Category Archives: Working practices

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.

Preparing text for typesetters and designers

What’s the difference between a typesetter and a designer, and why does it matter? How should copyeditors prepare text for typesetting? In this post, Rich Cutler gives us a brief introduction to the world of typesetting and design.

The first thing to realise is that copyediting is a game of two halves: editing the content (language, style, fact-checking, consistency …) and preparing the copy for the publication process. Although modern copyediting has changed significantly this century, the latter task (copy preparation) remains vital for most published texts.

Second, copyeditors need to know that a typesetter and a designer are different beasts: ‘typesetter’ and ‘designer’ are not synonyms, though some designers can typeset, and some typesetters can design. The copyeditor should ask their client whether the copy will be going to a designer or a typesetter.

It helps to know the background and evolution of typesetting and design when preparing copy. The two professions are often lumped together but in actuality are very distinct and require different approaches by copyeditors.

A brief history of typesetting

The origins of typesetting lie in printing. Gutenberg’s printing press revolutionised book making in the 15th century by its use of movable and replaceable metal type, which allowed books for the first time to be made quickly and as multiple copies – previously, books were mostly painstakingly handwritten. Early printing houses employed people who arranged or ‘set’ these individual metal characters as words, lines, paragraphs and, finally, pages, ready to print on sheets of paper: these were compositors, later called typesetters.

Typesetting centres on two key principles: aesthetics and readability. A typesetter will arrange text and displayed material (such as illustrations and tables) on a page so that the eye is led naturally from one idea to the next, making sure that the context is conveyed at a glance through careful placement of the elements on a page (eg headings and line and paragraph breaks).

Typesetters are problem-solvers. The ideal layout is not always possible – the perfect placement of, say, an illustration in relation to the design and the sense of the text may result in unacceptable positioning of subsequent material – so compromises are needed to achieve a balance between readability and aesthetics. Authors, clients and proofreaders may grumble about the less-than-ideal location of a figure, but an experienced typesetter will have sound reasons for its placement.

Typesetting has always been a highly technical profession. During Gutenberg’s time and into the 20th century, pages were composed as mirror images of the printed pages by placing metal type with reversed characters in backwards order into a frame. Hot metal typesetting was replaced by a photographic technique – phototypesetting – in the mid-20th century, and a record of the text composed by the typesetter was stored as perforated paper tape. Typesetters were so skilful that they could interpret the patterns of punched holes in the tape as typographical characters and layout. Phototypesetting machines in the 1970s replaced this paper record with magnetic tape, but were yet to have screens allowing the typesetter to see what they were composing.

Preparing copy for a typesetter

Today, typesetting, like many professions, is done using computers and specialist typesetting software costing several thousands of pounds (the best known being Arbortext). The historically highly technical nature of typesetting is visible in Arbortext and its ilk, which focus on showing the operator the content of a page on screen rather than its actual appearance (see the screenshot) – headings, paragraphs, lists, etc, have arbitrary styles that simply differentiate these items from each other and bear no relationship to how they will appear in print (not unlike Microsoft Word in the early 1980s – before Windows existed!). All text items are assigned tags in a computer language (typically XML) that defines what the elements are – and a master definition file dictates what should be done with these elements, such as their appearance in print and online (which may differ), and whether certain elements are to be hidden in some versions (eg for particular markets).

Typesetters are therefore very computer literate, and are familiar with Microsoft Word, computer code, styles, tags, macros and so on.

So, if a copyeditor provides a typesetter with tagged text, a Word file using styles or even a Word file using local formatting rather than styles, the typesetter should have no difficulty producing proofs with the required layout and appearance.

If the copyeditor wants to make the typesetter very happy – and to reduce proof errors – the copyeditor should

  • remove all unwanted formatting and styles that have been applied to the text
  • use a tagging or styles scheme only (or perhaps a combination) to indicate appearance
  • provide a key to their scheme.

Additionally, the copyeditor should flag anything out of the ordinary or requiring a specific layout or appearance (unusual characters, alignment and indents in, say, a poem, illustrations that must appear together, etc). Using local formatting to indicate the appearance and layout of text for typesetting is not ideal because this unsystematic approach can be ambiguous and unclear.

How designers differ from typesetters

Adobe InDesign hasn’t yet been mentioned. It is a graphic design program, not a typesetting program. Although it can be used for typesetting, it is slow and inefficient compared with dedicated typesetting software like Arbortext. InDesign is aimed primarily at graphic designers: in particular, a breed of designer that appeared alongside phototypesetting.

A phototypesetting machine produced photographic paper with an image of text. This could be an entire laid-out page, which was used to make a printing plate. However, the pages of complex publications like magazines or newspapers were easier to create by typesetting blocks of unlaid text, cutting up this text and gluing it (along with illustrations) to a sheet of card. These hand-made pages were then sent to the printer. Graphic designers who did this job were called paste-up artists: they were skilled designers, but did not have the technical focus on type that defined typesetters.

The widespread adoption of computers in the 1980s led to the appearance of desktop publishing (DTP) software aimed at graphic designers working in publishing. DTP software was affordable and easy to use compared with typesetting software, and allowed designers to typeset publications themselves for the first time. The best-known DTP program today is Adobe InDesign.

DTP changed commercial typesetting forever – and divided typesetters into camps:

  • those whose lineage is printing
  • those with a graphic design background.

To better understand how designers approach page layout compared with typesetters, we need to know a bit about DTP programs: they are the digital equivalent of paste-up – text and illustrations are placed in frames, which can be resized and moved about a page; also, a page will print exactly the same as it appears on screen (not unlike today’s Microsoft Word). A designer’s focus is primarily on aesthetics and appearance, and not so much on the structure and function of text like a typesetter. Most designers therefore have a less technical approach to typesetting, and may not use or understand tags or Word styles – many prefer to copy and paste text into InDesign, to deliberately lose all styles and formatting, then manually reapply styles and formatting in InDesign.

All typesetters work in a similar way, but the same cannot be said for designers: the copyeditor needs to find out how the designer wants text prepared. Some designers may be happy with a tagging or styles scheme, others prefer to copy and paste and then manually apply formatting. Some designers doing the latter may be efficient at spotting and transferring formatting, others may be more hit and miss, so highlighting formatting such as italics and superscripts for them can help.

About Rich Cutler

Rich Cutler began in publishing as a desk editor for STM publishers – first at Pergamon Press, then Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. He later became a freelancer and co-owner of Helius – a business that has been providing bespoke services to publishers for three decades, including development editing, copyediting, proofreading, project management, illustration, graphic design and typesetting. Rich is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. He is also an occasional lexicographer, and helped to write the Collins English Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionary for Scientific Writers and Editors.

 

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: letters by Jirreaux, printing press by Mari77, both on Pixabay, Arbortext by Rich Cutler.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Wise owls: what are your views on sample edits?

We asked our parliament of wise owls, all Advanced Professional Members, to tell us their views on doing sample edits.

Hazel Bird

For me, a sample edit is often an indispensable part of the negotiation process with a potential new client. It helps me to better understand what the client is looking for from an editor and more accurately estimate how long a project might take. And it gives the client a feel for my editing style and allows them to ask questions about what I do and why.

This applies regardless of whether the client wants a light edit or one at the heavier or developmental end of the scale. No two editors will edit the same piece in the same way, and definitions of ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ vary. A sample edit cuts through these potential ambiguities and misunderstandings by laying examples of the actual proposed changes bare for both parties to see.

Another crucial benefit is that a sample edit allows me to gently show the client if I identify issues in their text that they haven’t foreseen. While I’m always clearly focused on exactly what the client wants for their text, I also keep in mind that they’re considering hiring me as an editorial expert, so I might see ways to enhance their text that they haven’t anticipated. A sample edit is a great forum for those kinds of discussions.

My policy on sample edits is quite specific, however. I offer free sample edits of up to 1,000 words with no obligation to the client. But I tend to offer the sample after an initial discussion of the project, when I’ve had a chance to assess whether my working style is likely to mesh with theirs. So, for me a sample edit is a way for the client to get a deeper idea of what I can offer and for me to refine my understanding of what they need – it isn’t the first stage of the process. This seems to work well, so I’m happy that my samples deliver a good return on investment for me while building my potential clients’ all-important trust in the service I can offer them.

Jacqueline Harvey

If an enquiry about a copyediting project looks interesting, I will discuss with the potential client the kind of edit they are looking for and then do a sample edit on part of the text, usually a representative section from the middle. It helps me get a feel for the writing and alerts me to issues that we might need to sort out before the work begins. It also gives me a rough idea of how long the project might take to edit as a basis for my estimate. Perhaps more importantly, a sample edit also gives the enquirer an idea of the kind of edits I would make and the queries I might raise.

Only on one occasion was I paid for a sample edit. A potential client, with whom I had discussed their project, sent a chapter and a style sheet of sorts, and asked me to edit what I could in two hours. They wanted to see what each of the two or three editors from whom they’d requested a sample would do to improve their book. (I did get the contract, so it worked out well for me.)

Michael FaulknerMichael Faulkner

I’ve always done free sample edits, although these days 80% of my work is for repeat clients so there’s no need.

With a new client, if the job looks like it might be for me I invariably explain how a sample edit will:

  • give me an idea of the word rate (per hour) that I can manage and therefore how much to quote;
  • tell me whether the job really is for me; and
  • give the client a feel for whether I am a good fit from their point of view.

I don’t charge for the sample, and generally I’ll do a treatment on 1,000+ words.

I always make sure to mention, before asking for a sample, that there are any number of reasons the job might not be for me, so that the client is not offended if I end up passing.

One piece of advice. Having returned a sample, unless you are pretty sure you’re on the same page as the client, it’s worth getting fairly specific feedback as to how many changes/corrections, if any, they are likely to reject or question. If it’s more than one or two in the sample, be aware that you’ll end up spending unplanned-for time batting things to and fro during the edit proper, and simply quote accordingly. If it’s lots, then unless you’re in the early stages of your editing career, consider passing on the job – sometimes a writer is so wedded to the text that even sound edits will be rejected and the whole job will test your sanity. This doesn’t really apply if you’re relatively inexperienced, when rejected edits and lots of questions can be an opportunity to hone your skills!

Liz Dalby

I don’t have a one-size-fits-all policy when it comes to sample edits. They’re not something I routinely offer, but I will sometimes do one for a prospective client if the size of the project warrants it. Pitching for projects always involves some investment of time and a little risk, and I see this as an extension of that. However, I wouldn’t edit more than about 1,000 words, in that case. I don’t charge for the sample edit in this scenario, but usually the client goes on to commission me for the whole project so it tends to work out well.

Sometimes a client will ask for a sample edit after I’ve been commissioned, and this is usually a really good idea. It can help to set the author’s mind at rest about what a copyedit will entail, for example if they’ve had a difficult experience of being edited in the past. I can also gather feedback about how best to approach aspects of the work. In this case there is no risk that the project won’t go ahead (unless I were to do a horrendous job!), but it can still take extra time if there is subsequent discussion over the level of editing, which should be accounted for within the budget.

Sue Browning

I have offered free sample edits for book-length projects since I started out 17 years ago. I review this every so often, as I do most of my business practices, but I’ve never found a good reason to change.

I ask the potential client to send a few pages from the middle. I glance through those pages to get an overall feel for the work, and choose a place to start where I think I can show what I can do for them. Then I set a timer for 20 minutes and edit away. I stop when the timer pings (at the end of a paragraph!) and count how many words I’ve edited. I multiply this by three to get an approximate number of words per hour on which to base my project quote. I don’t charge for that because it only takes about half an hour in total and lays the groundwork for what we can expect from each other, which is valuable in building trust.

I’m talking here about book-length projects, where half an hour is small in comparison to the total time and the value of setting clear expectations from the outset. For shorter pieces – a journal paper for an academic, for instance – I ask only for the word count, then estimate a fee based on experience and my large database of similar work. The scope of editing required on an academic paper is more defined, there’s less chance it will spiral beyond expectations, and the consequences are less serious if it does, so a sample is both more burdensome and less useful. And most of my new academic clients come from referrals so there’s already an element of trust there.

Sue Littleford

Most of my work is for publishers, so sample edits aren’t often part of the landscape. On the few occasions I’ve decided to do them, it’s often for my own purposes, to produce a quote, rather than to show the prospective client what I can do.

I once did a sample specifically for the prospective client (copyediting around 1,000 words, suggesting larger-scale fixes to extrapolate throughout the book). He instantly set red flags a-flying, asserting that I should have rewritten the sample for him, and that anything less than a rewrite was a proofread.

This shows the importance of establishing what the author wants to happen to the text – without that sample, the problems would have been legion. I sent him to the Directory to look for developmental editors.

It also shows the importance of having some kind of conversation with a prospective client rather than just accepting a job sight-unseen, or with minimal to-and-fro, especially from inexperienced authors.

I’ve never yet charged for a sample edit. For pricing purposes, I ask for a chunk from the middle (probably less polished) and a sample of references and notes, so I can see what the status of the text is; I may do a timed copyedit of 1,000 words of the middle bit of the text to get a feel for the pricing. The last time I did a sample (for a new publisher client), I got the whole manuscript, and picked a 1,000-word chunk at random for myself, happily catching a major blooper – Sherlock Holmes is a Mr, not an Inspector! I sent that bit back – and we agreed the deal.

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: owl by Nicolette Leonie Villavicencio  on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Flying Solo: The business of editing references

In her latest Flying Solo post, Sue Littleford discusses how to edit references more efficiently (and more profitably).

When I’m copyediting, the references can take longer than the main text. There’s a lot involved and the scope of work can be quite broad – I’m often required to complete or correct inadequate references, as well as attend to all the styling issues. And on pre-edited files, there are a lot of styling issues!

So it’s clear that editing references can depress your words-per-hour rates, and a bad biblio can absorb almost the whole time or money budget just by itself. And that then depresses you!

So what can you do to avoid being out of pocket?

I recommend a two-pronged approach:

  1. being as efficient in your workflow and practices as you can, to keep your hourly rate nearer to where you want it to be, and
  2. pricing correctly for references in the first place.

If you’re not confident with references, you should take a look at the CIEP’s References course, of course!

So here are my ten top tips to make editing references more profitable.

Curtail the time you spend on them with good workflow habits

1. Be sure you know the referencing style that’s to be used

Refresh your memory even if it’s one you’re familiar with – we have to skip between different styles so often, it’s easy to start using the wrong one. I edit both books and journals for one university press, and the style for references is different for each. So I always look it up and make sure my head’s in the right place before I start.

2. Edit the references first

It eases you into the job, and then you know when you’re checking the citations that the dates, page ranges, author order and spellings you have in the refs list itself are the right ones. If you do references last, then you can find yourself backtracking over the text to correct those things, and that’s wasteful of your time.

3. Consider editing the citations next, in one go

I find this one depends on the editor and the nature of the job. I know some editors who swear this is the way to go, and others (I’m in this second camp) that check them off as they work through the text, so they are edited in context. And we all know how important context is!

Suppose you have two references: Smith and Patel 2018a and 2018b. You can see from the article titles that 2018a is about topic X and the second is clearly about topic Y. If you edit the citations out of context, you may find that the details are fine and match up. Big tick. But editing in context means that you may want to query whether 2018b was meant where 2018a was given.

However, in a law book, the footnotes may just be references to legislation and court cases, and it may be more efficient to edit those together for style and to check them off against any tables of cases and legislation the book contains. Like I said, context matters.

4. Print out the references list once you’ve edited it

I know, I know, we’re discouraged from printing when we don’t need to (I hope you’re using paper from sustainable sources, anyway, and printing double sided if you have a duplex printer). I know you can have a split screen with the references scrolling at the bottom and the text at the top.

I’ve tried all that, and I can say that – for me – having the printed references is the quickest way – especially when I’m working with pre-edited files and I don’t have the luxury of covering the references with highlighter as I mark them off. You could, I guess, have a copy of the references in a separate file, and then highlight to your heart’s content, but now it’s getting a bit messy and open to error. Errors are bad – and take up time to make and to resolve.

Highlighter pens

For author–date referencing, I tick off each reference as it’s used. For a back-of-the-book bibliography, I also note the chapter number that it’s been used in. That can be handy information later, if you’re trying to resolve problems.

For short-title referencing, I tick off each reference as it’s used. But now I definitely mark which chapter it’s been cited in, because most of the short-title jobs I have require the bibliographical detail to be given in full at first use in each chapter. I also underline the words I’m using for the short title. That way I can be sure that short or full titles are given in the correct place, and that the form of short titles is consistent throughout.

I can also jot notes to myself if I spot a missing closing quotation mark, or a reference out of its alphabetic position, or what have you, as I mark off the references as they’re used, then I make those corrections all in one go instead of dodging back and forth between text and reference.

5. Limit your fact-checking

Ensure you’re conscious of the requirements of the brief. For theses and dissertations, it may be completely hands-off for references, so don’t even start trying to fix the content, even if you’re allowed to edit for style.

Some publisher briefs will say to check all the content and find missing details, correct errors and so on, and to check links are working and go to the right thing.

Others will just want you to look at the styling. Obey the brief – don’t feel obliged to go beyond it. You’re not being paid for that work!

If you have a brief that says to correct the content of each reference, then still beware rabbit holes! We tell ourselves it’s faster to look up something ourselves than to raise an author query (AQ). That’s true, very often. But if you find yourself going to three or more sources to try to verify the details, or you’re spending more than, say, five minutes on a particularly recalcitrant reference, then know when to stop. Raise the AQ and move on to the next reference.

6. Be aware what macros might do for you

In his macros book, Paul Beverley has macros that will look up phrases on Google for you, or check places on a map or open Google Translate (GoogleFetch, MapFetch and GoogleTranslate). Try them out and see if they suit the way you work.

Get paid for the work: Pricing and time estimation

7. Know how long it takes you to edit a reference

I’m serious – don’t be put off by knowing the range is anything from 15 seconds to 15 minutes or even longer. Log your time separately for references and for running text (and for tables, while you’re at it). Note the time, and how many references you dealt with (and at what depth of intervention: style only, looking things up, supplying additional details, finding replacements for broken links). Do this for a few jobs, then analyse your figures and see what your longer-term averages are. Then repeat the exercise in a year and see if you’ve got faster!

8. Know how many references are in the job before giving a price

Now you know how many references you can do in an hour, hour in, hour out, when you’re pricing a job, you can ask for the number of references, as well as what the client wants you to do with them, on top of the word count for the rest of the text and so on.

You can calculate a per-reference price separately on top of the editing of the running text, or a time-based price, depending on your circumstances and preferences.

An alarm clock

Bonus tips!

9. Know how to handle oddities, and make notes so you don’t keep reinventing the wheel

Epigraphs? Tweets? Do you know how to handle those? The first time you encounter them, make a note (I use the notes function in MS Outlook – nothing fancy, but always findable).

Some people will tell you an epigraph doesn’t need a reference. Well, that’s not so true. Epigraphs are excluded from fair use, for instance, so it’s probably a very good idea to reference them properly.

By all means, don’t clutter the epigraph source line – name, or name and source book is probably going to be fine, but do have the information findable in the references list. Some epigraphs benefit from having the original year of publication appended, if the author is using them to demonstrate how long some ideas have been knocking around.

Well-known quotations can probably do without a reference in some publications, but not in others. If you’re working on a text that is going to omit references for them, it’s still worth checking that the quotation was actually produced by the person it’s attributed to – a lot of them have the wrong name attached.

Protect your author, even if you don’t produce full bibliographical details. Why? I once found that a plausible quotation attributed to Gladstone in fact came from the scriptwriters for the movie Khartoum. That was a rabbit hole worth diving into! Oh, and as Churchill famously didn’t write, ‘That is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I shall not put.’

Famous quotations can be infamous misquotations.

Tweets and other social media ephemera can be a challenge, so know where you’re likely to find good advice. APA, CMOS, MLA, New Hart’s Rules and others all have sections on the unusual kinds of things you may need to style (or find) a reference for.

If the style guide you’re working to omits them, there’s quite often a statement in the style guide that says which of the major published style manuals underpins the client’s own, or you can use the one that’s the closest match to the rest of the styling.

10. Stay up to date

As colleague Ayshea Wild observed to me recently, ‘It’s one of those areas where CPD is so important – citation formats are shifting all the time.’ That’s self-evident, given that we’re on APA7, CMOS17, MLA9 and so on, but it’s frequently overlooked – and house style guides also morph over time, so do be sure you have the latest version when you start each job.

So there we are: ten top tips to help prevent reference lists running away with you, and to help you be paid properly for working on them. If you have a tip you’d like to add, pop it in the comments!


Want to learn more about how to deal with references?

Check out the CIEP’s References course here.

About Sue Littleford

Sue Littleford is the author of the CIEP guide Going Solo, now in its second edition. She went solo with her own freelance copyediting business, Apt Words, in March 2007 and specialises in scholarly humanities and social sciences.

 

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 Hermann, highlighters by jakob5200, alarm clock by Alexas_Fotos, all on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Editing outside your experience

The Radical Copyeditor, Alex Kapitan, recently spoke to PEN, the Professional Editors Network, members and guests about how to be a radical copyeditor when editing language that describes the experiences of those outside our own life experiences. Nicholas Taylor shares his takeaways from the event.

The Radical Copyeditor’s seven principles for editing text

The Radical Copyeditor, Alex Kapitan, spoke to PEN, the Professional Editors Network, members and guests about how to be a radical copyeditor when editing language that describes the experiences of those outside of our own life experiences.

Whether it’s race, sexuality, gender, disability, religion or faith, socio-economic background or any of the other many ways we describe ourselves, as editors, we are going to come across texts that describe people who don’t share the same backgrounds and experiences as ourselves. As editors, we are going to come across language that describes those experiences and we need to edit that with sensitivity and awareness.

Being an editor is not about sticking to a set of arbitrary rules, Alex reminds us. It is about being sensitive to language that describes people and affirms their lives and backgrounds, being aware of the rules, where they came from and figuring out which ones to apply, in context. As editorial professionals, we should be considering who those rules serve, where they came from and their impact on marginalised communities. As we know, language is always evolving and as professionals, we should be aware of changes in usage, terminology and trends.

Alex told us about the effects of an author’s choice of words. Language has the ability to:

  • dehumanise,
  • pathologise and
  • invisibilise.

Dehumanising language causes people to look the other way when its targets are suffering, completely othering groups and erasing their voices from the conversation.

Pathologising language stigmatises people who have different experiences. The language used can make people feel that they are ‘wrong’ simply for having those backgrounds or lives and that their lives need to be fixed.

Invisibilising language takes the experiences of people, whether through appropriation or erasure, communicating the idea that a group of people no longer exist. All three of these are particularly problematic and are something that editors should be looking out for.

As always, we are reminded that context matters, but our primary concern should be to avoid harm. Caring for the readers, writers and ourselves is important, Alex reminded us.

Alex took us through seven principles for editing text.

1. Be appropriately specific

Using specific language to describe people, rather than awkward or inaccurate generalisations, is going to be more inclusive. For example, describing ‘LGBTQ+ people’ is not helpful if you are trying to talk about ‘same-sex couples’.

2. Avoid euphemisms

Using euphemisms suggests that the right language is ‘wrong’ or something to be avoided.

3. Counter dehumanising language

Avoid using adjectives as nouns or equating people with a label or condition.

4. Respect self-identification

If people use a certain language, term or phrase to describe themselves, use this. You should not edit this language to make it ‘correct’ if it’s the language they use.

5. Use gender-inclusive language

More than just correcting fireman and postman, use non-sexist, neutral language. Singular ‘they’ works for both those who use this as a pronoun and for more general cases, replacing ‘he/she’ constructions.

6. Be mindful of metaphor

The idea of blackness and darkness vs whiteness and lightness is well-known, especially in fiction, but this language has the power to reinforce stereotypes.

Hands in darkness holding a candle

7. Challenge imperialism

Alex spoke about this from the perspective of someone from the US, but more widely, editors need to challenge the ideas of a collective ‘we’ approach. Who does that ‘we’ exclude when we talk about that?

There are opportunities to develop a more conscious approach to language at every stage of the editing process, from developmental editing right through to proofreading. Whether we are editorial freelancers or in-house editors, we have opportunities to ensure that language is inclusive. Publishers and presses have responsibilities, too, Alex reminds us.

At the heart of this approach is care: care for the reader, the writer and for the editor. The focus should not be on avoiding ‘offence’ or ‘getting into trouble’ but on not causing harm. When we edit, particularly language and topics that fall outside of our own experiences as individuals, we need to be tuned in to the potential to cause harm.

Using conscious language requires a lifetime commitment. It isn’t going to happen overnight and we may find that it feels awkward or clumsy at first. But language is important and we should take the time to learn from others who have experiences outside of our own to fully understand how language works for them.


The CIEP produces resources to help editors and proofreaders. These EDI resources include:

Read about where the CIEP stands on EDI 


About Nicholas Taylor

Nicholas Taylor (he/him) is an editor, proofreader and occasional writer. He specialises in working with LGBTQ+ texts, both fiction and non-fiction, and works to make text more inclusive for the whole LGBTQ+ community. He 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:

 

Photo credits: hands by Anete Lusina on Pexels, candle by Myriams-Fotos on Pixaby.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Flying solo: How can we apply our editorial judgement to our businesses?

In her regular Flying solo column, Sue Littleford considers how the critical skill of editorial judgement can be applied to running an editorial business.

Editorial judgement calls for an understanding of context, for knowing your stuff when it comes to technical matters (whether that’s the finer points of grammar or the finer points of Word or the finer points of inorganic chemistry, if that’s your niche), for knowing when to press ahead and when to leave well alone, and for knowing what resources you need and how to use them.

Each of these skills can also be applied to the way you run your business.

Understanding context

Marketing works best when you know who you’re marketing to. Who do you work for? Who do you want to work for? Who’s your ideal client, and what’s your ideal subject matter, your ideal content, your ideal everything?

Just as in copyediting and in proofreading, you can’t make good decisions until you understand the context.

If you have a marketing budget – and that is a time budget, every bit as much as a cash one – then you want to spend it wisely.

What will give you, to coin a phrase, the biggest bang for your buck? Or your hour?

Where do the clients you want to work with hang out? I closed my Facebook business page. No, don’t squeal in horror! My clients aren’t there – in terms of social media and looking to hire, they’re over on LinkedIn, which is where I’ve placed my focus. I’m not wasting my time updating content for people who aren’t there to read it.

Most of my clients come via my CIEP Directory entry, which I had just updated before drafting a bit more of this post. It’s a worthwhile investment of my time to keep my Directory entry fresh – that’s the context in which my ideal clients are most likely to find me.

Technical matters

The business equivalent of knowing your subjunctive from your style palette is fairly wide-ranging.

Do you understand the laws under which your business operates? Do you have all the necessary licences and permissions? UK residents have a fairly easy ride, it always seems to me, when registering as self-employed. I hear much more complicated stories from people trading in other countries. You need to be on top of these technical issues.

Are you au fait with taxation rules? Are you attending HM Revenue and Customs’ live or recorded webinars on allowable business expenses, record keeping and completing your self-assessment return?

Are you budgeting for the Health and Social Care levy payable from April 2022 being added to Class 4 National Insurance contributions (and then as a separate tax from April 2023)?

If you’re not in the UK, are you doing something similar in your own jurisdiction, ensuring you’re up to speed with the latest tax changes that affect you?

Are you reading up on and generally getting ready for Making Tax Digital (MTD) in April 2024 (again, UK folks only)? Have you started investigating the app you’ll need to use to make your returns?

How about your contracts and your terms and conditions? Fit for purpose? Compliant with the law of your land?

Are you on top of IT security – firewalls, anti-malware programs, back-ups?

What about banking? Do you operate somewhere a separate business account is mandatory? (It’s not a requirement in the UK, for instance, but it is in some countries.) Would a separate business account, even if you’re in the UK, make sense in your circumstances?

Judging what action to take

Now you’ve layered up these transferable skills, you understand the context you want to work within and you know where you want to steer your business. It’s time to exercise more judgement in deciding what action you need to take.

Just as you take an overview of an editorial job, and use the brief and your own technical expertise to decide how to tackle each specific piece of work, apply that same thought process to the wider scale of your business.

Do you need a website? Or a better one?

Should you start a blog? Or should you revive or close down a neglected one?

How will you use social media to market yourself? Which platforms will repay your investment of time? Do you need to remove yourself from any that aren’t repaying your time, or try new ones?

Speaking of time, how should you schedule yours? How many hours a day do you want to work? What steps do you need to bring your current hours up or down to that level? Do you need more clients, or just better-paying work? How will you get from where you are to where you want to be?

How does your work fit around your home life? It’s been especially tricky for so many people in times of Covid, and often difficult adjustments have been made in so many households. Have you found the sweet spot yet? What further adjustments would help? Is any untapped support available, or do you just have to endure for a while longer?

Keep your eyes on the prize – you’re thinking now at whole-business level, not just the piece of work in front of you on your desk.

What about a business retreat? Can you either get away by yourself for a couple of days, or with one or two trusted friends who need to do some in-depth thinking about their big pictures too?

If you need to stay at home, can you schedule a couple of days with your email and phone off? Give yourself breathing space in which to lift your eyes up to the horizon and take the long view of where you want to be headed.

From your musings, you will return to your quotidian world with action plans for each area of your business that was under consideration this time.

Maybe you should concentrate your business retreat on just one area. I know I need to be better prepared for disaster recovery, for instance, and I need to give some serious thinking and investigation time to it.

Judging what action not to take

But, just as in editing and proofreading, you also need to know when to leave something untouched – it might not be perfect, but it’s certainly good enough. Don’t pressurise yourself to write action plans to overhaul parts of your business that are working well enough.

Again, just as in editing and proofreading, you also need to think about the brief – the framework you’re operating in – and budgetary constraints. Perfection is a ridiculous and pointless goal. Good enough within the circumstances is what we’re aiming for.

Time spent running your business is an overhead that facilitates earning money, but it is not time spent actually earning it. So keep your action plans modest. No counsels of perfection. No eye-wateringly demanding roadmaps to some unachievable Utopia.

Take simple steps (if they’re not simple, you’ve not broken them down enough) that will either repay the investment now, or lay the groundwork for part of a larger strategy. Just keep it moving forward. Think in terms of the tortoise and the hare, if the tortoise could occasionally break into a trot.

Does each step take you closer to the goal? Or are you doing things that are unnecessary, and no one is paying you for? You try to avoid that when you’re working with text. Apply the same judgement to your business.

Good enough is good enough.

Notepad with a to do list

What about resources?

Now you’ve worked out which actions you need to take, and which you can delay or completely forget about, what do you need to help you along?

How will you make your plans practical?

Do you know where to find business support (in the UK, try Small Business Britain or IPSE) or guidance on getting along with HMRC? How about guidance for MTD preparation?

Would you benefit from advice on IT security? Or on contracts?

If you’re a member of the CIEP at one of the professional grades, did you know you can get some free legal advice? (Log in to the CIEP website, go to the members’ area, then Benefits and scroll down to the last block of info.)

Are you aware of all the member benefits the CIEP offers? It’s a growing list! Are you signed up to and do you use the forums? They’re one of the best benefits – places to ask questions and offer answers to others, and take part in discussions that may well broaden your scope. Even if you only join the forums to lurk – to read without posting – you’ll find a wealth of helpful and interesting material.

If you’re not a member, then take a look at the resources the CIEP offers to the public.

More prosaically, do you buy reference books on paper or use online versions? Style manuals, dictionaries, grammars, editorial textbooks, etc? Which is most cost-effective for you?

Have you checked you’re on the fastest broadband package you can afford from your supplier? If your connection is a bit unreliable, or slow, then you might feel it’s a sensible investment to have paper copies of certain reference works – perhaps in addition to online versions.

What about founding a mutual support group – people who can help out if you can’t work and need someone to complete the job? Could that group also be a mastermind or accountability group to support you in your business as well as your editing and proofreading?

The bottom line

You’ve spent a lot of time and effort – and money – in developing your skills as an editor and/or proofreader. You’ve undertaken training to learn your craft and how to apply editorial judgement as you work with the text.

Businesses don’t happen by accident – and they don’t stay viable by accident, for the most part.

The judgement you rely on when working with words is just as applicable to your business life. Make good use of it!

About Sue Littleford

Sue Littleford is the author of the CIEP guide Going Solo, now in its second edition. She went solo with her own freelance copyediting business, Apt Words, in March 2007 and specialises in scholarly humanities and social sciences.

 

 

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: tortoise by Marzena7 on Pixaby, notebook by Suzy Hazelwood from 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 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 CIEP’s proofreading exercises: a preview

Annie Deakins leapt at the opportunity to review and proofread the exercises in the CIEP’s new Exercise Bank. In this post, she explains what she reviewed and how she did it.

I was asked by Jane Moody, the CIEP’s training director, if I was interested in reviewing a bank of resources being drafted for CIEP members to practise proofreading. I absolutely was interested! I would act as a guinea pig by reviewing the proofreading exercises in the Exercise Bank, and then proofreading the material as part of the job. So, what did the review involve, and what’s in the bank?

In this article, I’ll cover:

  • My role in the review
  • An overview of the exercise bank
  • How to proofread an exercise
  • Tips and support
  • Benefits

My role in the review

This was the sequence of the tasks I carried out:

  1. Do an exercise (as a practice proofread).
  2. Compare my answer to the model answer and note any differences.
  3. Read the commentary explaining the model answer.
  4. Compare the model answer with the final published version (if appropriate).
  5. Record how long it took to do the exercise.
  6. Repeat steps 1–5.
  7. Proofread all the materials – instruction/brief, exercise, model answer, and commentary – by finding typos and inconsistencies. Note down any queries for the training director to review.
  8. Provide feedback on each exercise: suitability, appropriateness of level, how easy/hard I found them, time taken and suggest changes for improvements.

An overview of the exercise bank

There are nine proofreading exercises in the bank. Permission was obtained from the authors and/or publishers to introduce errors for the purpose of proofreading practice. The exercises vary in difficulty from level 1 (reasonably straightforward, no complex elements) increasing to level 3 (complex, detailed exercises; may include complex figures/graphs/illustrations and/or references or other elements). The exercises are a variety of lengths, so I could pick and choose to fit them around my schedule.

The Exercise Bank covers a variety of topics including fiction and non-fiction, published through traditional channels, or by businesses and self-publishers. Examples include: a chapter from a business book that was traditionally published; an extract from a self-published novel by a first-time author; the programme for a conference by a medical organisation; a story from a traditionally published children’s magazine; and a market report for a technical industry (print finishing).

Each exercise includes background information and a brief which explains the task. Sometimes a house style is provided. If a house style is not provided, you are asked to compile a style sheet.

How to proofread an exercise

Open the file and check all the components are present. In the case of this bank of exercises there will be a brief or cover letter, exercise, model answer (or two), commentary, and final clean copy (if applicable).

Brief

Read what the brief requires. There might be a particular emphasis on layout, or a need for amendments to be kept to a minimum because of a tight publishing schedule. There may be a need to respect the author’s voice, particularly in fiction.

Errors

Examples of errors to be found range from a missing full stop at the end of a paragraph to erroneous capitalisation or the wrong word or term. Others include layout issues and tables that are incorrectly formatted, or wrongly entered numbers.

When something amiss jumps out at you, it’s okay to brag inwardly about the error caught (oh yes, that was sneaky). Add any errors missed (oh no, that was sneaky!) to your personal list of areas for improvement.

Queries

The model answers include examples of author queries to indicate where confusion is present in the text. Indeed, tips accompany the exercises on how to differentiate mark-up between instructions to the typesetter and queries to the client. So valuable. Model queries show how to be fair, polite and respectful.

Explanations

Checking the exercise against the model answer was the best part for me – I managed to resist the temptation to peek before finishing the task … When reading the explanations in the commentary, there were always learning points for the reasons behind the mark-up in the model answer.

Tips and support

  1. If the text is too distracting with, say, small font or too much colour in a leaflet, enlarging content by zooming in on the PDF can help identify errors.
  2. Prior knowledge of BSI symbols is useful. Guidance is given if you have not used proofreading stamps before. I recommend doing the CIEP’s Proofreading 1: Introduction course before proceeding with the level 1 bank of exercises.
  3. A range of model answers are given to show the variety of mark-up methods used and how the marks should appear.
  4. Support is given with resources, e.g. links are provided for the Adobe Acrobat DC video tutorials and help pages for assistance with marking up PDFs, whether that’s using commenting tools, sticky notes, or BSI symbols.

Benefits

The exercises are self-paced with no need for a tutor. They work in the same way as Margaret Aherne’s Proofreading Practice book which can be bought through the CIEP (with a discount for members).

Proofreading speed and accuracy increase with practice and confidence. Once you can calculate how many words you can proofread in an hour, it makes it easier to quote for work from prospective clients.

I had already completed CIEP’s suite of proofreading courses, but reviewing these exercises helped me further improve my proofreading skills and gave me confidence in my ability to spot errors and catch inconsistencies. Tackling the proofreading exercises also gave me the confidence to book my place on the CIEP proofreading mentoring scheme. I highly recommend them.


In addition to the proofreading exercises described here, there are seven copyediting exercises and three on grammar.

Visit the Exercise Bank

If you would like to add an exercise to the bank, please get in touch with the training director: training@ciep.uk.


About Annie Deakins

Annie Deakins taught in Essex (via Paisley) for 30 years. She started CIEP proofreading training in 2016 and is an Intermediate Member. She proofreads non-fiction, education, and children’s books. She is a Partner Member of ALLi. Her job portfolio includes tutoring, and she blogs as #TallTartanTalks.

 

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 shelves by Maarten van den Heuvel; Practice/Practise by Brett Jordan, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Flying solo: Good communication is accessible

In this latest Flying solo post, Sue Littleford looks at the importance of accessibility in business communication.

Accessibility shouldn’t be an afterthought. You shouldn’t make a thing and then think, ooh, I guess I should make it accessible. Instead, build accessibility into the thing from the start.

We wordsmiths know that accessibility for every reader begins with the right words.

From an editorial point of view, that means clarity in your communication with clients and authors.

From a business point of view, that means clarity in your website text, your emails, your contracts and definitely in your small print. This is the angle I’ll be looking at.

Even if you have a law degree, your client may not

Just as one of the things we can easily spot is when an author has tried to reach for the big words, words that they’re not completely in command of, so it is with writing your T&Cs and anything vaguely legal, whether that’s in emails, on your website or in your contract.

Absolutely, ensure the necessary points are covered. Writing your T&Cs in straightforward language helps you to be clear about what you offer, and what you require from a client. It then helps your client understand what it is they’re signing up to, which is one of the key ways you can prevent problems from appearing later on.

So many problems with clients stem from a lack of mutual understanding of what’s being bought and what’s being sold.

I really rate Karin Cather and Dick Margulis’s book The Paper It’s Written On: Defining Your Relationship with an Editing Client (ISBN 9781726073295), and I recommend it in the Going Solo guide.

At the time of writing, the Kindle edition is £5.98 and the paperback £9.81 through Amazon – a modest price for such an incredibly helpful guide through the complexities of contracts, and priceless if it means you sidestep problems with a client.

Although the book is written by Americans, it’s not the legal jurisdiction that’s important in this little book (70 pages) so much as the explanations of the breadth and nature of the kinds of things you want to nail down.

Contracts – honest ones – are clear and unambiguous, and they spell out the responsibilities of each party to the contract. A good contract is, in short, accessible intellectually to all involved. A good contract will also include remedies if either you or your client fails to keep up their end of the bargain, and this will be worth its weight in gold to the other.

No weasel words, no wrapping things up in cod legalese that will confuse and may well backfire.

Emails are contracts, too

You may prefer to rely on an exchange of emails rather than a formal contract. That’s fine – the emails become the contract. So it’s essential that your emails contain everything you need the client to know about your transaction, in unambiguous terms. Bear this in mind when negotiating a job.

My confirmation emails rehearse the terms of the job, the terms of payment and so on, so that what is agreed is all in one place. Complete. Accessible.

Good accessible communication is honest

Be straight with your clients, even outside of a contract. Don’t confuse your potential clients with undefined technical terms – and if you’re having to define a lot of technical terms, shouldn’t you be using clearer language in the first place?

Do NOT promise perfection. You can’t deliver it, what with so much of English being subjective. I bore people senseless on this point, I know – but it is so important. Promising editorial perfection is, frankly, mis-selling.

Any editorial discussion on social media will show you the range of possible solutions to a drafting problem. Some you’ll doubtless discount as wrong for the context, but you will also find a range of perfectly sensible solutions, not just one sensible solution.

A client told to expect perfection may have preferred one of the other solutions, and a difference of opinion on the use of the serial comma, ending a sentence with a preposition, or just how essential ‘whom’ is these days may mean your edits are found wanting, despite being just fine for many other clients.

So be honest about what you bring to the job, and be clear that you can’t promise perfection, as perfection is in the eye of the beholder.

Accessible marketing

How accessible is your website? I’m not talking just about tech things like colour contrast, and alt text and aids for assisted reading.

Do you keep your paragraph-length short for easy reading on all sorts of devices?

Are your terms and conditions for the website as crystal clear as your contract for services?

If you maintain an email list, are your subscribers offered a genuine choice as to whether to join it? Can they unsubscribe readily? Do you make it clear in every mailout how to do that?

Sweat the small stuff

I recently had an email from a fellow editor and noticed in their email signature that they were still linking to their directory entry through the old sfep.org.uk address. Their LinkedIn URL was still using http://.

Both those addresses still work just fine for now – until they don’t. Your email signature is a great opportunity to reinforce your brand and marketing: is it clear, up to date and accurate?

The ultimate small stuff is, of course, small print – content that punches above its weight. How accessible is the small print for your cookie widget on your website? Your privacy notice for GDPR compliance?

What about your profiles on places like LinkedIn or, indeed, the CIEP Directory of Services? Do you speak plainly of what you offer? Will your target client actually understand what they’ll get when they approach you?

Accessibility is good customer service

All this boils down to good customer service – as always, I’m going exhort you to put yourself in your client’s (or potential client’s) shoes and bring them along with you, cooperatively. Avoid the hard sell wrapped up in unclear, weaselly contract terms, opaque jargon (jargon editor to editor is sensible shorthand; jargon editor to novice author is not accessible) and sneaky email address capture for marketing.

A good client relationship will be built on openness, clarity and honesty – in brief, on accessibility.


Sue started writing her Flying solo column at the beginning of 2021. She’s covered checklists, customer service, using business records to make decisions, useful UK tax resources and lessening the impact of our business on the environment.


About Sue Littleford

Sue Littleford is the author of the CIEP guide Going Solo, now in its second edition. She went solo with her own freelance copyediting business, Apt Words, in March 2007 and specialises in scholarly humanities and social sciences.

 

 

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: lightbulbs by Dil; speech bubble by Volodymyr Hryshchenko, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Flying solo: The environment – a matter of give and take

Sue Littleford, our Flying solo columnist, looks at what changes we can make – to the way we run our businesses and to our personal decisions – to lessen our impact on the environment.

The environment of the only planet we have. Precious, irreplaceable. Under tremendous threat.

Where do editors and proofreaders fit into this?

Well, we have the CIEP’s own Environmental and Energy Policy, and the Working Group behind it. But what about our own relationship with the environment, on our small, individual basis as small businesses and individual people?

It’s a matter of give and take between it – the planet – and each one of us.

Enjoy it while it lasts

Sounds a bit pessimistic, doesn’t it? But a bit of appreciation goes a long way in motivating people to do their bit and, as payback, you get to revel in the glories of nature. Even small-scale, urban nature, even window boxes or posters of luscious landscape, or a small bowl, handmade and using beautiful reclaimed sycamore, picked up five years ago at Dogmersfield Show in Hampshire (OK, maybe that’s just me). Or maybe a paperweight made of a sapphire geode to remind you of the riches of the Earth?

So when you can, get out and get some air in your lungs. If you’re mobile, walk and stretch out your legs. If you’re not, find somewhere sheltered to sit with a new vista, perhaps near scented plants, or be sure to be watching at the window for changes in the weather, sunrises and sunsets and full moons and – light pollution permitting – stars.

And when you are out – look around you and seek out the beauty. What’s happening in the gardens you pass, or the trees? Look – really look, and let your shoulders drop. Appreciation of the natural world is a well-known balm.

Tanya Gold started #stetwalk, the Twitter tag for editors to post pictures of what they’ve seen on their daily walk. Check the hashtag to see where other editors live; not just on Twitter but on other social media, too. And from #stetwalk came #stetrun, #stetswim and #stetcycle (with offshoots #stetbike and #stetride). Doubtless there are some hashtags I’ve missed – pop them in the comments, please, and let others find them!

(If you’re a dedicated runner, think about joining the CIEP Run On Group on Facebook.)

Make it last longer

Freelance editors and proofreaders (and in-house ones, this last year or two) often work at home. For some, that means heating the house during the day whereas pre-working-from-home, you weren’t running the boiler all day. More expense, more fuel used, much of it fossil.

So – thermals. Honestly. And fingerless gloves. And getting up and moving around briskly every so often. I’m not saying turn the heating off during the day and freeze, but I am saying don’t heat your house to tropical temperatures in January and sit in a T-shirt.

When you feel it’s Covid-safe, working somewhere else that’s already heated will give you a change of scene and your boiler some time off. Try cafés and coffee shops, libraries and co-working spaces.

When your printer finally needs replacing, look at getting one that prints double-sided. I would have said they’re getting cheaper all the time but pandemic price rises appear to have occurred: my Brother DCP-L2510D A4 mono laser printer cost £82 two years ago, for instance, and current models seem now to be in the very low three figures.

And although we do (don’t we?) try not to print things that don’t truly need printing (not with toner prices what they are, let alone the wasted paper), we do have to print stuff sometimes, so why not halve your paper use?

(Actually, being pedantic, you won’t halve it, but you’ll get close. If you’re printing an odd number of pages, there’ll always be one blank side – but at least that reduces the mounds of spare paper you make into little notepads of scratch paper and take years to use up.)

Recycle used paper, and dispose of printer cartridges via a recycling system. As I write this, I have a toner cartridge waiting to go to the post office to be returned to the manufacturer for recycling. Don’t put them in the general household waste.

Make this your mantra: reduce, reuse, reduce, recycle.

Be a part of the solution

Don’t let scale put you off

It’s true that people editing and proofreading have less scope than, say, a small manufacturing business or a driving school or, indeed, a publisher, to cut emissions. But everything that each of us does adds to everything that everyone else does and that’s how revolutions happen.

COP26 will be held in Glasgow, 1–12 November, and that will focus governments once more on the issue. They will – I fervently hope – finally start taking care of the big stuff. We can make our own contributions to the small stuff. Always remember the moral of the Starfish Story.

Get information and get involved

Small Business Britain has a campaign, Small Business Planet, ‘to engage small businesses in climate action and encourage them to commit to making their business “net zero” ’, and I encourage you to join it. There are blog posts, webinars, events, pledges and news stories helping small businesses to find out how they can make their own contribution which, in aggregate, will have a far greater impact than you can imagine – but only if lots of businesses take part. And that’s all of us who freelance or work in our own companies.

Save energy

Take a look around your office – what do you leave powered-up overnight that you could turn off? What do you do with your rubbish? How often do you print things out? If your office is also your home, widen your contemplation to your entire realm. Could you turn your thermostat down by 1°C? Would you really notice the difference? If you’re in a part of the world where aircon is essential, could you adjust the settings by a similar small margin?

A UK news story last year claims that 17 million UK households could save £80 a year by turning down thermostats by 1°C. But it’s not just the money saved, though we could all do with that, it’s the fuel left in the ground that matters.

Let trees live

If you’re someone who prefers ‘real books’ to ebooks, think again about reducing the number of trees that need to be cut down and – importantly – replanted. Young trees are ineffective as carbon sinks. Trees harvested to make paper are typically less than 15 years old. Planting new trees isn’t a quick answer, so contribute to reducing the demand. Planting more trees in the higher latitudes actually contributes to global warming by reducing the albedo. In addition, only mature forests are effective carbon sinks – those a hundred years old or more.

On a similar theme, what about your garden waste? Do you have a bonfire of dead leaves in the autumn, or do you put them on a compost heap or use a council recycling scheme?

When planting your window boxes or your little patch of ground, do plant flowers that are bee- and butterfly-friendly. But use a peat-free compost for planting – drying out the peat ready for bagging releases an awful lot of methane, a far worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. And, of course, the peat bogs that are such sinks for methane and other greenhouse gases are preserved. An old Guardian article from 2012 spells it out.

Avoid landfill

Need to replace some computer kit? What are you going to do with the old stuff? Thanks to Caroline Beattie for finding Restart to donate the old kit to be reconditioned and reused in community projects in your locality. Margaret Hunter identified the Turing Trust, which does the same kind of thing. Far, far better than landfill! If there’s no Restart project near you, and you want to keep things local, then just google ‘donate computer near me’ or ‘donate printer near me’ and see what you can find. Lots of charities will take your old kit, either to reuse or to recycle correctly.

Alternatively, you could sell on your old kit (having removed all your personal info, of course) on eBay, and if it’s being retired because it’s faulty, advertise it as ‘spares or repair’, so there’s no comeback when a dead laptop doesn’t boot up.

Keep your wallet closed

Do you thrive on retail therapy? Why not have a no-spend month (an idea I think I got from Nancy Boston – if it was someone else, apologies!) and buy only the absolute essentials (food and the like), aside from your regular bills?

Learn to appreciate and use what you already have. Take something from your TBR pile rather than buy another book. (If your TBR pile is shrinking and nothing appeals, think of the library.) Rediscover things in your wardrobe rather than buy something new. Use one of your stack of notebooks rather than buy yet another one. (Again, just me? I don’t think so!)

I put a recurring appointment in my online calendar for each day of a no-spend month that reminds me not to spend on stuff I truly don’t need. What you do with the cash saved is up to you – but you might consider building up your rainy-day cushion for your business, or giving some or all of those savings to an environmental charity, or using it as a way to reduce debt.

Don’t take all that saved money, though, and have a retail splurge at month’s end. That kinda makes the exercise pointless from a carbon-reduction point of view!

Put your money where your mouth is

Consider moving your current account, your savings and/or your investments to ethical products. Try Good with Money for a list of providers.

Do you really need to travel so much?

And what about the really big one – travel? You know the drill – public transport when you can, walk or cycle when you can, rather than jump in your car. Many people will doubtless be yearning to get on a plane as soon as they can for a long-delayed getaway, if they’ve not already grabbed an earlier opportunity. But really, is a holiday only a holiday if you leave your own country? Really??

Even a trip to the supermarket is best avoided – getting your groceries delivered is better for the planet with academics as well as the invested agreeing.

Shop smart

While I’m on the subject of groceries, don’t think that buying local to reduce food miles is always the best idea. This is a horrendously involved subject but, in brief, the environmental cost of local produce out of season can be far higher than shipping or flying it in from somewhere where it is in season.

By all means buy local produce, but do be sure to buy it in season, when it hasn’t cost the Earth to grow it, and ideally not from a supermarket, where it may have travelled through several depots before arriving back close to home.

And don’t overbuy – putting your food straight into your bin (even if that’s a food waste recycling bin) costs everyone and everything.

Don’t always buy new, either. Be willing to seek out preloved versions of cars, furniture, books – all sorts. One person’s junk is another’s treasure. If no one is buying the things that we’re busy sending out virtuously into the world for reuse, the whole idea will collapse.

Stay alert for green opportunities!

Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, has a list of 25 ways to go green and watch the pennies at the same time, keeping what’s junk to you out of landfill, and has guides on green banking, utilities and travel in the pipeline, as at the time of writing.


We live on Planet A. There is, as former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon famously said in 2013, no Planet B.

If you’ve already been taking steps towards living and working in a sustainable way, thank you, thank you, thank you. If there’s anything else you think you can do, please do it. Add your ideas to the comments, so we can all get inspired!


About Sue Littleford

Sue Littleford is the author of the CIEP guide Going Solo, now in its second edition. She went solo with her own freelance copyediting business, Apt Words, in March 2007 and specialises in scholarly humanities and social sciences.

 

 

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.