The SfEP: a timeline

Society of Editors and Proofreaders Newsletter, May 1996

The Society for Editors and Proofreaders has come a long way since it was established over 30 years ago – here’s a summary of the key events and developments.

November 1988
Editorial professionals need a professional body and a way to reduce isolation, and Norma Whitcombe recognises that need. Norma calls a meeting, which 60 people attend, and the Society of Freelance Copy-Editors and Proofreaders is founded.

The first training courses are developed and delivered.

The Society’s first conference takes place. The directory of members’ services is published for the first time.

The Society’s formal mentorship programme begins. The first version of the Code of Practice is issued.

The directory of members’ services is made available online, as well as in print.

SfEPLine, an online mailing list for members, is established.

The organisation becomes the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), and in-house staff are welcomed as members. Membership grades are implemented for the first time.

The SfEP is incorporated, with a board of 12 directors and offices in London. Some staff members have worked for the Society since its incorporation.

The newsletter CopyRight becomes the magazine Editing Matters.

A table covered with copies of leaflets about what the SfEP does and can offer2006
The first of a range of guides about being an editorial professional is published. The directory of members’ services becomes online only.

SfEPLine becomes an online forum, and other forums join it.

The basic editorial test, based on the SfEP editorial syllabus, is introduced. Online training is launched. The first mini-conference, organised by SfEP’s local groups in Scotland, is held in Edinburgh.

Grades of membership are revised to give four grades – Entry Level, Intermediate, Professional and Advanced Professional – alongside Corporate Subscribers and Friends.

The Society declares its aim to become a chartered institution.

The Society’s membership reaches 2,700, including freelance members, in-house members and members across the globe. The first international mini-conference takes place in Toronto in November.

Lynne Murphy talking to a lecture hall full of editors at the 2018 SfEP Conference

For more details, see the edited history of the SfEP.

Proofread by Joanne Heath, Entry-Level Member.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.


1 thought on “The SfEP: a timeline

  1. Kersti Wagstaff

    Nice – nostalgic – to see this (I forget when I joined, but it must have been around 1996)! It may also be worth adding an earlier stage, or expanding on the first one: the reason editorial professionals needed an association and to combat isolation was the wave of mergers and acquisitions among publishers that started in the 1980s, and the subsequent purging of in-house editorial staff including large numbers of in-house copy editors. I came along too late to meet Norma Whitcombe, but I always heard that she was passionate about the need to organise editorial training, since it was evident that the publishing houses where we used to learn our trade by informal apprencticeship were not going to be providing it for much longer. I think that’s really why the ‘upholding excellence’ is in our strapline: because the view was, if freelance professionals don’t uphold standards of excellence in editorial work, no-one else will. As you can see from the timeline, training (starting in 1989) has always been an absolutely core part of SfEP’s raison d’être.


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