Category Archives: Editorial Excellence

Resources round-up: Microsoft Word

Welcome to this round-up of resources compiled by the CIEP. This time, our subject is Microsoft Word.

We have divided our picks into:

  • macros and other editing tools
  • Word tips
  • courses, webinars and books.

Macros and other editing tools

If you work in Word, and you talk to other editors, before long you’re likely to find yourself hearing about macros and other automated editing tools. PerfectIt is used by many freelance editors, and its website contains lots of useful FAQs and tips, as well as video tutorials, user guides and training. If you have further questions, Facebook has a group for PerfectIt users.

Recently PerfectIt launched a Chicago Manual of Style style sheet, which you can access if you’re a CMOS subscriber. Hilary Cadman has reviewed this feature for the CIEP.

Paul Beverley’s free macros, including the popular FRedit, are available through the ‘Macros for Editors’ menu on his website, and he has posted a number of useful explanatory videos on YouTube. Paul has also written a free book, Macros for Editors. Crystal Shelley has reviewed Paul Beverley’s macros.

The Editorium, run by wildcard expert Jack Lyon, hosts the new Editor’s Toolkit Plus 2023, a Word add-in that contains dozens of time-saving tools. The website also hosts EditTools, for editors working on complex documents. Jack Lyon’s Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, loved by many editors, is available via links on the Editorium site.

A simple tool that’s useful in creating author queries is TextExpander, which creates ‘snippets’ of text that you frequently use, allowing you to add them to a document with keyboard shortcuts.

Word tips

For Word users, there are plenty of tips available online. Allen Wyatt provides well-regarded Word tips. Or look on the Word MVP Site for a range of articles about every aspect of Word, written by volunteers. Or visit Hilary Cadman’s blog for useful tips.

Microsoft itself offers some videos on features like Find and Replace and using Word styles in its Word help & learning section. Or visit Microsoft’s tech community for tips, for example on using Word’s modern comments.

Courses, webinars and books

The CIEP’s Word for Practical Editing helps students to increase their editing efficiency by using Word’s tools and features. Editors Canada has a range of webinars on editing software, on subjects from text expanders and macros to increasing efficiency in Microsoft Word.

Individual editors offer courses on Word, too. Hilary Cadman offers courses on PerfectIt and Endnote, Word coaching, and most recently a course on Word styles and templates. Adrienne Montgomerie offers training on Word Essentials, and a book that can be used for self-study.

Finally, Geoff Hart’s book Effective Onscreen Editing, currently in its fourth edition, is widely recommended by advanced Word users.

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: Laptop and notebook by Maya Maceka on Unsplash; cat on keyboard by Александар Цветановић on Pexels.

Posted by Julia Sandford-Cooke, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Top tips for non-Word working

Editors may be most familiar with Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat but clients are increasingly publishing content on other platforms, such as Google Docs and content management systems (CMS). Hannah Sapunor-Davis demystifies some of these newer ways of working.

First, a bit of context: I don’t work on books, and I don’t work with typical publishers. I primarily work with designers, non-profits, business owners and digital publishing agencies. I find myself more often in Adobe, Google Docs, various content management systems (CMS) and product information management (PIM) systems than in Word.

So I wanted to share some insight into how working on non-Word platforms might change up your regular editing routines. I won’t go into detail about how the functionality and tools differ. There are lots of tutorials online for that, and it really depends on what platform you’re using, what updates have happened, and, maybe most importantly, how your client uses the platform.

But most of all, I’m here to tell you that stepping outside of the Word bubble is nothing to fear.

Real-time collaboration

Real-time collaboration is great when you need to put two heads together on a project. This can be especially helpful when you need to test functionality with a client, or when you are giving feedback in a live call. For some non-publishers, documenting changes and versions is not as important as the finished product. I found the real-time feature helpful when walking a client through edits to a webpage. We were able to come up with some new text and make changes together.

On the flip side, it can get messy quickly. A clear communication system is necessary to mitigate confusion about who should be doing what and when. In a CMS, this might be in the form of changing a status field from ‘Editing in progress’ to ‘Editing complete’, for example. For other platforms, like Google Docs, this might be communicated through an email or Slack message to the client to signal I have finished my review.

Working in the cloud

The obvious upside of working in the cloud is that you can work from most locations and most devices, as long as you have a stable WiFi connection. In the past, this has meant that I did not have to schlep my computer along with me on a trip because I knew I had access to a computer and WiFi at my destination. Even better, working in the cloud means I avoid having to store a lot of big files locally on my computer.

The other side of that coin is that if WiFi is not working properly, it can cause a major problem in your schedule. Likewise, I’ve had several instances where the platform I was supposed to work on suddenly had unscheduled maintenance. The client has always been understanding when system disruptions like this happen, but that doesn’t necessarily help when it causes a domino effect on the timelines of other clients’ projects. And I have also had it written into project agreements that I cannot work on the material on unsecured networks, which is something to be mindful of (and also good practice in general).

Different checklists

Most editors are used to creating checklists and using them in various projects. But checklists for non-Word platforms may go beyond the stylistic choices we typically navigate. For example, when editing a CMS:

  • In which order should you check all the parts when it’s not in a typical top-down, left-right order layout?
  • Are there any functionalities that need to be tested, such as clicking to open fields or sliding a navigation bar to the side?
  • Do you need to add any steps, such as clicking ‘Save’ periodically if the platform doesn’t save automatically?

Having this order of operations clarified helps develop a rhythm for catching all the parts in design-heavy material. For example, for one retail client, I have to check marketing copy against internal product information and photos. There are a lot of different fields to review, and I have developed my own visual pathway to reviewing all the crucial spots. The order looks like this, starting with 1:


Communication with clients

Here are a few extra questions that I recommend asking your client before getting started on a project:

  • Do I have all the permissions to view and edit what I need for the job? Sending screenshots or looking at your screen together with the client might help. You might not realise that a field is hidden from your view.
  • Is it possible to test the functionality of the platform without making changes to the system? This could be in the form of a draft, test user account or what is sometimes called a ‘sandbox environment’.
  • How will I know when I should start editing, and how will I let others know that I am done with my review? Deciding on one means of communication is key here.
  • What exactly needs to be reviewed? There may be parts that don’t need to be reviewed, such as certain text fields or formatting.
  • How should you save your work? The platform might save automatically or you might need to save it manually when finished.
  • Do you need to document your changes? The client might not care about seeing your changes. Or maybe you need to export the copy when you’ve finished editing to have a record of your ‘version’.
  • How should you send feedback? There might be a field where you can add comments and queries, or maybe you send them separately in a message.

Ready to branch out?

I didn’t follow any formal training for specific platforms. The training that I took at the CIEP and PTC covered most of what I needed to know for working with common non-Word platforms, such as Adobe and WordPress. For the rest, I learned by doing. (That’s my preferred way to learn anyway.) Each time I began using a new-to-me platform, clients understood that there was a learning curve and that certain editing functions that editors are used to, such as making global changes, might not be possible.

It doesn’t hurt to get familiar with basic HTML (HyperText Markup Language) coding. This has come in handy when I’ve noticed funky formatting, such as a word in bold that shouldn’t be or a missing paragraph break. In such cases, I can go to the HTML view and change that. And that’s one less query for the client to deal with. Of course, you should only do that if you have the permission to do so. Some clients might not want you to touch the formatting in any case. The good news is that basic HTML formatting looks very similar to the editing markup that most people learn in editing courses.

But in my experience, the skills needed for this type of work have less to do with technical know-how and more to do with a few specific soft skills. Beyond your foundational editing training and experience, you will do well if you:

  • adapt to different systems easily
  • learn relatively quickly
  • communicate precisely.

Having worked in a variety of programs and platforms has enabled me to feel confident about approaching businesses, especially those unrelated to the publishing industry. After all, the saying goes: Everyone needs an editor. And I would like to add to that: But not everyone uses Word.

About Hannah Sapunor-Davis

Hannah is a freelance editor in Germany, originally from Northern California. She has degrees in History/Art History and Arts Management and now loves helping individuals and small businesses write clear communication for their passionate audiences. In her free time, she likes to sew, swim, listen to podcasts or tramp through the nearby forest with her dog, Frida.

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: computer clocks by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay; bubbles by Willgard Krause from Pixabay.

Posted by Julia Sandford-Cooke, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

An interview with Paul Beverley: the man behind the macros

Paul Beverley is well known in the editing community as the ‘king of macros’. He has not only devised and developed such indispensable free tools as FRedit, but also provides training via Zoom, on YouTube and in person. Paul talked to the CIEP Information Team about his ‘total and utter obsession’ with macros, and his plans for the future.

How (and why) did you get started with macros?

I joined SfEP (as it was then) 17 years ago after editing and typesetting my own monthly computer magazine for 20 years. The magazine was dying and I was heavily in debt, so I had to find freelance editing work and needed to do that work fast.

For the previous 15 years, I had used a FRedit-like computer program with a Mac, so I got someone to write a version of it in Visual Basic for Word, and from there I set about learning to program my own macros. But I also had to learn to use Word, which I had never used before!

What are your favourite macros? (e.g. the ones you think are most helpful)

Number 1 has to be FRedit. You give it a list of words, phrases or punctuation that you want highlighting and/or changing globally, and FRedit does it in seconds. I simply wouldn’t bother editing without it.

Next it has to be analysis macros such as DocAlyse, ProperNounAlyse and HyphenAlyse, because I love spotting inconsistencies, even before I’ve read a word.

What’s motivated you to be so generous in putting together and sharing all your macros?

Putting together? See question 1 – a selfish desire to earn more quickly.

Sharing? Why not? What have I got to lose by letting others benefit?

Sharing for free? Easy! If I sold them I’d need to employ a team of technical support personnel (there are well over 1,100 macros to support). As it is, people are really grateful when I help them and, if I’m honest, I like it when people say they appreciate me.

Do you have any tips for overcoming a fear of using/reluctance to use macros?

It can all sound rather daunting but if you can get going with just two or three macros, or maybe half a dozen, you’ll save yourself time and that will motivate you to pick up a few more.

That’s the approach in our self-learning offering: ‘Macros from Square One’ (Mac or PC), where you learn how to install a macro into Visual Basic and then you use it, and then you load another one and so on.

Or another low-tech approach is that you can put a special Word file into a folder on your computer, and suddenly, without ever seeing the inside of a computer program, you will have a dozen or more macros ready to use. This is called ‘Macros Free Trial’.

Also, there’s Jennifer Yankopolus’s ‘Macro of the month’, with hints and tips as well as a suggested macro to try each month.

But to really get yourself launched there’s a paid six-session training course run by Jennifer Yankopolus for the EFA: ‘Macros A to Z’. It gets booked up quickly but if you sign up for ‘Macro of the month’ you’ll get the dates of the next course.

What question are you asked most often about macros (and what is the answer)?

Apart from ‘How do I get started?’ (see above), there’s ‘Are macros safe?’ If you are worried about viruses, there’s no need. In Word’s File–Options–Trust Center Settings, keep your setting as ‘Disable all macros without notification’.

If people are worried about messing up a document by using macros, then, yes, this can happen, but only if you misuse a given macro. Any tool needs to be used with care, so follow the instructions and don’t take on something too complicated too soon.

What is the most unusual/interesting request for a macro you’ve had?

Maybe checking, for a PR agency, the length of tweets – 140 characters max (they can be longer now).

Or, in a book about the card game bridge, changing all the special symbols (icons for clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades); the client wanted text: cx, dx, hx, sx.

In another example, someone had to check the totals at the bottoms of columns of figures in a document, and they didn’t fancy typing all the figures into a calculator. One click for each, and the macro checked the addition instantaneously.

Is there any request/need you’ve not been able to make a macro for?

Yes, occasionally, but it’s usually because the request would take too much of my limited available development time for what is perhaps a rather niche application.

The problem is more often the other way around. People want a specific macro, and within the 1,000 macros there is probably one already, but how do you find it? To help, we’ve provided an electronically searchable ‘Macro Menu’.

Have you ever tried to create macros in Google Docs? Would you?

My answers are ‘no’ and ‘no’, in that order. Again, it’s not a matter of pride or principle, just that I’ve got my work cut out trying to support the existing macros and develop new ones that people ask for.

Paul demonstrating his macros at the 2022 CIEP conference

You train people to use your macros. Where in the world has this taken you?

Physically, only to Spain and Canada, but the Spanish editors are so keen on using macros that they have translated some of the macros and some of the documentation for Spain and Central and South America.

When the pandemic hit, I discovered Zoom and so I have been able to train people all over the world. At one stage, I taught people in eight different countries inside five days. And I know of 56 different countries where my macros are being used – and not all for editing in English; there are specific macros on my website for editing in Dutch, German and Spanish, none of which I speak!

And (as a rough estimate) how many people do you think you’ve trained?

I’ve no way of knowing, actually. My YouTube channel has over 1,300 subscribers, if that’s any indication.

You’re now approaching retirement. Will you continue to create and explain macros?

As long as I can, I’ll keep creating macros – it’s a total and utter obsession. But training is not really my forte because I tend to bombard people with all the exciting and time-saving things they could do with macros. Not helpful!

When I’m gone, my macros will still be available, but I became concerned, a few years ago, that all the programming techniques I use to create new macros are locked in my brain. I managed to document many of them in my book’s Appendix 13 – ‘Word Macro Techniques’, and demonstrated some in YouTube videos.

However, in the past few years Word has become even more ‘feature-bloated’ and therefore VBA [Visual Basic for Applications, the programming language used for Word macros], has got slower. I have had to work out tricks to regain the lost speed of some of the more complex macros. These techniques are largely undocumented.

I get a kick from creating new macros but documenting the techniques is a real slog. So if anyone could offer help or inspiration on the documentation front, that would be much appreciated. It would be a shame to lose those tricks when I’m gone. Thanks.

How else will you spend your retirement?

I am now more or less retired from paid editing, but my lovely wife Sue has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so I’m guessing that I’ll have less and less time for macros (and documentation) as the years roll by, and we’re also involved in an Alzheimer’s drugs trial.

Also, please be warned that I’m planning to do another sponsored Land’s End to John O’Groats bike ride, but this time for the Alzheimer’s Society. It will have to be a local ride as I don’t like leaving Sue for too long. I can do the required 1,000 miles plus 38,000 feet of climb by cycling 200 times around Taverham, where I live outside Norwich – it’s actually quite hilly here.

I hope you’ll support me – you might say it’s 1,000 miles for 1,000 macros. Thank you, in advance.

Find Paul’s macro resources

 

About Paul Beverley

Starting in 2005, Paul Beverley’s freelance editing + SfEP + macros got him out of a massive financial hole. Now fully pensioned, he is very fortunate to be able to give the macros back to CIEP and the wider editing world. It’s great fun!

 

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credit: Bicycle by Deniz Anttila from Pixabay

Posted by Julia Sandford-Cooke, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Being open to editing in Google Docs

Are you considering taking on an editing project in Google Docs? Hetty Marx describes her experience of development editing in Google Docs and explains why, despite her initial doubts, it has opened up welcome opportunities.

Agreeing to edit in Google Docs

The first time I was offered a project that involved editing in Google Docs, my gut reaction was a clear ‘no’. I’d had a very busy few months, with a long and complex project, plus I’d been home-schooling my children through the first Covid lockdown. The idea of having to learn how to edit in a different program (one I’d not heard good things about) seemed too much.

But I was really intrigued by the project and was keen on the idea of working with this new client. I wondered if it would seem manageable once I was under less time pressure. The client agreed a later deadline, and a few weeks later I got started.

And … it really wasn’t that bad. Google Docs feels familiar to someone used to working in Word, so it was possible to get started editing and pick things up as I went along. There were some irritations but overall it wasn’t as dreadful as I’d feared. And the client and project were even better than I’d hoped. I continued working with them and edited around another 25 documents in Google Docs over the following two years. I’m now a third of the way through editing a 20-chapter, 400,000+-word textbook for the same client, again in Google Docs.

I still prefer editing in Word, but being open to editing in Google Docs has given me the opportunity to work with some wonderful authors and edit what have turned out to be some of my favourite projects to work on.

In this blog post, I’ll cover a few of the techniques that have helped me adapt to editing in Google Docs. Note that as I am a development editor, my edits involve a heavy use of comments, plus amending sentences using tracked changes/suggesting mode; copyeditors may face different challenges when editing in Google Docs.

1. Use Word alongside Google Docs

Consider using Word alongside Google Docs during your edit, to make use of the various features and functionality that are not available in Google Docs. I download the file as a Word document and keep it open on my second screen.

I find this invaluable for things like ‘Find’ (there are more extensive searching options), using macros (for analysing or finding things, rather than making changes), viewing changes and comments (I think some of the options in Word provide a clearer view) and checking word counts of a particular section.

2. Agree a workflow with authors

The biggest worry about editing in Google Docs for many editors is that the author can make changes while you are editing. There are solutions within Google Docs for this, like restricting others from editing the file during your edit (using the ‘Sharing’ options) but an upfront discussion about the workflow may be more appropriate.

Agree with the authors which of you will be working on the document at each point and make sure there are clear handovers. With Word, this is clear-cut as you need to send the file to the next person; in Google Docs you could tag someone in the document or email them so they know the file is ready.

Be open to a different workflow. Could the author finish the conclusion or work on a standalone aspect (like exercises) while you start editing the chapter? I’ve found this doesn’t cause any issues and it’s helped to keep to the schedule. But I also agree that other revisions during my edit would make the editing process significantly more complicated and less effective, so clear communication about what will work – and what won’t – is important.

3. Understand who can see your comments and edits and when

Some editors don’t like the feeling of having their editing watched in real time. While that doesn’t worry me, I do miss the chance for a final check-through of my comments before sending them to the author.

There are a few things to remember when commenting in Google Docs:

  • Once you click ‘Comment’, that comment is visible to anyone who has access to the document.
  • If a user has email notifications set up, they will receive the comment and may see it even if you delete it later.
  • If you or your client ‘Resolve’ comments (rather than delete them), they disappear from view but are still available and might be read by anyone who currently has access (or who is later given access) to the document.

In Google Docs, I only post comments that are ready for the authors to see. This means I need to spend a little longer during the edit to make sure my comments are clearly phrased and free of typos (a process I’d usually do at the end of an edit). But I still recommend that the authors wait until I’ve completed my edit before reading the comments, as I will sometimes amend or delete comments based on what I read later in the chapter.

4. Allow for more time

I find editing in Google Docs takes longer than editing in Word. I don’t have all my usual shortcuts, I spend time flipping between the Google Doc and Word document, some of the navigation is more clunky, etc. It doesn’t necessarily add a lot of time, but it certainly adds some (and it may be more for a copyeditor who uses more macros or programs like PerfectIt).

Wrapping up: Why I’m open to editing in Google Docs

I would still choose Word over Google Docs for development editing. But I’m glad I took on that first project. Being open to editing in Google Docs has led to two years of a steady stream of interesting work from a delightful client.

About Hetty Marx

Hetty Marx is a textbook development editor. She has nearly 20 years of publishing experience, including in-house as a commissioning editor at Cambridge University Press and as a development editor at Pearson. She is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP and author of the forthcoming CIEP guide Editing Textbooks.

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: Lights by Enrique from Pixabay; desk by Olena Sergienko on Unsplash.

Posted by Julia Sandford-Cooke, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

CIEP social media round-up: August and September 2022

Our social media team takes you through the CIEP content we’ve shared on our social media platforms during August and September 2022. This time, the emphasis falls on fiction.

Editing fiction

Several blog posts from August and September had the theme of fiction editing. There’s a common misconception out there that fiction editing is just a form of rather intense reading that you could carry out while sitting in a soft armchair drinking a mug of cocoa.

The first article listed here, which forms part of our curriculum for professional development, is by Jane Moody, our Training Director. She gives a detailed table of the competencies, skills and attitudes that we should be able to evidence as a professional fiction editor. Cocoa is optional.

One of the best sources of advice for CIEP members about how to become a fiction editor – or any type of editor – are the CIEP forums. This ‘Forum matters’ article points you in the direction of some of the best places to access information about fiction editing.

Rachel Lapidow edits role-playing games. The style sheets for such complex projects are detailed – the style sheet of her current work-in-progress is 60 pages long! She shares the structure of her style sheets and the process of creating them, and shows us how they can be useful for fiction editing too.

While you might think the main focus of fiction editing is dealing with fantasy, Sue Littleford reminds us that we also need to think about facts. Keeping records about your current work in order to optimise your future work is essential for editors of any subject matter, and fiction is no different. She describes three ways to keep records and introduces the CIEP’s free spreadsheet designed for record keeping.

‘Definite articles’ is our pick of recent editing-related content from all around the internet – and, in this edition, themes included the language of fiction, dialogue and character, plot, story and scenes, and the business side of fiction publishing.

The writing software Scrivener has some enthusiastic fans among the writing community. Scrivener allows you to restructure a piece of writing much more easily than is possible in Microsoft Word. In his ‘Talking tech’ column, Andy Coulson investigates whether Scrivener might also be a useful tool for developmental editors of fiction.

And in the editorial department …

Agile planning

An ‘Agile’ approach to planning – and the changes that occur in that planning – is a style of teamworking. It’s a project management model more familiar in the world of technology. Its principles make a priority of individuals, deliverables, collaboration and response to change. Steven Martin considers whether the Agile approach might work in publishing.

Project management

What does editorial project management actually involve and where do copyeditors and proofreaders fit into the process? In this post, editorial project manager Julia Sandford-Cooke describes her typical week and some of the tasks she often undertakes. Check out the CIEP’s Editorial Project Management course if you want to learn more.

Translation editing or copyediting?

Gwenydd Jones is an experienced translator. Early in her career she noticed clients were asking for ‘translation editing’ – with the term ‘editing’ being used very loosely. She explains what’s involved in the field of translation editing and considers how it shares similarities with copyediting.

Apostrophes

George Bernard Shaw hated them, but could we do without them? Is it time to ‘kill apostrophes’ or would that be ‘just plain wrong’? In her regular column ‘A Finer Point’, Cathy Tingle goes in search of the genuinely useful apostrophe and makes some interesting findings.

Working through the menopause

It is encouraging to see increasing numbers of conversations about menopause and perimenopause. Members of the CIEP forums shared their varied experiences of working through the menopause, which Liz Dalby has gathered here. This post also includes some links to helpful resources.

Networking and conferencing

September is usually the month of our annual CIEP Conference, so networking is on our minds. The word strikes fear into those of us of a more introvert nature. In this article, BookMachine’s Laura Summers puts paid to the image that networking has to be awkward or scary. And while networking is about making new connections and building on existing relationships, it’s also about learning and confidence-building. All things that you’ll experience at our annual conference, which you’ll be hearing about in various blog posts in the weeks to come!

The CIEP Annual Conference took place on 10–12 September 2022. Our theme was editing in a diverse world. It was our first hybrid conference (with sessions available online as well as in person); and it was our first in-person conference since 2019. Look out for blog posts in the near future on the sessions and some conference experiences from our delegates.

Our speakers did not disappoint, and special thanks go to Katherine May, Reverend Richard Coles and Ian McMillan.

CIEP Language Quiz 16

Finally, dare you try Quiz 16? It’s all about aspects of punctuation, grammar and usage when editing fiction.

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About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credit: wheat field by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Ten signs of possible plagiarism

Plagiarism in textbooks and other non-fiction resources is easily overlooked during production – but picking it up after publication is too late. Julia Sandford-Cooke raises some red flags that might suggest an author has copied their content from the web, and suggests some next steps if you think text is being reused without permission.

Plagiarism is a common problem in non-fiction texts – and probably in fiction texts as well but, as that’s not my specialism, this post focuses on non-fiction content, specifically text copied from websites.

If authors have been commissioned by a publisher, they will have been briefed about the importance of avoiding plagiarism. However, publishers often don’t have processes in place, or the budget to buy software, to check whether content is original. It may not be part of the development editor’s, copyeditor’s or proofreader’s brief to check for plagiarism (exactly who has this responsibility is beyond the scope of this post) but, ethically, you should be aware of signs of copying – and your client will be very grateful if you pick up plagiarism before the resource is too far down the line.

Why might authors plagiarise?

You may have seen headlines about plagiarised text in cookery books and even memoirs, but I think it’s rare for an author to deliberately plagiarise content. Text is more likely to be inadvertently copied.

It’s very easy to simply copy and paste text from a website into a Word or Google document. Authors may do so while carrying out research, and then forget to change the wording when they use it in their book or article.

Some authors believe that text copied from the internet is not covered by copyright laws – but it certainly is! Experienced authors sometimes reuse their own text that has been published elsewhere but normally (at least in educational publishing) the original publisher retains the rights to this text, so a different publisher cannot reuse the same text without permission, even if the author is the same.

Other authors may think that copied text comes under the ‘fair use’ rule of thumb, in which short excerpts don’t need permissions clearance, but this only covers content that is clearly presented as a quotation or excerpt, with a proper citation – not unattributed text taken from elsewhere without acknowledgement.

Ten possible plagiarism red flags

If you are working in Word, turn on Invisibles (click ¶ on your Word Home toolbar).

Content may have been copied from the internet if you spot some of the following:

  1. Non-breaking spaces (°) where you wouldn’t expect them. Authors rarely consciously use these in original content; however, it’s not always a sign of copying. For example, if the document has already been edited, you may see non-breaking spaces legitimately used between numbers and units (eg 2°km) to stop them being separated by breaking over a line. Otherwise, regard them as a warning sign.
  2. Soft returns ( ) instead of hard returns or paragraph marks (¶). Again, it’s unlikely that authors would deliberately use these, unless they are confident in working with highly formatted content. Web tools, however, often convert hard returns into soft returns when formatting in HTML.
  3. Random and irrelevant hyperlinks that may be hidden by reformatting – hover your mouse over the text to reveal them. You could right-click to reformat the link in the usual blue, underlined style, to draw attention to it.
  4. A sudden switch from UK- to US-style punctuation or vice versa (for example, from using spaced en rules to using unspaced em rules – see Example 1 below).
  5. Sudden, inconsistent use of -ize spellings if the prevailing style is -ise spellings. It can be an indication that content has been copied from an American website. Of course -ize spellings are acceptable in UK style but most British authors would choose -ise spellings, unless their specialism is, for example, business or economics. In any case, it is the inconsistency that raises the red flag here.
  6. Sudden, inconsistent use of capitalisation that differs from the author’s previous style (eg Principles of Management, the Client).
  7. Content that isn’t quite relevant or is too vague. In Example 1, the key term should have been ‘demographic movement’, as specified in the syllabus.
  8. A sudden change in style or tone, for example using more complex grammar or technical words that have not been used before, or a colourful turn of phrase that seems out of character.
  9. Marketing-speak in what should be objective content (see Example 2).
  10. Specific facts, figures and statistics – if they seem odd or out of date, check them online (for example, when text that was supposedly written recently mentions a scheme launched four years ago as if it were new).

Example 1

Supplied text: Key term: Demography is the study of the growth, structure, and movement of human populations. It focuses on enumerations (censuses), which take stock of a population at a moment in time, and also flows of vital events—births, deaths, marriages, and migratory movements.’

Giveaways: Change in tone; author hasn’t previously used the Oxford comma; sudden inclusion of an unspaced em rule; content not quite relevant to surrounding text; key term should be ‘demographic movement’, not ‘demography’. Pasting the text into Google reveals an exact match to Encyclopedia.com, including the punctuation. Although it could be argued that this short extract is ‘fair use’, a word-for-word mapping to a definition is not ideal.

Comment to the author: This text is copied from Encyclopedia.com. Please can you rewrite it in your own words, and also consider relating more directly to demographic movement, to clarify the concept for learners?

 

Example 2

Supplied text: Government funding for new business start-ups has no age limits. Any creative entrepreneurs with fantastic ideas, determination and solid business plans can apply for loans to help them get started. Remember you have to repay the money, with interest, over terms of up to five years. Over 10,000 businesses have taken advantage of these start-up loans since the scheme was launched in May 2012. Will you be next?’

Giveaways: Sudden change from a formal tone to a chatty marketing tone, which addresses the reader directly; reference to launch year implies it was recent when the text was written; figure of 10,000 possibly low for a ten-year period.

Comment to the author: This text is very marketing-orientated and seems to have been taken from [website]. Please amend it to take it further from the source material, and include some more recent figures.

Next steps if you suspect plagiarism

What should you do if you spot enough of these warning signs to make you suspect that some of the content is plagiarised from the web?

First, check for yourself: copy and paste suspect text into Google then, if it matches or nearly matches a source, note the link.

Reword the text if that’s the most efficient solution, or if you think the author won’t be able to do so within the time available, but do let them know.

Be polite but direct when telling authors they have plagiarised content – they will probably know it’s wrong and that they are guilty, especially if you can provide the exact URL they’ve used. I’ve had responses ranging from mortification to ‘It’s a fair cop! I’m impressed you noticed!’ but no author has refused to reword their text under these circumstances.

If you are working for a publisher, inform your in-house contact. Keep your report objective – state that you have identified some possible instances of plagiarism that you’ve marked up (or amended) and discussed with the author. Of course, if huge chunks of text have been copied, inform the publisher immediately so they can take steps to rectify it, minimising the impact on the budget and schedule.

Whatever the case, don’t ignore the problem. Section 3.1.3 of the CIEP Code of Practice states: ‘Members should be familiar with the main provisions of the current relevant legislation … in particular relating to … the reproduction of copyright material belonging to third parties. They should endeavour to ensure that these provisions are adhered to and bring any suspected infringement to the attention of the client.’

Even if it’s not technically your job to spot plagiarism, you have a duty to draw attention to it.

About Julia-Sandford Cooke

Julia Sandford-CookeAdvanced Professional Member and CIEP Information Team member Julia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications has clocked up nearly 25 years in publishing. When not editing textbooks, she posts short, grumpy book reviews on her blog, Ju’s Reviews, and would like to get on with writing her novel if only work didn’t keep getting in the way.

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: peacock feather by Magda Ehlers and mountain by Chris Czermak, both on Pexels.

Posted by Julia Sandford-Cooke, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

A week in the life of a freelance editorial project manager

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

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

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

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

What does an EPM do?

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

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

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

Who do EPMs work for?

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

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

Typical task: commissioning and briefing freelancers

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

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

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

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

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

Typical task: collating proofs

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

Typical task: checking a digital project

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


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

About Julia-Sandford CookeJulia Sandford-Cooke

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

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

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

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

CIEP social media round-up: June and July 2022

The main theme of the CIEP’s social media postings in these two months was different perspectives. In this social media round-up, we look at:

  • Different publishing perspectives
  • Different individual perspectives
  • Different mediums
  • Different meanings
  • Member benefits
  • News
  • Quiz

Different publishing perspectives

There are varied journeys into publishing, and within it. Our posts covered roles within the industry, different aspects of editing and different routes to landing editorial jobs.

Jen Moore, an editorial manager from publisher Thames & Hudson, discusses working with freelancers from an in-house perspective, and shares the qualities that publishers are looking for from freelance editors.

Editing is a substantial part of the publishing workflow, but it’s important to remember it’s not the end. Our production colleagues do the work of getting those books into existence and onto shelves and e-readers. Rich Cutler gives us a brief introduction to two of the latter stages, typesetting and design, and looks at how copyeditors can prepare text for typesetting.

Being a subject expert is a valuable quality in editing. Nadine Catto’s love for words first led her to become a lawyer. But a desire for a less confrontational job led her to become an editor of legal materials for publishers and other legal content providers. She describes how she got into legal editing, and what her work typically involves.

Many of us write or edit copy that will be published online, so it’s useful to know some SEO basics to make sure that content ranks well on search engines. Co-founder of Tate & Clayburn Rosie Tate explains how editors and proofreaders can add value to copy that’s destined for the web.

 

Different individual perspectives

Our output also covered ‘conscious language’, that is, respecting the different perspectives of readers (in our editing), and also those of colleagues and clients (in our communications). Conscious editing is being aware of lived experience and varieties of English that are different from our own, and being aware of our own potential assumptions and unconscious bias.

The CIEP community is a generous one – freely sharing editing expertise in our forums. In a ‘Forum matters’ post, our contributors point out that an editor’s job could be described as being entirely about the conscious use of language. And not just about correcting grammar, but being aware of meanings, variations, topics, concerns and intention. Our members share some great resources and advice here.

In her latest ‘Flying Solo’ post, Sue Littleford considers the importance to us, as language professionals, of using conscious language in marketing and selling your services as a freelance editor or proofreader. She encourages us to look closely and critically at our public communication: website text, social media, blog posts and profiles, and responses to client approaches.

The CIEP’s training director, Jane Moody, looks at how editors and proofreaders can become more knowledgeable about conscious language, clearly sets out the objectives to work towards this and lists valuable resources on the subject.

It doesn’t exist yet, but maybe one day there will be software that can improve conscious language in a text. In ‘Talking tech’, Andy Coulson delves into the world of natural language processing (NLP) and AI to find out how we might be able to assess conscious language in the future.

Different mediums

For some, audiobooks seem (unfairly) like ‘cheating’ at reading. For others they are a lifeline, for many reasons. For editors struggling to find time to read for pleasure, it can be a great joy to be able to enjoy books in audio form. Audiobooks are an ideal solution for anyone who is unable or struggles to read print books. Clare Black discusses why she is passionate about audiobooks and explains why her love of listening has created an opportunity for CPD.

Different meanings

A popular read in June was Cathy Tingle’s ‘Finer Point’ post on modifiers. What are they and where should they be placed in a sentence? It’s an aspect of language that many of us are unsure about, or even unaware of. Cathy looks at things that can go wrong with modifiers, and how to avoid them.

Member benefits

June and July saw the launch of two new fact sheets, free for CIEP members. In ‘Editing dialogue’, Stephen Cashmore looks at three aspects of editing written speech that can guide what actions editors should (or should not) take: rules, punctuation and style.

Our fact sheet ‘Editing LGBTQ+ language with sensitivity’ was available for free to everyone throughout June, and is still free for CIEP members now. Learn about terminology and usage, and how to make sensitive edits when working with LGBTQ+ material.

News: the EPWG

The CIEP Environmental Policy Working Group (EPWG) has achieved quite a lot since its first online meeting, just 15 months ago. Read about their work on the CIEP website. And look out, #CIEP2022 attendees! Coming soon are the EPWG’s travel and packing tips for our conference in Milton Keynes, 10–12 September.

News: the conference

The last day for booking an in-person place at the CIEP Annual Conference (Kents Hill Park, Milton Keynes, and online, 10–12 September 2022) was Monday 18 July, but online places are still available. Book before 5pm on Friday 2 September. Highlights include:

  • Whitcombe Lecture by Katherine May
  • After-dinner speech by Reverend Richard Coles
  • Closing plenary session by Ian McMillan

Check out the full programme.

Quiz

Finally, dare you try Quiz 15? Test yourself (just for fun!) on aspects of grammar and usage. Bear in mind, though, there’s not always just one right answer. Sometimes … it depends.

Keep up with the latest CIEP content. Follow us on Facebook, 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:

 

Photo credits: beach huts by Arno Smit on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Agile approaches to publishing

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

The benefits of Agile approaches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can editorial project managers, editors and proofreaders benefit?

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

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

Scrum

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

Kanban

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

Personal workload

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

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

Work in progress (WIP) limits

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

Throughput

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

Project management

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

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

Collaboration opportunities

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

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

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

About Steve Martin

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

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

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

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Editing theses and dissertations Q&A with Kate Haigh

Often when students ask a proofreader to look at their thesis or dissertation, this is their first experience of working with an editorial professional. Advanced Professional Member Kate Haigh shares her experiences and tips for success.

What services do you offer in relation to theses/dissertations?

I generally only offer proofreading services for work that is to be submitted for assessment. With permission from supervisors, I also offer copyediting services.

My website goes into detail on this because I think the terms ‘proofreading’ and ‘copyediting’ are not always very clear to those outside the traditional publishing world. Even ‘copyediting’ doesn’t exactly nail the service I provide, as it’s more of a general language edit. I will flag contentious language but I don’t generally deal with style (though can address passive/active verbs), and I don’t deal with structure.

I don’t fact-check or comment on the key arguments. This is where working on theses and dissertations differs from almost all other types of work because of plagiarism and collusion concerns.

My Ts and Cs detail what the services include so that my clients are clear on what I will be doing and what to expect. Also, universities often have rules on what a proofreader/editor can or can’t do; it’s essential that the student is aware of those and passes those details to me because I don’t want to intervene more than is allowed and jeopardise their studies.

Why did you decide to start working in this field?

When I was on my year abroad in Germany as part of my degree, I had to write a dissertation in German. My tutor suggested I get the text proofread, which was something I’d never have thought of and in fact might have considered it cheating since I thought I was being assessed for my German-language skills. The reality was that the content was what mattered, though if my German hadn’t been understandable, the content would have been lost.

This process stuck with me and so when I was setting up Kateproof in 2010, I did a SWOT analysis and realised that students would benefit from my services. At the time, I lived in a very student-populated town so it felt like a great marketing opportunity. I was able to make connections with local universities and took things from there. Once my web presence got established and word-of-mouth referrals started spreading, I built a client base of students and academics across the UK and the world.

Do you have a subject specialism?

No, I make sure to emphasise to clients that I am not a specialist in their field, but my more generalist approach often helps to ensure clarity. Acronyms and jargon exist in theses and dissertations just like in many other publications, so this distance from a topic can help, especially if readability is a concern.

That said, I recommend that students writing very technical theses find someone with more of a maths/science background.

What types of students/clients do you work with?

I now mainly work with postgraduates on longer dissertations and theses or on articles being submitted for publication that might become part of their thesis. I do work with undergraduates but my minimum fee means this is often not the most cost-effective option for a 3,000-word essay.

I work for students of all backgrounds, whether English is their first or fifth language. Imagine if you’ve spent four years working on a thesis – you’re too close to the text. Passing the file to a proofreader is often a relief for them, as a fresh pair of eyes will pick up on things that might otherwise have been missed.

What do you enjoy about working on theses/dissertations?

Over the years, I’ve realised I much prefer working directly with clients. It’s great to have the rapport and relationship with a client as I find it’s much easier for both parties to have clear boundaries and expectations on what I will do.

I’ve also got clients who are academics now but I started working with them at master’s level so it’s great to keep that client relationship going.

I love the variety, not just of topics but also with style guides and reference systems. It feels like I am learning while working and that’s always a positive. It’s great for quizzes, too.

What are the benefits to students of engaging an editorial professional to work on their thesis/dissertation?

Different universities will have different grading rules but if the text isn’t clear or has numerous errors and inconsistencies, that will have an impact on the grade or on whether a student passes or fails.

If funds are tight, students can get friends or family to proofread the work, but the specific benefit of working with an editorial professional is that we have years of experience doing this and usually have software to help us pick up on the finer details.

How far in advance would you advise students to contact an editorial professional?

This comes down to the size of the project and the flexibility of the schedule. As a rule, I would advise getting in contact at least one month in advance for a thesis or long dissertation. Shorter documents might be possible to fit in around other projects, but last-minute requests often command a premium, especially if it needs to be done at the weekend (I don’t offer weekend work but know other proofreaders who do).

I know lots of PhD students have appreciated having a firm deadline to work to for sending me their final draft – it gives them a focus and a bit of positive pressure to get the work done.

How long does it take to edit a thesis?

For most long theses, I ask for two to three weeks for the work. I try to give students the best possible price I can and a bit of leeway in the schedule enables this. For shorter documents of say 10,000 to 20,000 words, I ask for a week. If a deadline requires it, I can speed up but editing and proofreading are all about the detail and that takes time. I will always do my best but if I have to work quicker than usual, quality might suffer.

What common issues do you encounter while working on theses/dissertations?

Since really clarifying my remit, I have learned how to successfully manage expectations, but this took time. In my first year of freelancing, a student said she was disappointed I hadn’t made the text ‘more academic’, so I learned from this and made it clear that’s not what I do.

Another common issue is with schedules and deadlines: I only have one pair of eyes and, in busy periods, the schedule I book for a student is often the only time I have available for their work. If they miss the deadline, I can’t always fit the work in. It is then additional stress for the student and of course lost earnings for me. This is why I don’t recommend booking the work in too far in advance because, from experience, that’s when scheduling issues occur.

Do you have any standout successes?

I don’t have specific permission to discuss clients’ work in detail (part of my confidentiality guarantee) but one of the things I love about working with students is when I get feedback to say they have passed their course.

I had a client recently who had already submitted their dissertation twice and had one last submission allowed, which is when he contacted me. Whether it was due to my proofreading or his content changes, I don’t know, but he sent me a lovely message to say he’d passed.

Finally, what are your top three tips for students who are looking for an editorial professional?

  1. Be clear with what you want from the proofreader/editor. If your expectations don’t match my service offering, either I can explain what I will do or you can find someone who offers a different service. It’s best to be as clear and open as possible.
  2. When sending the sample, make sure it’s representative of your work. I base my quote on this so if the sample is worse than the rest of the file, I might charge you more than it should cost. If the sample is substantially better than the rest of the file, this might have implications for the schedule as the work will take longer, and, as per my Ts and Cs, I might need to change the quote.
  3. Find an editor/proofreader you trust, especially if you are being asked to pay some of the fee up front. Ask friends/colleagues if they have a recommendation; look for someone being a member of a reputable organisation (such as, but not restricted to, the CIEP).

About Kate Haigh

Kate Haigh is a freelance proofreader and copyeditor who works with a range of clients; this includes working with students and academics to help get dissertations, theses and articles ready for submission. She set up Kateproof in 2010 and is an Advanced Professional 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.

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Photo credits: motarboard lights by Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash, library by andrew_t8 on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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