Tag Archives: children

Tips for proofreading children’s books

In many ways, proofreading books for children isn’t that different from proofreading any other material … but there are a few extra things to look out for, especially in highly illustrated titles.

betty-nudlerMind the flaps!

Many children’s books, especially non-fiction titles, feature interactive elements such as flaps, pop-ups, stickers and activities. If you’re proofreading on screen, you’ll see the pages in two-dimensional form, but be aware that you might need to consider how different elements of the book would work together in real life. (Would the outline provided fold up into a model of a robot? Are there really 10,000 stickers, as claimed on the cover?) You won’t necessarily need to print things out to get the job done, but you might need to sense-check activities, cross-reference different parts of the product, or count particular elements (all 10,000 of them). Make sure you factor this in to the time you allow to proofread the book, even if the word count is tiny, and consider using a second screen if you don’t already, to speed up the work and increase your accuracy.

When is a book not a book?

When it’s an ebook or an app – both popular formats for children’s books, and with a different set of considerations from physical books. You might be asked to check how a highly illustrated layout transfers to ebook format, for example, possibly with reflowable text. Are all the elements still there, in a sensible order?

With ebooks and apps, you’ll need to find the most sensible way of returning comments, which might not take the form of a more traditional mark-up, but could instead be a list of corrections. With apps you’ll need to make sure you’ve checked and clearly recorded corrections to all the places where text appears – which might not be easy to deal with in a linear way.

childrens-book-week-liz-2Less can be more … when it comes to mistakes

In some ways, children’s books seem too easy. In books for younger readers in particular, you might have as few as twenty words. (Your per-thousand word rate is likely to be reassuringly astronomical!) However, the lack of text can be almost intimidating. Any remaining mistakes have nowhere to hide, and will come back to haunt you for all eternity … or until the books are pulped. Make triply certain that the title on the spine matches the title on the cover and on the title page, for example. Surprisingly often, it doesn’t.

 

Reading order

In boring old adult books, usually you start reading at the top left of a page, and keep plugging away until you get to the bottom right, and then start the process all over again. This isn’t necessarily so in children’s books, where layouts can be considerably more dynamic, with smaller blocks of text arranged across the page or spread, integrated with the pictures, and interspersed with smaller text elements such as boxes, captions and annotations. Pay attention to the reading order of the different elements – it needs to be logical. Sometimes, captions will be the only part that is read, so these need to stand alone. They should work hard, add value to the picture they refer to, and not simply repeat part of the main body text. It seems obvious, but it’s easily overlooked: annotations need to refer to the part of a picture they are pointing to.

Consider the reader

Whatever we edit or proofread, we need to consider the intended reader. But with children as the audience, there are extra considerations. Is the text legible? Are the fonts used appropriate? Although by the time you are proofreading, basic decisions such as font choice will have been made long ago in the process, you might still find instances where things need to be tweaked to help a young readership. Also look out for words, especially technical terms or jargon, that don’t fit the reading age or need to be explained where they appear.

Diversity and inclusion

Children’s publishers often have guidelines for authors and editors on inclusion and diversity. Although these aspects should be considered from the outset of a project – or rather, as this article argues, a book should ‘be diverse without diversity being its selling point’ – it’s still an important aspect of children’s publishing for proofreaders and copy-editors to be aware of.

children-book-week-liz-1Don’t neglect the pictures

You might think of yourself as a word person, but in many children’s books, much of the sense comes from the pictures, so you must pay as much attention to them as to the text. If the text describes something shown in a picture, such as a colour, does the picture reflect that? If the pictures show a step-by-step process, are they in the right order? Many children’s books are commissioned in the knowledge that they will be co-editions, or sold into a range of territories. Often you will need to look out for parochial details in the images that could limit a book’s marketability, such as obviously right-hand-drive cars, or very British-looking police uniforms.

Marking up

Finally, think about the best way to mark up a highly illustrated book. Your client might have guidelines on how they want you to mark up PDFs, but remember that marks can easily be overlooked on busy, brightly coloured backgrounds. If you think a mark might be lost, draw a big box around it or highlight it with a helpful arrow. Go for maximum clarity.

photo 2016 croppedLiz Jones worked in-house for two children’s publishers between 1998 and 2005, and still proofreads children’s books alongside a range of other freelance editorial work for publishers, business clients and individuals. When not editing she writes fiction, and also blogs about editing and freelancing at Eat Sleep Edit Repeat.

 

Photo credit: Betty Nudler Creative Commons

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Sarah Dronfield.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

Three easy steps to create a stress-free work-life balance when working from home

Three ways to achieve a stress-free work-life balanceBy Mariette Jansen (Dr De-Stress)

Dr Mariette Jansen presented a workshop at the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) 25th annual conference last weekend entitled ‘The challenge of balance: creating a work-life co-operation, not a battle’. Here she outlines three ways to achieve a stress-free work-life balance when working from home.

Work and life are perceived as two aspects of life that don’t go together: you are either working, or not. If only it was that simple.

Especially when working from home, it can be impossible to separate work and life. All too often, work gets in the way of life and life gets in the way of work. As a result, frustration and stress kicks in because you can’t stick to your best intentions in planning your work and you can often find yourself behind. Often, feelings of guilt arise if your house or child needs attention. Even though you might be physically close by, you don’t really have the time or energy to offer your full presence.

What can you do to make changes?

Lots of stressful situations can be resolved by being clear. Setting goals, planning your time, sticking to your resolutions and, at the same time, being flexible if you have to be.

Step 1: When you work from home or at home, it helps to decide the day before how many hours you need to concentrate on work: choose the minimum requirement, not the maximum possible, as this will set you up for disappointment. You will never fully achieve what you set out to do if you aim for the maximum possible in ideal circumstances. Only once in a while is life kind enough to provide the ideal situation, so you had better not bank on it. If you have to juggle, you need to allow time for that.

Step 2: Plan your hours carefully and stick to the plan, regardless. Communicate your planning to others, so they know as well. If your kids need you at a certain time, they will know when you are available and when you are not. Children can usually wait, you know… It might also mean you get up before anybody else to kick-start your working day with two or three hours of non-disturbed, focused labour. Imagine the feeling of achievement and reassurance when you are on top or, even better, ahead of your schedule.

Step 3: Take each day as it comes and learn from it. You may start with the best intentions, but most likely ‘life gets in the way’. Don’t let anger or frustration blur your perception, just observe what happens and use this information to adapt your planning in the future. The lesson might be that your planning has been more optimistic than realistic. If you continue applying these three steps, you will take more in control of your work-life balance and consequently feel less stressed and happier.

Dr Mariette Jansen / Dr De-StressDr Mariette Jansen aka Dr De-Stress, is a trained psychotherapist, life coach, meditation teacher, designer of award-winning stress-management techniques, author, motivational speaker and life changer. She offers personal coaching services via Skype and in person, aimed at work-life balance, food and diet stress, confidence and work stress. She also organises courses, workshops and talks around mindfulness meditation. Her book ‘Bullshit, non-sense and common-sense about meditation’ has been praised as insightful, easy to read and motivating. Mariette can be contacted by email or phone (07967 717131). She can also be found on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Proofread by SfEP associate Chris Charlton.

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