Category Archives: Specialisms

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.

Find out more about:

 

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.

A week in the life of a journal/series editor

Margaret Hunter specialises in editing all sorts of texts for organisations and businesses. Here she gives an insight into the particular editing requirements for regular and repeated publications, such as journals and series, and shows how both editors and their clients can benefit from efficient editing practices.

Editing recurring publications: how to ensure consistency and edit quickly and efficiently

OK, so editing articles for a journal or series usually takes more than a week (usually two for mine), but here’s a snapshot of how I tackle this sort of work. I can, of course, talk only about the titles that I work on, and you may find yourself working to different requirements, but I hope I can pass on some useful general insights and tips that will help you edit recurring publications efficiently and quickly.

What do editors and proofreaders need to do when editing journals and series? Does it require a different approach from editing other types of text? With multiple authors (meaning multiple approaches to the text) how do you judge what to change and what to leave? What working practices, tools and tips help you to be efficient and accurate? How does that make you a valued editor that clients will want to use again?

In this article I’ll talk about the following:

  • Use repetition to your advantage
  • My process for editing journal articles
  • Process tips for working on journals and series
  • Should authors be made to sound the same or is it OK to keep their different writing styles?
  • Build in efficiency
  • A good mindset for working on recurring publications

Use repetition to your advantage

Working on a journal or a series, by definition, means repetition. A good place to start then is by asking yourself: I’m going to have to do this again, so what will make it easier or more efficient next time?

For me, it’s to break the job down into parts that need different attention, then use tools, checklists and separate editing passes to make sure each part meets the publication’s style, language and formatting requirements.

Crucially, each time I work on a recurring publication I add useful information to my notes and tools, such as solutions to new issues I’ve encountered, new style decisions, improvements to my process, new information from my client, or aha! moments from checking how something’s been done in previous issues.

Pile of to do lists

My process for editing journal articles

To give you an idea of what’s involved in this sort of work, here is my typical workflow for a journal issue. Because the quarterly publication schedule is fixed, and I know roughly when to expect the files, I set aside a block of two weeks in my diary in advance so that I can concentrate on the journal work. Over those two weeks, I may do small jobs for other clients too if I can fit them in or they need to be done then.

On average it takes me about 25 hours to complete the following work for each issue. As well as copyediting, I also do the layout in InDesign, so my steps may be different from yours, or your client may have other needs.

  • Check I have everything I need
  • Basic clean-up (uncontentious changes such as spaces, dashes, removing unwanted formatting and styles)
  • Format/add fixed article information
  • Consistency and style edit, using PerfectIt, macros and Find and Replace
  • Full text edit, plus markup for layout
  • Resolve queries with authors
  • Final text to layout template
  • Send layout proofs to authors for approval
  • Finalise and package all to client
  • Make any adjustments wanted by client
  • Check if I have anything new to add to my notes

What’s your process? Identify the steps you do each time and decide the best order.

Process tips for working on journals and series

Check you have everything when you first get sent the files. Don’t wait until you need an urgent response on a query to check you have the author’s email address, or realise when you’re about to hand off the files that you need a better version of a figure image because the one sent is too small to publish clearly.

Identify your fixed information – details that are always presented in a particular way. Make a checklist or set up a template so that you don’t forget to do this each time – it’s easy to get caught up in the main text and forget the extras. You may have to collate the information from different places, such as the article itself and a separate submission document.

In my journal, there’s a fixed way of presenting information such as the abstract, keywords, author details and declarations of interest, and a fixed order to other chunks of the main text. For example, keywords start lowercase and are separated by commas; full author names are required in the main text, not just initials (but initials are OK in reference lists); and figure and table captions appear above not below them. The authors invariably don’t write it that way, plus they add information that’s never included (such as their postnominals and phone numbers), which I delete.

Get clarity on author contact. My journal client wants me to resolve queries directly with the authors (other clients may want you to go through them, so ask). Usually I’ll fix as much as I can myself and ask only for answers that will enable me to make sensible suggestions where I’m stuck. The authors don’t usually see the edited Word file, though I occasionally send it if I’ve made substantial changes and want to check I’ve retained their meaning, especially if the author is not fluent in English. In most cases, I simply send authors a PDF of the layout proof for approval, with marked queries or comments if needed.

Stay organised – you’ll have your own preferred system but make sure you know which files are originals, which you’ve worked on, which are awaiting answers to queries and which have been approved and are ready to go. I have a tight timeline, so I need to juggle articles that are at different stages in the process. I file things in different folders, and I like to stamp my PDFs as ‘Draft’ and then as ‘Approved’ once I’ve got the author’s go-ahead. I have boilerplate text ready for my emails to authors.

Should authors be made to sound the same or is it OK to keep their different writing styles?

Yes and no. It depends. As, of course, for most types of editing. There’s no definite answer here because it depends on your client’s editorial policy and what type of publication it is. The client may be happy with, or positively encourage, different writing styles – even different versions of English and different punctuation within the same title. Or they may want you to edit so that the authors’ text is changed to conform to the organisation’s particular style or voice.

It’s common with the journals and series I work on to have authors from different countries. That’s interesting! But it also means I need to know how to deal with different writing styles, different conventions on presenting references (macros help!), different tones of voice. That means keeping working on building up my editorial judgement.

In my journal example, I often change quite a lot of what an author has written, but mostly to correct basic grammar and to make it comply with the client’s style requirements. I don’t query these changes with the author. Here are some examples:

  • spellings, hyphenation, punctuation and capitalisation (eg removing serial commas; lowercasing job titles)
  • style formats (eg removing superscript from ordinal numbers; changing format of references and citations)
  • how italic/bold/underline are used (eg bold not italic for emphasis).

I also edit for language choice – either specific language the client wants to use/avoid or language that I think is outdated or unwise. Examples are not describing people by their disease/condition and choosing more conscious options to replace sexist and racist wording. I will usually query such changes with the author, or at least flag them up at proof stage and explain why I’ve made the change.

Build in efficiency

If you’re working on a recurring publication, you’ll probably gain some natural speed and efficiency from familiarity – just by doing the steps time and again. But you can speed that up by building in efficiency from the start, and keeping it topped up.

Also, if you work for lots of different clients, as I do, all with different requirements for their documents, it can sometimes be hard to get back into that headspace at the start of a job. Is this the client who likes to capitalise job titles, or is that the other similar organisation …?

Here are some techniques I use to build editing efficiency and speed. That helps me because it makes my task easier and uses up less of my time. But it also makes me valuable to my clients, because they know they can rely on me to produce consistent work.

Checklists

Create and maintain checklists, for example to check you have all the required content, for the editing tasks you do each time, and for any additional process steps, such as getting author approval or compiling lists of queries and answers.

Project style sheet

Don’t rely on a client’s house style guide. Build your own project/client style sheet and keep updating it as you work. If the client’s house style is lengthy (as some are) you can pull out the main points into your style sheet as a quick reference point. If their house style is meagre or outdated (unfortunately quite common!) use your style sheet to start filling in the blanks and recording the latest decisions. I sometimes forget what decision I’ve made during a job, never mind a couple of months later when the next issue arrives, so I’m thankful when I’ve kept good records.

PerfectIt

As well as your own project style sheet, create a PerfectIt style sheet for that client/publication and run it before you do the full edit. It’s much easier than trying to remember all the specific style requirements yourself each time. You can build in their particular spellings, punctuation, capitalisation, and so on.

Separate passes

Use separate passes for different tasks. It’s usually more efficient and accurate to check some specific things separately than rely on dealing with every style and language point as you come across it in the full edit. It helps make sure that these elements in the text are consistent, because you’re dealing with them all in one go.

For example, do a pass to check that figure and table captions are not only there but are formatted in the correct way (eg sequential numbering; colon, stop or nothing before number?). Do similar passes to check other elements of your text that need consistent treatment: references and citations; fixed information such as abstract, keywords, author details; URLs and hyperlinks; abbreviations and acronyms.

What are the elements in your text that will benefit from separate checking?

A good mindset for working on recurring publications

  • Get organised – it will speed up your work and help you be consistent.
  • Be adaptable – similar clients/publications can have very different requirements.
  • Build in efficiency – with recurring publications, style sheets and checklists are not just useful, they’re essential.
  • Ask questions – it won’t just help you do the work in hand; you may be able to plug a hole in the client’s style guidance, identify an inconsistency in how things are being done (especially if you’re part of an editorial team) or help improve the workflow.

Learn more to help you work on journals and series

About Margaret Hunter

Margaret Hunter helps organisations and businesses write effective content and get it online or into print. You can find her at Daisy Editorial, in the CIEP Directory and 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: library by Patrick Robert Doyle on Unsplash, to do lists by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

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

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

Near! Far!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

The 2021 CIEP conference: Moving to med comms

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. Mary Hobbins reviewed Moving to med comms, presented by Alison Hillman and Liz Jennings.

What is med comms?

These hugely experienced medical editors first met at the then Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) conference in 2019 and currently work in-house for global med comms consultancies (Oxford PharmaGenesis and Lucid Group, respectively). They described how working in medical communications covers a broad range of services from publication planning, journal articles and drug monographs to commercial, marketing and training materials. Freelance opportunities include design, project management and writing as well as editing and proofreading.

What are the attractions of working in med comms?

Both agreed that this is a growing industry with an ongoing need for freelance and in-house editors. They shared a short film that gave some insight into the various in-house roles and included colleagues talking about the appeal of this area of work and what they get out of being in med comms (interesting content/ variety in subjects and project types/ high standards/ innovation/ autonomy/ part of a collaborative team/ energising environment).

Liz described some of the in-house benefits: career progression, personal development and training, good rates of pay, flexibility in working hours and opportunities to work from home (which has accelerated since the pandemic). Freelancer benefits include the interesting variety of work available, long-term collaborative relationships and being a part of producing purposeful, beneficial material (a poll they ran on current pay bands suggested that most of the participants fell into the £25–£30ph range for both editing and proofreading).

What background do you need?

Some med comms companies prefer a science degree; others are happy if you have a language or arts-based degree and/or previous scientific experience. Alison emphasised that you should be willing to work to tight deadlines, have both editing and proofreading skills and be proficient in PowerPoint. You must also be willing to undertake an editorial test, whatever your experience, and this is likely to take the form of two tasks: an editing task and either a PowerPoint reformatting and checking task or a proofreading task.

However, she stressed the most important attribute is enthusiasm!

How do you find work in this area?

The first aspect they both noted was that it doesn’t matter where you are based in the world – this might actually be helpful to meet tight deadlines! If you aim to become an in-house employee, do your research for the kind of employer that you would like to work for and approach them about available openings. Use LinkedIn to locate likely organisations to approach as well as scanning job listings on the platform. For freelance opportunities, the MedComms Workbook website lists freelancers for a subscription. If you have an entry in the CIEP Directory, make sure your qualifications and/or experience are clear so that med comms organisations can find you with keywords.

Keep up to date with what’s going on in med comms. The CIEP Medical Editing training course is well worth investing in, if you haven’t already, as this is highly regarded in the industry. You could also explore some e-learning courses on LinkedIn, Udemy, etc (some are free) and join the Facebook medical editors group. Another free source of information is the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries (ABPI) website and Code of Practice, which gives guidelines on use of language in med comms materials.

Don’t wait for potential opportunities to come to you – be proactive and make contact. Express your readiness to do an editorial test to work with your preferred clients; network and follow up any previous contacts you may have in the med comms industry.

Alison and Liz displayed two practice exercises to try (a slide and a figure) with a litany of problems to think about; they discussed some dos and don’ts of language (based on the ABPI’s Code of Practice) and rounded off their session with a thought-provoking list of some terms to watch out for and understand (eg efficacy vs effectiveness; incidence vs prevalence; seriousness vs severity).

Mary Hobbins is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP providing editorial services to commercial businesses and publishers of academic journals, professional textbooks and training materials. When not working, she often finds herself riding pillion somewhere in southern England.

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

The 2021 CIEP conference: Guiding principles for developmental fiction editing

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 12 to 14 September. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Umber Khairi reviewed Guiding principles for developmental fiction editing, presented by Sophie Playle.

‘Remember, it’s not your book!’

That was one of the important principles of developmental editing that Sophie Playle reminded us of repeatedly throughout her well-attended session at the 2021 conference.

Her presentation was useful for both experienced editors and relative newbies to fiction editing because it revisited what exactly developmental editing consists of. Sophie emphasised the need to formulate a framework of guiding principles to steer your work as a developmental editor

Before understanding what developmental editing is, one needs to understand what it is not. Sophie made this clear, reminding us that as a developmental editor you are not acting as a beta reader – a reader whose response is essentially subjective and reactive. Neither are you acting as a copyeditor; your role as a developmental editor is to help the author get the foundation and structure of the book right, rather than polishing it and adding finishing touches. Here, she used the analogy of acting as an architect or engineer rather than as a professional involved in the decorating and finishing work on a building.

Sophie shared the four guiding principles she uses as a developmental editor. She said these help to keep you focused on the nature of your role. Her four principles are:

  1. It’s not your book
  2. Define your service
  3. Be objective
  4. Understand the ‘rules’.

As she elaborated on these four points, Sophie pointed out that having clear principles in place can ‘keep things consistent and give you a clear sense of direction’…

Sophie emphasised the importance of remembering ‘It’s not your book’; it’s not the developmental editor’s job to rewrite the book. Instead, you should aim to understand the author’s goal and simply help them to make it the best book they can. This is where communication with the client is key. Sophie pointed out that it is fundamental to understand the author’s objectives – what they are trying to achieve with their book and their publishing goals (eg mainstream commercial or a family history project). Once you have understood their intent, you should make sure you are empathetic to the author’s vision; also, when you give feedback, do not be didactic or overbearing, rather ‘frame your feedback as suggestions’.

In terms of the second point – that you need to define your service – this is obviously key in any job that we, as editing professionals, take up but it is especially crucial in developmental fiction editing. Authors may be confused as to what exactly this involves and some may be under the impression that the developmental editor will magically transform the book, rather than help the author to work on pulling it all together. Sophie mentioned that you can choose how to name and define the service you are providing and what exactly it will entail. She added that the author must be made aware that you won’t be copyediting their work – the only line edits a developmental editor will make relate to the ‘bigger picture’ in terms of the book.

Her third guiding principle related to the question of objectivity and here Sophie emphasised that in developmental editing work, ‘analysis is key … tastes will vary but analysis is not opinion’. She mentioned that analysis should be rooted in theory so a developmental editor should have some knowledge of this as well.

The last principle was that a developmental fiction editor should understand the ‘rules’, that’s to say the conventions and expectations of different genres (romance fiction will have different expectations and ‘rules’ from a crime thriller, for example). She said it is true that convention can be flexible but that it is rare that authors can successfully subvert genre conventions – some do experiment but very few succeed.

There was a lively and useful Q&A session following Sophie’s presentation and quite a few participants seemed interested in the courses on developmental editing that she offers through her business, Liminal Pages with several people asking if these could count towards CIEP points for upgrading.

All in all, this was an extremely interesting and engaging session and one which provided clear and constructive guidance.

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

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Authenticity reading. Part 2: Becoming an authenticity reader

In Part 1 of this two-part series, Crystal Shelley explained what authenticity reading is and isn’t, why it’s important and how editors can help their clients by recommending it when relevant. In Part 2, she shares how professional editors can add authenticity reading to their services.

Here’s what will be discussed in this post:

  • Decisions to sort out first
  • The process of doing the job
  • Where to find clients

Offering authenticity reading as a service

If you’re passionate about assessing writing related to your identities or lived experiences, you may consider adding authenticity reading to your services. After all, many professional editors are in a prime position to do this because working with clients, assessing writing and crafting feedback are all muscles that are flexed daily. Let’s take a look at some of the key aspects to consider when deciding to become an authenticity reader.

Preliminary decisions

Before you dive right into calling yourself an authenticity reader, there are some considerations to work through first.

Topics

One of the first decisions you have to make is what topics you’ll read for. What social identities do you hold that writers might hire you to assess? What unique experiences have you had? Think about the representation you’ve read that’s made you angry because it was inaccurate or harmful based on what you know or have experienced. That might be a topic you can read for.

Training

There’s no formal training that qualifies you to become an authenticity reader. That said, resources exist to provide information on what you need to know to offer this service, such as a recorded webinar and booklet from the Editorial Freelancers Association. Before I started offering authenticity reading, I also scoured the internet for articles and discussions about it, especially from the perspectives of authenticity readers.

Pricing

As with editing, there are no set prices for authenticity reading, so you’ll have to decide what to charge. I’ve seen fees ranging from £0.004 to £0.015 per word. You won’t be making direct interventions to the text but will instead be leaving feedback, so your working pace will likely be faster than it is while editing. At the same time, consider what you’re being asked to do. There is often emotional labour involved in authenticity reading, and you may be reading text that is harmful or even traumatising.

Your limits

Know what you are and are not willing to read. Many of the topics that authenticity readers assess are related to personal identity or lived experience, and there’s a chance that the writing might include representations of hate, bias, microaggressions or past traumas. If there are certain topics you won’t read, screen potential clients for this type of content before you agree to a project. There’s nothing wrong with setting boundaries and taking care of yourself, especially when you’re often being asked to approach writing from a place of vulnerability.

Doing the job

Once you’ve worked through the preliminary decisions, you have to be prepared to do the job. Your task is to use your lived experience or expert knowledge to provide feedback to the client, but what does that actually look like? Every authenticity reader has their own process, but these are the steps I go through for each project:

Set expectations from the get-go

In Part 1 of this series on authenticity reading, I outlined several common misconceptions about authenticity reading. In the proposals I send to potential clients, I dispel these myths right away because I want the client to know what they can and should not expect from authenticity reading.

Clarify what the client wants you to focus on

Some clients will simply say that they want a general read, whereas others have specifics they’re concerned about. I always check if there are certain areas the client wants me to pay attention to, such as terminology, whether an experience is accurate, or if a character is stereotyped.

Read the manuscript

I read the entire manuscript once, and I make notes of what works well and what should be reconsidered.

Leave comments in the manuscript

As I’m reading, I also leave comments in the manuscript, as I would in an edit. I want the client to know my impressions, and I leave feedback on specific elements of the writing. I’ll write a comment if a word gets misused, if a character’s description is problematic, or if I have a positive or negative reaction to something specific.

Write a report summarising feedback

I turn the notes I took while reading through the manuscript into a report. Because I mainly work on fiction, my report is usually broken down into sections on plot, characterisation, dialogue and behaviours, cultural elements and settings, and conscious language. If I have resources to share that will reinforce my feedback, I’ll include those as well.

Answer the client’s questions and concerns

Once I deliver the marked manuscript and report, I’ll answer whatever questions or concerns the client has about my feedback. This is usually done through email, but I also do phone or video calls if requested.

Finding clients

Once you’re ready to do the job, it’s time to find clients. There are many avenues through which to reach potential clients, and these are a few ideas to try:

Business website

Add authenticity reading to your website as an offered service. Be sure to list which topic(s) you read for.

Social media

Talk about authenticity reading on social media so that your followers know that you’re offering the service. I’ve also seen tweets when indie authors or publishers are looking for readers – you never know what’ll pop up. You can also join the Binders Full of Sensitivity Readers group on Facebook. (Please note that this group is for readers of marginalised genders only.)

Directories and databases

If you’re an editor of colour, join the Editors of Color database and sign up for the job list. Add authenticity reading (or sensitivity reading) to your CIEP Directory entry so you’ll pop up when prospective clients do a keyword search.

Publishers

Many book publishers and presses hire authenticity readers and maintain databases of freelancers. Consider contacting publishers to let them know you offer this service and what topics you read for.

Final thoughts

Authenticity reading is an important and rewarding part of publishing that you may want to consider dipping your toe into. Even if editors don’t formally offer it as a separate service, we can still leave feedback for writers based on our identities and lived experiences – to help writers avoid doing unintentional harm, and to help readers see more authentic representations of themselves and their experiences in writing.

Are you interested in becoming an authenticity reader? Let us know in the comments!

 

About Crystal Shelley

Crystal Shelley is a licensed clinical social worker and the owner of Rabbit with a Red Pen, where she provides editing and authenticity reading services to fiction authors. She is the creator of the Conscious Language Toolkit for Editors and serves on the Executive Committee of ACES: The Society for Editing.

 

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: Hours of happiness by Jr Korpa; Read by Ishaq Robin, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Authenticity reading. Part 1: What editors need to know

Authenticity reading, often called sensitivity reading, is a service that all editors should know about, because it plays a valuable role in the publishing process. In the first part of this two-part series, Crystal Shelley explains what authenticity reading is and isn’t, why it’s important and how editors can help their clients by recommending it when relevant.

Here’s what this post will cover:

  • Authenticity reading at a glance
  • Topics that authenticity readers assess
  • Common misconceptions
  • The value of authenticity reading
  • Recommending this service to clients

Authenticity reading at a glance

People want to see themselves, their identities and their experiences reflected accurately in media, but too often the representation on screen or in writing is problematic. One way in which writers can craft stories or text that’s accurate, respectful and validating to those being represented is to hire authenticity readers.

Authenticity readers, commonly called sensitivity readers, evaluate the way an identity or experience is portrayed in writing. They’re usually hired when a writer is writing about topics outside their lived experiences, where it’s easy to get things wrong.

For example, an author may write a story that features a character who has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and if the author does not have OCD, then their portrayal may be inaccurate, stereotyped or harmful. They can work with an authenticity reader who has OCD to evaluate the story and characterisation, similar to how one might consult a subject-matter expert.

Topics that authenticity readers assess

Many people have the impression that authenticity reading is only used for assessing race and cultures, but there are a variety of topics that can be reviewed:

  • Social identities, such as race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, spirituality, disability, body size, socioeconomic status and neurodiversity. Authenticity reading is especially important when evaluating marginalised groups.
  • Experiences that are difficult to capture without having gone through them first-hand, such as being a family caregiver, going through the adoption process or working as a sex worker.
  • Subcultures that often require in-group knowledge to portray convincingly, such as military, gaming or fandom culture.

Common misconceptions

Those unfamiliar with authenticity reading often misunderstand what it is and what its intent is. Here are just a few of the common misconceptions I see:

Misconception #1: Authenticity readers seek to censor writers

This is by far the most widespread and damaging criticism of the service, and it’s also untrue. Authenticity readers provide feedback on representation, which allows writers to make informed decisions on how to proceed. A reader may recommend that the writer seriously reconsider elements of their story – or not tell it at all – but that’s out of concern for the harm that may result from the writing. Ultimately, writers aren’t forced to make a change, no matter how egregious their portrayals may be.

Misconception #2: One reader can represent everyone within a demographic

An authenticity reader can only critique based on their own opinions and experiences, and they do not act as a spokesperson for an entire group.

Misconception #3: Authenticity reading can serve as a shield from criticism

Some writers hire an authenticity reader in the belief that their work will become immune to negative reviews or publicity, which is not how it works. First, as mentioned, an authenticity reader does not represent everyone, so they can’t guarantee that another person won’t take issue with what’s written. Second, the writer doesn’t have to do anything with the authenticity reader’s feedback, so just because an authenticity reader has worked on a project doesn’t mean they approve of its contents. Writers should hire authenticity readers because they want to write respectful, accurate representation – not because they want a pass.

Misconception #4: Authenticity reading is used only for fiction

Authenticity reading can be useful for any type of writing, not just for fiction. Whenever a writer is writing about topics or experiences outside what they know, especially those that should be handled with nuance or sensitivity, an authenticity read may be beneficial. I’ve read textbook passages and non-fiction guides as an authenticity reader.

The value of authenticity reading

Developmental editing, copyediting, proofreading, formatting, indexing – all of these have their place in the publishing process. While they each serve a different function, they all work towards the same goal: giving readers the best experience possible. Authenticity reading also plays its part, and these are only a few reasons why it’s a valuable service:

When writers write outside what they know, there’s room for error

And when those errors result in misrepresenting, stereotyping or erasing the identities and experiences of communities – especially those that are marginalised – harm can result. Authenticity readers can help minimise that harm.

Research can only go so far

Even if writers do their due diligence by seeking resources to help them understand the unfamiliar, they may not be able to capture it accurately or authentically. Authenticity readers can help fill in writers’ knowledge-gaps and strengthen the work.

Harmful representation can lead to damaging consequences for writers

When representation is poor or harmful, readers might leave negative reviews, critics might blast writers on social media or publishers might cancel contracts. These can all lead to financial losses for writers. Authenticity readers can help writers avoid the mistakes that lead to outcry before publishing.

Recommending this service to clients

Editors are educators who talk with clients about various stages in the publishing process, such as developmental editing, proofreading, indexing and book design. Authenticity reading is a service that editors can talk with clients about too.

We are usually among the first people to read a piece of writing, so we’re often asked for our impressions of the text or the story. If we’re working on a project that we think may benefit from an authenticity read, we can check with the client about whether they plan to work with someone who has first-hand experience of the topics being covered.

If you want to recommend that a client hire an authenticity reader, here are a few options you can suggest for their search:

Wrapping up

Authenticity reading has been around for many years, and it’s only now becoming more understood – and used – as editors, writers and publishers witness the harm that can be done by inauthentic or problematic representation. Editors who recognise the value of this service and who know how to talk to clients about it can be part of the process of doing good. In part 2, I share what you need to know to become an authenticity reader.

About Crystal Shelley

Crystal Shelley is a licensed clinical social worker and the owner of Rabbit with a Red Pen, where she provides editing and authenticity reading services to fiction authors. She is the creator of the Conscious Language Toolkit for Editors and serves on the Executive Committee of ACES: The Society for Editing.

 

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: waves by Joshua Oluwagbemiga; book shelves by CHUTTERSNAP, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

How to attract new clients by diversifying your editorial skills

Can you get more business by extending your offer beyond core proofreading and editing skills? Margaret Hunter knows this works, and she suggests ways to develop your own diversification plan.

Here’s what I’ll be looking at in this article:

  • Why some clients like working with multi-taskers
  • What sorts of skills and knowhow add value for clients
  • Working out what you can add to your business offer
  • How to use this to diversify your client base and grow your business

Why some clients like working with multi-taskers

They don’t want to be involved in the minutiae

I have two main types of clients who value that I can do more than ‘just’ edit for them: businesses/organisations and independent author-publishers. They don’t know all the ins and outs of the traditional publishing workflow – and they don’t particularly want to (or have the time to) manage different people doing the different tasks required. They want someone to trust that they can hand over their raw text to who will do what it takes to make it publishable.

It’s efficient and cost-effective

We’ve come a long way from the inefficiencies of paper-based editing, and content collaboration tools are evolving all the time. Why pay a graphic designer to rekey the amendments that the client has already paid a proofreader to mark up on a PDF if the proofreader could make the changes direct in the first place? If draft text doesn’t fit the page layout, the copyeditor is usually the best person to suggest a solution, so why not save time and money by giving an editor with the right skills access to the design file, rather than toing and froing with the designer?

But don’t take my word for it

Here’s what one of my clients says about why using a professional with multiple skills is an attractive offering for her.

Working with editors who are able to put documents into InDesign layouts as well as editing the content makes my life so much easier. Knowing that I can hand over this additional element means that one person can support a project from end to end. Familiarity with the copy means that editors can make informed decisions about layouts or provide advice working within branded InDesign templates to make sure that formatting and content work together.

Skills and knowhow that add value for clients

Clearly, what you can offer in the value-added line depends on both you and your client. You have to actually have the additional skills or knowhow and your client has to want them. That may mean doing some research on what your target clients publish and how they go about it. You could of course start by asking your existing clients whether there is anything else you could do for them to make the process more efficient.

Many businesses in particular already have streamlined content publishing processes that work for them, and asking your client to explain how they work may reveal somewhere else that you can get involved. On the other hand, some clients may be stuck using a process that would benefit from some fresh thinking or a different approach, so why not suggest one?

We editorial types know that publishing a text is not a simple, straight line from author to output, but a web of many ultimately ‘invisible’ tasks. If you can offer a number of those tasks, that makes you a better prospect for clients who are looking for the least complicated way to outsource their project.

What can you add to your business offer?

For me, my main value-added offerings are my skills in and knowledge of design, layout and formatting. I have secured some regular clients because they were specifically looking for experienced copyeditors who also knew their way around InDesign and could therefore be trusted to work directly in the layout files. In some cases they have already used another professional to set up their templates, leaving me free to ensure an efficient process by editing in Word then doing the final layout in the client’s template.

I also work with authors who are publishing independently. Typically this might be someone writing content to promote their business. They know their topic, but they may not have much idea of how to write about it or how to get it published well. Here again what’s attractive is that I can offer them more than one part of the process. I’ll edit the words, but I’ll also steer them through other aspects of the publishing process so they end up with the files they need to publish a professional book or document and an understanding of the ancillary tasks they need to do or manage. Possibly the most valuable thing I offer these clients is peace of mind that they’ll not be embarrassed by doing things in an unprofessional way.

I’ve developed my skills (and confidence) over the years so that I understand when to offer more than strict editing of what a client has written or to suggest something different from what they’ve asked for. That might be rewriting the bare bones of a text into a better voice for the intended readers, or suggesting a layout that breaks the information down into user-friendly chunks.

When you’re not familiar with the publishing process, you’re unsure of who does what, you don’t know where to look for help and you’re not entirely sure what your text needs anyway, having someone make sensible suggestions for the specifics of your project is immensely valuable.

What, then, could you offer? Perhaps you have experience of getting permissions for quoted works, or you’re skilled at writing marketing copy, or you were a graphic designer so can supply quality images. Or maybe you know a great book cover designer, ebook formatter or copyright lawyer and you could team up to offer a package service. Think sideways.

Diversify your client base, diversify your skills

To help you identify the added-value services you can offer, first have a think about your client base (or aspirations). It seems from what I read regularly on the CIEP forums that many people entering our profession (and some who have been around for a long time) are thinking too small. They associate editing and proofreading with publishers, with books.

If you shift your mindset and start from the base that anyone who writes words for public or organisational consumption (in any format) might need editorial support, the potential client world is your oyster. Of course, as with any oyster, you may have to work hard to find your pearl.

Once you start thinking outside the box about who your clients might be, then you are free to explore what they actually need and what bits of that you can do for them.

But start on solid ground

Before you get too far into diversification, check that your starting point is a solid one. If you’re offering any sort of editorial services professionally, make sure you’ve got a good grounding in the core skills of copyediting and/or proofreading, and have a plan in place to keep your skills up to date through regular continuing professional development (CPD). It’s not enough to have an interest in words and language, a degree in English Literature or be the go-to person in your office for spotting typos.

Think like an electrician or an accountant, or anyone else preparing to offer a trade service, and get the right training to justify taking people’s money and assure them you’re providing a professional service. That’s probably not going to be from a quick one-off course that offers you an easy route to a ‘qualification’ (who’s judging?) with the promise of earning loads of money working from home. It takes grind and reliable study material.

Even if you think you’ll never work with clients in the traditional publishing industry (I’m talking mainly books here), it will still serve you well to learn the basics of long-honed publishing practice and the art of editing from a solid course.

But if you’ve not completed your core skills training yet, you don’t have to wait until you’re finished to start thinking about how you can supplement your core skills and add value to the services you offer.

So, what’s your added value?

It’s over to you now to start thinking (and planning and learning). As with all good marketing approaches, start with your clients, not you. What tasks do they need done? Can you do them, or learn to?

If you’re stuck for ideas, why not take a look at the CIEP’s Curriculum for Professional Development? There are enough areas for CPD there to last an editorial lifetime. Perhaps one of those could turn out to be that special thing that makes you the go-to editorial professional for the added value you bring to a project.

About Margaret Hunter

Margaret Hunter has been diversifying her editorial services business since 2003 and trades as Daisy Editorial. She is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP and at the time of writing is the CIEP’s information director.

 

 

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: colourful flowers by Henry Lorenzatto; lightbulb by Riccardo Annandale,
both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

I want to self-publish my business book. Why should I use an editor?

Should you use an editor before self-publishing your business book? Helen Jones explains how an editor can help get your book in better shape before you publish.

Here are the things an editor will look at:

  • Spelling, grammar and other details
  • Who is your reader?
  • Getting the facts right
  • Taking an overview
  • Keeping it simple
  • The self-publishing process

Spelling, grammar and other details

Writers often tell me, ‘I’ve run it through spellchecker.’ Spellcheckers in computer programmes such as Word have their place, especially if spelling is not your strong point, but they won’t pick up everything. Mine was blissfully ignorant, for instance, of the errors shown in the three cartoons below!

An editor will pick up on embarrassing typos like these, as well as words that are commonly used in the wrong context, eg alternate/alternative, complement/compliment and continual/continuous.

As well as checking the spelling, editors will look at:

  • Grammar – this covers everything from the tenses of verbs to deciding if a noun is singular or plural.
  • Sentence construction – for instance, changing passive sentences to active ones, reordering confusing sentences or cutting down long ones.
  • Punctuation – common errors include using a comma rather than a semicolon to join two clauses and putting apostrophes in the wrong place.
  • Consistency – in-house editors adopt the publisher’s house style but there’s no reason why your editor can’t create one for your book. House style covers things like variant spellings, eg learnt or learned, and whether to use text or figures for numbers. These are subtle differences but, when applied overall, they will make your book look more professional.

Who is your reader?

Sending your manuscript to friends or relatives is a good place to start, because you get a feel for people’s reactions to your book. However, because they know you, they are likely to be very flattering rather than look at it objectively.

An editor, on the other hand will:

  • Ask: Who is going to read this? Is the language level right for this readership? For instance, Ten Easy Steps to Growing your Business would be different in style from Advanced Business Strategies.
  • Check for unnecessary or confusing jargon and that the author has explained any technical terms.
  • Make suggestions on how to improve it.

Getting the facts right

No matter how many times you’ve read through your manuscript, there will always be things you miss.

An editor will act as a fresh pair of eyes and will check for the following:

  • Inconsistencies in information – for example do charts, graphs and diagrams tally up with what it says in the text?
  • Incorrect facts and figures or ambiguous statements.
  • Whether references are in a logical order (usually alphabetical).
  • Has the writer got permission, where necessary, to quote from other sources? Ideally, this needs to happen at an early stage, otherwise their book may be delayed.

Taking an overview

New writers can sometimes get so involved in the detail they forget to consider their book as a whole. As we’ve already pointed out, editors will check the detail. But they will also take an overview and consider the following:

  • Are the chapters in a logical order?
  • Does the book have a clear beginning, middle and end?
  • Is there a central theme that runs throughout the book and, if not, would it be strengthened by having one?
  • Is there anything missing that needs adding?
  • Is there anything that is irrelevant that needs taking out?

Keeping it simple

We can all wax lyrical when we get enthusiastic about our subject. And let’s face it, we want the reader to catch your enthusiasm! However, repetition, going off at a tangent, and long words and sentences can be off-putting.

Many CIEP members are experts in plain English, which essentially helps your reader to understand and apply what they have read. The International Plain Language Federation describes it like this:

A communication is in plain language if its wording, structure and design are so clear that the intended audience can easily find what they need, understand what they find, and use that information.

For more on plain English, go to iplfederation.org/plain-language.

The self-publishing process

Self-publishing can be a bit daunting for the novice. But getting some handy tips from someone who understands the process will go a long way towards making things easier for you.

An editor who has worked with self-published authors can help you answer the following questions:

  • Should I have printed copies or an ebook, or both?
  • Should my ebook be reflowable or fixed layout?
  • What’s the difference between publishing with Amazon KPD or another
    self-publishing provider?
  • Should I use a typesetter or will the Word file I’ve created be adequate?
  • Where can I get an ISBN and barcode?
  • What should I include in my prelim pages?

Wrapping up: How an editor can contribute to your book

An editor will:

  • Take an overview as well as checking the details.
  • Help you with checking the facts and ensure the language style is right for the audience.
  • Offer advice on the self-publishing process.

Overall, an editor can add that professional touch that will increase the chances of your book being a success.

So, what are you waiting for? To find a suitable editor for your business book,
go to ciep.uk/directory.

About Helen Jones

Helen Jones started her career in publishing setting ads for a crane magazine. Among other things, she now proofreads bids for lift contractors. She hopes this means she’s gone up in the world. Highlights of her career include interviewing Quentin Blake, writing children’s picture books and helping self-published authors get their books in print.

 

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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Cartoons copyright ©Helen Jones

Photo credit: open book by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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