Our editorial industry is made up of people carrying out a huge range of tasks across many different sectors. Although we are bound by common aims – to make text consistent, accurate and clear – our chosen areas of work can differ in fascinating ways.
Paul Beverley is an Advanced Professional Member. He has answered some questions on his main specialisms of architecture, civil engineering and construction.
Briefly, what’s your work background?
Originally a physics teacher, then an electronics lecturer, then ran a small specialist publishing firm before freelance proofreading and editing.
How long have you specialised in this particular kind of editorial work, and how did you get started?
About 10 years. When I was first looking for work as a freelance, someone said, ‘Try the National Construction College’ (20 miles from where I live). They wanted some apprentice manuals proofreading, one of which was carpentry and joinery; ‘I’ve got an O level in woodwork’, I said. Then when other similar jobs came up I used that experience: ‘I’ve worked for the National Construction College.’ And it mushroomed. Eventually I worked for the RIBA and a huge international civil engineering company – all from O level woodwork! (100+ books in this area in 10 years)
What specific knowledge, experience or qualifications do you need?
For me it was O level woodwork, plus a bit of self-belief. You do need a good technical background to be able to spot potential problems.
How do you go about finding work in this area?
Once I could name respected clients it was easier to get jobs elsewhere. I’m fortunate now in that they come to me.
What do you most enjoy about the work?
The subject is interesting but, as with all my other work, I love engaging with the English language and working out the best way to adjust any unclear phrase or sentence. Some of it is ESL work [English as a second language], so I enjoy trying to work out (for any given language) what authors are trying to say when they use some obscure expression. I also enjoy using macros to do the job more quickly and to produce a more consistent end result.
What are the particular challenges?
The same sorts of challenges as with any editing job, really.
What’s the worst job you’ve had – and/or the best?
The worst was when a big construction company invited me to London for the day to brief me for a new job. When I got there, I found that the project was a proposal to mine 50 million tons of iron ore per year (yes, a million tons a week!) from an area of West African tropical rainforest, including dredging out a deep-water seaport to take one-million-ton supertankers. When I got home that night I had a difficult decision: accept (against my conscience) or decline and severely inconvenience the company; I chose the latter and haven’t worked for them since.
What tips would you give to someone wanting to work in this field?
Be honest about your areas of expertise/qualification (or not) but don’t be afraid to offer to do jobs that might be a little outside your area – it could lead to a seam of good work.
What is the pay like – and are there any other perks?
I generally work for £12–£18 per thousand words, so well worth doing. My standard hourly rate for ESL work is £40/hr, and some jobs, especially for large companies, have worked out at more per hour.
What other opportunities do you think editorial work in this area might lead to?
Just those mentioned above really. It has given me the chance to develop my interest in macros and efficient ways of editing.
Paul Beverley has been an editor and proofreader of technical documents for over 10 years. He’s partly retired now, but doesn’t want to stop altogether because he enjoys his work far too much! He writes macros for editors and proofreaders to increase their speed and consistency, and makes them available free via his website.
Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.
Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Patric Toms.
The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP