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.

Forum matters: Editorial judgement

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

Whether to start a post and how to reply to posts are the first decisions CIEP members need to make when taking part in the forums, but the all-encompassing art of editorial judgement reveals itself in almost every thread.

In mid-January, a forum search on ‘editorial judgement’ brought up 15 pages and 441 threads – including on language, taking on clients and choosing tools – in just the previous six months. This highlights how editors need to use judgement in all aspects of their editing life.

Peer judgement

A key aim of the CIEP is that its forums should be a safe space for discussion, and if anyone feels unfairly judged or affected by a post the moderators are there to help to address this. But such interventions are rarely needed.

The forums are more often a source of judicious advice for members who have been overwhelmed by circumstance (both short and long term) and who, unable to make a clear decision, are worried about making errors of judgement (see Thoughts on not coping). Responses range from sympathetic support (because although the experience is new to you, somebody else has already been there), to incisively helpful (because there is always a tool to deal with the problem and with all the years of experience among CIEP members, somebody will know what it is).

Editing judgement

Punctuation insists on being quirky and, in a profession that strives for consistency, this can be a major irritation. In Dialogue, Kia Thomas reminds us how to deal with the quirky in fiction:

as for conforming, I suppose it all depends. Some editors prefer to bring everything in line with an external style guide, whereas others are quite happy to stick with the author’s choices if they’re used consistently (leaving aside, of course, the fact that they’re very often not). It’s a case of judgement – some style choices are so unconventional that they may be distracting, and that may not be what the author wants. For example, a lack of quote marks in literary fiction often means the author is deliberately playing with conventions for effect, and readers will tolerate or even enjoy that. In genre fiction, it may distract readers from the characters and the story.

Don’t even mention capitalisation. Actually, do mention it on the forums: you never know what the ensuing discussion will reveal. As you can see in West/west/Oriental/oriental?, not only do the replies offer practical solutions to finding a suitable answer, but we get a bit of practical philosophy as well (thanks, Luke Finley):

Often there aren’t truly definitive answers to these questions, so subjective judgement is involved. My approach is to err on the side of caution, but not to live in fear of making a mistake. Generally if people see you’ve said or written ‘the wrong thing’ inadvertently, and are open to reconsidering it rather than [being] defensive, they’re OK with that.

As Luke’s thoughts show, a key focus of the forums is language, particularly in the context of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). As Karyn Burnham said on the LGBTQ terminology thread:

we are in no position to offer judgement on any of these issues, only to respect the views of those groups affected and to strive to communicate these views effectively. Professionally, I find discussions like this in the forums extremely helpful and informative, and hopefully they will lead to an improvement in my approach to sensitive topics in the future.

Whatever your editing conundrum, you are going to have to choose the right answer by making a judgement call. The Fact checking thread is a great illustration of what you need to bear in mind.

Client judgement

Before you even begin editing you may need to exercise judgement about whether or not to take on a client. Anxieties about potential jobs can stem from inexperience (or the dreaded imposter syndrome), finance (whether the fee offered covers the time needed), worry about shutting off future work (if you say no this time, will they come back) or red flags (unfortunately there are people out there who want ‘owt for nowt’). All these worries often appear on the forums – see, among others, New client dilemma – advice needed.

Once you’ve taken on a job the judgement calls don’t stop. Page ranges in citations deals with a perennial problem when dealing with student papers: what is the ethical amount of editing you should do?

Judging tools

A wide diversity of client needs can be serviced, as you can read in editing for clients with special needs. This thread points to a variety of tools and approaches to help a partially sighted client. As Christina Petrides points out, the editor–client relationship is also crucial:

It will become easier once you’ve built up a good relationship with [the client] and they trust your judgement, so be as transparent and clear in what you are proposing as possible, and stick to it.

So, making a judgement call is a fact of life in editing and, as John Firth points out in Starting a sentence with ‘So’:

It’s tricky to decide whether something is so serious that you need to call it to [the client’s] attention, but your professional judgement is what [they’re] paying for.

In the end, apply that invaluable mantra when using your editorial judgement: context is key.

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credit: snowdrops by manfredrichter on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

CIEP social media round-up: December 2021 and January 2022

In our review of December 2021 and January 2022 we’re focusing on our friends and followers, as their feedback and chat was particularly entertaining during these two months. We gave something back to them, too, with a festive offer of a stonking 30% discount on CIEP courses.

In this follower-focused round-up:

  • Cantankerous creatures, plus coffee and cheese
  • Negotiating new words
  • Course enrolment stampede
  • Newsletters and new blogs
  • Gems from the archive
  • New year, new theories
  • Chatting among yourselves
  • Laughing at words
  • Signs of the times

Cantankerous creatures, plus coffee and cheese

There was a wide range of fun content to share in early December, from words to describe being irritable (illustrated with excellent photos of domestic creatures, wildlife and small children looking annoyed) to the question of whether the way you write runs in your family. ‘I think there is something to this’, replied an author on Twitter, whose son ‘writes in a very similar style but on completely different subject matter’. It was great to hear this view from a real-life writer in the absence of the Brontës, the Amises, and AS Byatt and Margaret Drabble to tell us what was what.

On 8 December we got our friends and followers to imagine what would happen if they knocked over their morning coffee as they leant over to consult their copy of Butcher’s Copy-Editing. With the spillage could they, like artist Giulia Bernardelli, create a picture of Botticelli’s Venus or the Eiffel Tower? One follower responded that they would more likely rescue their copy of the book (it’s not cheap), and another added: ‘Stuff the coffee – save Butcher’s and the computer!’ Over on Facebook, another editorial professional looked at a coffee-stained image of Madrid and commented ruefully, ‘Actually, my copy of Butcher’s is starting to look a bit like that …’

By 10 December we were turning our attention to the upcoming holiday season. We posted a @twisteddoodles cartoon entitled ‘Christmas food shopping’, with two excited-looking people in a supermarket having a conversation: ‘Instead of cheese let’s buy the “fancy cheese”.’ ‘Let’s buy a lot of cheese for no good reason.’ This certainly brought a lot of cheese lovers out of the, er, cupboard? Fridge? One follower confessed, ‘I have been told not to buy “too much cheese” on Christmases past. But can there be too much cheese?’ The responses came: ‘never!’ and ‘no, there can never be too much’. That’s that settled, then.

Negotiating new words

Sometimes our postings on new words and new definitions of existing words don’t cause too much of a stir, as with ‘A little birdie told us that it’s time for the OED December 2021 update’. This quarterly update included 750 new entries, ‘and almost as many fully revised entries’, with an emphasis on the bird kingdom. As ever, hats off to the OED team who try to cram in as many references to their new entries as possible in these updates.

However, not a week later, Cambridge Dictionary’s new words for 20 December 2021 were released. They included ‘resimercial’: ‘A resimercial office combines elements of “residential” and “commercial”, with comfortable furniture and design that makes it look more like a room in a home.’ We canvassed opinions: ‘We’re not sure we have the stomach for “resimercial”. What do you think?’ One response came in, short, sharp and unequivocal: ‘“Resimercial”? No.’ Oh. Well, luckily it’s not in the dictionary. Yet.

A month later, Cambridge’s new words prompted a similarly decided response. Encountering ‘clean inboxer’, ‘someone who reads and takes action on every email they receive when they receive it, so that there are never any unread emails in their inbox’, we wondered who these people could possibly be, and tentatively asked, ‘Are there any clean inboxers out there?’ Our call was answered by a single person, on Twitter, who offered a brief ‘Yes, big time.’ There’s someone who gets to the point, which probably explains the excellent standard of their email hygiene.

Course enrolment stampede

During December we launched a festive offer. We thought 30% off CIEP courses would rouse some interest, but even we hadn’t anticipated the massive response. During the week of the campaign in December we sold 470 courses, with many people buying more than one to set up their CPD for the year ahead. Enjoy all that learning, you editing and proofreading boffins!

In January we launched the CIEP Exercise Bank, to give editors and proofreaders real-life practice and confidence. Annie Deakins, who tested and proofread the bank, blogged about it for us.

Newsletters and new blogs

Did you know that all of our social media accounts have the sign-up details for Editorial Excellence, our external newsletter, pinned to the top of the page? When you join you get a welcome email pointing you to the newsletter archive so you don’t have to wait for the next edition.

Editorial Excellence, and our member newsletter The Edit, are full of the latest blogs by our members and friends, and some classics from the archive. There was an abundance of new blog posts in December and January, including: ‘Good communication is accessible’ by Sue Littleford; ‘What’s your favourite phrase or saying?’ by the CIEP wise owls; ‘The CPD in the work we do’ by Abi Saffrey; ‘Curiosity or destiny? The different routes to the CIEP’ by Alex Mackenzie; ‘Context is everything: How learning a new language shed light on my editing practice’ by Julia Sandford-Cooke; and a blog by Katherine Kirk about Jennifer Glossop’s top-ten etiquette tips for editors, shared recently with the Toronto CIEP group.

 

Gems from the archive

We reposted some great classic content in December and January. Blogs included pieces from Robin Black on why a professional editorial website encourages clients to pay professional fees; Luke Finley and Laura Ripper on plain English; and Kia Thomas on scammy and cautious editors. On which note, we reminded members of our fact sheet ‘Negotiating business contracts’, which helps you understand contract provisions and ways to negotiate the best possible outcome. CIEP members shared on video why CPD is important, and we reminded people about the CIEP Directory where top-notch editorial professionals in all specialisms can be found. We also promoted our popular course Word for Practical Editing, plus old quizzes and new. If you’ve missed any of the fun CIEP quizzes, you can find them on our website.

New year, new theories

In January our followers were back from their break refreshed and in the mood to respond to the latest scientific ideas on language. In ‘Our emotions and identity can affect how we use grammar’, Professor Veena D. Dwivedi explained how ‘emotional context affects how we understand and use language at the neural level’. Our LinkedIn followers were completely there for it: ‘I agree. Language usage, including grammar, has everything to do with social identity. Fantastic article!’ ‘Totally connect with this idea!’

A couple of weeks later we posted an article suggesting that dogs can detect differences between languages, which again drew interest and comments. ‘Fascinating!’ declared our followers, and one remarked: ‘This is true of cats too. Our cat responds to commands from me in English and my partner in Spanish. (Though being a cat, only when she feels like it!)’

Chatting among yourselves

Burns Night on 25 January was an occasion for a good old chit-chat. Immediately we posted an article from The Scotsman, Facebook responses went wild: ‘Lang may yer lum reek!’ (translation: ‘Long may your chimney smoke’); ‘It was always a big deal in my family!’; and, in response to a direct tag and question, ‘are you celebrating tonight?’, one follower responded: ‘OMG! I forgot! I usually have a gathering to read Burns’s poetry with haggis, neeps and tatties, sausages for the faint of heart. Thank you for the reminder. Must get shopping.’ We hope you got the Burns Night you’d planned. Or hadn’t planned, in fact.

Laughing at words

In the social media team we like to make people laugh, and often the content just goes ahead and does our job for us. This was the case with an article by Susie Dent, ‘From respair to cacklefart – the joy of reclaiming long-lost positive words’. A follower on LinkedIn testified, admirably using many of the words from the piece, ‘This article made me LAUGH OUT LOUD … I had to wipe the tears from my eyes with my snottinger, decided to stop being so crumpsy, and am making plans to visit my grandkids to feel some gigil. Words are so much fun.’

We got a great response with other long-lost words in Merriam-Webster’s list of polite words for impolite people, as followers and friends recalled their mums or grandmas calling them ‘flibbertigibbets’. Finally, apt for January, we posted Dictionary.com’s list of contronyms – words that have two opposite meanings – like cleave (to separate and also to adhere closely) and overlook (to not notice and also to supervise). LinkedIn followers responded: ‘I had a good laugh this morning over some of these’ and ‘Love this. I now know things that I didn’t realise I knew before.’

Signs of the times

This time last year most of us had never uttered the word ‘omicron’, which might explain the trickiness of the word the first few times we did say it in November and December 2021. We posted a couple of articles exploring how to pronounce it and why it was so difficult. In terms of the latter, it was partly because we are so used to words that start with ‘omni’.

And then, charmingly, the wordle, sorry, the world divided into those who know and love the word game Wordle, and those who don’t. An 11 January article giving some linguistics-based Wordle tips from David Shariatmadari provided some of our followers with the opportunity to express their love for the game, from ‘I am hooked’ to ‘I LOVE Wordle … I love the way it makes you think about how words are built’. But then in response to another Wordle article later in the month, another follower confessed, ‘I still have no idea what a wordle is …’ and got a ‘me neither’ in response.

On 14 January, content creator and marketer Emily Coleman (@editoremilye) commented on Twitter, ‘Wordle is the sourdough starter of Omicron.’ At the time of writing, that tweet has attracted 90K likes, 8,213 retweets and 983 quote tweets, most of which, it seems, said something like ‘What would your 2019/2020/summer 2021 self have made of this sentence?’ And that’s the inexorable march of language, friends. Who knows what new, old-but-obscure or just obscure words we’ll all be casually using by the end of 2022? In the meantime, keep your words coming, by commenting and chatting on our social media platforms. We love to hear from you.


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About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credit: coffee by Jason Villanueva from Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Talking tech: Automating style sheets

In this Talking tech column, Andy Coulson considers the options available for automating style sheets.

The theme of February’s member newsletter, The Edit, is editorial judgement and, as I’m sure you’ll have noticed, this is something computers are not good at! While the latest artificial intelligence systems are great at applying rules consistently and often ruthlessly, they are not good at making those subtle judgements that convey nuanced meaning or reflect an author’s voice. So how can technology help us?

Our main tool for recording our professional editorial judgement is the style sheet, whether that is something created specifically for a job, or by making additions to a style sheet from a client. We have a number of tools that we can use to support our creation of style sheets.

Exploiting your computer’s strengths

So, if our computer is not good at judgement, what is it good for? Computers are very good at following rules and recognising consistency. We can make good use of that to spot patterns in the materials we are working on and inform decisions that we can then record in a style sheet. We can also use these to help us see where exceptions are, as these can be important too (for example judgment in British English refers to a legal judgment; judgement is what you are applying in choosing the right spelling of it!).

One thing I’m not going to look at is the Editor tool in Word itself. In theory this should be able to do a lot of the things I’m going to talk about, but I’m afraid I just can’t get on with it. I find that configuring it is too fiddly when you are working on material where the style can change from job to job. I’m going to look at PerfectIt and Paul Beverley’s macros, as both of these will ultimately allow you to do things quicker and, to my mind, more accurately as editors and proofreaders.

PerfectIt

PerfectIt is a proofreading and consistency add-in for Word. Many of us use it to speed up our workflow and it can be used to help with identifying style sheet issues with the text you are editing. When you run PerfectIt, the content of the document is compared against a number of tests. You can use the results to identify what needs to be included in the style sheet.

Let’s have a look at an example. I’ve got a journal article that the client needs to be in US English and they prefer to use the Merriam-Webster dictionary for spelling. I’ve selected the basic ‘US Spelling’ style in PerfectIt, but you may be able to find (or create) a more comprehensive style sheet that is more applicable. If you regularly use PerfectIt it would be worth keeping an eye on the ‘PerfectIt Users’ group on Facebook, as they are developing a collaborative style sheet project.

Here one of the tests is checking the consistency of hyphenation. As we can see, the author has used ‘photogenerated’ five times and ‘photo-generated’ once. This flags that we need to check and make a judgement. This isn’t in Merriam-Webster, but ‘photoactivated’ and ‘photometered’ are, so I feel comfortable going with the single word and can justify the choice, and that goes on the style sheet.

Hopefully you can see how you would go through and build your style sheet in this way, using the computer’s strength around consistency checking.

Macros

I’ve written before about Paul Beverley’s macros (archivepub.co.uk/index.html) – they are a brilliant resource and Paul contributes so much to the community with these. I’m not going to give detailed instructions about using the macros highlighted as Paul’s book and videos do that really well. I’ll concentrate on an overview of the tools you can use to create a style sheet at the start of a job. Paul also lists his editing process in the book or in his Macro-aided book editing video, and this includes using the macros to identify potential style sheet items.

Overall, I think I prefer this approach to using PerfectIt, although I do use both tools for different jobs. I work on a lot of school textbooks and I find that the macros are able to do a lot more tidying up of formatting than PerfectIt, so they suit my workflow better.

Two key macros to start with are DocAlyse and HyphenAlyse. DocAlyse is a ‘Swiss army knife’ tool that looks at a range of features of the document, such as how numbers appear, approximate US and UK (and -is/-iz) spelling counts, Oxford (serial) comma counts and so on. All of these give you a broad view of your author’s preferences. Paul also has the UKUScount and IZIScount macros that provide more accurate counts if the language and spelling choices are unclear, and SerialCommaAlyse that counts serial comma use more accurately. You can then apply your judgement to the results and record those in the style sheet.

Next up is HyphenAlyse, which looks at hyphen and en dash usage in the document and creates a list of hyphenated phrases along with their open equivalents as well as commonly hyphenated prefixes (for example, net-zero and net zero or coordinate and co-ordinate). The output gives you counts of each usage, helping you to narrow down your choice and again build the style sheet.

SpellAlyse can then be used to make a list of potential spelling issues – this will help identify spellings specific to the topic or flag words that need checking. SpellAlyse has a number of other tricks up its sleeve and Paul’s book explains these. In addition, ProperNounAlyse and CapitAlyse try to identify proper nouns and capitalised words, again helping to inform the choices you make, which can be added to the style sheet.

Unlike PerfectIt you don’t see these in context, but Paul has a number of highlighting macros that can help with this. Because all of these macros produce outputs in Word files it is quick to add things to a style sheet. It is also fairly easy to create a file to use with Paul’s FRedit macro, which performs a scripted find and replace on your file. As well as building a list of corrections to apply to the files you could also use FRedit to highlight a range of issues in the document so you can make decisions about them.

Macros do take a little getting into, but the time savings that they can provide make this time well spent. Over a few jobs you will be able to identify a set of macros that help you create an efficient process, and you will be able to allocate keystrokes to them and create backups.

Hopefully I’ve convinced you to invest a bit of time in learning these tools, as in the longer term they can be real time savers. As ever, back up your customised PerfectIt style sheets (.pft files) and FRedit script files as you can often use and adapt them. There are also lovely people out there sharing other resources like this that they have created. Among the places you can find these are the CIEP forums, where there’s a dedicated ‘Macros’ forum; and the ‘PerfectItUsers’ group on Facebook.

About Andy Coulson

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

 

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credit: laptop by Skitterphoto on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

A week in the life of a 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.

What happens when the tax office wants to inspect your editorial business?

Do you really get through that number of red pens per year? And where were you going on the morning of 29 February? Melanie Thompson describes her experience of being inspected by the UK’s tax authority, HMRC.

This post covers:

  • Receiving notification of an inspection
  • What was requested and by when
  • Collecting and sending all the evidence
  • HMRC’s response

Many people dream of becoming an editor, proofreader or some other flavour of editorial service provider. They often declare their love of words or desire to help others communicate. I don’t recall ever seeing someone say they were going freelance or setting themselves up as an editorial business because they longed to number all their shopping receipts or to fill out the self-employment section of their annual income tax return.

But unless your editorial empire comprises a staff of more than one person plus office assistant (aka pet dog or cat), you will have to find a way – and the time – to manage the business end of your business.

In the freelance world, even getting paid can be a time-consuming process. So, developing some sort of system that suits your needs is unavoidable.

Questions about bookkeeping and accounting apps often crop up in the CIEP forums, especially from people who are new to freelancing. Certain topics recur, ranging from the benefits (or otherwise) of business bank accounts to whether editors can claim for new spectacles.*

One question that hasn’t cropped up, as far as I recall, is ‘What happens if there’s a tax inspection?’ Perhaps people are too terrified to ask!

If that’s you, hide behind the sofa right now. I’m about to reveal all …

The dreaded brown envelope: receiving notification of an inspection

Among all the many side effects of the Covid-19 pandemic was one very small useful thing: Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) gave us all a little breather with paying the summer instalment of tax ‘on account’ in July 2020 by six months, as well as some leeway with the date for submitting that year’s tax return. So, when I received a brown envelope from HMRC back in August 2021, I put it in my in-tray and carried on with my work, thinking it was just the usual reminder about filling in the tax return by 31 January.

A few days later when I’d met my work deadline and fancied a change from on-screen work, I started sifting through the heap of incoming post (mainly junk mail offers from competing credit card companies), opened the pending brown envelope and skimmed my eye down the left-hand side of the letter.

Check of your Self Assessment tax return for year ended …

A compliance check is …

We will be checking to see …

What we will be checking …

You now need to check your records …

OK, I got the picture (8/10 for plain English … on the first few paragraphs). But …

… please give us the information asked for in the enclosed schedule.

A big aggressive? Well, at least they said please. But the truly frightening bit was:

Please send us the information by ** September.

Less than four weeks away, and at the height of the summer vacation.

What HMRC wanted from me

I pinged an email to my fabulous accountant, Patsy, who had just received a copy of the letter direct from HMRC.

The three-page letter came with three attachments: the general information about compliance checks, the extra Covid-related general information, and a one-page ‘schedule’ explaining what I needed to send.

The general information included this warning:

You cannot choose to ignore an information or inspection notice if we give you one …

So far, so terrifying. The schedule did little to calm my nerves, as it requested the whole year’s worth of bank statements, credit card statements, invoices and receipts, and my financial statement drawn up by my accountant – all to be scanned in and sent on a memory stick.

That might not sound so bad, and it’s true I had collated a lot of that information when preparing my 2019–20 tax return. But there’s quite a difference (for me) between putting things on a spreadsheet with a column for notes to explain bits and pieces to my accountant, and compiling a huge bunch of scanned documents or PDFs from numerous sources to send off to someone who could send me a big fat fine if I made a mistake.

Pile of receipts next to a laptop

Collecting ALL the receipts

If you use an accounting app such as FreeAgent or QuickBooks, you may not appreciate the effort and stress I endured over the next few days. When I started as a freelancer in 2000, I created a spreadsheet for my accountant, and I’ve used the same system ever since. With only three or four invoices per month, and not many irregular expenses back then, there hadn’t been the need to do anything differently.

Now I was faced with corralling random bits of paper, emails linking to downloadable receipts, paper credit card bills, online banking documents and foreign exchange expenses. I shut myself in my office and switched my scanner to warp factor 5.

The trickiest task was reconciling the various online bills that are paid monthly by credit card (such as pay-as-you-go top-ups for my mobile phone, and the monthly £0.79 for cloud storage). When preparing my accounts I just noted the dates and amounts from my credit card statements. So I had to log in to each of these random small expenses accounts and download the actual bills – complete with remembering usernames and updating passwords. Once I had all the expenses scanned in, I numbered them all so that they were easier to cross-reference, while slapping my own wrist for not having done all this in the first place. (But seriously, is that really a good use of my time?)

HMRC’s interrogation

I did get everything together in time, and sent it all plus an explanatory covering letter by registered post. Our village postmaster, noting the address, wished me luck!

Then it all went quiet … for two months.

When I finally received a letter (including an apology for the delay) there were four questions arising from my documents. Only the first one was a mystery! That asked whether I was using ‘cash basis’ or ‘general accounting/accruals basis’.

At that point, I was so relieved to have an accountant. I had no idea what the question meant, never mind what system I was using. (Apparently, I use the latter.)

Questions 2 and 3 were clarifying exchange rates and bank commission fees for a few invoices in US dollars and were very easy to answer.

But the fourth question was my favourite. It was about two receipts for train travel to the CIEP (then SfEP) annual conference in Birmingham, where I had been a speaker. What the inspector hadn’t noticed – and I did enjoy pointing out – was that one of them was for my trip to the Society of Indexers conference in London the week before, where I was also a speaker. And yes, it was all listed properly in that list of numbered receipts I’d taken so much time over.

App-ily ever after?

By the end of November, it was all over. I had the all-clear, and there was nothing to pay. What a relief.

And within a few weeks, it was time to submit my tax return for the 2020–21 period. So no time to swap to a sparkly new app. I’ll be sticking with my spreadsheet for now.


Resources to help with tax

For everything to do with income tax in the UK, visit the gov.uk website.

Sue Littleford’s Going Solo: Creating your freelance editorial business  can help with record-keeping so the next tax return (or inspection!) doesn’t seem as daunting.


* As with most editing-related questions, the answer is ‘it depends’.

** Many thanks to my accountant Patricia Brady ACMA.


About Melanie Thompson

Melanie Thompson reading the SfEP guide 'Pricing your project'Melanie Thompson (APM) specialises in writing and editing materials relating to climate change, environmental topics and energy efficiency in buildings. She is a member of the CIEP’s Environmental Policy Working Group, and also a CIEP tutor for the copyediting, proofreading and web editing courses.

 

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: wallet by Steve Buissinne on Pixabay, receipts by picjumbo.com on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

5 ways English usage has changed since 2000

Anyone who’s stumbled on unfamiliar terms in a Shakespeare play knows that English vocabulary has changed over the centuries. But what about over the last couple of decades? When we use language every day, it’s easy to miss the subtle changes that are taking place over time. Rosie Tate takes a step back to look at five ways in which English vocabulary has changed since the turn of the century.

1. Tech talk

Our lives have drastically changed with the rise of technology – and the English language has followed suit. The need to name new inventions and concepts has given us memes, hashtags, cryptocurrencies, blogs, vlogs, tweets, paywalls and much more. The word ‘selfie’ (which feels to me like it’s been with us forever) was first used by an Australian in 2002 – and only went into the OED as a new word in 2013, beating ‘twerking’ and ‘bitcoin’ as word of the year.

Technology has changed the meaning of some words – like ‘catfish’, which used to refer only to a fish but is now also used to describe someone who fakes their online identity for fraudulent purposes. Some old words are used differently – like the noun ‘friend’, which is now also used as a verb (to friend/unfriend someone on social media). And words that started off in written form as abbreviations – like LOL and FOMO – have now made their way into our spoken language.

2. Words to describe the climate crisis

Although terms related to climate change – ecocide, global warming, greenhouse effect, extreme weather, eco-warrior – existed before 2000, their use has sharply risen this century as environmental crises have multiplied. Some newspapers have actively decided to change the language they use to report these stories. The Guardian, for instance, changed its house style in 2019 to reflect the urgency of the crisis, favouring ‘climate crisis or emergency’ over the more neutral ‘climate change’, and ‘global heating’ over ‘global warming’.

New words have also appeared. We’ve all heard of ‘microplastics’, the plastic debris that gets washed into our oceans and causes damage to wildlife. We can also now label our fear of environmental doom (‘eco-anxiety’) and have a word for those who deny anything of concern is happening (‘climate denier’).

3. Coronavirus (vocabulary) is everywhere

In just a couple of years, the Covid-19 pandemic has drastically changed our ways of living – and our language has adapted accordingly. Words that we rarely used before 2020 – quarantine, self-isolate, social distancing, lockdown, key workers, furlough, PPE – have become commonplace. By April 2020, ‘coronavirus’ was one of the most commonly used words in the English language – its usage even surpassing that of the word ‘time’, according to the OED.

But as well as technical and medical terms, the pandemic also gave rise to linguistic creativity. New words were invented to make sense of what we were going through and to inject some fun into difficult situations – like ‘quarantini’ (a cocktail you drink while in quarantine) or ‘blursday’ (a day in the week that feels the same as the day before).

4. Lost words

As well as new words being added to our repertoire, others are falling into disuse. Dictionaries regularly cut words out to make space for new ones. Collins Dictionary has dropped words like alienism, bever, brabble, charabanc and frigorific from its smaller print dictionaries, a decision that reflects how little these words are used. Let’s face it, when was the last time you used the word ‘brabble’ (which means ‘to argue’)?

More worryingly, though, was the Oxford Junior Dictionary’s decision to remove 50 words connected to nature in 2007. It caused public outrage, though not until 2015 (when someone finally noticed). Words such as ‘acorn’, ‘bluebell’, ‘dandelion’, ‘ivy’ and ‘willow’ were cut, while words like ‘broadband’ and ‘blog’ were added. The word ‘blackberry’ (referring to the edible berry) was out, while the Blackberry (mobile phone) was in. This points to a shift in our lifestyles – more tech, less nature – but it begs the question: are we losing the ability to label the natural world around us? Are we more likely to use the general word ‘tree’ than to recognise an oak, cedar or willow tree? (If you do feel the need to reconnect to the natural world, I strongly recommend Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book Braiding Sweetgrass as an antidote.)

5. We’re (a bit) more inclusive

Individuals are demanding that language be fairer – it shouldn’t exclude groups based on age, race, ethnicity, disability, gender or sexual orientation. Many organisations and brands have taken this on board by using inclusive terms – gender-neutral pronouns, for instance – and encouraging their staff to use pronouns in their email signatures. There’s been a lot more media coverage on the topic, though it is of course still contentious – should we use the word ‘guys’ to include women? Do we all use ableist language without realising? Although we have a long way to go when it comes to using inclusive language, there’s growing awareness of it – and that’s more than can be said for the 20th century.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list. We know that the English language is constantly evolving, uncontainable and used by each of us in a unique way. If you have noticed changes in how you or others have used English in recent years, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


The CIEP is working to embed equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) across everything we do. We aim to foster an environment where all members feel safe and equally able to contribute to CIEP activities.

Explore our EDI resources


About Rosie Tate

Rosie Tate is co-founder of Tate & Clayburn, a London-based company that offers copyediting, proofreading, copywriting and translation services to clients worldwide. A first-class Oxford University languages graduate with an MA in Documentary Filmmaking, she’s an experienced editor, writer and producer, having worked for Oxford University Press, the BBC and Save the 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: selfie stick by Steve Gale; dandelion by Saad Chaudhry, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP information director.

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.

Context is everything: how learning a language shed new light on my editing practice

In this post, which moves from Hollywood film stars to the hairdressers and Dutch language textbooks, Julia Sandford-Cooke explores how learning a new language helped her to reflect on her professional skills.

I often think about Antonio Banderas. Well, not the Spanish actor specifically, but rather his character in the 1999 film, The 13th Warrior. He plays Ahmad, an Arabic-speaking scholar improbably taken prisoner by Norse warriors whose chief interests are picking fights and gossiping around the campfire. In a famous (and possibly unintentionally hilarious) sequence, Ahmad quietly observes their chatter. It is initially unintelligible (the actors are apparently speaking modern Norwegian) but, as time passes, English words creep in, indicating his growing understanding, until he’s suddenly able to insult their mothers with astounding fluency and a confident grasp of complex grammar. Subsequent dialogue is in English, which now represents what we understand to be the language of the Norsemen.

These days, the movie is remembered almost as much for this scene as for being one of Hollywood’s biggest financial failures, allegedly making a $130 million loss. It’s a clever and memorable cinematic concept but, in my experience, not a very realistic way of learning a foreign language.

Gossip goal

I sit in the hairdressing salon, my face as fixed in concentration as Ahmad’s, while the stylists and customers chat in rapid Dutch. After just over a year in the Netherlands, I, like him, would love to decode the juicy gossip around me but merely listening to a new language will not miraculously make me fluent in it. I can make out the odd word but it certainly doesn’t pop out as English (well, apart from ‘Netflix’ and ‘weekend’). Instead, it just sounds vaguely familiar and by the time I’ve looked it up in my mental dictionary (‘“makkelijk” … I know that one … “Difficult”? No … “Important”? No … ah, I have it! “Easy!”’) the conversation has moved on and I still have no idea what they’re talking about. And as for speaking to them – well, I won’t be insulting their mothers any time soon or, more likely, complimenting them on such a flattering cut ‘n’ colour. But it’s my ultimate objective to be able to take part in their conversations.

It’s all about confidence

Antonio Banderas’ first language is, of course, Spanish, so it’s somewhat ironic that his character hears familiar words as English. My Amsterdam friends whose first language is Spanish all learned English at school and now speak it fluently and rapidly. If they forget the odd word, it doesn’t matter – they just keep on talking and we understand them just fine.

Significantly, they’re also much more likely than the first-language English speakers I know to have focused on learning and speaking Dutch since moving here. Yes, it is true that everyone can speak English here so there is an argument that it’s not worth the hassle, but personally, I feel that if you want to integrate in a country, you should at least make an effort to learn its language. In any case, I’ve found that just because they can speak English doesn’t mean they will, which is fair enough, I suppose. And it’s also pretty useful to understand what you’re being told in emergency situations, or on public transport.

Perhaps the habit of learning languages is more ingrained in those who do not speak English as their first language. It’s pretty common for these immigrants – both adults and children – to switch between three or four languages. Much of it is about confidence – going out onto the unforgiving streets knowing you’ll make mistakes and trying not to care.

My personal lack of confidence is mixed with an equally unhelpful stubborn pride. I insist on conducting business in bad Dutch in shops and cafés and while having my COVID-19 vaccination, even if waiters insist they don’t understand my slight mispronunciations or I get jabbed in the arm I sleep on. And then I go home and cringe at the fool I’ve made of myself. Speaking isn’t even my forte in English so it’s no wonder I struggle so much in Dutch. It’s some consolation that my Spanish-and-English-speaking friends admit that learning Dutch as an adult is hard because our confidence drops as we get older and we’re more aware of the implications of getting it wrong.

So how do these experiences affect my editing practice?

Learning Dutch has made me look at my work from several new perspectives.

Being a beginner.

It’s humbling to start from scratch. There’s so much I don’t know and I have to work very hard to know it. I’ve been in the conscious incompetent stage of learning for quite a while now. It simply isn’t easy, whatever Ahmad might think. I hope this awareness makes me more empathetic with writers and other people I interact with professionally. And of course, this doesn’t just apply to learning a language – it applies to learning any skill.

Being an expert.

At the same time, it reminds me that I’ve been through the editorial wilderness and emerged, after more than 20 years, with a huge experience and solid skills that clients value. It’s taken a lot of work and effort to get here but it has been worthwhile. I can prove to myself that persistence pays off.

Keeping me alert.

Editing is an intellectually stimulating profession. Learning a language before and after work often feels like yet another way to tire my brain. But it also exercises slightly different aspects of my mind, and just watching Netflix of an evening feels less and less of a constructive way to spend my time.

Brushing up on my grammar.

I have to admit that it draws attention to my tenuous grasp of grammatical theory. The argument that ‘children can learn a language without trying and therefore so can you’ just doesn’t fly. I have to consciously decode the word order following a coordinating conjunction or the effect of an inactive word form. My middle-aged mind has to consciously think ‘Ah, that’s a modal verb, which sends the second verb to the end of the clause as an infinitive’. That’s not a thought the average toddler has.

Understanding mistakes.

Anyone who has edited the writing of those for whom English is an additional language will have noticed particular mistakes relating to the authors’ translations of their thoughts into English. There are plenty of examples from Dutch speakers but recently I passed a woman trying to explain to someone that he could get the item he wanted from the ‘warehouse’ down the road. She meant department store – warenhuis in Dutch. It is illuminating to realise why certain errors occur.

Drawing attention to learning methods.

I’m a textbook editor but I rarely open my Dutch textbook, other than to check the grammar rules. Interaction is key (whatever Ahmad might think). Purists may sniff at the gamification of language learning in apps such as Duolingo and Babbel but actually, I find their bite-sized, repetitive and memorable methods convenient and engaging. I currently have a 467-day streak in Duolingo, meaning I’ve actively practised my Dutch on the app every day for about 15 months. But I combine it with watching (or trying to watch) Dutch movies, listening to Dutch music (Dutch rhymes in a very satisfying way) and having fairly regular face-to-face Zoom lessons. Julie, my lovely tutor on iTalki , is endlessly cheerful and patient, even when I’m clearly speaking complete nonsense. And, of course, there’s no substitute for immersing myself in everyday situations like, for example, going to the hairdresser. All of this suggests that those who produce learning materials should think holistically – no single method is enough – and, of course, no student approaches learning in the same way.

So I often think of Spanish-speaking Antonio Banderas as an Arabic-speaking scholar listening to Norwegian-speaking actors speaking English to represent speaking Norse. Learning a new language is hard. But one day I too will be able to decode the gossip and maybe even join in – without cursing anyone’s mothers. Not intentionally, anyway.

About Julia Sandford-CookeJulia Sandford-Cooke

Julia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications has spent more than 20 years in publishing and just over one year in Amsterdam. When she’s not speaking bad Dutch, she writes and edits textbooks, proofreads anything that’s put in front of her and posts short, often grumpy, book reviews on her blog, Ju’s Reviews.

 

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: Amsterdam canal by Ethan Hu; Dutch flag in Amsterdam by Luca Lago, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

The CPD in the work we do

In this post, Abi Saffrey thinks about the ways in which we develop our professional selves while doing the job we do – an often overlooked form of CPD.

This article considers:

  • Informal conversations and guidance
  • Seeing a task from a different perspective
  • Observing colleagues and peers
  • Procrastinating on the internet
  • Teaching others
  • Writing an article
  • Continuing professional development

It’s highly likely that most of the people reading this post have put some formal training on their professional development plan for 2022. I certainly have every intention of signing up for the CIEP’s Plain English for Editors online course, or perhaps the References one. I also have some of the Publishing Training Centre’s e-Learning modules to work through.

When building our development plans, we often dismiss or forget the informal learning that we do every day while working. There are so many ways to learn new skills, adapt current ones, deepen our understanding, broaden our experiences – these are perhaps harder to label than a training course, but equally important in keeping our careers, and businesses, on track.

Informal conversations and guidance

Whether working for an organisation or ourselves, we have networks of people that we talk to. In an office or via an instant messaging tool, we can ask colleagues quick questions, or perhaps jump on a video call to discuss an idea.

Even a more formal meeting can be a learning opportunity, not just about how to carry out a task but how to communicate about it, finance it or improve it.

For those of us who work at home alone, having conversations with peers can remind us of our professional sense of self, and I find that after one of those conversations, I’m more proactive and productive.

Seeing a task from a different perspective

It’s very easy to focus on how we race through a task that we do often, and I suspect we’re all a bit prone to forgetting the actions that sit around that task. With my editorial project management work, I can gain insights into how copyeditors and proofreaders work, into what designers and typesetters need to know, into the priorities of the publisher – and I can take that and apply it to my own editing or proofreading (as well as future project management).

Taking a step back and thinking holistically about a project can be informative and rewarding, remind us of the bigger picture, and perhaps help us identify areas for more formal CPD.

Observing colleagues and peers

This is easier when working in an office with someone, clearly. I learnt so much from those around me as an employee, and when working in a client’s office as a contractor.

I’m in an accountability group, and on one of our professional retreats we spent a session looking at how we’d edit different types of texts – we all had different approaches and talked about which approach worked best for each text. With a bit of planning, this could work well over a video call or even in an online chat forum.

Talking of online chat forums, the CIEP member forums are full of gems covering every aspect of editing and running an editing business.

Procrastinating on the internet

Twitter, hey? It’s a right time-sink. How about that Wordle game? At least you can only play it once a day, but then did you read the articles about how to get better at it?

This may be the wrong thing to say, BUT there is value in procrastinating on the internet. So many of us scold ourselves for spending a bit too long on social media platforms, but there are great things in among the pyramid scheme promotions, political despair and, of course, cats. There are relevant blog posts, discussions, contacts being made, creativity being sparked, unknown terminology being discovered, different approaches to the same problem and the worldwide #StetWalk movement.

Teaching others

Teaching someone else how to do something that we know how to do is a fabulous way to reinforce our own knowledge. It can help us to realise how much we do know, and often highlights what we still don’t know. There is a lot of value in rewinding our understanding and trying to build up that understanding in someone else. That word you use all the time? They don’t know it. Those who learn from us can ask questions that we might never have thought of, and finding out you didn’t know what you didn’t know will be a revelation.

Writing an article

Write about what you know. Tailoring an article to the intended audience is a skill, and writing has the same benefits as teaching. For editors, writing also has the added value of building empathy towards those whose words we work with. When this article comes back from its proofreader, I will be nervous about what corrections may have been made. And once this is published, I’ll wonder about what kind of reception it will have. Receiving feedback help us to better give feedback (and give better feedback).

Continuing professional development

The skills that we need change and evolve, as do the industries we work in. Let’s welcome informal professional development into our work lives, and acknowledge that which already exists. I’ve covered the kinds of learning I’ve benefited from throughout my career – share yours in the comments.

About Abi Saffrey

Abi Saffrey is an editorial project manager, copyeditor and the CIEP’s information director. In 2022, lots of her informal CPD will come from working with her CIEP Council and information team colleagues.

 

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: snowdrop by Kiwihug; Toronto perspective by Nadine Shaabana, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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