Category Archives: Specialisms

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

A week in the life of a puzzle editor

Sudokus, crosswords, wordsearches … they all need editing. In this post, Vanessa Souris describes a typical week in her work as a puzzle editor.

I work part-time for Puzzler. I am the editor of six puzzle magazines, proofread three of my colleagues’ titles, and am also currently working on a one-off British-themed puzzle magazine that will be released next year.

My background as a puzzle editor

Although I am British, I went to university in Australia and lived there for six years, followed by 13 years in Abu Dhabi in the UAE. Moving back to England in 2020 was a real culture shock for me and my children, who were both born in the Middle East.

I used to teach English as a second language to university level, but never really went back to it after my children were born as the hours just didn’t work for me and my young family. I fell into editing when a former teaching colleague asked if I would be interested in copyediting textbooks, as the publishing company he worked for required editors with Middle Eastern teaching experience. I completed training with the CIEP, and have worked part-time as an ELT copyeditor, proofreader and assessment item writer ever since.

I applied for the role with Puzzler last year, and when they found out I had lived in Australia, I was recruited to edit primarily Australian titles.

The database

The majority of the puzzles I work on are generated on a special program and then edited individually. We produce crosswords, arrowords, code words, kriss krosses, wordsearches, logic puzzles, sudokus – you name it, we edit it!

We have a huge database made up of tens of thousands of clues, but the computer doesn’t always select the best one for the job. We have different readerships for different magazines, and we have to take them into consideration when editing puzzles. For example, one magazine might be very celebrity-focused, whereas another might take itself a bit more seriously.

A lot of the editing work I do is on the database itself, where we can tag clues as being suitable for British audiences, Australian or both. Because I work on Australian titles, I have to remove clues that Australian readers won’t recognise and add Australian clues and cultural references. Some recent examples have been removing PLIMSOLL (the shoe) from the Australian database as this word is simply not used in Australia, and adding DROP BEAR as an Australian clue (that carnivorous native animal that preys on unsuspecting tourists).

The database is a constant work in progress, and we are always trying to make sure the content is relevant and interesting. It has been compiled over the last 40 years, so some of the clues and words can be outdated or occasionally considered offensive today, and I am part of the Diversity and Inclusion team that identifies and amends clues on an ongoing basis.

A crossword being filled in

The puzzles

Throughout, I have to consider what makes a good puzzle. For example, the computer may generate a crossword which contains seven words ending in -ed or -ing, so I will change most of the words in the software to add variation. We also have to be aware of rude words that may be inadvertently spelt out; for example, if I input REDRUTH in a list of words for a wordsearch about Cornwall, the program will alert me that the word TURD will show up in the grid!

I really enjoy setting the starter letters on a code word puzzle. After I have edited the words on the grid itself, I have to play around to find the best combination of letters that will provide a route for the reader to solve the puzzle. It’s a tricky balance to give enough clues to make it solvable, but not so that it gives away all of the remaining words without a challenge. And the readers will write in and let me know if I get that balance wrong!

After I have compiled an issue, I edit our magazine template including the editorial page and competition details in InDesign, and the puzzle files are sent off to the designers. They return a flatplan of the magazine, where I proofread any text, then go through and make sure the grids, clues and solutions all match up, and that there are no anomalies in the design. I also proofread three other titles for my colleagues in this way.

An ideal job for a word nerd

I really enjoy the work with Puzzler. It’s varied, fun and interesting, and I am part of a super-supportive team. Earlier this year it also led to a really enjoyable side project, where I edited a 10,000-question pub quiz book (you know who to call if you’re ever looking for a quiz teammate!).

I think my ELT experience comes in really useful, as a lot of language teaching is about guiding people towards working things out for themselves. And of course, a basic love of and interest in words and language runs through all of ELT, editing and puzzles.

About Vanessa Souris

Vanessa is a copyeditor and proofreader who spends half her week editing for Puzzler magazines, and the other half editing and writing ELT materials. She has recently moved back to the UK after 20 years living in Australia and the UAE, and specialises in editing teaching materials for Middle Eastern markets. She is an Intermediate Member of the CIEP and can be found on 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: sudoku by blende12, crossword by stevepb, both from Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Forum matters: Fiction and other specialisms

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.

Headline graphic saying 'Forum matters: Fiction and other specialisms' with books laid out on a white surface

Supporting members’ specialisms

One of the best things about the CIEP community is the sheer breadth of knowledge held and shared freely by its members. From FRedit to flamingos, there’s bound to be a tasty morsel that will make your life easier, or at least a little more interesting, especially if you dig a little deeper into the specialist groups, which were created to avoid overwhelming the core forums. Find out more about joining one or more of these forums.

Since this issue of The Edit is all about fiction, it’s an opportunity to draw your attention to the Fiction forum, which has over 500 members. Of course, fiction editors will gain a lot from the main forums in the first place, and recent useful threads have covered checking facts, how deep down the rabbit hole you need to go (and whether you should charge extra for spelunking), flamingo migration and the etymology of riverbank architecture. Might these reappear in this year’s CIEP conference quiz? Best take notes.

An exploration on SfEPLine of which tools are available to editors with vision loss or impairment (reassuring to know that loss of vision might not necessarily mean an end to an editing career) connects quite nicely with a thread in the Newbie forum (an underrated goldmine of good advice, if you ask us) about screen readers and Latin abbreviations. Meanwhile, a Marketplace offer spurred a sensitive discussion on SfEPLine about the ethics, legalities and practicalities of working with an author who is not yet an adult, in order to safeguard all stakeholders.

The Macros forum also has useful information for fiction editors, and if you’re looking to add more macros to your toolbox but don’t know where to start, try one of the ones recommended in this thread. A handy macro for fiction editors might be Paul Beverley’s ChapterChopper, which shows the number of words per chapter. This could help editors to pinpoint developmental issues like pace slumps or info-dumping.

If you work with science fiction, you might be interested in Reedsy Sci-Fi week (August–September 2022), or catch up with recordings afterwards. This information appeared on the Events forum, full of links to happenings of interest to editors that you might regret missing.

If your special interest is fiction, this is just the tip of it. Come along as we open the curtain and show you what the Fiction group has been up to.

Digging deeper

This section is link-free because not all of our forum users are members of the Fiction forum. If you’d like to access it, find out how in ‘Joining a specialist forum’, below.

The Fiction Special Interest Group (Fic SIG) invites any member to give a talk on a relevant topic of their choice. Kath Kirk gave a webinar on the special considerations copyeditors need for editing science fiction and fantasy novels. She discussed how to keep track of wibbly-wobbly timelines, and this spurred further discussion in the Fiction forum about which software can help editors to visualise it.

Clare Law’s talk on using data-driven editing to become more efficient, get paid more, reduce anxiety and beat imposter syndrome led to robust discussions in the Fiction forum about which silent changes fiction editors usually make, and which queries they’ve stored in their TextExpander arsenals.

Members of the Fiction forum also shared resources for working on children’s fiction, and how to format a fiction manuscript for submission to a literary agent, as well as recommendations of courses for editors who are looking to build their fiction-editing skills.

If you missed these fabulous discussions, don’t worry! Notes from the talks are shared on the Fiction forum afterwards.

Joining a specialist forum

There’s no barrier to CIEP members’ entry into the specialist groups. Everybody should join their local group forum. Even international members can be local through the Cloud Clubs. Apart from Fiction, other topic-based groups are Music, English Language Teaching, Education, MedSTEM, Languages (translation), Legal and more – and sometimes they’re where the real action is!

If you’re interested in a deeper exploration of a niche or subject related to editing, follow the step-by-step instructions on this page or get in touch with one of the forum moderators.

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: books by ready made and woman in a hat by Olivia cox, both on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Levelling up style sheets for role-playing games and fiction

The style sheet is an essential part of any copyeditor’s arsenal. In this post, Rachel Lapidow explains how she expands her style sheets to help her edit complex role-playing games. Though some of the extra sections she adds are designed specifically for RPGs, they could be useful for fiction too.

I love creating style sheets for projects; in fact, it is one of my favourite parts of copyediting. This is fortunate because the style sheet for my current project, a 600-page role-playing game (RPG), is over 60 pages long.

When I was first learning how to be a copyeditor, I took a certificate programme online through the University of California, San Diego. One of my instructors gave us a style sheet template, and over the years, I’ve modified and added my own categories to that template.

I’ll be discussing how I set up certain aspects of the style sheets that I use for RPGs in the hopes that you may find some of these sections useful for your own projects, including non-RPG works. Some of these I learned from fellow editors, and some are my own invention.

One of the best tips I can give when dealing with a longer style sheet is to make use of Microsoft Word’s Styles section (I’m assuming that Google Docs and other word processing programs have something similar). When you click on the Home tab in Word, you will see the Styles box to the right-hand side. By using different styles for your headings and subheadings, you will be able to use the Navigation pane. Open the Navigation pane by hitting Ctrl+F and selecting the Headings tab. By using different levels of headings, you will be able to nest subheadings under headings. This will allow you to easily navigate to different sections of the style sheet without having to scroll or search.

One, two, or hyphenated words

I spend a lot of time checking to see if words should be hyphenated, one word or two words. On the advice of another editor, I created a separate section of my style sheets to list those words and phrases. Anything that I need to look up in The Chicago Manual of Style hyphenation table or the dictionary is included. I list the word(s) along with what part of speech it is – adjective, noun, verb, etc. Plenty of words are open in one instance but closed in another (eg ‘take out’ as a verb, ‘takeout’ when referring to a food order).

Abbreviations/acronyms

RPGs, especially militaristic RPGs, tend to have a lot of acronyms in them. Many of these will exist outside the game, like VTOL (vertical take-off and landing), and a number of them will be unique to the game, such as the names of guilds, armed forces, fictional companies, etc. When proofreading the encyclopedia for a video game series, the acronym section included things like HEDP (high-explosive, dual-purpose) and MARFOR (Marine Corps Forces). There were simply too many abbreviations and acronyms to remember. By listing them all in one place, I saved myself a lot of time instead of having to look up each instance.

Italicised words

Vessels, like ships, planes and spacecraft, are often in italics, depending on what style guide you are following. So too are the names of magazines, newspapers, plays and movies, whether or not these works exist only within the RPG. It’s far too easy to miss a name that should be in italics. By listing all italicised words together, I’m less likely to pass over a term that should be in italics.

Role-playing dice and character sheet

Game mechanics

Should game terms, like character attributes, skills, spells and more, be capitalised? Should they be in bold font? Should these terms be in italics or quotation marks? Here’s the place to record that information. For example, in the game I’m currently editing, character attributes (the qualities of a character) like Awareness and Physique are capitalised. In a game like Dungeons & Dragons, spell names, for example cure wounds, are written in lowercase italics. For the current game I’m working on, I have a section that lists all the attributes and skill sets so I know how those terms need to be formatted.

Characters

Here’s where to list details about characters, historical figures and divine entities in the RPG. If given, I will note a character’s pronouns, age, physical appearance, location, unique traits and relationship with other characters. An entry may be just a few words for a background character to as much as several paragraphs for a character who drives a lot of the plot. There have been instances where a character has been misgendered or their name has been misspelled. By referring to my character section, I help ensure that characters appear and behave consistently throughout the RPG.

Locations

For the game I’m currently working on, there are towns and cities spread across an entire planet, but that planet is just one place inhabited by humans. In the world of the RPG, people live on multiple planets, moons and space stations located within two solar systems – so it’s easy to forget where places are in relation to each other. Because earlier versions of this game have been published, I was able to copy and paste a map of one of the planets into my style sheet. In addition to this map, I have created a list of towns, cities and settlements. I like to add the key features of each town, its population if known, and any nearby geographic features.

A dragon sitting on top of a building breathing fire

Timeline

Creating a timeline for my current project was a considerable upfront time investment, but it’s helped me so much to keep track of when major and minor events happened. Because of the game’s sprawling nature, I’ve also colour-coded entries depending on where they occurred. I’ve caught a number of errors in the manuscript because of this timeline, such as events happening in a city that hasn’t yet been discovered or settled. I use Microsoft Word’s highlighting ability to indicate certain planets, moons and continents. When I ran out of colours (there are a lot of locations) I used coloured typefaces. Another option is to enter your timeline into an Excel spreadsheet. This allows you to easily sort by year, place or some other attribute.

And then of course the style sheet includes more standard sections, such as punctuation, spellings, how bullet lists are treated, how numbers are dealt with, etc.

I hope you’ve found this article helpful and that you’ll find one of these sections worth incorporating into your next style sheet. In a full circle moment, one of my instructors from UC San Diego asked me to share one of my RPG style sheets for her to use in her class. It’s a bit surreal to imagine future copyeditors looking at a style sheet I created while they’re learning how to utilise this tool. But it’s also pretty darn cool.

About Rachel LapidowHeadshot of Rachel Lapidow

Rachel Lapidow is a freelance copyeditor and proofreader who works on RPGs, board games, comics, manga and fiction. Visit her website at www.rachellapidow.com.

 

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: blue and gold role-playing dice by Timothy Dykes, role-playing dice and character sheet by Gian Luca-Riner, dragon by Jimmy Blackwell, all on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Copyediting and translation editing: What’s the difference?

Gwenydd Jones, an experienced translator, introduces us to the field of translation editing and considers how it shares similarities with copyediting.

I became a freelance translator in 2009 while I was still completing my first master’s degree. As the early ‘translation editing’ orders started trickling in from clients, it soon became apparent that editing was being used as a very loose term. In fact, I’d receive all sorts of requests to correct, edit, revise, review and/or proofread translations produced by others.

This initially confused me. But I soon figured out that, regardless of word choice, these clients were mostly asking for the same service: check the translation for accuracy against the original text, make sure the translation is idiomatic and grammatical, and then proofread it.

Where does copyediting come into this?

After promoting my services as a translator, editor and proofreader for some time, I eventually heard of a job called copyediting. I was intrigued. Here was another activity commonly referred to as editing that was in some way different to the editing work I was used to.

There was nothing else for it: I joined the CIEP and signed up for the Copyediting 1 course to figure out what it was all about. In this article, I’ll share with you some things I discovered about the similarities and differences between translation editing and copyediting.

What’s the right word to use for translation editing?

The ISO 17100 Translation Services standard defines the terms translation, revision, revise, proofreading and final verification. It identifies each one as a different task in the process of producing a quality translation.

Of these jobs, the reviser is the one who checks the translation for accuracy, idiomaticity, grammar and related issues. So, while the word editing is regularly used in the translation world to refer to this task, in this article, I’m going to refer to revision and the reviser.

Similarities and differences between copyediting and revision

Without further ado, here are some of my thoughts about what the copyeditor and the translation reviser have in common, and where the similarities end.

1. Role expectations and skillset

Both the copyeditor and translation reviser may have a broad set of skills and offer writing and proofreading services. However, being a copyeditor can be a standalone job, while revisers are normally translators by trade, with translation clients generally viewing revision as a subskill.

Translators tend to have language qualifications and often a postgraduate translation qualification like the DipTrans or an MA in translation studies. If they’ve been properly trained, they’ll know how to edit and proofread their own work to a reasonable standard. But most translators probably won’t have received specialist training as copyeditors or proofreaders.

This means their skill set is different to that of a copyeditor, even though they perform some aspects of copyediting as part of their job.

2. Knowledge of punctuation and style

Both copyeditors and translation revisers may be asked to follow a house style. It’s my impression that this is more likely to be the case for copyeditors. Also, while some revisers are very well versed in the different style guides, overall, the expectations regarding breadth of knowledge of style are lower for a reviser than for a copyeditor.

This is also true of punctuation knowledge, which is sometimes terribly lacking in translators. This expectation I mentioned in point one, that a translator knows how to edit and proofread, is problematic. In my experience of teaching early-career translators, many of them don’t have professional knowledge of the rules of punctuation. This is often reflected in the readability of the final text, with misused semicolons and commas placed where the translator thinks they might take a breath.

3. Respect for the creator

Both copyediting and revision involve texts created by other people. In copyediting, you have to respect the writer. In revision, you have two creators to contend with: the writer of the original text and the translator.

In the CIEP Copyediting 1 course, it was underlined that the copyeditor should be respectful of the writer’s voice and their decisions. This is true even if the copyeditor doesn’t necessarily like or agree with them.

This is very similar to what a good translator should do. When transferring the original text (source text) into the new language, the translator has a duty of loyalty. This means they should respect the writer’s choices. When translating, it’s very easy to try to ‘improve’ on the source text. The translator can easily stray into editing and even rewriting.

The reviser has to think about both the writer and the translator. They have to check the translation against the source text to make sure it’s accurate, and change it if it isn’t. But they also have a professional duty to respect the translator’s choices as long as they’re correct and appropriate. Just like the copyeditor, the reviser doesn’t have the right to change the translation on the basis of personal preference.

4. Error elimination

The reviser’s job is to eliminate errors in the translation but not in the source text. While revisers may notify the client of mistakes in the source text, they’re not expected (or paid) to do it. This is very different to the copyeditor’s task, where correcting the writer’s mistakes is a key part of the job.

Sometimes, the source text is poorly drafted and hasn’t been edited or proofread before being sent for translation. This can be very challenging for the translator and reviser. Do they carry errors over into the translation? How much can/should they change in the translation when the source text is poor? And how much are they being paid for all this extra work?

If a copyeditor is involved in the process of creating the original text, many of these problems will be eliminated. This reflects how crucial the copyeditor’s role is in the production process for texts that are going to be translated. Imagine the financial impact of omitting a copyeditor for a badly written text that then gets translated into ten languages.

5. Reader on the shoulder

Copyeditors and revisers are part of a process designed to serve a figure they’ll probably never meet: the reader. Both roles involve making decisions with that person in mind. The difference lies in the knowledge the reader is expected to have. Translation isn’t just about changing languages. The text is also going to be presented in a new cultural context.

The original writer will have created their text with a ‘local’ reader in mind. They would have expected this reader to have certain cultural knowledge, like automatically knowing what Barça is. When revising a translation, it’s important to consider how the new reader’s cultural knowledge is different from that of the original reader. Additions and changes may need to be made to ensure that the new reader can understand the text.

6. Typesetting

The CIEP Copyediting 1 course explained that editors are expected to mark up the text to help the typesetter identify headings, figures and the like. The reviser isn’t expected to do this job. The brief (where one exists) is almost always to respect the formatting of the original text and change nothing in that regard.

This makes sense because the copyeditor of the original text, assuming there was one, has already done that work. In fact, if the client didn’t plan the translation properly, they may well have already completed the typesetting.

7. Impact of artificial intelligence

Both copyeditors and revisers have a range of software they can use to help them ensure quality, check spelling and grammar, and maintain consistency across the text.

Developments in artificial intelligence have led to new types of editing. Writers sometimes produce texts with the help of AI writing tools. These texts can then be edited and improved by a human.

In the world of translation, the same neural networks can be employed to produce a rough translation for subsequent checking and editing. The translator-cum-reviser is now expected to also offer a service called ‘machine translation post-editing’.

Within this panorama, the skills of both professionals require adaptation. A text produced by artificial intelligence presents different types of errors and challenges to a text produced by a human.

To sum it all up …

As a translator, I’ve found my explorations into the world of copyediting fascinating. If you don’t have much contact with foreign languages, I hope I’ve managed to share something here that’s piqued your interest in translation.

About Gwenydd Jones

Gwenydd Jones is an experienced translator, course creator and copywriter. She blogs about all things related to her field and offers courses for translators at The Translator’s Studio.

 

 

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: globe by Adolfo Felix on Unsplash, Arabic text by Serinus, woman reading by THIS IS ZUN, both on Pexels.

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 legal editor

Nadine Catto used to work as a divorce lawyer, and now edits legal materials for publishers and other legal content providers. In this article she describes how she got into legal editing, and what her work typically involves.

My path to legal editing

When I was at school, I was told that the best career for someone who loved words was a lawyer. Although I had some niggling doubts, it seemed like a good idea at the time and I excitedly started my career as a divorce lawyer. For someone who hates confrontation, this may not have been the smartest career choice. While others loved the rough and tumble of the courtroom, I wished everyone would just stop arguing and I could curl up in the corner with a book!

My wish came true (sort of) when a conversation in a creative writing class led to some work experience with a publisher. Books, words, more books – I loved it! I saw an advert for a job as an assistant editor for a legal publisher who was looking for someone with a legal background. We made the perfect match! Fast forward eight years and two children later and freelance work beckoned.

 A typical day

  • School run and answering my twins’ endless questions, followed by a morning walk by the river to shift from Mum-mode to editor-mode.
  • Check I’ve received the batch of articles from the legal content provider.
  • Prioritise article work for the week according to the editorial manager’s schedule.
  • Several hours of focused copyediting and rewriting articles on international law, and trying to stop the cat from jumping on the keyboard and deleting all my work!
  • Afternoon school run and more questions from the twins. Put finishing touches to the day’s articles and write a summary of the articles.
  • Send the articles back to the editorial manager and feel happy that they are now in house style and easier to understand for the busy legal professional.

This is just an example of a typical day. But my working week could be proofreading a 3,000-page legal reference book (this took longer than a week!), copyediting how-to guides for corporate lawyers or copywriting articles for a DIY legal publisher. For me, it’s the variety that makes freelance work a joy.

I’ve been fortunate to have quite a steady flow of work since I went freelance, and I work part-time to fit in with the school day. But in order to make this work, I do often work at weekends and in the evenings to free up more time during the working week to fit in family commitments.

Legal editing tasks

When I receive an article from the editorial manager, the first thing I do is format it according to their requested house style. I re-style the headings and change footnotes to endnotes. The articles can be from anywhere in the world on any area of commercial or corporate law. So, I also check which language it’s set to – it could be US English, Peruvian, Spanish or any other language! I set it to the client’s preferred language, which is often British English, and run a spellcheck. Some style issues that I always have to be aware of are case names, citations, the names of judiciary, legal terminology and the names of courts. I usually have a long house style to work with, so I make sure that I’m really familiar with it, and I go back to the editorial manager with anything that the style guide doesn’t cover.

I then read through the article to get a sense of what it’s about – perhaps making a few small corrections as I go. This can also involve quite a lot of head-scratching about what the author is trying to say under layers of legalese! I try to ensure that the article is in plain English; however, with legal writing, it is sometimes important to keep certain terms of art, so it’s a fine balance. Rather than wading in with corrections that could potentially change the author’s meaning, I make suggestions about rewording and write very diplomatic queries.

The end goal is to produce an article with a clear message that’s easy for a busy legal professional to understand quickly. Sometimes I do a bit of legal research to understand the subject so that I can make better suggestions for rewording. Lastly, I write a summary of the article – something that will entice a reader to read it (not always easy to make the law sound enticing, but I try).

If I’m copyediting, I work in Word using Track Changes. If I’m proofreading, I work in Adobe Acrobat using the comment tools.

Marketing and professional development

It can be difficult to fit in marketing, and it’s something that I do struggle with. I know I should be promoting myself, but it’s always the last thing on my to-do list. I try to make time in the week to attend a networking group, investigate new opportunities and send my CV to other legal publishers or law firms. We’re lucky in the CIEP to have the legal editing special interest group (SIG). This is a newly created SIG, and I hope it will be a great place to learn from each other and share concerns and queries.

The joys (yes, really!) of legal editing

Yes, law can be a dry subject, but I’ve learned so much about different areas of law and it’s so interesting to see how different jurisdictions deal with similar issues. The biggest joy for me is to take a manuscript filled with dense legalese and tease out the meaning to improve the readability. I was once that busy lawyer with little time for professional development, so it’s great to know that I’m helping them out. Plus, I’ve worked for some genuinely lovely clients and that’s a real bonus.

About Nadine Catto

Nadine Catto edits and proofreads articles, how-to guides and books for legal content providers and publishers. Nadine is a qualified lawyer who worked in-house for a legal publisher for eight years. Nadine is an advocate for plain English in legal writing, and is a 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.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: scales by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA on Pexels, Lady Justice statue by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash.

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.

Find out more about:

 

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.

Editing theses and dissertations Q&A with Marieke Krijnen

Marieke Krijnen uses her own experience of academic studies to provide editorial support to PhD students whose first language is not English. We asked her to share her working practices and her tips for success.

What services do you offer?

I offer copyediting, proofreading, document formatting and reference formatting services to PhD candidates. The service that most of my clients pick is copyediting, which is of course a spelling, grammar, typo and consistency check but also includes improving word choice and usage, fixing overly long sentences and pointing out things that are not clear.

I also check that references are complete and correctly formatted and that university guidelines are followed. Reference formatting is my second-most-used service. Clients send me their list of references, which I format according to the required citation style. I also look each one up and make sure the author name, title, journal name and other details are spelled correctly.

Why did you decide to start working in this field?

I got my PhD in 2016 and was doing my first postdoc in 2016–17. After nearly experiencing a second burnout, I knew academia wasn’t for me in the long term. I needed to earn more money, work less and have more flexibility and at the same time security. I think that owning one’s own business can bring a lot of security, because you can always get more work and more clients and no one can make you redundant; I know not everyone agrees with this.

My writing and level of English had always stood out to others, and they often asked me to read things over for them. I decided to see if I could make money providing editorial services.

I had a lot to learn, of course, and slowly discovered the world of editing associations, editing training, style guides and edibuddies. I was extremely pleased with what I found (a bunch of people nerding out over punctuation and usage) and essentially never looked back.

Do you have a subject specialism?

I edit almost exclusively in the social sciences and humanities. I do not at all trust myself to edit something from the life sciences or physics. While I don’t get involved in the content of dissertations, I can often understand which terminology is common in the field and which terms may actually be a mistake or a false friend (I work with many ESL clients). I very often look things up regardless of what I think is the case, but if I were working in a discipline that’s not my own, I would spend all my time looking things up. Not fair to the client!

What do you enjoy about working on theses/dissertations?

I enjoy learning about new research and ideas, and I thoroughly enjoy the process of supporting someone during the last stages of their PhD. I know from experience how intense things get in the final months, so to be able to be there for them and reassure them feels very rewarding. PhD students are the only clients I make an exception for in terms of being available during weekends and evenings.

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

I think the biggest benefit is having a second pair of eyes go over their work, reassuring them that things are complete and consistent. Clients often tell me: ‘No one has read and engaged with my thesis as closely as you have.’ And it’s often true: I’m the first person who reads the entire document from cover to cover, engages with it, tries to understand what it says, and checks all the details at the same time. Sadly, most supervisors and jury members simply don’t have the time to do this.

While an editor should not do a candidate’s work for them, having someone check that all elements are in place and correct or that all citations are present in the reference list can relieve a lot of last-minute stress before submission of the thesis. Moreover, I’ve heard from clients that working with me provided them with the motivation to continue writing and finish their thesis, as they had to send it to me by a certain date.

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

I generally book out around three months in advance for larger projects such as theses. I like to have a month for a full thesis edit, so contacting me as far as possible in advance is the best. I need to draw up a contract, I need an email from the supervisor confirming that editing is allowed, I need to find out how I will get paid … The earlier all this is set up, the better.

What should students look for in a potential editorial professional?

They should make sure that the editor has had editing training or has other editing credentials. The editor should have some form of online presence (a directory listing, a website) with information about their training, experience and skills. If testimonials are provided, this is even better. Vetted editors can be found in the CIEP Directory, for example, which lists Professional and Advanced Professional Members only.

PhD candidates can also ask their colleagues if they can recommend an editor. I get most of my work through referrals. If someone says they had a great experience with an editor and online research seems to confirm that the person is qualified and professional, I would say go for it. Check that the editor is responsive, draws up an agreement (either via email or in a separate document), and asks for supervisor permission.

What are students’ main concerns or worries about engaging you?

The cost of my work can be a bit of a shock to clients. I am usually paid with university funds, so most PhD candidates don’t pay me out of pocket, but some do (note that in many western European countries, PhD salaries are not that low).

I have heard from clients that while they were worried about paying so much at first, they did not regret it, because they realised afterwards how much they got in return. They were unaware of how many checks are involved in editing, the extent to which an editor goes to check and double-check things and make the writing consistent, the style sheet that is drawn up, the level of support they receive during the final stage of their PhD and so on.

I can imagine some clients are worried about an editor changing the meaning of things, but a good editor is always careful. For example, the editor makes a suggestion in a comment instead of changing something and always uses tracked changes so the client can see exactly what was changed.

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

I have encountered instances of plagiarism. Usually, universities run a plagiarism check on submitted PhDs, so if I catch it before that happens, I can signal it to the client. Depending on how egregious the plagiarism is (is it entire pages? Is it just a few sentences the client forgot to provide a citation for?), I either flag it, leave a comment about it, and move on or send back the work and tell them I can’t work on it any more.

How much do you intervene?

I do not intervene in the content/argument of the thesis. I intervene when something is ambiguous or unclear, leaving a comment explaining what precisely is ambiguous and why (ie, ‘it could mean this but it can also be read as that; please clarify what was meant’). I also frequently intervene when I suspect that a ‘false friend’ was used. For example, if someone writes that a neighbourhood is characterised by a high level of promiscuity, and I know that person’s first language is French, I go to my dictionary, look up ‘promiscuité’, and see that it means ‘overcrowding’. This is one of my favourite things to do, and I have a list of such terms now that I can refer to. I keep my (digital) French, Italian, German, Dutch and Spanish dictionaries open at all times for this reason.

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

If you want to engage a good editor, start looking for one months in advance!

Second, make sure editing is allowed at your institution, because a good editor will ask for your supervisor’s permission.

Finally, try to have an idea in advance of which kind of English you want to use in your thesis (British, Canadian, US spelling?), which university guidelines are in place regarding writing style and which citation style you will use. A good editor will ask all these questions once you contact them, but if you have this information for them already, they will be grateful.

About Marieke Krijnen

Marieke Krijnen is an academic copyeditor and an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. She obtained a PhD in Political Science and has a background in Arabic and Middle East studies and urban studies. In her free time she enjoys trains, birds, and playing violin. She’s on Twitter as @MariekeGent and her website is www.mariekekrijnen.com.

 

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: students graduating by RUT MIT, students studying by Brooke Cagle, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Editing in specialist areas

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

Wendy Hobson: Cookbooks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harriet Power: School textbooks

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel Lapidow: Role-playing games (RPGs)

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

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

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

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

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

A bag of RPG dice

Julia Sandford-Cooke: Construction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

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

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Editing for age appropriateness in children’s books

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

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

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

Age-appropriate vocabulary

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

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

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

Parents and two children reading a book together

Age-appropriate content

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

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

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

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

Considering the gatekeepers

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

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

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

Illustration of a mouse

Context is key

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

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

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

About Lisa Davis

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

 

About the CIEP

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

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Photo credits: pirate scene by Tumisu on Pixabay, family by cottonbro on Pexels, mouse by Victoria_Borodinova on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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