Category Archives: Getting started

Making friends with macros

In this post, Ben Dare tries to persuade you that macros can be your allies and aren’t too mysterious really. Ben starting using macros very soon after becoming a CIEP member and finding out about them for the first time; he hasn’t looked back.

Macros: More familiar than you may think

A macro is a way of giving Word a job to do, to make it easier for yourself.

We all do this anyway: take a simple yet essential job like starting a new line.

There, done.

I could have used tabs to move the cursor to the next line, or even spaces! But I have little doubt that all readers of this blog know that Enter tells Word to do the job quickly. Time and faff saved.

Now, inserting a new line with Enter is not called a macro – it’s an inbuilt Word function. But in many ways, a macro is just the same, only it’s a job that’s not inbuilt. You get to choose it.

Let’s say a project has inconsistent quote marks, and we need to change the single quote marks to double. Given the possibility of quotes within quotes, and the other uses of the closing single quote mark (apostrophe), using a global change here is asking for trouble. For argument’s sake, we’ll also assume there are other things we’re looking for as we scan through the document, so we aren’t keen to do endless rounds of item-by-item find and replace. It’s going to be done as we read.

So each time we spot one, we:

  • place the cursor on the mark
  • delete it
  • type in the new mark
  • go to the second mark in the pair
  • delete it
  • type in the new mark.

That’s a fair amount of clicking and tapping. Instead we could try a macro: PunctuationToDoubleQuote (to use this or any macro, you need to add it to Word and likely give it a shortcut – and we’ll cover those steps below). Now all we need to do is:

  • make sure the cursor is somewhere before the first quote mark
  • run the macro (by typing the keyboard shortcut you’ve assigned to the macro, like Ctrl+Alt+2)
  • run it again for the second quote mark in the pair.

Every time you run the macro, the next quote mark after your cursor will automatically change from a single to a double quote mark. That’s an example of a macro that makes one change a bit easier, and there’s a macro to do it the other way round too (PunctuationToSingleQuote).

Note: this post was created using Word 2016/Windows 10. Users with other set-ups may have slight differences. Notably, Mac users will want to use ⌘ and Option instead of Ctrl and Alt. Most of the macros here work the same, but for the exceptions there is usually a Mac version available. You can often find them by reading the entry in Paul Beverley’s book, starting with the final paragraph of the general introduction.

A tool for (almost) every occasion

There are other jobs very familiar to you, which take a few clicks/taps or more, that a macro can help do quickly and accurately:

… and so many more. They are all simple jobs, but take a little bit of clicking/tapping. A macro can do it with one keystroke.

Then there are jobs that you simply might not easily be able to do without a macro or other specialist software:

  • ask Word what a particular character is, and what’s the code to reproduce/search for it (WhatChar)
  • analyse a document for inconsistencies in general approaches to numbers, spelling, language, abbreviations and more (DocAlyse)
  • get a table of hyphenations, showing possible inconsistencies (HyphenAlyse)
  • find capitalised words that are spelled slightly differently, to help check whether one of the spellings is wrong (ProperNounAlyse).

These macros don’t edit your document, but provide information about it. This helps you make consistent choices from the beginning.

There are tons of macros available but don’t be put off by the choice. Try one. And when using one becomes natural, another can easily be added, and another – the time saved adds up.

How to get one and use it

A beginner will likely get macros in two main ways:

1. Use one someone else has made

A great place to start with this is CIEP member Paul Beverley’s huge, free repository that he introduces here: http://www.archivepub.co.uk/book.html. The introductory pages and ‘Favourite tools’ might help you know how to find what you’re looking for, and instructions are included. In this blog I’ve used macros from this repository.

But internet searches are also your friend. There are other macros out there to be found, although you may need to pay for some.

Once you’ve found one, it’s time to add it to Word and give it a shortcut. Let’s add PunctuationToDoubleQuote:

  • go to https://www.wordmacrotools.com/macros/P/PunctuationToDoubleQuote.txt
  • select the whole text – a macro always needs its ‘Sub’ top line and its final ‘End Sub’ – and Ctrl+C (or copy it)
  • in Word, either press Alt+F8 or go to the View tab and click the Macros button to bring up the Macros menu window
  • in ‘Macro name:’ type in ‘temp’ (as because you’re using a ready-made macro, you’ll be changing this)
  • click ‘Create’
  • you’re now in the macro library
  • select the as-yet empty ‘temp’ macro, from the first ‘Sub’ to ‘End Sub’
  • Ctrl+V to paste in the full copied macro
  • Ctrl+S to save and Alt+Q to close (or use the file menu).

Now that macro is added to your Word, and you don’t need to do that again. Time to give it a shortcut, to make it easy to use (you can always use Alt+F8 and run a macro that way, but it’s not the quickest):

  • right-click on some empty space in the top menu ribbon
  • click ‘Customize the Ribbon’ to get this option window:
    (Tip: You can add any macro to a ribbon tab by choosing ‘Macros’ in the ‘Choose commands from:’ box and then using the ‘Add >>’ button. But I’ll stick to keyboard shortcuts in this post.)
  • to give a macro a keyboard shortcut, click on ‘Customize’ at the bottom, next to ‘Keyboard shortcuts:’
  • in this new window, navigate down the ‘Categories:’ list to ‘Macros’ – it’s near the bottom
  • choose your macro in the list (it’s now got its full name)
  • click in the shortcut box and type in your shortcut; I’ve chosen Ctrl+Alt+2 as ‘2’ is the key with the double quote on it (UK keyboard)
  • check for Word telling you that’s already in use. You can see my shortcut is already assigned, but I don’t use that one, so happy to override. You can choose another if preferred
  • click ‘Assign’
  • click ‘Close’.

That’s the keyboard shortcut set. Time to open up a test document with some single quotes, and test away!

Tip: to save time in future, the next macro you install could be CustomKeys, to quickly bring up the keystroke customising box!

2. Record them yourself

This may feel scarier than downloading a readymade macro, but the beautiful thing about recording them is that they are tailored exactly to the job you need. And apart from setting up the recording, you’re only doing things in Word that you already know how to do! For instance, I once had to delete a number at the start of certain paragraphs, add ‘PPP’ and a tab instead, and apply a paragraph style. Again a few clicks, and monotonous to repeat. To set up a macro to avoid this repetition, I:

  • placed the cursor before the number
  • clicked the View tab
  • clicked the dropdown menu under Macros
  • clicked ‘Record Macro’
  • gave it a name (‘PPP’)
  • clicked the ‘Keyboard’ icon to give it a shortcut (‘Alt+1’ is convenient for me), then ‘Assign’ and ‘Close’.

From this point onwards, Word was recording every single thing that I did in the program. The only thing it can’t record is using the mouse to move the cursor or select text – make sure to place the cursor where you want it before recording, and to use the arrow keys to move around or select text. So to make my macro, I simply carried out the steps I wanted Word to record and repeat when I next ran this macro:

  • pressed Ctrl + Shift + Right Arrow to select the whole number and following space
  • pressed Delete to delete the selection
  • typed ‘PPP’, then pressed Tab
  • clicked on the appropriate paragraph style button.

Now that I’d completed every task I wanted in the macro, I clicked the square ‘Stop recording’ button on Word’s bottom bar (or back in the Macro dropdown menu in the View tab).

Then, for every other instance where I needed to make this change, I simply:

  • placed the cursor before the number
  • pressed Alt+1.

I’d never find that macro online – who else would need it? But for a job that needs repeating many times, it saves many clicks and taps, and time. Give it a go!

Tip: for other hints and tips on recording and using macros, members should check out the CIEP’s fact sheet Getting started with macros.

You’re not alone

If you’re part of the CIEP’s forums, there’s a community ready on a macro-specific forum to help each other to find, use and improve macros. One person has a problem, others help find a solution, everyone benefits. And we’re a friendly bunch to boot.

About Ben Dare

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

 

About 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: leaf by MabelAmber, wooden letters by blickpixel, both on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

A week in the life of a new-ish social science editor

Taylor McConnell started his freelance editorial business in 2021. In this post he describes how he got into proofreading and editing, and how his weeks have varied between doing work and trying to find more work.

I always liked words – spelling them, learning them in another language, making puns about various Italian cheeses while on the bus home from school. It didn’t matter how, but I was fascinated by them. I guess being a language nerd is part of my genetic programming.

My undergraduate studies focused primarily on German culture and politics, but I also developed a passion for memory studies in the meantime. As an interdisciplinary field, memory studies allowed me in my MSc and PhD studies to engage with a wide array of social science disciplines and the humanities, including sociology, political science, history, architecture and linguistics. It’s this unique blend of knowledge production that I wanted to pursue in a longer academic career – that is, until I ran full-force into the giant brick wall that is the academic labour market.

Enter editing

I came into editing ultimately through a mixture of happenstance and frustration (fixing punctuation errors is good stress relief, I must say!). A friend asked out of the blue if I would be interested in editing his bachelor thesis in management. As I also have a management degree and had tried in the past to start up an economics blog with this same friend, I readily agreed. Trying to figure out the pricing for this project, however, is how I stumbled head-first into the CIEP, and I couldn’t have stumbled better.

This was August 2021, and after far too many rejection letters from potential employers, I said ‘Tschüssi, bye bye’ to academia and ‘hello’ to freelancing. By sheer good fortune, my temporary German residence permit allowed self-employment, so I set out working on a business plan for the immigration authorities, as well as building my brand and website and diving into some good old-fashioned CPD.

Starting up as a freelancer in another country, though, does come with its own pains. It took until mid-October to finish all the prerequisite paperwork to register as a freelancer and apply for the appropriate residence permit (which was only approved five months later!). Between actual bits of paid work, over several weeks I had to:

  • figure out billing and tax implications for work within Germany, within the EU and further afield;
  • register for a tax number, a tax ID number and a sales tax number;
  • get all the insurances sorted out – health, business liability, retirement, contents, just to name a few;
  • write all my website copy in German, including terms and conditions and a legal imprint; and
  • create a three-year financial outlook, with monthly cashflow estimates.

Not really something a sociology degree prepared me for …

Time management is a social construct

In the past six months, my workflow has adapted to changes in my own taste for editing and proofreading as well as to my increasing skill set. Starting out, a typical week would exclusively involve writing extensive pleas for contracts on Upwork, which resulted in at least two good clients, or travelling around the Rhine-Main area to stuff student mailboxes with flyers. I realised this was a terrible idea since no one was living in student halls at the time and most university campuses were closed to the public.

As with any freelance job, there is no such thing as a typical work week, and my working pattern now is just as irregular as it was during my PhD. This is both a blessing and a curse. Running a business and writing a 300-page text both involve many moving parts that have to be built, maintained and brought together bit by bit over long periods of time. Skill development, marketing and outreach are just as important now as planning fieldwork, brushing up on my Croatian and dealing with student government were then.

When I do have contracted work, I prioritise that above all else. We need money to live, after all. In these periods, I tend to start working around 9am, getting all the tedious bits of editing out of the way first. This includes:

  • formatting the document to make it easier to read, if the brief allows (12-pt Times New Roman or Helvetica, 1.5-line spacing, all that jazz);
  • running PerfectIt for consistency errors, especially when authors set up MS Word in American English but then write in British English;
  • checking for sentence vs title case (My Worst Aesthetic Enemy); and
  • fixing errant straight quotation marks and eliminating double spaces.

I then typically work online editing in bouts of 35–40 minutes before taking a break to drink my umpteenth coffee or do some chores. I always go for a midday walk around the neighbourhood and then continue working until around 3pm or whenever my brain is fried. If I want to complete something, I’ll resume working around 7pm and work for another hour or two until I can do no more.

In for the long haul

In the first few months, I typically covered three to six student essays or an occasional journal article or administrative report each week, with work sent by other proofreading and editing firms, most of which were located in East Asia. The pay was fine but not as enticing as the projects that paid my own rates, which picked up from December. Ultimately, the good work only came along once I started politely nagging my own Twitter bubble of academics.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve had fewer but longer and higher-paying jobs from people I know, which has reinvigorated me, as I know where my work is going and who it is directly benefiting. One PhD thesis was enough to cover my bills for the month, and any additional work that I could fit in was also accommodated.

In drier spells, I have focused my attention more on marketing, making tweaks to my website, creating a bank of social media posts and messaging my academic colleagues to gauge their interest in my services. My March so far has been one of these periods, which, after my best month on the books, is now turning out to be my worst. I’m hoping that the extra investments made in building my brand and expanding my reach beyond my initial trusted circles will pay off later in the year.

Managing financial expectations is probably the trickiest factor of freelancing. I am a very risk-averse person and always make contingency plans for any event, but freelancing, as is turns out, was my ultimate contingency plan for not gaining full-time employment elsewhere. In the end, however, making the jump into editing is probably the best work-related decision I’ve made in a decade. I have complete control over every last detail of my work, who and what I get to work with and how much I get paid for it.

The value of networking

There is strength in this sort of independence, but there is even more in the network of freelancers and editorial professionals that the CIEP has created.

I didn’t come into freelancing expecting to earn as much as I would have, perhaps, in a full-time position regulated by state contracts, nor have I yet. But the degree of personal development that this job and this network in particular foster is beyond what I could have imagined. One bumpy month is more than offset by the new wonderful cast of characters I have encountered in the Cloud Club West meetings each Thursday. They have been nothing but supportive and encouraging, even in hard times. (Join us!)

This career is not the one I originally sought, but it is ultimately the one most suited to my interests, skills and habits, and I’m happier for it. And although I don’t ever expect to develop *the* ultimate weekly routine, it’s so helpful to continue learning from others about their experiences as freelancers and how they use their time. You never know where you’ll find your next source of inspiration.

About Taylor McConnell

Taylor McConnell is an editor and proofreader for academic and corporate texts and a German-to-English translator based in Wiesbaden, Germany. He specialises in social sciences and business studies and works primarily with multilingual authors. Taylor is an Entry-Level Member of the CIEP and holds a PhD in Sociology on post-war Croatian memory politics from the University of Edinburgh.

 

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: book by Kranich17, to do list by StockSnap, both on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Talking tech: Making Windows open to all

Andy Coulson looks at the accessibility improvements in Windows 11 in this Talking tech column (previously known as What’s e-new?).

As you have probably seen, a big Windows upgrade is out and many of us will be prompted to update soon. Microsoft are keen to emphasise improvements in the visual design and how these help tools work together. As part of this they have looked hard at how to support accessibility. While it looks as if there aren’t many new features, Windows 11 has tried to improve these and make them easier to use and clearer and more integrated visually.

The first of these changes, and one that sets the tone of what Microsoft have done, is in renaming Windows 10’s ‘Ease of Access’ section of settings as ‘Accessibility’, a widely recognised term. This also highlights a change in the way Microsoft consulted – they talked to the community much earlier in the process, allowing them to integrate those features much more tightly into the design. This has led to Windows 11 trying to address a much broader spectrum of accessibility and reflect that some disabilities can be temporary or situational. An example of this could be a broken wrist, forcing you to alter the way you work.

Microsoft groups these features into four broad categories: ‘Vision’, ‘Hearing’, ‘Mobility’ and ‘Neurodiversity and learning’. I will use these categories below.

Vision

Windows has always allowed you to do a lot of customisation of how the screen looks. Windows 11 has a set of new high-contrast themes that increase contrast and reduce screen brightness. As well as helping those sensitive to light, these can give your eyes a bit of a rest on a long day.

For those with weaker eyesight there are a series of options to make Windows easier to use. The mouse pointer can be customised to make it more visible, through increasing its size, having a stronger contrast or setting it in a bright colour. You can add mouse trails so its movement is easier to track and, if you use a touch screen, you can add visual feedback when you touch the screen.

Another tool to help here is the Magnifier. This can be turned on with the Windows logo key and the plus sign. It allows you to zoom in and move around the screen. You can continue to work and interact with whatever you have on screen while zoomed in.

Colour filters help make the screen easier to see. As well as filters that invert the colours, or change to greyscale or inverted greyscale (that is, a black and white screen) there are a number of filters that focus on different types of colour vision deficiency.

Finally, for anyone who can’t read a screen, there is a Narrator tool that can read aloud what is on the screen. Couple this with voice typing, which I will look at below, and you can effectively use a PC without a screen.

Hearing

Sound was one area where Microsoft’s earlier engagement on accessibility has really influenced what they have done. Many customers with hearing difficulties found the feedback sounds ‘aggressive’, and this has influenced the sounds in Windows 11, which attempts to create a calmer scheme. It also highlighted the need to ensure that the sounds used a broad range of tones across the hearing spectrum. Feedback from users with visual impairments also influenced changes to the timing of when sounds are played. The startup sound now plays when you are able to enter your login information.

Other assistive options here include being able to switch between stereo and mono audio, and adding visual indications to audio notifications, so the screen will flash with an audio notification.

Windows 10 and 11 both have the closed-captioning system for video, adding captions for what is being said. As well as helping someone with a hearing impairment, this can be helpful if you are watching in a noisy (or quiet) environment, or learning a new language. The captioning can be extensively customised to make it easier to read, and Windows 11 adds new themes for this.

Mobility

Windows 11 has updated the voice typing feature, with additional languages and commands. This allows you to dictate directly to the computer and have the words appear on-screen. There are various command words that allow you to add punctuation, delete things, select things and so on. In fact, I’m using that to dictate this paragraph and I have to say the accuracy is pretty good. While this isn’t going to be usable for editing, I’m certainly going to look at it a bit further for quick notes and first drafts for writing.

Windows also has a more sophisticated speech recognition system that ties in with its virtual assistant, Cortana. This is more focused on controlling and navigating the computer. The pre-release information on Windows 11 suggests to me at least that the voice typing may use the same AI speech recognition engine as Cortana in this release. This perhaps means that the two will merge over time.

The other feature here is eye tracking, which requires some additional eye-tracking hardware. Windows 11 adds support for more devices and some extra languages to a feature that came in partway through Windows 10’s useful life. Again, the implementation looks well integrated and perhaps points the way to a future interface.

Neurodiversity and learning

Microsoft have built various tools into Windows 10 to help remove distractions such as notification pop-ups, and you can customise these with various rules governing what you see and when. You can also remove animations, desktop backgrounds and suchlike. Windows 11 has taken these features and appears to have tidied up and in some cases simplified them. I’m very anti-notification to start off with and have most of these turned off, so perhaps I’m not the best person to judge how useful they are. As Windows 11 seems to focus on working smoothly across applications, I think notifications will be one of the tools it uses. However, it seems as if it is going to make it easier to manage these and perhaps give more granularity in terms what you can do.

The final feature highlighted is the Immersive Reader that works with text in the Edge browser. Microsoft say that it ‘simplifies a web page layout, removes clutter, and lets you customise your reading experience’.

The text tools allow control over the text size and spacing, and the colours used on the page. The themes are inspired by Irlen Spectral Filters, and so support colour schemes that can help people with various conditions. An example would be using a pale yellow background for text, which could be helpful for someone with dyslexia. There are also some grammar tools that allow highlighting of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, and splitting words into syllables (eg syl·la·bles). Finally, there is a line focus tool that highlights one, three or five lines at a time, helping the reader focus on a smaller amount of text. It will be interesting to see if these tools get integrated into Word in the longer term.

Summing up

Microsoft appear to have built accessibility into Windows 11 in a much more holistic way than before – it is an interface designed to work for most people rather than adding in features. Based on the previews, I think Windows 11 is going to make supporting accessibility easier. In doing this, I think it allows a broader range of customisations that will help users make the system work for them. Through supporting a more diverse range of users from the start, we all ultimately benefit.


Andy’s previously written about considering the environment when buying technology, the terminology of technology, open banking options and how to be your own IT department.


About Andy Coulson

Andy Coulson is a reformed engineer and primary teacher, and a Professional Member of CIEP. He is a copyeditor and proofreader specialising In STEM subjects and odd formats like LaTeX.

 

 

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: open window by Chris Barbalis; colourful laptop by Dhaval Parmar, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

 

 

The 2021 CIEP conference: The editing educator

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. Sheila Korol reviewed The editing educator: What you need to know about teaching editors, presented by Erin Brenner.

Feedback, kindness and humility

Feedback, kindness, and humility were just a few of the keywords that stood out in Erin Brenner’s session on what you need to know about teaching editors.

Having started her own business, Right Touch Editing, in 2005, Erin has been training other editors since 2012. So, speaking from ample first-hand experience, she presented on how teaching can lead to both more income and a deeper understanding of our own editing craft through building relationships with students.

Who’s the best editing instructor?

The first part of Erin’s session addressed knowing whether we’re ready to teach. Since editing takes time to learn, her advice was that editors should have at least two to three years of solid experience first in order to consolidate their understanding of editing procedures, tools, and publishing processes.

Since public speaking is also likely to be a skill we don’t use much in our editing lives, Erin advised on ways to gain experience and confidence in this area. This might be through recording and reviewing your presentation style, joining a group like Toastmasters, or giving short and free talks to small local groups.

A point Erin stressed early on was what she viewed as the ‘right traits’ helpful to both editing and teaching. These include:

  • Humility: accepting we will never be perfect and we will make mistakes
  • Kindness and patience: giving our students time and space to struggle and learn
  • Firmness: setting deadlines and teaching students to be accountable
  • Open-mindedness: accepting that multiple solutions exist and recognising all good work.

How do we teach?

In the second part of her session, Erin explained the importance of editors knowing not only the right content to share with students but also the means of elaborating on and organising information in a way that will help students better retain knowledge in their long-term memory. Some of the key techniques she shared for accomplishing this knowledge transfer include:

  • Low-stakes testing: breaking down knowledge into frequent, smaller tasks such as quizzes, skills practice, and participation to reduce student anxiety
  • Modelling: anonymously sharing both right and wrong work produced in the class
  • Giving detailed feedback: identifying and explaining problems and how to solve them
  • Praising: always encouraging, motivating, and building students’ confidence by frequently pointing out their correct answers.

Where to find teaching opportunities?

Compared to a few decades ago when few options existed, editors today have a multitude of teaching opportunities through several different teaching platforms, timelines, and institutions. Teaching turnover tends to be high in many regular programmes, so the demand is certainly there for interested editors. Places to look for work include colleges and universities, professional training programmes, and editing organisations. Other ideas include searching job boards, cold-calling editing programmes, or networking with instructors. Additionally, more and more editors are now creating and marketing their own individual programmes. It’s worth noting, too, that editors can always reach out to a wider range of language-related fields such as communications, journalism, and marketing.

Overall, if you’re an editor thinking of branching out into teaching, Erin’s presentation was filled with thoughtful and practical ideas to start you on your way.

Sheila Korol is from Canada and an Intermediate Member of the CIEP. An experienced English literature teacher, she lives in Hong Kong where she has set up shop as a freelance proofreader and copyeditor for independent authors, academics, and educational publishers.

Find her on LinkedIn or Twitter.

 

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.

Meet our members: Leona Skene

We want you to meet our members, so we’ve asked some of them a few questions, and have found out how they started their editing career, and what they love about their work. In this post, Intermediate Member Leona Skene tells all.

Why did you choose an editorial career, and how did you get into it?

I’ve always known that I wanted to work with words and language. As a child, I was an enthusiastic reader, and I chose to study English & Scottish literature at university. I then went on to gain a certificate in Creative Writing.

It became apparent that I wasn’t ever going to become a famous novelist, and so I went on to work in unrelated fields for a number of years. After a career break to have my children, I realised that my strengths actually lay in editing and polishing other people’s work, not in creating my own.

I undertook training with the CIEP (then SfEP) in 2015. I then worked on ad hoc freelance projects, along with a regular gig as sub-editor of an events magazine, until January 2021, when I launched my own business, Intuitive Editing.

What training have you done to get your editorial career up and running?

I completed the CIEP’s Proofreading 1 and Copyediting 1 courses, and I’ve attended several useful webinars through ACES: The Society for Editing. I’m committed to further CPD through the CIEP: I completed Word for Practical Editing earlier this year, and am looking at Efficient Editing: Strategies and Tactics as my next step.

What work are you most proud of?

I take pride in all my editorial jobs, but I’ve worked on a few projects where I’ve been able to give specific advice on the Scots language, along with Scottish culture and identity. I do feel really proud of that.

What do you do if you’re struggling on a job?

I usually step back, have a bit of a breather, and try to regain perspective. I often ask for advice from colleagues in the Editors of Earth Facebook group; they’re a great bunch, with many CIEP members involved. And the editing community on Twitter is very helpful.

What does being a member of the CIEP mean to you?

Being a CIEP member is immensely important to me. Becoming a freelancer essentially means you’ve magicked up a career for yourself out of thin air – this can be wonderful, but the flip side is that it’s easy to let imposter syndrome get the better of you. There’s no line manager to provide feedback; nobody to tell you if your decisions are good ones or bad. The CIEP provides that all-important backbone of training, support and professional accreditation. I couldn’t have started my business without that.

Which editorial tasks do you enjoy the most, and why?

I love doing the first pass of an editorial job: getting the feel of the text, absorbing the author’s voice, making notes of any immediate issues that jump out. There’s a little thrill in entering the ‘world’ of a book for the first time and seeing the difference you can make to it.

Do you have any editorial pet hates?

Comma splices. My editing style is quite relaxed, but there’s something about those cheeky little baddies that rubs me up the wrong way. All comma splices are annihilated with extreme prejudice.

What has most surprised you about your editorial career?

The variety. As a relatively new editor, I’m still in the process of finding my niche and deciding which area to specialise in. I’ve been lucky enough to work on historical fiction, children’s fiction and YA, sci-fi and fantasy, and creative non-fiction. I’ve learned so much along the way, and I’m still learning!

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?

‘Under-promise and over-deliver.’ Don’t promise the world; be conservative and realistic about the service you can provide within a specific timeframe. It’s quite likely that you’ll deliver the project a little earlier than stated, which is always a nice thing for the client.

What advice do you have for people starting out on an editorial career?

I’d say that professional training is a must. It’s great to have a natural talent for spotting typos, but there’s stuff you just won’t learn unless you study it properly. Or possibly you will learn it, but it’ll take much longer.

I would recommend looking at the CIEP’s course directory or that of another recognised provider, such as the PTC. If you’re not at the stage where you want to commit to training, it’s worth joining a few Facebook or other social media-based editing groups – these can give you a general feel for the type of work editors do on a day-to-day basis. Another fantastic resource for newbie editors is Louise Harnby’s website – Louise has loads of information and how-to guides for both editors and writers.

Do you ever stop editing?

Absolutely never. I’m editing in my sleep at this point!

Finally, tell us one thing about you not related to editing

I lived in Italy for two years, and although my spoken Italian is now woeful, I still have strong feelings about pasta, pizza and the proper time of day to order a cappuccino. It’s a morning drink!


Want to meet more of our members? Head over to the Meet our members page.


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: open books by lil_foot_; Scotland by bummelhummel; cappuccino by gadost0, all on Pixabay.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Forum matters: Editorial terminology: Grammar, inclusivity and meaning

In this article one CIEP forum moderator looks at discussions of terminology in the CIEP forums:

  • What is terminology?
  • Grammar terminology
  • Look it up!
  • Hold on – what is copyediting?
  • Being inclusive
  • Niche knowledge
  • Just ask!

What is terminology?

Terminology. Definitions. Vocabulary. Jargon. The meaning of things. The official definition is ‘the body of terms used with a particular technical application in a subject of study, profession, etc.’ (Lexico). This term can definitely be applied to editing, which has a marvellous lexicon of editing terms, such as widows, orphans, ligatures, en dash, justify, leading and kerning, which new editors may puzzle over.

Grammar terminology

It’s very common to know instinctively that something ‘looks wrong’ when you’re editing, but you may not have the knowledge of grammar terminology to be able to confidently say what is wrong, and why*. Perhaps you weren’t taught formal grammar at school, or perhaps you learned about grammar a long time ago and your skills are rusty. The new CIEP Getting to Grips with Grammar and Punctuation course is designed to give students the skills, terminology and confidence to be a better editor.

This confusion is not helped by the fact that many grammatical terms are known by more than one name: is it a gapping comma or an elided comma? An adverbial or adjectival phrase? A dangling participle or a dangling modifier? And what’s it called when you start a sentence with ‘so’ – and why is it so common today?

And for the last word in terminology? The CIEP proofreading and copyediting courses include access to a Resource centre which contains – among many other useful documents – a glossary of all the publishing and editorial terms you will ever need, from ‘abbreviation’ to ‘Word template’. There’s also a glossary in the back of New Hart’s Rules – my go-to style guide. For fiction editors, MH Abrams’ and Geoffrey Harpham’s A Glossary of Literary Terms will come in useful.

*You’ll need to be registered for the fiction forum to see this post.

Look it up!

One of the skills that it’s essential for an editor or proofreader to master is knowing when to look something up, knowing where to look it up, then actually looking it up and applying the answer to the text they’re working on. The forums can be super useful for this too.

Not sure whether to use ‘who’ or ‘whom’? See ‘who/whom – going cross-eyed’.

Do verb tenses make you tense? Then see ‘Please help with some technical jargon’.

Hold on – what is copyediting?

One of the questions editors and proofreaders are asked most often is: what is copyediting? What is line editing? What’s the difference between them? Unfortunately, there is no one universally accepted definition of these terms. Some people think that they are very different beasts, while some people think they are the same thing. And what about proof-editing? What does that involve – and where do you draw the line?

The most important thing is that editors and proofreaders tell clients clearly what service their project needs, and list the tasks they will carry out on a job. That way, there’s no confusion. For more guidance on this, see What is proofreading? and What is copyediting?

Being inclusive

It’s not just editing terminology we need to consider. We also need to think about the words we use around disability, age, ethnicity, culture and sexuality. These are always changing, and editors and proofreaders must keep up with these changes.

Threads on these topics come up a lot on the forums – here’s a selection you may like to read. I guarantee that you will learn something!

A thread on ‘What is a female-headed household?’ led to a passionate discussion on terminology, as did threads on ‘Is “pro-poor” the best term to use?’, ‘Is the phrase “Black, indigenous and people of colour” acceptable?’, ‘People of colour’ and one on the best wording to use around mental health.

I especially enjoyed the thoughtful discussion on these threads on sexist terms and whether or not we should refer to master copies, which referenced a session on sensitivity issues in a recent Cloud Club meeting.

Finally, one thread contains some helpful suggestions for resources around inclusive language.

Whichever words you choose to use, remember this: ‘Your words have power. Speak words that are kind, loving, positive, uplifting, encouraging, and life-giving’ (unknown author).

Niche knowledge

Of course, discussion on the forums isn’t always serious. There are plenty of light-hearted threads too, such as these on betting, butterflies and bridges.

And if you want to tell someone you’re a copyeditor without telling them you’re a copyeditor, is there any better way than to enquire: Should liturgical Latin terms be set in italic?

Just ask!

As ever, the forums are wonderfully diverse resources of all kinds of knowledge. If you want to know the answer to something, and you’ve tried looking in your library of style guides, editing guides and reference books, then ask on the forums. Someone is bound to know.

This feature comes from the band of CIEP members who volunteer as forum moderators. You will only be able to access links to the posts if you’re a forum user and logged in. Find out how to register.

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: typesetting tools by Etienne Girardet; Welcome by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Should I volunteer when I’m starting out?

Wherever you are in your editing or proofreading career, taking on voluntary work can benefit you and others. But, as many who have done it will tell you, it’s not without its snares and snags. With the help of some generous CIEP members who have shared their experiences, in this article we’ll look at how volunteering can work when you’re starting out. We’ll also suggest some questions that you should ask yourself before you start offering your valuable time for free. In a future CIEP blog, we’ll look at how volunteering works when you’re established in your editing or proofreading career.

Below we’ll cover:

  • Discovering a taste for what you enjoy
  • Learning with less pressure
  • Declaring yourself
  • Getting your foot in the door
  • Using voluntary work for membership upgrades
  • Four questions to ask yourself before you volunteer

Discovering a taste for what you enjoy

Unpaid work is the way that many proofreaders and editors start – in fact, it can be how they realise they have an aptitude and enthusiasm for what will later become their career. Perhaps a friend, knowing you’re good with words, asks you to check the grammar and punctuation in their thesis, and halfway through you think: ‘I’m really enjoying this!’

Learning with less pressure

Once you’ve done your basic training, volunteering can help you test your new editing or proofreading skills and learn a few more without the stresses that could come from being paid. One of our members described the voluntary jobs she had taken on since completing her CIEP Proofreading courses – proofreading two series of short stories, some poetry and three website articles – and the impressive set of new and improved skills she acquired in the process:

  • increasing her competence and confidence in using Track Changes and Find and Replace, and starting to explore Word Styles
  • learning how to save a web page as a PDF, and practising using the Adobe Comments tools
  • using PerfectIt and other macros for the first time
  • compiling a style sheet to use as a template
  • keeping a record of time spent and work carried out, which helped her calculate her average proofreading speeds.

This member has appreciated the time and space that volunteering allows for growing into a new career:

I am finding this period of focusing on voluntary work to be hugely beneficial. With each job I develop new skills or learn about new tools which I can incorporate into my practice. As an Entry-Level Member, I like not having the pressure of being paid – for now!

At the same time, however, she hasn’t lost sight of the ultimate plan – to get paid work:

I am also building up a little bank of testimonials which I can use on my website, and at least two of the clients have said they will recommend me to friends and colleagues.

Declaring yourself

Sometimes you might be volunteering in a different arena from editing and proofreading, but if you tell the people you meet what you usually do for a living, more relevant volunteering work could come your way. One member says:

My daughter is a pharmacy dispensing technician at a village medical centre near to us. During the summer of last year, they were looking for volunteers to step up and help manage visitors attending for their flu jab, along with those attending for other medical appointments and pharmacy collections. Always happy to help out, up went my hand, into which was promptly thrust a high-vis jacket.

When asked what I would normally be doing, I was happy to tell folks that I’m a novice proofreader and occasional copywriter. The next thing I knew, my lovely daughter came home from work with a bottle of red in one hand and the medical centre’s newly penned ‘Team Handbook’ in the other.

Always remember, though, that if you’re accepting ‘payment in kind’, such as wine, you need to declare yourself to the tax office, too. Sue Littleford, our columnist on business matters, explains:

Had the CIEP member’s bottle of red wine been handed over for some proofreading, it would have been a ‘payment in kind’ and yes, it’s taxable. He’d have had to put the cash value of the wine in his accounts.

Getting your foot in the door

Getting paid in wine, or cake/casseroles/bedding plants if any of those are more your thing, is great, but at some point you’ll need to get some paying clients. One member described how this happened for her:

When my youngest was a baby (2012), I was involved with my local NCT branch. I worked with the newsletter team, and somehow took on the role of getting 700+ printed copies of this booklet distributed to local members every quarter!

I carried on proofreading for the branch long after I’d left my NCT days behind. It was only about five hours’ work a quarter, but it was great experience and something regular to look forward to while I was starting out.

Then last year, someone I knew from that time contacted me through LinkedIn. She remembered what I’d done with the NCT newsletter and thought I’d be a perfect fit for a project she was leading on at work. I’ve now had 8–9 months of consultancy work through this company on two different projects, helping me towards my most profitable year by far!

It’s not going to work quite like that for everyone every time, and this won’t last forever for me. But I do think that doing those little jobs on a voluntary basis can sow the seeds in people’s minds, and you never know when they might need you for something different (and paid). It shows people what you can do and how you work, and they’ll remember that.

Another member says:

When I started my freelance proofreading business last July, I contacted many companies and charities offering my services for free in exchange for a testimonial, as I felt this was the best way to gain experience and also increase my exposure in the form of having recommendations to hand.

I had a few positive responses, one of which was from Kathy Bishop, the editor of the Catholic magazine The Faith Companion.

Kathy’s initial response was that she would be happy to help me out as everyone ‘needs a helping hand’, and that she would send me a couple of articles to work on for the next issue, but she wanted to make it clear that they weren’t looking to take anyone on. I replied saying that wasn’t a problem at all, I was just happy with the opportunity to gain some experience and increase my hours.

I now have The Faith Companion as a regular client for the foreseeable future, and I really don’t think this would have happened if I hadn’t originally offered my services on a voluntary basis.

Using voluntary work for membership upgrades

Can voluntary hours count towards a CIEP membership upgrade? They can, if you’re using certain core skills and applying for a certain level. Professional standards director Lucy Metzger says:

For someone seeking an Intermediate Member (IM) grade, it’s fine for some or all of their 100 hours of work experience to be voluntary, and we wouldn’t expect it to be done for a traditional publisher. Some paid proofreading or copyediting work would strengthen the IM application overall, but it’s not a requirement.

However, in order for volunteer work to be counted in an IM application, it still needs to be work using what we call our ‘core skills’ – proofreading and/or copyediting. If a person’s voluntary work has included non-editorial tasks, as well as some core skills work, we would count only the number of hours using the core skills.

For upgrading to Professional (PM) or Advanced Professional (APM), the core skills work experience needs to be for publishers who understand the standards we are looking for in the core skills. If the work is for another body whose core business isn’t publishing (a ‘non-publisher’) the applicant’s experience can be validated by passing the Institute’s editorial test. If a previous application for IM relied mostly on voluntary hours, those hours would most likely be for non-publishers, which would count in a later application for PM or APM only with a test pass, demonstrating that the applicant had the required level of expertise in the core skills.

Four questions to ask yourself before you volunteer

So far, so good, then. However, there are some important questions to ask yourself before you take the plunge and offer your services for free. These questions are taken from an archived blog about volunteering written by a previous blog coordinator, Tracey Roberts.

1. Who should you volunteer with?

Not all charities or non-profit organisations need free help, so do your homework: ‘many charities have healthy budgets’, as Tracey points out. You could follow your interests, and volunteer to proofread or edit something in the fields of gardening, poetry, politics, sport or history, for example. There may be a newsletter for a club or organisation you belong to that you could help with. Some of our members edit their local church magazine.

2. What will you get out of it?

‘This is important,’ says Tracey. ‘If the person or organisation you are volunteering for doesn’t know what’s required of a good editor or proofreader, how valuable will their testimonial really be?’ Tracey makes another very valid point which touches on an aspect that many editors and proofreaders have been burned by: ‘Working for a client (or especially a friend) who doesn’t understand the process (and while you are still learning yourself) could turn into a tricky or negative experience.’ So make sure you go in with open eyes.

3. What skills do you want to practise?

If you want to work in fiction editing, look for experience there. If your aim is to be a scientific editor, volunteer to proofread a PhD thesis in biology.

4. How much time are you happy to provide?

Tracey explains:

In the early stages of your freelance career you will be busy building your new business and need time to develop your marketing strategy, website etc. Any time spent volunteering must fit around the creation of your new freelance business, and other important personal commitments, to ensure a healthy work–life balance is maintained.

Remember too that if you work for a client for free, or even a reduced rate, it will be very difficult to start charging at full rate when asked to take on future projects.

So remember not to overwhelm yourself, and as time passes think carefully about the balance between your unpaid and paid work. As your career matures, however, there’s no reason why you should give up volunteering if it’s still benefiting you and your business. In our second related blog, we’ll look at what you can get out of volunteering when you’re more established.

Written by the CIEP information team. With thanks to the CIEP members who generously shared their experiences.

About the CIEP information team

Abi Saffrey, Liz Jones, Margaret Hunter, Cathy Tingle

Liz Jones, Abi Saffrey and Cathy Tingle are the CIEP’s information commissioning editors. If there’s a topic that you would like to see covered in a blog post, fact sheet, focus paper or guide, drop the team a line at infoteam@ciep.uk.

 

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: welcome by Andrew Neel; raise your paw by Camylla Battani, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Is proofreading a good side hustle?

Proofreading has long been touted online as a good way to supplement a regular income – the side hustle. This post by Louise Harnby examines the notion, and explores the challenges.

In this post, we’ll look at the following:

  • What is a side hustle?
  • The problem with the terminology
  • Proofreading as a side hustle – popular but problematic
  • Do I need training?
  • Who am I competing with?
  • Who hires professional proofreaders?
  • How will I find work?
  • Additional considerations

What is a side hustle?

A side hustle is the term used to describe part-time work that’s done alongside a person’s regular job. Side hustles can be long-term or short-term gigs, and they’re popular because they allow people to dip their toes in the proverbial water rather than fully committing to a career change.

For some, they’re essential, either because their day jobs aren’t generating enough income to meet their costs of living or because their day jobs don’t come with an income at all – for example, those bringing up children or caring for dependants.

The problem with the terminology

In the editorial world, there’s resistance to the terminology owing to the negative connotations of hustle.

Editorial work is about attention to detail, about respecting a client’s voice and brand, about shaping and smoothing text rather than butchering it.

And editors and proofreaders do love their dictionaries. Which doesn’t help matters given hustle’s lexical association with pushiness, pressurised selling, prostitution, and worst of all, fraud.

Since professional self-employed editors and proofreaders spend a chunk of their time trying to build trust with clients searching for editorial support in what is essentially an unregulated global market, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that mention of a hustle makes them twitchy!

Proofreading as a side hustle – popular but problematic

Let’s put the terminology to one side. Can proofreading work be done on the side? Yes. Can a proofreading business be set up overnight? In name, certainly. However, the reality is that unless you already have clients waiting in the wings, you’re going to have to do what every self-employed business owner does – find them, or enable them to find you. Which means marketing.

Furthermore, you’re going to have to find those that you’re a good fit for, and that means skilling up.

Training takes time to complete and marketing takes time to bear fruit. For that reason, if you’re looking to earn extra income quickly, proofreading makes for a poor side hustle.

Do I need training?

Side hustlers in the making might be wondering if training is necessary. Put yourself in a potential client’s shoes. Even if you’re a mega marketer, such that you get in front of your clients quickly, persuading them to hire you requires them trusting you to do a great job.

Trust can be earned in more than one way, but training’s part of the equation. When the tap starts dripping or a plug starts sparking, I don’t want someone messing around with my plumbing and electrics if they haven’t made the effort to ensure they know what they’re doing.

Clients who want help with their words feel the same way about having their text polished. And so they should. The work we do will cost them tens, hundreds, perhaps even thousands of pounds. Proofreaders charging for their services owe it to their clients to be qualified to do a great job.

Plus, we don’t know what we don’t know. Prior to carrying out editorial training, I had no clue what a publisher expected from a proofreader. Training solved that problem. One thing I learned is this: a good command of spelling and grammar is just the tip of the editorial iceberg.

Here’s just a smidgen of the skills my publisher clients expect from a proofreader – issues that once read like gibberish to my untrained eye.

  • Marking up page proofs with BSI proof-correction symbols
  • What to do with overmatter
  • How to manage orphans and widows
  • How to check running heads
  • Handling stacked hyphens on rectos
  • Checking that references are styled according to APA or Harvard

 

Who am I competing with?

Something else the side hustler should consider is the competition. This is not a barren marketplace, alas. There are tens of thousands of editorial professionals out there already, many of whom run their businesses as full-time enterprises. They:

  • are highly trained, often with specialist skills and knowledge
  • are very experienced and have portfolios to prove it, and
  • have been around for a while so know how to be found and where to get work.

That said, there is always room for new proofreaders and editors because most of the work these days is done digitally, which means the market is global. And just as people join the profession, so others leave it.

However, it would be a mistake to think that competing in the proofreading market is just about supply and demand. It’s a digital world, which means the name of the game is visibility.

Who hires professional proofreaders?

First, the good news. Anyone who works with words and cares about their meaning and readability will be interested in hiring a proofreader. This short list of potential clients only scratches the surface.

  • Academics
  • Business owners
  • Educators
  • Independent authors
  • Marketing and communications agencies
  • Packagers and project management agencies
  • Publishers
  • Students

That’s the easy bit. The harder bit is that not all clients know what kind of editorial help they need. And so, even if they ask for something called ‘proofreading’, and that’s what you’re offering as a side hustle, it might be the last thing they need. Literally.

In fact, they might need specialist structural or stylistic help that doesn’t fall under the scope of proofreading at all. Proofreading is a final quality-control check after other rounds of editing.

So if you’re thinking about offering this service as a side gig, make sure you and anyone you work with understand the precise scope of the work you’re offering.

Failure to do so could lead to disappointment, complaints and requests for refunds, thereby turning your side hustle into an upfront hassle.

How will I find work?

Getting work means being visible. Either the client has to find you or you have to find them, meaning anyone looking to earn an income from proofreading needs to have marketing skills as well as proofreading skills.

That’s a necessary time-sucker that any independent editorial pro needs to wrap their head around from the get-go.

There are lots of ways to be visible, some better than others, depending on what types of clients you want to proofread for.

  • Emails, letters and phone calls are good options if you want to get on the radar of publishers and packagers.
  • Content marketing is a slow but powerful burn for those wanting to be found on Google and social media by authors, students and academics.
  • Freelance directories can be a good source of work, though are often the first port of call for clients looking for cheap and fast.
  • Many professional editorial associations such as the CIEP have editorial directories that can be good lead generators for appropriately qualified proofreaders.

Proofreading might seem like your ideal side hustle but you must factor in regular time to get the work in the first place. There’s too much competition not to do so.

Additional considerations

Finally, don’t forget the additional business-critical responsibilities that come with the job, even if it is on the side.

  • Will you need indemnity insurance to protect yourself?
  • Will the income you earn need to be declared to the relevant authorities? Will there be tax implications? Might your additional income affect any state benefits you receive?
  • Do you have funds in place for training and marketing? Both have costs to them.
  • Do you have access to an environment that will allow you to concentrate and work without interruption?
  • Do you have industry-standard hardware and software, and know how to use it?
  • How many hours a day do you have available, and will you be able to meet clients’ deadlines? High-quality proofreading is labour-intensive work. Even experienced full-time proofreaders will need at least a week to proofread a novel. Being realistic about the time required is essential.

Summing up

Proofreading can be used to supplement income from another job. Many full-time professional proofreaders started their editorial journey by doing it on the side.

Don’t forget that being a proofreader means becoming one first – via training. And making your side hustle viable means being found by those who need your services – via marketing.

It can be done – just not overnight.

Want to become a proofreader?

The CIEP has loads of support and information to help you get started.

And Louise Harnby has a selection of books and courses to help you on your journey.

About Louise Harnby

Louise Harnby

Louise Harnby is a professional fiction editor with 30 years’ publishing experience, and specialises in working with independent crime, thriller and mystery writers.

She is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP and co-hosts The Editing Podcast with Denise Cowle.

 

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:

 

What do editors and proofreaders think of taking tests?

We asked our freelance members for their opinions about editing and proofreading tests: tests set by a potential client to assess the freelancer’s suitability for the job. Here, four CIEP members share their thoughts on the topic.

Alex Mackenzie

This was a timed proofread I’d been asked to do as part of a job application. The email said they’d send me a document at 10am; I was to proofread it and return it an hour and a half later. Heart racing, I began, wide-eyed and focused. Ninety-one minutes later, of course, reassessing my sent work, I spotted a mistake! The test had been simple enough, basically a simulation of the company’s typical report: one table (misaligned and missing information), one graphic (valuable seconds lost trying to edit that insert), logos and company branding (creative capitalisation), finishing with a wordy biography (university degrees and excessive work experience). But that ticking clock, I thought, was an unnecessary pressure. And my obvious mistake wouldn’t have escaped a re-read or a PerfectIt scan. Oh well, I huffed – I’ll put that down to experience. Three months later I was hired – they’re now a regular client, paying CIEP suggested minimum rates!

Other than that, I’ve completed test edits for academic proofreading agencies. I remember Janet MacMillan’s words in one of my early Cloud Club meetings: give it an hour, there’s nothing to lose. True. This approach has landed me two more jobs, meaning (low-paid) editing work pops into my inbox weekly. I consider it all training!

Laurie Duboucheix-Saunders

In the best of all possible worlds, editors with a proven record of training and experience should not have to take editorial tests.

However, personally, I have found that such tests have opened doors for me that would otherwise have remained closed. English is not my first language and my degrees in English Lit from the Sorbonne and the fact that I have been an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP since 2016 are not enough to stop people from asking whether I can, or even should, edit or proofread an English text because I am not a native speaker.

I use that term even though it has become controversial in more enlightened editorial circles – where multilingual is preferred – because those editorial tests have allowed me to get work based on my abilities and expertise alone, regardless of where I come from. As with exams that are marked blind, they are an objective assessment of a candidate’s skills and knowledge.

As I write this, I worry that my argument could be used to support the use of editorial tests specifically for non-native editors. This is a million miles away from what I’m trying to say. A strong CV and proven training in editing English material should be enough for people like me to get the job. As it’s not the case yet, I’d rather take a test than be ruled out systematically simply because I am not originally from an anglophone country.

Louise Bolotin

Louise Bolotin

I’m not opposed to sitting editing tests, but I’m not wild about them. I believe my many years of experience and my Advanced Professional Member status in the CIEP should speak for themselves and indicate my competence. My CIEP directory entry, my website and LinkedIn profile are all places a prospective client can look at my CV, a sample client list and client testimonials. On that basis, I won’t take a test for a small company or a private individual such as an independent author. However, I might – if the job looks really interesting and I really want it – offer to do a free one-page sample. No more, and beyond that I’m happy to agree to a week’s (paid) trial or some such, to see how we work together. I do sit editing tests if required where it involves a major rolling contract. I recently took one for a government inspectorate, where passing the test was a prerequisite for joining the freelance pool. I’ve also taken tests for publishing companies for the same reason, but these tests should never be more than a couple of pages and should never take more than around 90 minutes to complete. If they are any longer, you should be paid for your time.

Caroline Petherick

While it’s reasonable for a client to want to have some indication of competence in a freelance editor or proofreader they’re thinking of hiring, the idea of testing a qualified and experienced editor is, in my view, not just out of date but near enough insulting.

As I understand it, the concept arose in the publishing industry in the mid-20th century, an era when many publishing houses were getting rid of their in-house editors in favour of freelance editors and proofreaders, who required less commitment, both financial and pastoral. That was (and still is) seen as an important move in this cut-throat industry.

Until the mid-20th century, copyeditors and proofreaders were quite likely to have been wives of publishers – and unpaid. That view of the profession lingered long in the publishing industry, to its financial advantage. Throughout the 20th century (and in some cases into the 21st), it clearly suited the publishing houses to continue to perceive the proofreader and copyeditor as lowly individuals at the bottom end of the status ladder.

But with the new freelance system, how could a publisher establish editorial competence? A test designed to include the classic traps was obviously deemed appropriate.

Now that we editors and proofreaders have made our mark as independent professionals, due to the formation of the SfEP – now the CIEP, a chartered organisation with registered members and clear status – it is clear that a potential client asking a CIEP member to take a test would be as incongruous a request as, for example, asking a qualified lawyer, designer or accountant – or even a Gas Safe engineer! – to do so. (To be fair, though, it’s probably only a few publishing houses who might still ask for a test. The myriad of other types of clients are highly unlikely to do so.)

The balance of power has changed. And not before time.

A sample edit is, however, as I see it, crucially important. And here, editorial professionals have an advantage over lawyers, designers, accountants and plumbers in their dealings with clients. In working on a sample, a CIEP member will not only be showing the client what work they’d carry out, but they will be assessing the text and, to some degree, the client. And then, having seen what the client produces, they’ll also be able to quote a fair price for the work. All part of the professional package.

Wrapping up: editing tests

This post has presented the opinions of four CIEP members on editing tests, and it shows the breadth of views there are on the topic.

Have you taken an editing or proofreading test? Or have you set one as a way to assess a freelancer’s abilities? Tell us more in the comments.

Ayesha Chari has written about her experiences of editing tests.

READ AYESHA’S ARTICLE

The CIEP is no longer using the terms ‘native’ and ‘non-native’ to describe English language familiarity and competence. Where these terms appear on our site or within our materials, it will be to honour an author with relevant lived experience or to highlight their problematic use.

For more information, please read ‘”Non-native” and “native”: Why the CIEP is no longer using those terms’.

September 2021

 

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: clock by Samantha Gades on Unsplash 

Editing tests, clients and the editor

We asked our freelance members for their opinions about editing and proofreading tests: tests set by a potential client to assess the freelancer’s suitability for the job. Here, Ayesha Chari shares what she sees as the pros and cons of editing tests.

You know that butterfly-in-the-stomach feeling? The dreadful one before your first big school exam or right before that driving test. Or the tingly one on the quick descent of the Ferris wheel, maybe even while going up and down those weightless lifts to floor infinity. I love the thrilling flutter as much as I hate the panicky one.

It does come as a surprise then that my academic and non-fiction editing career has been built almost solely on voluntarily subjecting myself to the anxiety of editing tests. The first one, for an in-house copyediting role and my first job straight out of university, I’ll never forget: ‘edit this in 1 hour’ was the instruction. This was a 30-page, two-column, single line-spaced, printed article on geospatial satellites gobbledygook. I had no idea whether ‘edit’ meant to correct spelling and grammar or make sense of content or something else. I also had no idea what any of what I was reading meant or where/how I was supposed to write in the thumb-width margins. I got the job.

Since then, particularly as self-employed, I’ve taken every editing test that has come my way, more often seeking them out from publishers and other organisations, definitely too many to keep count. Some with a vague one-line brief, others with a 50-page style guide and dozens of accompanying files and instructions. Some where I’ve set the deadline and the client has agreed, others that have invaded my browser and set running counters. Some that I’ve flunked, several others where I’ve come out on top. Why? Because the pros far outweigh the cons.

Pros

Taking editing tests for potential clients can help to:

  • quickly demonstrate expertise, training and professionalism to the client/employer
  • plant the seed for a relationship of trust with a new client/employer
  • self-assess skills objectively, whether you have formal editorial training and are starting out or are experienced and need to be kept on your toes.
  • build self-confidence (no pain, no gain, plus who doesn’t like a random ego boost?!)
  • identify areas that need to be strengthened or updated, subject/genre-wise or in technical expertise
  • acquire new knowledge or reinforce previous learning, both useful professionally regardless of performance on the test
  • improve time management and organisational abilities (e.g. following instructions of the test brief, editing to style specified, labelling files as asked, meeting deadline agreed or completing the test in the set time)
  • account for some unconscious bias in recruitment processes, very useful if you fit any non-traditional/non-dominant label as an individual but also as a language user (you can have multiple first languages and choose to use only one of them in your editing career – the test eliminates having to justify ‘otherness’)
  • find (and get!) the next big gig or dream editing job
  • lay the ground for negotiating your next big raise or up your freelance fees.

Cons

Taking editing tests for potential clients does not:

  • guarantee work, particularly if passing the test is a route to getting on a freelance list of editors (catch-22 situation: those more experienced on the list will invariably get offered work more often/first; without getting on the list and getting work, you can’t become more experienced)
  • give the whole picture of your expertise or transferable abilities to the client (I picked the wrong file topic on a timed test once, and everything went downhill from there)
  • help imposter syndrome on a bad hair test day (we’ve all been there)
  • save time when you already have little to spare (test results can take a few days, weeks, or months even, a contract several more, and a first assignment even longer)
  • account for all bias, unconscious or otherwise (so you may not bag the job even if you do well on the test)
  • alleviate fear of failure.

I’m unlikely to overcome the panic of taking a test any time soon, especially those rotten timed ones. But for the joy of a flutter, I highly recommend taking them. You might just get hooked (and make a career as I have)!

Wrapping up: editing tests

Tests are used by organisations to assess a potential freelancer’s or employee’s editing or proofreading abilities. They can:

  • build self-confidence
  • highlight development needs
  • reduce the influence of unconscious bias
  • form the foundation of a successful business relationship.

Have you taken an editing or proofreading test? Or have you set one as a way to assess a freelancer’s abilities? Tell us more in the comments.

We’ll be sharing more members’ opinions in a future post.

About Ayesha Chari

Ayesha Chari is a sensitive academic and non-fiction editor, who (much to the amusement of both the driving instructor and her partner) was once terrified of taking a test for a UK driving licence despite having driven in India for a decade, but who passed both the theory and practical tests on the first attempt.

 

 

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: butterfly by Patrick Lockley; ferris wheel by Michael Parulava, both on Unsplash.