When Janet MacMillan, our Cloud Club coordinator, told us she had organised a virtual visit from the Subversive Copy Editor herself, I almost fell off my chair. As our excitement grew, my friends sent in questions for Carol Saller. I may have spent the entire Zoom call grinning mutely like a star-struck fangirl, but I also took notes; Carol had plenty of wisdom to share. I’ve whittled that wisdom down to three core ideas:
- Language is fluid and your editorial judgement needs to be flexible enough to evolve with it.
- Being part of an editing community is key to success.
- Embrace the tech!
Language is fluid and your editorial judgement needs to be flexible.
As a reformed stickler, Saller knows that being au fait with the rules is as important as knowing when to break them. Understanding the role of rules and how they evolve is a key skill that we editors need to develop. Some rules change with usage, especially thanks to the internet, while others change as society grows and develops. A recent example of this is CMOS and the AP’s recent affirmation of the capitalisation of ‘Black’ and ‘White’ when used as racial, ethnic or cultural identifiers, in line with efforts to make language more inclusive.
‘If you can’t justify your meddling, don’t meddle.’ Carol Saller
To subvert the rules without making a giant mess of things, you need to know them thoroughly. Do your research, continue training throughout your career, and read widely. Another way to stay abreast of developments in language and editing is to participate in the discussion.
Being part of an editing community is key to success.
Being part of the discourse around language and editing is one of the key benefits of joining professional organisations such as CIEP. Learning from others who have gone before you can both save you time and help you to discover questions you hadn’t known to ask. A recognised group of professionals, such as the international Cloud Clubs, the regional groups and the CIEP forums, gives you access to a wealth of knowledge that is far superior to the well-meaning but often inaccurate suggestions from guessers on social media. Not to mention the amazing CIEP annual conference, which took place online this year.
‘Beware of bad advice from very friendly and polite people.’ Carol Saller
Another way that Carol benefited from forming relationships with other editors was through her experience working with her mentor, Margaret Mahan. Margaret provided comments and feedback on her work, giving her insight into where she stood in her abilities and what she needed to do to get better.
‘Unless you recognise a significant result, there’s no progress.’ Carol Saller
Learning from more experienced editors means taking the shortcuts that others have discovered, and not reinventing the wheel. CIEP has its own mentorship programme that you can access as part of your training.
Embrace the tech!
Some brilliant minds have solved problems for us with technology, such as Paul Beverley with his macros. For established editors like Carol, it is hard to remember what editing used to be like before computers got involved. She recalled paging through hard copy to find a certain detail she remembered from somewhere near Chapter 3 that had been referred to in Chapter 11. As a millennial, I shudder at the thought of editing without the ‘Find’ function. Not to mention the idea of creating a style sheet without the aid of Paul’s DocAlyse macro! People easily forget the drudgery of unautomated tasks.
Why make your work slower and more difficult if you can remove the tedium with the push of a button? It may take a little learning, but once you’ve got the hang of the tech, it’s well worth it.
‘Those who fight the tech have a worse experience.’ Carol Saller
Carol has embraced the technological tools available to her, so she can save time on the grunt work and focus on the deeper (and more interesting) parts of editing.
Carol Saller is an editing superstar. Being able to chat with her in the intimate setting of a small Cloud Club conference call revealed how approachable and humble she is. As we tittered over an anecdote about an invasion of ants, not only did I gain a deeper appreciation of Carol Saller and her book, The Subversive Copy Editor, but I also discovered the value of the Cloud Club I had joined. This warm, friendly community has helped me to get through the isolation of beginning to work from home during a global pandemic. Even though I was physically on my own, halfway up an Andean mountain, I felt immediately welcome in this group of people who were only too happy to share their experiences, the tech they use, the solutions they’ve found, and the socks they’re knitting. It’s a balance of water cooler conversation, friendship and professional development that hits just the right note. Janet has hinted at other guests to come, and I’ll have my notebook ready.
Katherine Kirk is a Professional Member of the CIEP. She proofreads and copyedits fiction, with a passion for Science Fiction and Fantasy. She has lived in five countries and speaks five languages. Before editing, she taught English to children in South Korea, China and Ecuador, where she is currently based. When not travelling or editing, she can be found making art, volunteering at the local library or taking pretentious pictures of books for Instagram.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.
The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.