings with my husband, a UChicago alum). I was first introduced to CMOS when a publisher took a chance on me, a newbie editor, asking me to proofread a forthcoming book and check that CMOS 16 was followed. I completed the job within a week and spent long, very long hours scrolling through the manual’s digital version and typing search terms. I discovered that this magical book had something to say about pretty much everything one could possibly wonder about while editing non-fiction. I ordered a hard copy soon after that, and it has little bookmarks all over it. If I had the nerve to get a CMOS tattoo, I probably would.

I’d like to say that I have memorised most of CMOS by now. However, it’s more accurate to say that I am aware of the things CMOS says something about, without me necessarily always knowing what it says precisely about, for example, headline capitalisation, when not to use an ellipsis, how to style the original titles of translated works, and so on. A good editor knows how to look things up, right?

PI’s union with CMOS is so great because it saves you hours of research. I was delighted that Daniel Heuman, PI’s CEO, was coming to talk about this happy union at the CIEP conference. He was joined by Russell Harper, the principal reviser of the 16th and 17th editions of CMOS. And so off we went into a session jam-packed with useful info.

The CMOS plugin for PI checks your manuscript and flags anything that does not seem to conform to Chicago style. It also displays the actual CMOS entry so you can judge for yourself whether the suggested change should be applied. No more opening up the digital edition or your book and looking for the precise entry; it’s right there on your screen! In the actual CMOS online font and style, people. And if you want to see the full entry, just click on its red number and it will take you straight to the digital style guide!

Daniel explained that PI’s philosophy is that ‘people make the best editing decisions’ and that PI seeks to provide the ‘technology to help people edit faster and better’. Therefore, the integration of CMOS into the software does not mean that decisions will be made for you. Instead, the plugin searches the text for you and teaches you the principles of Chicago style.

Not everything in CMOS is included in the check, but the plugin will check for hyphenation, abbreviations, numbers, centuries and decades, punctuation, and possessives, with ‘a focus on style and usage that form the basis of house styles’. Checks are thus not exhaustive, false positives may come up, and context needs to be considered. PI can’t think of every possible exception. For example: ‘daughter-in-law’ is usually hyphenated, but when a sentence such as ‘a daughter in law school’ is flagged, PI relies on you, the editor, to see this and not apply the suggested hyphenation. The takeaway: context is everything, so always carefully check PI’s suggestions!

After a live demo, we learned that the new CMOS style in PI can be combined with any other style in the Windows version. Combining the CMOS style with the UK spelling style is not yet recommended, however. Instead, switch off ‘spelling variations’ when running the CMOS check and then run the UK-style check with all options off except for ‘spelling variations’. Daniel is planning to eventually provide a solution to combine CMOS with other spelling and dictionaries, and he is open to cooperating with other style guides to develop similar plugins. Hence, this wonderful thing can only get better!

Marieke Krijnen is an academic copyeditor and an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. She obtained a PhD in Political Science and has a background in Arabic and Middle East studies and urban studies.

In her free time, she enjoys trains, birds, and playing violin. She’s on Twitter as @MariekeGent.

 

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:

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

The 2021 CIEP conference: Don’t get left behind: Career development for freelancers

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 12 to 14 September. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Umber Khairi reviewed Don’t get left behind: Career development for freelancers, presented by Suzanne Collier.

Suzanne Collier is both a Careers Adviser as well as somebody with many years of experience in book publishing, so this was a very useful conference session for CIEP members – particularly those who are new to freelance work or who have recently set up their own businesses.

Suzanne said that most of the freelancers who contact her for career advice have one main question: how can we keep up to date? She said that this is a major concern because of the ‘overwhelming speed’ with which the industry is changing and technology is advancing: ‘Publishing almost got dragged into the twentieth century and is now sort of speeding through the twenty-first.’

She pointed out that freelancers can often feel isolated and invisible, so it’s easy for them to feel hard done by and get left behind. However, the key thing is to remind yourself that this is a job, your job, and you have to make an effort to update skills and keep abreast of developments within the industry. Suzanne emphasised the importance of taking responsibility for your development, and with the availability of many free resources, this does not have to be an expensive proposition.

She said that social media – despite sometimes being a ‘cesspit of hell’ – is a great resource, adding that you need to make it work for your business by finding the right people or organisations to link to. Suzanne advised that you follow publishers, individuals and organisations who are relevant to your business and then stay informed of what they talk about or do.

Suzanne also spoke about the importance of LinkedIn and gave some very clear advice on things that do not work on this platform. These include what you write in your bio: for example, she said you should not put in vague terms like ‘publishing professional’ or write ‘I help people to …’ but instead be specific and focus on keywords and skills. And don’t just wait around till people contact you via LinkedIn, but engage with others on the platform.

Suzanne reminded freelancers that they need to make an active effort to remain connected to their industry by joining networks and by knowing what is happening in their field. She recommended signing up for free news updates relating to their relevant industry, so for example, for book publishing she mentioned Bookseller, BookBrunch, Publishers Weekly and Publishers Lunch.

Another way of keeping abreast of what’s happening in your field is by attending events; this, she said, you should regard as CPD. At this point in the talk, we learned that many years ago Suzanne was a certified aerobics instructor and she cited the example of being required to have a certain number of hours of training/teaching to keep her aerobics accreditation updated. Freelancers, she said, should use this same logic and invest the time and money needed to attend events like book fairs or conferences – in other words, treat this as part of keeping their ‘accreditation’ current. She said book fairs were a great place to see ‘what was going on and who’s who’ and to meet people in the profession. She mentioned that the Frankfurt Book Fair might be partly virtual this year, so that may be a good opportunity for many people who might otherwise not be able to attend.

Suzanne also pointed out that being thorough in one’s work should extend to researching potential clients as well as industry trends. She said freelancers need to know what is happening in, say, a particular publishing house or genre and suggested making regular visits to bookshops and libraries to see what’s being produced, what it looks like in the finished form and how it’s being marketed.

In terms of free resources, Suzanne mentioned Google Digital Garage (where you can get free online certification for Google products), Codecademy and Coursera and said it was a good idea to check what was available in terms of Adobe training and also to check out the Independent Publishers Guild (IPG) Skills Hub. Here, she also said that although the LinkedIn training, Lynda is paid-for training, free trials of this are often available so it’s worth checking on this.

The main thing that Suzanne stressed throughout this conference session was that keeping up to date is not just about updating your tech skills, it is about keeping informed and aware of what is happening in your industry – of the trends (whether in terms of tech or genre), debates, products and other developments – and looking for resources and networks that can inform and educate you. She also identified podcasts as a very useful resource and gave the example of the Extraordinary Business Book Club as one such podcast. Suzanne herself has a weekly careers podcast on her website Bookcareers.com and she recommended that, as an editing and proofreading professional, you should look for, and identify, podcasts that are relevant to your work.

Later on in the session, she answered a question many of us ponder: ‘How important is having a niche area to one’s career progression and opportunities?’ Suzanne’s view was that while this could help you in some ways it could also hinder you and that it was probably better to ‘have some niche areas but also to keep editorial skills transferable’.

This was an inspiring session as it was a reminder of the many advantages of being a freelancer – you get to design and direct your CPD and develop your networks with no office politics or annoying boss being involved! However, as Suzanne Collier made clear in her talk, you do need to be proactive in this and not let yourself become complacent.

Umber Khairi is a new CIEP member and has a background in journalism (print, then news websites, then radio). She took early retirement from the BBC in 2018 and she is co-founder of the independent, journalist-owned magazine, Newsline, in Pakistan. She is a compulsive proofreader. Areas of interest include South Asia, Islamic culture, the news media, current affairs, new fiction and health and nutrition.

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:

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

The 2021 CIEP conference: Fiction line-editing essentials: Narrative distance

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 12 to 14 September. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Katherine Kirk reviewed Fiction line-editing essentials: Narrative distance, presented by Louise Harnby.

Near! Far!

Louise Harnby is one of the most helpful editors around, and her Switching to Fiction course will earn you two points towards CIEP membership upgrades. This year, conference attendees got a taste of that high-quality content with Louise’s fabulous introduction to narrative distance. In her session, she explained:

  • what narrative distance (or psychic distance) is
  • why it should be dynamic, not static
  • how problems with narrative distance connect to showing vs telling, info-dumping, head-hopping and other common pitfalls
  • how editors can show writers how to adjust narrative distance to make their writing stronger.

Discussed in more depth in The Art of Fiction by John Gardner, narrative distance is a stylistic tool that affects point of view, showing versus telling, and more. It’s all about the relationship between reader and character: how deep in the character’s head is the reader, and how connected are they to the character’s emotions? To understand narrative distance, editors should know about narrative perspectives and their effects. Second-person is creepily intimate, third-person objective has the widest narrative distance, and third-person omniscient may have some intimacy between the reader and narrator, if not the characters. Editors who want to learn more about these would get a lot out of the CIEP’s Introduction to Fiction Editing course.

Louise describes narrative distance as a continuum that readers can zoom in and out of. The level of intimacy should gently ebb and flow. When it leaps around, that’s where problems come in. Overreliance on a wide degree of narrative distance makes the writing static and can result in info-dumping (and pace-killing). Spending too long in an intimate distance, putting emotion before description and action, can feel sentimental and overblown. Jumping too far from one degree to another can be jarring, like shifting gears too fast. Head-hopping is where the perspective leaps abruptly from one character to another, and readers get confused or can’t invest in the character’s experience. Some authors might overuse filter words (noticed, watched, felt) to avoid head-hopping, but this adds a degree of distance between the immediacy of the experience and the reader.

Louise says editors should not be too prescriptive regarding narrative distance. Instead, we should use our instincts and acknowledge subjectivity. A small change that shifts the narrative distance can have a huge effect on pace, emotional impact, and characterisation. We can use techniques like:

  • free indirect speech
  • removing filter words and words like ‘suddenly’ or ‘instantly’
  • using characters’ full names
  • changing direct speech and thought to reported speech or thought.

Being aware of narrative distance helps editors with the flow of prose, the shifts of intimacy with a single narrative style, and shifts of viewpoint. It helps authors to know how and why to fix problems, and it helps readers to enjoy the story more. Within a day of Louise’s talk, I’d already applied it to my own work. I can’t wait to see the lightbulbs pop on over my clients’ heads when I explain narrative distance to them.

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

She also edits Tabletop Role-playing Game (TTRPG) content. Katherine spends far too much time on social media, and is an Intermediate Member of the CIEP.

 

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:

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

The 2021 CIEP conference: Easy English

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 12 to 14 September. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Anna Baildon reviewed Easy English: The principles of writing for people with low literacy and what editorial professionals can learn from them, presented by Cathy Basterfield.

What is Easy English?

One of the reasons I attended this interesting session is that Easy English is a new concept for me.

Cathy described Easy English as ‘writing for people who haven’t got functional literacy’. She showed us examples of Easy English documents which made it clear that this is the polar opposite of the writing styles we often work with as editorial professionals. But Cathy emphasised the myriad texts which we encounter in our daily lives and which are inaccessible to many people.

Cathy has many years’ experience in speech pathology and working with people who use non-verbal communication. Our chair, Hugh Jackson, noted that Cathy pioneered the development of Easy English, so we were in good hands. Delegates contributed some thought-provoking questions, most of which Cathy answered in the time available.

Why do people need Easy English?

Easy English caters for people with the lowest levels of literacy. This may be related to a disability or other reasons. It was sobering to consider the impact of being unable to access information that I take for granted – Cathy mentioned the significant health, social and economic consequences – and to see data showing that a surprisingly large proportion of adults do not have the literacy to manage day-to-day tasks.

Easy English is most commonly used for information that people need, such as health information or terms and agreements. (I learned that there is an accessible information standard that all NHS and adult social care providers in England are legally required to follow.) Easy English is generally not used for the cultural, leisure and news content which people with higher literacy read for pleasure and engagement reasons. Cathy said that research shows that people with low literacy do want to read these richer types of material. This demonstrates an even greater potential for applying Easy English approaches.

One very interesting point Cathy made was that Easy English can be effective for people with higher literacy levels. She gave an example of a document about court proceedings that was useful to someone at an intensely stressful and emotional time.

Some nuts and bolts

Cathy used example texts to demonstrate some Easy English techniques. We learned that we should use:

  • a lot of white space
  • directly relevant illustrations (not photographs) to help convey the meaning of the text
  • short words and sentences
  • minimal punctuation
  • positive phrasing
  • bullets to separate items in a list.

I liked the idea of ‘unpacking the language’ so that the meaning becomes accessible.

Headlines I’ll remember

  • It’s hard to write in Easy English!
  • Access to written information should not be a reading test. It should be enabling.
  • Access to information is a right. ‘Access’ means that a person reads, understands and knows what they can do.

I agree with conference organiser Beth Hamer that Cathy gave us ‘a different perspective’ and challenged our assumptions. I can see that Easy English is related to plain English and Easy Read, but that it goes further. I would like to explore these specialisms after I’ve completed my core training. In the meantime, it will be interesting to spot opportunities where I can use the principles in more subtle ways in my work.

Thank you to Cathy, who joined us live from Melbourne where it was late evening.


Useful resources

Cathy’s website: https://accesseasyenglish.com.au

CIEP guide: Editing into Plain English https://www.ciep.uk/resources/guides/#EPL

CIEP training course: Plain English for Editors https://www.ciep.uk/training/choose-a-course/plain-english-editors/


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

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:

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

The 2021 CIEP conference: Conscious and inclusive editing: Understanding conscious language and the editorial role

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 12 to 14 September. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Suzanne Arnold reviewed Conscious and inclusive editing: Understanding conscious language and the editorial role, presented by Crystal Shelley.

Words can uplift, empower and inspire, says Crystal. But they can also invalidate, marginalise and erase. ‘Language … has the power to perpetuate stigma and stereotypes and to misrepresent.’

Editors have an opportunity to help authors recognise and replace potentially harmful language before it’s published.

What is conscious language?

Conscious language is rooted in compassion, choosing words to reflect our intention.

For example, many wheelchair users dislike the phrase ‘wheelchair-bound’ because it implies the chair is a negative thing, whereas they see it as a tool that helps them go about their daily lives. So if we say that someone is wheelchair-bound, it’s often inaccurate and can be stigmatising.

‘Many conscious language issues are unintentional’: most of us don’t deliberately offend or upset people. The problem is using words or phrases unthinkingly or out of habit – perhaps terms that we were taught as children or hear other people use.

Why care?

This isn’t about the author’s intent, but the impact on readers.

Language conveys our values and beliefs, and so, unintentionally using harmful language can affect reputation. It can also, of course, have real-world consequences, including negative reviews, bad publicity, even cancelled contracts or financial loss.

What can editors look out for?

First, don’t worry if this seems daunting. We all have to start somewhere and learning can be an ongoing process.

To help us watch out for potentially problematic language, Crystal gave the following pointers, with examples.

Ask yourself whether the language is:

  • disrespectful (eg using ‘pow wow’ to describe a meeting at work strips the term of its cultural significance)
  • stigmatising (eg ‘crazy’ – even if it’s not being used to stigmatise those with mental illness or whose behaviour seems ‘different’, it may provoke an unintended emotion in the listener or reader)
  • inaccurate (eg ‘wheelchair-bound’)
  • biased (eg default ‘he’)
  • excluding (eg referring to ‘both’ genders)
  • outdated (eg ‘oriental’, ‘senile’)
  • dehumanising (eg ‘illegal immigrant’ – we may think of phrases such as this as ‘the norm’, but they strip people of their humanity and individuality)
  • presumptuous (eg Columbus ‘discovered’ America – people lived there long before he arrived)
  • judgemental (eg ‘suffers from’)
  • rooted in oppression.

How can editors raise these issues with authors?

Don’t feel afraid that you’re trying to impose your own views or biases on the text. We raise these issues because ‘they may interfere with the author’s ability to get their message across effectively to readers’.

And that’s the key to giving feedback – keep it focused on the reader and potential unintended effects on them. Keep it constructive and professional, offer suggestions for other wording they could use and share links to relevant resources.

Find out more

You can learn more from Crystal’s blog posts. She also sells conscious language toolkits (one for writers and one for editors), which include lists of problematic terms explaining why they could do harm and suggesting alternatives.

The Conscious Style Guide is another good source of information.

In summary

This statement of Crystal’s reminds us why it’s worth making the effort:

‘Most readers won’t notice the absence of harmful language, but they’ll notice its use.’

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

 

 

 

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:

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

The 2021 CIEP conference: Business data for freelancers

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 12 to 14 September. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Abi Saffrey reviewed Business data for freelancers, presented by Maya Berger.

Knowledge (about your business) is power

‘Business data is the key to making informed decisions.’

Maya Berger is an experienced freelance editor who loves data, and in this session, she highlighted the importance of gathering data and then using that data to make smarter business decisions and meet business goals. Maya highlighted a few areas where freelancers can record information and use it to answer specific questions.

Tracking your time

  • How many days off have you taken this month/season/year?
  • How many sick days?
  • How many weekend days have you worked?
  • How many hours are you working each day/week/month?
  • When are the busy times?
  • How many days off do you want next month/season/year?

By tracking hours and days worked, you can identify whether you have the work–life balance you want, whether you need to set/adjust boundaries, or whether you can take action to enable you to work fewer hours or on different days.

CPD

  • How does the content within a CPD activity relate to the editorial work you do and the way you run your business?
  • Is the time spent on the activity proportional to how much it’s going to help you and your work?
  • How do you change your working practices/approach after undertaking a CPD activity?

Tracking the hours spent on watching webinars and reading blog posts – and the topics they cover – can show that too much time is being spent on one topic that may not be directly relevant to your work. Or not enough learning or practice time is being allocated to a tool or issue you deal with every day.

Job satisfaction

  • Are the projects you’re working on moving you towards a desired goal?
  • How many of your projects are in a subject area you are interested in?
  • Which projects drain you or engage you?
  • What kind(s) of work can you look for that will improve your job satisfaction?
  • Have you taken enough time off to stay energised and motivated?

Business expenses

Freelancers must record allowable business expenses for the tax authorities.

  • Are you subscribing to a tool or service you rarely use?
  • Is there a paid-for ad-free version of an app that you use every day?
  • Do you use a tool/service more for personal tasks than for work ones?

Knowing what you’re spending your money on can provide the momentum to cancel a subscription, or invest in something that will make each project go more smoothly.

Rates/fees

  • Do you earn enough to cover your living (and business) expenses?
  • Do your rates reflect the work done, and your skills and expertise?
  • Do your rates cover the time spent on querying, invoicing, communicating and logging the project details?

With this information, you can make an informed decision about raising your rates, and ensure that you build admin time into quotations and fees.

Income

  • How much did you quote?
  • How much money did you receive?
  • How many hours did you estimate the work would take?
  • How many hours did the work actually take?
  • Was the money worth the time and effort?
  • Were there any other benefits or costs?
  • How many projects has a client offered you over a year? How many did you work on?

Client data

  • Where did you find your client?
  • How did you approach them? Did it get you work?
  • Where did your client find you?
  • Why did they approach you?
  • Did they provide feedback?
  • Do they want to work with you again?

It’s possible to collect a huge amount of data about our businesses – we can harness that information and turn it into practical actions and goals, rather than leaving it in a file somewhere to gather dust. The information can help us to understand our value and present that to existing and new clients. It’s good to start small with a spreadsheet or two. Maya set attendees the challenge of tracking one new aspect of their business over the next week; I was still in a post-conference daze and didn’t manage it, but the session’s given me loads of ideas for what to look at over the coming months (and I’ll record how long I spend tinkering with my spreadsheets).


Maya has created a suite of integrated Excel spreadsheets for freelance editors, for the easy management of income, expense and project data: The Editor’s Affairs (TEA).


Abi Saffrey has enjoyed using spreadsheets for over 20 years. She’s an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP, offering editorial project management and copyediting to a variety of organisations that publish digital and printed content.

 

 

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:

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

The 2021 CIEP conference: Blogging: Making it work for you and your business

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 12 to 14 September. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Marga Burke reviewed Blogging: Making it work for you and your business, presented by Liz Dalby, Claire Bacon and Kia Thomas.

How blogging can boost your business – and be fun

When I became a freelancer 12 years ago, I was interested in starting a blog, but the advice I read soon put me off, giving me the impression I would need advanced content marketing skills and the willpower to stick to a rigid schedule. So I was fascinated to hear three established bloggers give their perspectives during a relaxed panel session at this year’s CIEP conference.

Far from prescribed lists of uninspiring topics, Claire, Liz and Kia all emphasised the value of writing about what interests you, connecting with your readers, and showing what kind of person you are – whether you’re writing for potential clients or fellow freelancers.

Blogging for clients

Claire’s blog is aimed at her clients, who are scientists, and offers tips to help them improve their writing. While her choice of audience aligns with conventional blogging advice, Claire was clear that she targets this readership because it suits what she enjoys writing about.

Claire bases her posts on advice and explanations that she finds herself giving clients frequently. This is not only a source of ideas and material, but it also saves her time down the line; when future clients struggle with the same issue, she can refer them to her blog post.

Although there are other factors involved, Claire has had four times as many referrals since she started blogging. Her blog has also led to online teaching work for universities and given her the confidence to write a CIEP guide.

Blogging about freelancing

Liz writes her blog for other freelance editors, with the aim of building community. Similarly, while some of Kia’s posts are aimed at clients, at the moment she prefers to write about freelance life. Both see their blogs as a way to connect with others and to show who they are.

As the three panellists explained, in a crowded field where many editors have the same technical skills, a blog can reflect your personal ‘brand’ and help you stand out. Posts that show you are fun and approachable (Kia), passionate about helping people (Claire), or thoughtful and sensitive to others’ needs (Liz) can reassure readers about what it would be like to work with you.

Both Liz and Kia confirmed that their blogs have gained them clients and opened up other opportunities, such as speaking at conferences.

Tips for new bloggers

If you’ve been inspired to start a blog, here are some tips from the speakers:

  • Find your own voice and write about what you want to, not what you think you ‘should’ write
  • A list of planned topics can be helpful to get you started but shouldn’t be a straitjacket
  • Topics don’t need to be original if you give your own personal take
  • Read and share others’ blogs; they’re likely to reciprocate
  • Guest posts are an option if you don’t want the commitment of your own blog.

For me, it was refreshing to hear that a business blog doesn’t have to follow a set formula, but can be enjoyable, creative and personal. I came away from the session feeling motivated to banish impostor syndrome and market my business in a new way. As Kia put it, ‘There’s only one you, and you can’t be an impostor in your own life.’

Marga Burke helps researchers get published by editing health-related journal articles, particularly for authors who have English as a second language. She is also a medical translator from French and Italian to English and an aspiring authenticity reader. Outside work, she loves writing poems, sings in two choirs and has run a marathon.

 

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:

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

The 2021 CIEP conference: Editors and copyright

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 12 to 14 September. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Kerrie-Anne Love reviewed Editors and copyright, presented by Pippa Smart.

Could a monkey own copyright for a selfie?

About a decade ago, an inquisitive macaque monkey named Naruto used a wildlife photographer’s camera to take a self-portrait. When David Slater claimed rights to the image after it was shared on social media, he was sued by animal rights group PETA which said Naruto was the owner. Slater eventually won copyright (and agreed to donate 25 per cent of the royalties to charity) but, as Pippa Smart explained in her conference session, ‘Editors and copyright: Myth-busting and good practice’, the case itself had wider ramifications.

Copyright, she observed, is a subject many people find intimidating or dull. ‘The problem is that copyright comes up when there’s a problem,’ she said, ‘so to many people copyright is a problematic issue, rather than an intellectually challenging issue that protects the rights of the creators.’ For editors, a good understanding is essential.

Starting with a quick-fire quiz, Pippa – who has worked in academic and research publishing for 30 years – proceeded to take us on a ‘whistle-stop’ tour of copyright law that was packed with thought-provoking case studies.

She explained that raw data isn’t protected and can be interpreted in artworks, animations, graphics, movies, and so on. Essentially, creativity is protected; for copyright to apply, the work has to involve some form of expression or intelligence. That’s where Naruto’s court case is relevant. The US court found that copyright can only be granted to something that has ‘intelligent intent’, so animals and machines don’t have rights. This has implications for the increasingly sophisticated area of works generated by artificial intelligence.

Pippa also touched upon social media and issues with image rights, permissions and the difficulties posed by so-called ‘orphan works’, where the copyright owner can’t be traced or identified. Likewise, there are pitfalls with open access licensing, more commonly found in academic publishing and publicly funded research, that allows reuse without permission. She emphasised the need for editors to always check because, for example, a work might be freely available but you may not be allowed to reuse it without seeking permission.

Another aspect to consider is that copyright is finite and usually lasts the lifetime of the author, plus an additional 70 years. But laws vary in different jurisdictions and are subject to change. While copyright may have expired in the country where a book or a creative work is being published, the publisher may need to seek permission in other territories.

In some countries, for example, France, an author’s moral rights may last forever, but there is no provision under US copyright law. Pippa advised that ‘no matter where you’re publishing, attribution and integrity should always be upheld’. It is good editing practice to ask for permission and check your facts and sources.

And finally, she made an interesting point that I had never really reflected upon. While copyright is protected by law, plagiarism is not illegal – although it may involve some degree of infringement and is widely seen as unacceptable!

The session covered a lot of ground in just an hour, and while the basics may seem relatively straightforward, as Pippa showed, there are plenty of grey areas. Just ask Naruto.

For guidance, see the Society of Authors website and its Guide to Copyright and Permissions.

Kerrie-Anne Love copyedits fiction and memoir for independent authors.

She has 30 years of publishing experience and is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. Now based in Australia, she works with clients around the world.

 

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:

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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