Tag Archives: CPD

Definite articles: AI

Welcome to ‘Definite articles’, our pick of recent editing-related internet content, most of which are definitely articles. This time, our theme is the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on editing and proofreading. It’s a hot topic of conversation among editorial professionals, which is why some of the links in this article were sourced from a CIEP forum thread about ChatGPT. Thank you to the CIEP members who shared them.

Because nothing related to discussions about AI can be guaranteed a long shelf life, you should know that this edition of ‘Definite articles’ was put together at the beginning of June 2023. It covers:

  • What’s been happening?
  • What can AI actually do?
  • How can editorial professionals move forward with AI?

What’s been happening?

On 30 November 2022, the AI chatbot ChatGPT was released by OpenAI. Since then, people who work with words, who include editors, proofreaders and writers, have had the unnerving feeling that the fundamentals of what they do might change, at least in some areas. If you haven’t been keeping a close eye on events, Forbes has written a short history of ChatGPT and two professors have summarised some of the implications of ChatGPT in usefully easy-to-understand terms. You can get an overview of Microsoft’s Copilot, an AI assistance feature being launched this summer, from CNN and Microsoft itself.

As well as the obvious nervousness about whether AI would replace various categories of worker, concerns were quickly raised about the effects of AI on assessing student work and what AI might mean for copyright.

By late spring 2023, loud noises were being made about regulation of AI. As lawmakers in Europe worked on an AI Act, workers in the UK reported that they would like to see the regulation of generative AI technologies.

It’s a subject that’s currently being written and thought about on a daily, if not hourly, basis. But, in practice, and at this point in time, what can AI actually do?

What can AI actually do?

If you didn’t catch Harriet Power’s CIEP blog, ‘ChatGPT versus a human editor’, it’s an enlightening and entertaining read that went down well with our social media followers on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Harriet instructed ChatGPT to take a proofreading test, write a blog post, and edit some fiction and a set of references. In the proofreading and editing tasks, it did ‘pretty well’ and was impressive in simplifying a fiction passage while keeping its main points. It also wrote a serviceable blog draft.

The two main problems Harriet noticed in the technology were a distinct lack of sparkle in ChatGPT’s writing and editing, and its ‘tendency to “hallucinate”: it’s very good at making stuff up with complete confidence’. (This tendency was also written about by Susanne Dunlap for Jane Friedman’s website, in an article called ‘Using ChatGPT for book research? Take exceeding care’.) Weighing up her test run, Harriet concluded:

ChatGPT apparently struggles to remain coherent when responding to much longer pieces of text (like whole books). It isn’t always factually accurate: you can’t entirely trust anything it’s saying. I can’t imagine how it’d make a good development editor, or how it’d handle raising complex, sensitive author queries. It can’t track changes well. It can’t think like a human, even when it can convincingly sound like one.

However, Harriet added the caveat that in her view it may be ‘years or even months’ before ChatGPT might be able to start competing with human editors. So, how should we respond to that?

computer screen showing OpenAI logo and text

How can editorial professionals move forward with AI?

Perhaps there’s no choice but to look at the possible upsides of the AI debate. Anne McCarthy for the New York Book Forum starts us off in ‘The potential impact of AI on editing and proofreading’ by reminding us that lightbulbs and the ‘horseless carriage’ inspired dire predictions in their day. She concludes: ‘Books always have (and always will) require a human touch: it’s what draws us readers to them.’

Amanda Goldrick-Jones, in an article for the Editors Toronto blog called ‘ChatGPT and the role of editors’, offers some wise and hopeful advice: there’s a point at which we, as editorial professionals, have to trust ourselves.

If anyone is well-positioned to explore and critique the possibilities and challenges of AI-generated writing, it’s an editor … So, as with other communication technologies, editors must self-educate about its affordances, propose clear ethical boundaries, and critically engage with its limitations. It’s a tool, not our robot overlord.

Part of this consideration and engagement is understanding AI’s risks, and Michelle Garrett lays these out very effectively in a blog post from March, ‘The realities of using ChatGPT to write for you – what to consider when it comes to legalities, reputation, search and originality’.

Moving one step further, a Q&A with writer Elisa Lorello on Jane Friedman’s website talks about actively using ChatGPT to become ‘creatively fertile’. Lorello testifies that when she started using the technology in earnest, ‘It’s like I suddenly gained an edge in productivity, organization, and creativity’.

And finally, Alex Hern in The Guardian described what happened when he spent a week using ChatGPT to enhance his leisure activities. If you’re not ready to use AI at work, perhaps you could at least get a couple of recipes out of it.

With thanks to the users of the CIEP’s forums for the links they shared in recent discussions.

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: robot hand by Tara Winstead on Pexels; OpenAI screen by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash.

Posted by Sue McLoughlin, blog assistant.

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

Curriculum focus: The publishing process

In this regular feature for The Edit, former training director Jane Moody highlights an area of the CIEP’s Curriculum for professional development. This month’s article is packed with useful information to expand your knowledge of the publishing process, from digital to bookbinding!

Publishing is covered in several areas of the curriculum. I haven’t included editorial processes in the list below, but rather concentrated on those aspects of publishing that are not covered by our core skills. These areas are valuable for a competent copyeditor or proofreader to know about. Most topics fall into Domain 2 Editorial knowledge and practice, but I have included one from Domain 1 Working as a professional.

KNOWLEDGE CRITERIAEDITORIAL COMPETENCIES, PROFESSIONAL SKILLS AND ATTITUDES
1.1.1 Role and responsibilities of an editor/proofreader within a publishing team• Understands publishing schedules and budgets, and how they interact
• Is aware of the responsibilities of an editor to stakeholders and of the editor as an intermediary
• Understands the place of an editor/proofreader in the publishing process
• Is aware of own role within the team and able to work as part of a team
2.1.1 Workflows• Understands the critical stages involved in any publishing process
• Understands common publishing terminology
2.1.2 Schedules and budgeting• Understands the importance of scheduling and budgeting within any publishing process
• Understands the influence of the schedule/budget on the scope of editing/proofreading
2.1.4 Production processes• Understands the roles and responsibilities of a production team
• Understands the meaning and use of common production terminology
• Understands the stages of the production process (eg prepress, print/electronic production)
2.1.5 Design, typography and typesetting• Understands the meaning and application of common typographical terminology
• Is aware of different fonts, typefaces and their uses
• Recognises typographical characteristics: measures, alignment, spacing
• Understands word and character spacing, leading, indentation, non-breaking spaces, hyphens
• Understands layout, typesetting and working with a typesetter (specification, layout, revises, running sheets)
2.1.6 Printing and finishing• Understands the requirements for different printing processes (colour, paper types, sizes, file sizes, resolution)
• Is aware of different printing processes (eg litho, offset, digital, print-on-demand)
• Is aware of different print finishes (eg sealer, varnishes, laminates)
• Is aware of different binding methods (saddle-stitched, perfect binding, sewn, case binding, self-cover)
2.1.7 eBook formats• Is aware of different ebook formats (eg EPUB, Amazon AZW, PDF, TXT, MOBI
• Has a basic understanding of which format to choose in different situations
2.1.11 Different models of publishing• Is aware of the different types of publishing models (eg traditional publishing, businesses and other clients, self-publishing)
• Understands the different financial models of publishing (eg traditional publisher pays, author pays, open access, hybrid models, self-publishing)

Terminology

Before you can understand the processes, perhaps you might need some explanation of the many jargon terms used in the business. You can, of course, use the CIEP Glossary. Other terms might be found in HarperCollins’ Glossary of Book Publishing Terms. For a lighter look at publishing terms, try Tom’s Glossary of Publishing Terms (in which the term copyediting is defined as ‘A phase of publishing that requires little or no budget, is considered of slight importance, and may be omitted at the option of the publisher’, copyright as ‘A concept invented by lawyers as a hedge against unemployment’, and chapter-by-chapter breakdown as ‘the progressive deterioration of a copyeditor who is on a tight deadline’!)

Some slightly more technical terms can be found in Desktop Publishing Terminology – The Complete Guide (2022) from Kwintessential.

Process and workflow

Understanding the publishing process is essential for copyeditors and proofreaders. However, understanding is complicated because there is no one process – workflows vary from publisher to publisher and with different types of publishing. There are several CIEP courses listed in the curriculum and other helpful resources. The CIEP fact sheet The publishing workflow is a good starting point.

Courses are thin on the ground, but the Publishing Training Centre runs an e-learning module An Introduction to publishing, which is described as being for ‘newcomers to publishing who wish to gain a grounding in the structure of the publishing industry today, along with its key processes and functions’.

Books include:

  • Inside Book Publishing, 6th edn by Giles Clark and Angus Phillips (Routledge, 2019), ‘the classic introduction to the book publishing industry’.
  • Handbook for Academic Authors: How to Navigate the Publishing Process, 6th edn by Beth Luey (Cambridge University Press, 2022).

Here, I’m looking further to find information in the online environment:

  • The Publishers Association is a good source of information. Their webpage ‘How publishing works’ gives detailed information and includes personal accounts of working in the role (although when I looked, there were several broken links).
  • Publishing Talk aims to help new and emerging authors write, publish and sell books. Jon Reed has written a blog, ‘The book publishing process – an 8-step guide’.
  • Individual publishers may offer guidance to authors about their particular processes, which can also be useful to editors, particularly if they include timings. See, for example, the Bloomsbury guide to the publishing process. The timings quoted there might raise a few eyebrows! HarperCollins personalises the process, with individuals describing their roles in the company.
  • Bill Swainson has written a blog, ‘The Publishing Process’ (originally written 27 July 2012 and updated 20 January 2021), for the Bloomsbury Writers & Artists newsletter.

close-up of a printing machine

For a different kind of publishing process for non-fiction, read the IntechOpen article ‘Publishing Process Steps and Descriptions’. IntechOpen is an open-access publisher. This model of publishing charges a fee to the author or the author’s institution (£850 per chapter) and the subsequent (online) publication is made freely available to readers.

ALLi provides information on the self-publishing process in a blog by Orna Ross, ALLi Director: ‘What Is Publishing? The Seven Processes of Book Publishing’. Also describing the self-publishing process is a guide from the Writers’ Guild, published in 2022, Self-publishing: A step-by-step guide for authors.

Other web resources include an ‘Academic Publishing Toolkit’ for potential authors from the University of Manchester Library. The University of Manchester Library has a number of helpful webpages on the publishing process. ‘The publishing process – what to expect’ includes flowcharts for each type of publication. These webpages give information about typical stages, milestones and timescales that you’re likely to encounter when publishing a journal article or a monograph. 

What all these useful articles don’t say, in their attempts to set out a clear process, is that some (sometimes all) these processes can happen in different orders, or all at once. Often, the design is adapted from a previous publication, so is already set before the editorial processes start. Sometimes publication is driven by the market, and marketing may be started before a word is written or edited. Publishers’ marketing departments are often over-enthusiastic about the speed of production of their forthcoming titles! How often have you ordered an advertised book only to be told (often several times) that the publication date has been put back?

Ebooks

Anum Hussain’s blog post ‘How to Create an Ebook From Start to Finish’ (11 August 2022) is a useful introduction, as is ‘How to Make an Ebook in 5 Steps Without Breaking a Sweat’ from Designrr.

Everything Self-Publishers Need to Know About Ebook Formats’ (8 November 2021) gives a run-down of the different formats available and when (and how not) to use them.

Printing and binding

You can read about the printing and binding processes, but it is hard to imagine what it’s really like without seeing it. YouTube is a happy hunting ground for videos – once you start to look, you will find many helpful videos that explain the process or just give you a feel for what it is like. Here are just a few.

If you don’t know much about the printing process, watch Gorham Print’s YouTube video, which shows the process in a small printing company. Watch the same basic process on a giant scale in a Korean company, Mega Process (or this one: Factory Monster). I can tell you from personal experience that these factories really are that noisy, even without the music! This clip is more explanatory: ‘How It’s Made Books’. I’d recommend watching them both: the Korean ones will give you a better feel for the real action, but the explanations in the latter are very helpful.

For a slightly different approach, watch Amazon Books’ ‘make on demand’ process. The sound quality is occasionally quite poor, which is a shame, but it’s worth watching to see the POD (print-on-demand) process.

Newspaper printing is quite specialised. Watch the New York Times (in 2019) or The Times (in 2022) being printed.

Offset litho printing is described in a video from Solopress and the sheetfed system in one from Sappi (this one has subtitles). Express Cards’ simple animations make the whole process a lot easier to understand.

Digital printing is explained in a video from Sappi and from Sticker Mountain (Indigo printing).

The Telegraph has a video from 2012: ‘Birth of a Book: how a hardback book is made’ – there will still be companies in existence who use the human touch, but probably not many like this one. For an even more esoteric skill set, watch ‘The Chelsea Bindery Show the Processes of Book Binding’ – once upon a time, most books were bound like this. It’s more like this now: ‘Book binding (Muller Martini Monostar)’.

About Jane Moody

Jane has worked with books for all her working life (which is rather more years than she cares to admit), having started life as a librarian. She started a freelance editing business while at home with her two children, which she maintained for 15 years before going back into full-time employment as head of publishing for a medical Royal College.

Now retired, she has resurrected her editorial business, but has less time for work these days as she spends much time with her four grandchildren and in her garden.

 

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: letterpress by Jirreaux; printing machine by Dengmert; both on Pixabay.

Posted by Sue McLoughlin, blog assistant.

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

Editing fiction: Romance

In this post, Maya Berger looks at how fiction editors can help authors to create romantic relationships that feel true to the rest of the story.

Content warning: general mention of non-consensual relationships and dynamics in fiction (no specific examples).

Characters in a work of fiction are complex creatures. They have personalities, back stories, motivations, physical appearances, schedules and interpersonal relationships – and a line editor needs to make sure that all these details are consistent, realistic within the fictional universe and engaging for the reader throughout the story. Add a romance into the mix, and now the editor also has to consider things like characters’ attitudes towards dating, sex and gender roles in relationships; whether the character becomes unrecognisable once they’re in love; and representations of consent.

This post will look at some of the major character considerations for editors to keep in mind when line editing romance and intimacy in fiction. It offers tips on ensuring that a story’s romantic elements preserve character consistency, framing and inclusivity, and handling consent issues sensitively.

Meet the lovebirds

When we’re line editing fiction in general, we look for well-developed, consistent characters with clear motivations, relatable thoughts and actions, and realistic and satisfying character arcs. And we can apply the same criteria to romantic character arcs and intimate dynamics.

What does the story say about the characters in a couple (or throuple, or other polyamorous configuration, as the case may be)? If your author has supplied character sketches, you’ve got a head start on this; otherwise, as you edit, note details like:

  • what qualities they value in their loved ones
  • how they react to stress
  • how highly they prioritise their career
  • how they like to spend their free time

and ask yourself whether the characters show these traits in their romantic interactions.

Then, look at what the romance contributes to the reader’s engagement with the characters. Does a romantic dynamic add to character development and reveal hidden truths about a character? Does a character’s crush motivate them to perform the actions that drive the plot forward, or does a character’s behaviour within a romantic relationship reveal an ulterior motive of theirs? If the answer to all these questions is ‘no’, or if the romantic dynamics feel out of place or tacked on just to give a character something to do, query this with the author.

There are often little additions you can suggest to turn an isolated intimate moment into a scene that adds depth to the story. For example:

Before: ‘She kissed Ilana, losing herself in the sensations.’

After: ‘She kissed Ilana, losing herself in pleasurable sensations for the first time since the war began.’

Before: ‘If the heart-stoppingly beautiful barista was working today, he would finally ask them out.’

After: ‘If the heart-stoppingly beautiful barista was working today, he would finally ask them out – he was determined that his infernal stutter would not get in the way this time.’

Editing romance for character consistency

Be on the lookout for unexplained inconsistencies between how a character acts, speaks and thinks in romantic and non-romantic scenes. If you find any, ask the author about them.

Here’s an example of a query with suggestions for addressing such a character inconsistency:

Character A’s flirting is playful, but in all his interactions with his friends and siblings he is intense and pretentious, and readers may find the difference jarring. If there is something about Character B that brings out Character A’s hidden playful side, please make this clearer in the text.

I’d also suggest having Character A notice the difference in himself and react to it: is he ashamed to be letting his guard down around Character B, for example, or does it make him appreciate Character B all the more? Alternatively, you could add some light-heartedness to Character A’s other relationships or make him more intense with his lover so that he’s still recognisable in every scene.

With this query, I’ve prompted the author to consider how they intended to portray Character A in the context of their romantic and other relationships, and I’ve given them some corresponding options for improving the text.

Editing romance for consent orientation

The Pervocracy states that, ‘A consent culture is one in which the prevailing narrative of sex – in fact, of human interaction – is centred around mutual consent.’

When examining the romantic dynamics in a story, try to establish the story’s consent orientation – its underlying attitudes and assumptions about the seeking and granting of consent. For example, the author may have written dialogue with a joke about following someone home that they intended as flirty banter but that comes across like a lyric from ‘Every Breath You Take’. In a case like this, you can suggest having the character sheepishly realise what they’ve implied and apologise for being creepy, framing the character as a villain and having other characters react negatively to the joke, or replace the joke with a different funny line that doesn’t rely on making someone feel unsafe for its punchline.

The vocabulary and tone play a big part in setting a story’s consent orientation: for example, is the author trying to create an atmosphere that is inappropriately erotic when a character is showing reluctance or distress? And ask yourself which characters are portrayed sympathetically. The answers to these questions will help you determine the story’s position on consent and whether the author is being exploitative, not just in terms of the romantic elements of the story but with all the story’s interpersonal relationships.

As an editor, you may encounter scenes of non-consensual or traumatic relationships and acts, particularly in crime fiction, horror and historical fiction. Sometimes these scenes will be integral to a character’s story or establishing historical accuracy and realism, but you can always choose not to take on a project with these elements or step away from a project that you’re uneasy about.

When editing a story with non-consensual elements, I suggest advising the author to add a content-warning disclaimer in the front matter of the story to help readers know what to expect, if it’s not already clear from the cover, the blurb or the genre and marketing of the book.

Even though the inclusion of a non-consensual scenario might be necessary in a story, that doesn’t give an author carte blanche to glorify coercion or violence in an intimate relationship, and an editor can suggest rewording or reframing a character or scene to avoid glamourising these things the same way that we might for murder, fraud or any other crime. This brings us on to …

Editing romance for character framing

As well as the non-consensual dynamics mentioned above, even within the realm of consensual relationships there is potential for misogyny, jokes in poor taste, gender essentialism and other content that can alienate readers. Again, note the characters’ reactions to each other and to what is happening, as well as how the narrator treats the characters. Do the sympathetic characters’ actions and dialogue support the framing of them as swoon-worthy?

For example, if Character D describes Character C as ‘the woman of my dreams’, but this ‘dream woman’ constantly insults and belittles Character D in front of their friends, do the narration and the other characters also see Character C positively? If they do, you can raise a query with the author, along the lines of:

Character C insulted Character D in front of their friends seven times in the previous two chapters. This doesn’t seem consistent with the description of her as ‘the woman of my dreams’, with how well liked she is within their friend group, or with the narration’s framing of her as a sympathetic character.

To avoid putting off readers, consider having fewer instances of Character C insulting her partner and/or having Character C apologise and make good-faith efforts to change. Alternatively, you can reframe Character C’s actions by giving them consequences within the story, such as having Character D or their friends call out Character C and telling her that her behaviour is unacceptable.

two people with tattoos on their arms hold hands

Editing romance for inclusivity

The traditional male romantic leads in Western fiction (tall, white, non-disabled, young, cisgender men who were sexually attracted to women) and their female counterparts (cisgender, young, non-disabled, white, and seeking a monogamous romantic and sexual relationship with a man) leave a lot of readers unrepresented.

Thankfully, as many fiction genres have become more diverse, so have the romances within them. And as editors, we can encourage authors to include positive representation in their stories by moving beyond stereotypes or subverting them.

When characters with romantic storylines are from racialised or sexual-minority backgrounds, or when they are older characters or characters with impairments, illnesses or neurodivergence, challenge any negative stereotyping around things like:

  • their capacity to feel and express desire
  • their attitudes towards casual sex, having and raising children, and LGBTQIA+ relationships
  • the gender roles they occupy.

Conclusion

  • Get to know the characters with romantic storylines, and note whether they show the same traits in their romantic interactions and in the rest of the story.
  • Establish the story’s consent orientation and pay attention to how the dialogue, tone and character framing reinforce it.
  • Encourage positive representation of diverse romances and challenge negative stereotyping.

Further reading

To find out more about integrating romance into a work of fiction, check out Candida Bradford’s blog post on writing a romantic subplot, TV Tropes’ Romantic Plot Tumor page, this blog post from KJ Charles on consent in sex scenes and my blog post on how to write more diverse sexuality in fiction.

About Maya Berger

Maya Berger is an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading. She specialises in editing and proofreading erotic and romantic fiction, speculative fiction, and academic texts in the humanities and social sciences, and she appeared as a guest on The Editing Podcast speaking about editing erotica. Maya also launched The Editor’s Affairs (TEA) in 2020 to help fellow freelance editors manage their business affairs. She lives and works in Toronto, Canada.

 

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: heart and books by Kaboompics, couple by a lake by Adam Kontor, couple holding hands by Marcelo Chagas, all on Pexels.

Posted by Sue McLoughlin, blog assistant.

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

Editing fiction: Dialogue

In the first of a series of posts on editing fiction, Katherine Kirk looks at how editors can help authors create engaging dialogue that really brings individual characters to life.

Style manuals like New Hart’s Rules and guides like The Chicago Guide to Copyediting Fiction can help editors know exactly how to punctuate an interruption or how to capitalise a stammered first name, but there’s more to great conversations than the lengths of their pauses. Sometimes we need to dig a little deeper into them, and at a line editing level, this can start to feel a bit abstract. It can be hard to explain to an author how to add more subtext to a snippet of dialogue: ‘You need to not write more things not being said’ sounds like some kind of magic trick.

This post will look at how great dialogue starts with the character, it changes depending on whom they’re talking to, and how editors can add or subtract to bring those voices out.

Start with the character

If a novel’s characters aren’t distinct enough from each other, their voices will blur into one and the reader will soon forget who’s who and why they should care.

A strong character voice comes from who that character is at their core. Their background, their beliefs and their agenda all play into how they speak. If you’re working directly with an author, you can ask them probing questions like: ‘These characters live in the US but are originally from the UK, having moved there when the children were quite young. How much of their British accent has remained a decade later?’

The answers will inform word choice and what sort of rhythm the characters use when they speak. For that reason, I usually don’t wait until the end of my main pass through a manuscript to ask the author these types of questions, but send them along as soon as possible.

If you’re not working directly with an author, then you can only work with the information they’ve given you in the manuscript itself, which is why it’s a great idea to read the whole thing first, before editing. In your style sheet, make notes not only of the concrete details like a character’s age or hair colour but also about characteristics that could inform the way they speak. If they have a pet phrase or verbal habit, see if it’s used consistently. Does their spoken voice match their inner voice? Is there a good reason for it not to?

Paying attention to these aspects of the character’s voice can help you to pick up on where characters might start sounding the same. For instance, what maybe started as a verbal habit for one character might have been applied to multiple characters, nullifying its effect. Or it may be an author habit instead. If an author is relying only on these verbal habits to distinguish characters from each other, they might be overused and feel repetitive. Authors of YA may be tempted to have their teen characters say ‘like’ in every sentence; while this might reflect how some real-life teens speak, overuse may irritate readers. Don’t be afraid to suggest removing some of them.

Pet phrases aren’t the only tool we can use to make the voices more distinct. Some other options might be:

  • talking around the issue vs getting to the point (look at sentence structure here)
  • utilising gratuitously verbose lexical terms vs using short, simple words
  • airily drifting in and out of a conversation with pauses and ellipses vs jumping in and thrashing about with dashes
  • popping in slang vs using very ‘correct’ formal language. Regional slang, age-specific slang, and industry jargon can all tell us a lot about a person, and about a person who refuses to use it.

The roles we play

I am her mother, his wife, her teacher, his naughty little secret, their ally, your worst nightmare, and that will affect how I speak to you. People who know each other well develop a kind of shorthand and can read each other’s subtext better, so characters who are close might not need to have every question answered. I often find that deleting the answer to the question (especially a yes or no) loses nothing. The reader can infer the answer from context and how the conversation proceeds, and it feels snappier and more vivid.

Here’s an example with every question answered. Note how slow it feels.

‘Where is he?’ I asked, reaching for the frozen peas.

‘He’s out back, I think.’ She turned away, as if she couldn’t bear to look at me. ‘Are you hungry?’

‘I’m not hungry. The peas are for the swelling.’ I pressed them to my throbbing cheek. ‘Did you tell him?’

‘I didn’t tell him,’ she said. ‘I knew it would make him angry.’

‘Because you know how he gets,’ I muttered.

‘Yes. I know,’ she said. ‘That’s why I didn’t tell him.’

When the characters are family, as these two might be, then much of this does not need to be said. Cutting text out can turn it into subtext, making the conversation feel less stodgy and more suspenseful. If there’s a tag along with an action beat, we can probably take the tag out too and use the action beat as attribution on its own. Where it’s clear who’s speaking, we don’t need any attribution at all. Here’s an extreme example of how it might be pared down:

‘Where is he?’ I reached for the frozen peas.

‘Out back.’ She turned away. ‘I didn’t tell him.’

‘You know how he gets.’

‘I know.’

What if they were acquaintances?

‘Where is he?’ I reached for the frozen peas.

‘He’s out back. Working in the shop, I think.’ She turned away. ‘Did he do that?’

‘You couldn’t have known.’

‘I might have. But it wasn’t me that told him.’

Here, they need to give each other a little more information, and the shared knowledge of years of history is gone. They speak in slightly more complete sentences and give each other more grace.

How the characters negotiate the control of the conversation (or turn-taking) could also show their intimacy. It might change over the course of a novel. A meet-cute might have our lovers verbally stumbling over and butting up against each other, but by the end of their love story, they’re listening to each other, reading each other’s subtext and finishing each other’s sentences. Or it could go the other way, with a couple who used to be able to read each other’s signals now finding they’re no longer fluent in their shared unspoken language, and they might misread it.

What if our two characters dislike each other, and one of them is a little tougher? Let’s have the tough lady interrupt more and use more colloquial language, and contrast it with the other by having more hedging and hesitation. We might need to add an action beat to make the character more vivid.

‘Where is he?’ I reached for the frozen peas.

She spat out an apple seed. ‘I ain’t his keeper.’

‘Did you tell him? That I–’

‘Course not.’

‘It’s just that, well, I wouldn’t blame you if you had.’

‘Well I didn’t.’

Their relationship affects the words they choose to say, the questions they dodge and the assumptions they make. Dialogue that fails to take these elements into account tends towards soulless conversation that is just furthering the plot, reacting to an event or revealing a secret.

How much can an editor change?

It tends to be easier to take things out than to add things in. Whatever we remove, the words that remain are still entirely the author’s. Luckily for us, authors tend to bloat dialogue rather than be too brief, so we usually just need to do some careful snipping. But sometimes the dialogue feels like it’s just scaffolding and it needs something more substantial.

When it comes to adding stuff in, editors are limited in what we can do. It’s not our job to write the book. But we could provide examples. My favourite trick is to mine the narrative for key phrases that ring with the character’s voice and move them into sleepy dialogue to wake it up. I might borrow a phrase from one speaker and give it to another, or flip who says what. That way I’m using the author’s own words to patch the hole rather than speaking for them. If there isn’t a handy phrase nearby, I’ll provide some examples in my best imitation of their voice and let the author choose.

If you’re asking them to add something, you must have a good reason for doing so, and be very clear in your directions. Be specific about what exactly needs to be added, why and where. Review their revisions to check they haven’t introduced errors. And remember that it’s not your book.

Summing it up

  • If you read a manuscript in full before you dive in, you can get to know the characters a little better.
  • Take note not only of what characters are but who they are, and how that affects their voice.
  • Make note of their relationships, and check if these relationships are reflected in their conversations.
  • Trim out the unnecessary padding and let the best parts of the dialogue shine without being smothered by redundant dialogue tags or awkward attempts to show dialect.
  • Be just as careful taking out as you are adding in, and don’t fix what ain’t broke. Ask more questions and respect the characters as much as you respect the author.

For more insight into making dialogue sparkle, I recommend Louise Harnby’s dialogue resources, this blog post by Emma Darwin, and Sophie Playle’s fabulous explanation of ‘As You Know, Bob’ dialogue (and how to avoid it).

About Katherine Kirk

Katherine Kirk is a fiction editor who has been described by clients as a hopeless semantic and their secret weapon. She offers line editing, copyediting and proofreading to indie authors and publishers of all fiction genres, and she particularly enjoys science fiction and fantasy.

 

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: speech bubbles by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels; couple by Samson Katt on Pexels.

Posted by Sue McLoughlin, blog assistant.

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

Flying solo: Editor education – an essential investment

In this Flying solo column, Sue Littleford makes the case for why training and continuous professional development are vital for editors and proofreaders – considering their importance to CIEP members in particular.

Members of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) understand the emphasis put on training and the acquisition of the appropriate level of skills, as well as maintaining and expanding them through continuous professional development (CPD).

The CIEP distinguishes between core skills and editorial skills, core skills being about how to edit or proofread, and editorial skills being more about the context in which the editing or proofreading takes place and expanding your skillset.

But why this emphasis on training? It’s there in the curriculum for professional development and in the upgrading system (members should take a look at How to upgrade your CIEP membership, especially chapters 2, 3 and 11 for all members, and chapter 4, 5 or 6 depending on the grade you’re working towards). Training is all over the forums! Advanced Professional Members (APMs) are required to show their commitment to CPD, to stay current with best practice.

Simply put, we don’t know what we don’t know.

We don’t know if – while we’ve been nose to the grindstone – new tools, new standards, or new and better approaches to the work have been developed and are now circulating. Training allows us the time to look up and look around, and see what’s happening out there.

Training also gives our clients the confidence that we do actually know what we’re doing, which is invaluable to them and to us. Members in the Professional grades can take out an entry in the Directory of Editorial Services, and potential clients searching the Directory will have confidence that members who have achieved Professional membership or higher have the backing of solid training.

But surely, I hear some of you cry, I already know what I’m doing! English isn’t evolving so quickly I can’t keep up all by myself. I don’t need additional training – I’m learning on the job all the time. I don’t need formal training – I pick things up as I go!

I say again: we don’t know what we don’t know.

Going on training courses that challenge you to do better expands your abilities and your experience and gives imposter syndrome a biff on the nose. And, as workshop training starts to become available again in some places, there can be the chance to meet other editors and talk together. Just talking to other editors about their contexts can be a real eye-opener.

Sometimes an absolute gem of a tip gets mentioned in the margins of a course, off-topic but really useful to you. Learning isn’t restricted to the course outline.

Some people prefer to learn on their own. Well, that’s fine, so far as it goes; but, especially if you’re still building up your experience as an editor or a proofreader, how do you know you’re learning what you need to know? Are you learning in sufficient breadth, with perspective? Or are you just burrowing further into your own snug editorial world, unaware of what you can learn from outside that niche?

If so, you’re really restricting the kind of material you can work on competently and, in these ever-uncertain days, that may be somewhat counterproductive for your business and your financial health.

Equally, some people have learned on the job by being tutored or mentored by their boss – or just by ‘sitting with Nelly’ as we used to call it in the civil service. That’s fine too, but to upgrade you’ll also need to sit and pass the CIEP’s editorial test (page 34 of the upgrading guide and on the website). Again, the CIEP’s emphasis in the test is on across-the-board competence. Niche away in the jobs you choose to take on, but don’t become isolated and narrow in your approach to your professional practice.

Getting a good solid grounding in the fundamentals of editing under your belt (and keeping it current) gives you a great springboard for developing yourself and your business in the way you want.

One of the characteristics that unites good editors is our curiosity, along with our quest for new knowledge (and a headful of otherwise useless bits and bobs of general knowledge). The ability to know when something we’re editing sounds off is of great value to our clients.

Maintain that inquisitive approach.

A sign reading 'love to learn' points towards a figure walking along a road

Record-keeping

Regular readers will know what a fan I am of record-keeping. It’s no different with training, which is why the Going Solo toolkit (CIEP members only) has a spreadsheet on which to record the training you’ve already undertaken, and the training you’d like to take.

Listing out the training you’ve already taken will help you see where you have weaknesses, or where your training is out of date and ripe to be refreshed.

Keeping a note of training courses you fancy the look of – the spreadsheet has a handy column to keep a link to each one – will whet your appetite and enable you to see whether anything you’ve taken note of neatly plugs a hole or tops up your training in that area.

Consulting the curriculum for professional development will also help you check whether you’re getting a rounded education as an editor or a proofreader. Looking at that curriculum will open your eyes to what it is you didn’t know you didn’t know. Add topics to your wish list so you can be on the lookout for courses to fill the gaps.

And if you’re still working through the CIEP’s grades, the spreadsheet was developed with the input of the Admissions Panel. Collecting the evidence is easy and you don’t have to copy out your training all over again on the upgrade form.

Planning and budgeting

Training costs time and it costs money. If you’re still working through the CIEP grades, then you’ll want to set aside a training budget each year – in cash and in time. If you’re already an APM, then you’ll set aside a CPD budget each year.

But how much money? And how much time? This is where the curriculum, the requirements of the grade you’re aiming for, the direction you’re taking your business in and your wish list of training courses come together.

Using all the information you have recorded on courses taken, gaps in training and your wish list, you can prioritise which course(s) to take next. You can then ensure you can afford them and set aside the time available to do them justice.

I know some inveterate course-takers who have huge plans and then, when they come to tot up the total cost and the time commitment, have to move some courses they’d love to do into the next year – or the next two years. Well, it’s nice to have something to look forward to!

Tax implications

For UK taxpayers, training is an allowable business expense for the self-employed in some cases only. If you pay tax elsewhere, check your own jurisdiction on this.

In brief, in the UK, training is not an allowable business expense if it’s undertaken to enable you to start trading.

Nor is it an allowable business expense if it’s undertaken to enable you to move into a new area of business. Harsh but true.

Training is an allowable expense if it keeps you up to date in your skills and knowledge. Even HMRC likes CPD!

Take note that, as with all other allowable expenses, training costs are only allowable if they are incurred wholly for business purposes.

This is the advice on the GOV.UK website:

Training courses

You can claim allowable business expenses for training that helps you improve the skills and knowledge you use in your business (for example, refresher courses).

The training courses must be related to your business.

You cannot claim for training courses that help you:

      • start a new business
      • expand into new areas of business, including anything related to your current business [my emphasis].

It’s made very clear that not all training is allowable.

The technical bit is in HMRC’s Business Income Manual.

Takeaways

  • Training is a sound investment in yourself and your business, making you fit for purpose as an editor or a proofreader. It gives your clients confidence that you do actually know what you’re doing and will do it well. It also keeps you poised to move your business in a new direction if that’s something you want – or need – to do.
  • Autodidacticism can work well, but can also come across as less authoritative and clients may feel less confident about your offer. Training supplied by reputable providers enhances your profile and ensures you don’t get in a rut.
  • Learning on the job is also fine, but you will need to pass the CIEP’s online editorial test in order to upgrade.
  • Training is also clearly set out in How to upgrade your CIEP membership as an essential pillar of every upgrade.
  • Some training, but not all, is an allowable business expense to be deducted from your business’s profit to reduce your income tax and National Insurance contributions liability.

About Sue Littleford

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: back to school by Olia Danilevich on Pexels; love to learn by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.

Posted by Sue McLoughlin, blog assistant.

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

Curriculum focus: Educational publishing

In this regular feature for The Edit, former training director Jane Moody highlights areas of the CIEP’s Curriculum for professional development related to educational publishing.

Editors who work in educational publishing use all the same tools as every other kind of editor, so it is difficult to pick out anything specific. Often, however, the areas of scheduling and process are important to editors working in this field. Clarity is also particularly important in writing for educational purposes, so let’s look at these few aspects of the curriculum.

Knowledge criteriaEditorial competency, professional skills and attitudes
2.1.2 Schedules and budgeting• Understands the importance of scheduling and budgeting within any publishing process
• Understands the influence of the schedule/budget on the scope of editing/proofreading
2.1.3 Editorial processes• Understands the meaning and significance of common editorial terminology
• Understands the roles and responsibilities of members of an editorial team
• Understands the stages of the editorial process
2.1.4 Production processes• Understands the roles and responsibilities of a production team
• Understands the meaning and use of common production terminology
• Understands the stages of the production process (eg prepress, print/electronic production)
2.3.3 Clarity in writing• Understands the need to avoid ambiguity
• Understands appropriate use of language and tone
• Understands conciseness (elimination of redundancy/repetition)
• If space is limited or layout is fixed, is aware of the need to fit any change into the available space without causing a new problem
• Can reword appropriately to simplify, clarify or shorten text
• Can identify whether material is well expressed and flows logically, with the ideas and wording easy to follow

Resources to support your learning and CPD

The CIEP course Editorial Project Management would be really useful to enhance your skills. You could also try the PTC course Introduction to Digital Project Management. For clarity in writing, try the CIEP courses Getting to Grips with Grammar and Punctuation and Plain English for Editors. The CIEP guide Editing Textbooks would also be worth a read.

This book chapter would also be worth reading: Miha Kovač, Mojca K. Šebart. ‘Educational publishing: how it works: primary and secondary education publishing’ in: The Oxford Handbook of Publishing, edited by Angus Phillips and Michael Bhaskar. OUP, 2019, pp274–288.

If you work with interactive exercises, the CIEP course Editing Digital Content could prove useful.

Read Anneke Schmidt’s blog post: ‘What makes a good elearning course? elearning best practices explained’ (Skill & Care, 13 March 2023). This post could also lead you down various other useful rabbit holes.

The Society of Young Publishers has published the video ‘Introduction to Education Publishing’, which you can find on YouTube. It’s a panel discussion and gives a good overview of the education sector of the publishing industry.

This is only a snapshot – almost every other topic in domains 1 and 2 of the Curriculum for professional development are relevant to editing for educational publishing!

About Jane Moody

Jane has worked with books for all her working life (which is rather more years than she cares to admit), having started life as a librarian. She started a freelance editing business while at home with her two children, which she maintained for 15 years before going back into full-time employment as head of publishing for a medical Royal College.

Now retired, she has resurrected her editorial business, but has less time for work these days as she spends much time with her four grandchildren and in her garden.

 

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: header image by Pixabay on Pexels.

Posted by Sue McLoughlin, blog assistant.

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

Music editing

What makes working on music-based manuscripts different from other subject areas? Four music editors give a flavour of this editorial speciality.

The CIEP Music forum and, shortly afterwards, the Music special interest group (SIG), led by Dawn Wakefield, were set up following the 2021 CIEP conference when it became clear that there are a lot of musicians among our members. The members of the SIG are all musical in some way, with many of us playing more than one instrument (including an unusual number of oboists!). Between us, we have experience in a broad range of musical genres, from classical to rock and gospel to folk.

We hold monthly Zoom meetings, sometimes with guest speakers, when we discuss music editing, specific editorial problems and ideas we’ve come across. One common discussion topic has been how to find clients and, just as importantly, how potential clients can find us. Google searches for music editors resulted in many links for music audio editors but nothing for those of us who edit text or sheet music. As a result, we have set up a new website, Find a Music Editor (FaME), to give us a more visible online presence.

Fiona Little: Music proofreading

I began proofreading sheet music after I had gained some experience of copyediting music books. I play several musical instruments and had edited some unpublished 18th-century music for a dissertation, so I felt reasonably confident about the work, but there was a lot to learn. Although music resembles text in that it is written and read in a linear way, from beginning to end, it also portrays sounds graphically, which is why a choir singer unfamiliar with the notation can trace their line in a score, following the ups and downs of the melody. Music notation has multiple dimensions: each note shows both pitch and duration and, as well as clefs and other symbols, there are markings for tempo (speed), dynamics (loud/soft), phrasing and so on. Finally, music normally incorporates some text, for example in the form of headings and directions, and, in vocal music, words that are sung to the notes. Good layout can help to make all these features clear.

Even with music typesetting software, errors can creep in. Although basic musical ‘grammar’ can be checked, a problem may have several possible solutions. For example, if a bar (a ‘measure’ in US English) contains five beats when the time signature specifies four, are there too many notes, is one of them too long or is the time signature wrong? Even simple errors are best queried, and you need to understand the musical style in order to work confidently.

For the proofreader or editor, addressing all these aspects is time-consuming. Whether I’m comparing with a previous version or reading ‘cold’, I work methodically in a series of passes, considering one aspect at a time: pitches on one pass, note durations and rhythms on another, and so on, hearing the music in my inner ear as I go. It all adds up to an experience that is very different from working on text.

Dawn Wakefield: Proofreading educational materials

One of the things I most enjoy about music proofreading is that it is not all sitting in front of a computer screen reading text; it can actually involve playing and listening to music.

I often work on educational piano books. First proofs of the sheet music portion of the book are usually worked through on paper as this is the quickest and most accurate way of marking music scores. Like Fiona, I take several passes to check the various elements of the notation, and then, in addition, I check or create piano fingering, shown with numbers (1 for thumb, 2 for index finger, etc). For this, I have to play through the pieces carefully and, in the process, often spot errors of pitch or rhythm, which may become clearer once heard.

The text sections of the book, as well as headings to the pieces themselves, often require knowledge of other languages. Instructions in the music are most commonly in Italian, but are often in French or German, according to the composer’s nationality. Historical background text also often contains foreign names and place names, so linguistic knowledge may be involved, for instance understanding masculine and feminine endings of Eastern European surnames or checking spelling that has been transcribed from Cyrillic.

Plenty of listening was required for a recent job proofreading online resources for an educational music course for teenagers. As well as checking that the YouTube links actually worked, I had to listen and check that the tracks were accurately described. I had a very enjoyable and nostalgic time listening to well-known pop hits from across the decades from the 1950s to the present! In one amusing incident, the music to a computer game was described as being by Grieg, yet, when I listened, I found a strange electronic version of The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss! The fact that music editing uses so many varied skills is one of its most rewarding aspects.

close-up of hands playing a piano from sheet music

Eleanor Bolton: Editing books

In many ways, books about music are similar to other books. The text has to be copyedited so that it conforms to the publisher’s style guide, often, of course, with variations depending on author preference and likely readership. However, some specialist knowledge is useful whatever genre of music you work on.

Maybe the text is discussing the finer points of Schubert’s cello quintet, but the extract shows two viola parts. If you know your clefs, and that a ‘cello quintet’ has two cellos, that’s an obvious inconsistency. But what else do we need to look for? Here are some other examples of something being awry:

  • The text contains a discussion of piano fingerings in a specific bar, but the excerpt in the music example doesn’t have any fingerings in that bar.
  • The caption specifies bars 80–92 but the excerpt is only eight bars long.
  • The caption says the piece is in ‘F# major’. Note the difference between the hash sign # and the musical sharp sign ♯.
  • The text refers to Bach’s opus 1001 but the caption says ‘BWV 1001’. (J. S. Bach’s music is, uniquely, catalogued by BWV number, not opus number.)

As with many things in life, you don’t know what you don’t know. A good editor knows when (and where!) to look things up.

Anna Williams: Music typesetting and the crossover with editing

The line between the roles of music editor and typesetter (or ‘engraver’, harking back to the etched metal plates used from the late 16th century to surprisingly recently) has blurred over recent years. While some publishers retain the distinction, I am receiving more requests for ‘full package’ or ‘on-screen editing’ jobs. Though sometimes driven by a client’s desire to save time and/or money, it also taps into the crossover of skills required for each task and is made easier by advances in music notation software.

As well as the musical ‘grammar’ that Fiona mentions, plus house style, consistency and clarity checks, part of a music editor’s job is to optimise the layout and presentation of information on the page. This includes practical considerations, such as instrumentalists needing time to turn pages, or a publisher needing to fit a collection into a certain page extent, but it’s also about spacing, information density and the need for music that can be read fluently at speed.

It often makes sense to consider these layout issues before detailed copyediting and to adjust (a copy of!) the computer file accordingly. Whether or not you will be typesetting, some initial layout work can result in a cleaner manuscript to work on, saving time. Trying out different notations in the file can sometimes also guide editorial decisions, so being familiar with the software can be very helpful. Similarly, editorial knowledge is useful when typesetting. Some music publishers place much of the house style responsibility on typesetters, and understanding editorial conventions means they can fix things an editor might have missed.

I hope and believe that there will continue to be dedicated editors and typesetters in the industry, but there is a place for a combined model of working, especially for the increasing number of self-publishing composers, who are often looking for someone with both the editorial knowledge and typesetting expertise to turn their work into a publication-standard product.


If you’re an editor of music-based material, please come and join us on the Music forum, where you will find details of our meetings and more. If you’d like to be added to the Directory on our website, the details can be found on the forum.

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: sheet music close-up by César Vanc on Pexels; pianist playing sheet music by wal_172619 on Pixabay.

Posted by Sue McLoughlin, blog assistant.

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

‘Joining the CIEP is an excellent idea!’ An interview with a new(ish) editor

After a long career as a piano teacher, Dawn Wakefield entered the professional editorial world at the end of 2019 and is now an Intermediate Member of the CIEP. In this post, she shares her experiences as a new proofreader and editor and explains how it’s a continuous learning process.

Why did you decide to become an editor/proofreader?

I have always had a good eye for detail (sometimes annoyingly so!) and have sporadically done proofreading jobs informally for friends over many years. As I suddenly found myself obliged to keep working into my sixties, which I was not previously expecting, I liked the idea of doing some work that was less appointment-based and thus had more flexible working hours. When Covid severely reduced my long-standing music teaching business, having a new career became a necessity rather than just a wish.

What training have you done?

So far, I have completed CIEP’s Proofreading 1 and Proofreading 2 courses and also the introductory Copyediting 1 course. I have also found all the very informative talks at the three online CIEP conferences I have attended extremely useful.

The courses have also been very useful, both in extending my knowledge and in showing me how much more there is still to learn! I struggled most with the fact I often had to make decisions under assessment that in real life I would have consulted with my client about, so that small aspect was very different from the practical experience of carrying out my work.

Why did you join the CIEP?

Julia [Sandford-Cooke, longtime CIEP member and longtime friend of Dawn’s] said it was a good idea! Seriously though, I knew I had skills in this area but I needed to gain some qualifications in order to work for people beyond my usual circle of contacts.

What benefits have you had from being a member of the CIEP?

The best thing has been the helpfulness and friendly supportiveness of my local Norfolk group. I have learned a lot from attending the meetings and have gained a network of more experienced editors who are very willing to help with editing issues. There is also the almost-overwhelming amount of information available on the CIEP website, which I am still slowly progressing through, and the regular emails also supply more information than I can keep up with at times.

Have you joined any other groups?

As a result of connections made at the 2021 CIEP conference, it was decided to set up a Music Special Interest Group (SIG), and I am enjoying being the coordinator of this group and getting to know other musical-minded editors internationally.

Do you have a website?

I already have a website for my music teaching business, but have not felt ready to set up my own website for editing as yet. However, soon after joining CIEP I joined the Norfolk editors group website NPEN, which has proven useful as a way of having a web presence, looking credible professionally and also gaining some work as a result. Impressed by the effectiveness of this, I am now also part of the new group website for CIEP music editors, Find a Music Editor (FAME).

Do you have a social media presence?

I am on LinkedIn and also Twitter. I tend to use Facebook and Instagram for more personal input, but not exclusively so.

How did you go about finding clients?

Despite not having much of an editorial presence on Facebook, building connections with other pianists through Facebook groups has been very useful, and has led to several piano-related proofreading and fingering jobs. I need to do more marketing but have been lucky to find clients through personal contacts, and also through being on the NPEN website. Telling absolutely everyone you can think of about what you are doing … is a good plan!

You were already self-employed – has your previous experience/processes been useful? What have you needed to change?

I have always enjoyed running my own business, so I am used to that responsibility and discipline. Working for independent authors has been similar in experience, but I have found adapting to working for larger companies more challenging.

Did you have to buy new equipment/software?

So far, my outlay in this direction has been quite modest. I needed a second screen, but for now I am borrowing one. The purchase of a more up-to-date laptop is imminent, but I have managed OK for three years on what I had. I found myself buying plenty of textbooks. Actually, I buy more books generally now because editing has renewed my enthusiasm for reading again, particularly fiction, which I rarely used to read at all. Now I need to invest in more bookshelves!

What skills from being a music teacher do you bring to your work as a proofreader?

Working independently. Also, I see quite a few similarities in the skills involved in listening to a piano pupil and correcting their errors, as well as helping them to find the best way of expressing themselves and the music. This relates in many ways to correcting text and making suggestions to help an author communicate clearly and effectively with their readers.

What has surprised you most about your new career?

The huge amount there is to learn! Especially if you want to be at the top of this profession – an Advanced Professional member – I should have started sooner …

What do you wish you’d known beforehand?

I wish I had more IT expertise! I have learned a lot quite quickly, but there is long way to go …

I would have really welcomed some more structured guidance from the CIEP specifically for new members. There is lots and lots of information on the website, so it can be difficult to know where to start and what order to do things in. I keep discovering things that I wish I had known sooner.

What do you like best about proofreading?

The satisfaction of seeing the finished publication. Also, any opportunity to put all my musical and linguistic skills into action. A recent highlight was proofreading and piano fingering for the book HerStory by Karen Marshall for Faber Music; it made use of my editing skills, piano skills and European language knowledge all in one project … and promoted many exceptional female composers. [Editor’s note: This book was actually a finalist in the Outstanding Music Education Resource Category for the 2023 Music and Drama Education Awards.]

I also enjoy the sheer variety of materials you get to work on; I can see why editors become good quiz team members!

What do you like least?

Publishers who send you second or final proofs with no notice and expect you to turn them round in 24–48 hours. It seems to happen more than I would wish.

What would be your top pieces of advice?

If you are just starting out, joining the CIEP is an excellent idea! Being part of a friendly professional organisation is really invaluable.

It’s a good idea to put aside plenty of time and also finance for taking training courses and studying in your first few years, as in the longer term that will open up more work opportunities. I have yet to get the balance of this sorted. Better forward planning would be helpful rather than focusing on immediate income and struggling to find the time and money for further studies.

About Dawn Wakefield

Dawn Wakefield, based in North Norfolk UK, is both an editor and a professional piano teacher. Her editing work draws on both her recent training with the CIEP and a lifetime of skills and knowledge gained while teaching music and also Balkan dancing! As well as specialising in music-related proofreading, she regularly works in a variety of non-scientific subject areas, including the arts, philosophy, alternative therapies and spirituality.

 

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: piano by Pixabay, sheet music by Ylanite Coppens, both on Pexels.

Posted by Belinda Hodder, blog assistant.

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

Apply now to the Printing Charity’s Rising Star Awards

Each year, the Printing Charity holds the Rising Star Awards, for young people working in publishing, print, paper, packaging and graphic arts to invest in their career development. Applications to this year’s awards are welcome until 2 April 2023. One of 2022’s winners, Rosie Catcheside, shares her experience of applying for the award, and the career benefits that winning gave her.

I first heard about The Printing Charity’s Rising Star Awards from a colleague who had been selected as a Rising Star in a previous year. At the time, I had recently completed my English Literature MA and was working as an administrative assistant at a Newcastle-based creative-writing magazine. While I really enjoyed my role, I was eager to develop my skills further and to take on more responsibility. I also, ultimately, wanted to get into the publishing industry; I had always loved literature and was incredibly keen to work directly with authors and to help get books into the hands of readers. The Rising Star Awards offered a great opportunity to achieve these aims so, in 2022, I decided to apply.

With these development goals in mind, my funding requests included several online editing and proofreading courses run by the CIEP. These were a mixture of self-assessed and tutor-assessed courses, all of which included note sheets, tasks and tutor access. My courses included the copyediting and proofreading suites, as well as specific courses on editing fiction and editing digital content. Through these courses, I was able to build on the skills I had been learning on the job, while taking a more structured approach to my learning and familiarising myself with industry-approved methods. As well as developing my skills, I also wanted to broaden my industry knowledge, so I requested CIEP membership and BookMachine membership. These memberships helped me to connect with other professionals in the publishing community and to access invaluable information about industry news.

After submitting my application for the award, I was invited to an online interview with a member of The Printing Charity and two professionals working in my field. All three of my interviewers were supportive and friendly and it was hugely beneficial to discuss my career aspirations and training plans with professionals in my area. Both the application questions and the interview provided a valuable opportunity to think about my career ambitions and to consider any gaps in my knowledge. This helped me to ensure that the items I had requested were the best possible resources for my professional development. The Printing Charity made sure that the application process was clear and accessible throughout, and were always keen to help with any questions. The awards ceremony for the winners, hosted at the House of Lords, was also fantastic – it was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate in London and it was great to meet the other award winners and judges in person!

Three women sitting together at t desk and co-working at their laptops

The Rising Star Awards really have been invaluable to me throughout the past year. The CIEP courses helped me to cultivate concrete editing and proofreading skills, allowed me to access professional tutors and enabled me to structure my learning in the best possible way. My editing and proofreading skills have developed further with every course I have completed and the BookMachine subscription has been a great resource for acquiring industry knowledge. Since winning the award last year, I have taken the next step in my career and am now working in publishing, as a publicity assistant at Faber. The award equipped me with the practical skills and publishing knowledge to break into the industry and really helped me to hit the ground running in my new role.

I would absolutely recommend the Rising Star Awards to anyone who is considering making an application this year. The process is smooth, the rewards are enormous and if you win, you will join a fantastic network of young professionals. If you are passionate about the print industry and want to develop your skills, do put in an application – it could make a huge difference to your career!


Visit The Printing Charity’s website to apply for the Rising Star Awards. The deadline for applications for 2023 is Sunday 2 April.

About Rosie Catcheside

Rosie was born in the North East but is currently living in London, where she works as a Publicity Assistant at Faber. She has an MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature and won a Rising Star Award from The Printing Charity in 2022.

 

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: stars in the night sky by AdamsEyeCandy on Pixabay; three women co-working by CoWomen on Unsplash.

Posted by Sue McLoughlin, blog assistant.

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

Curriculum focus: Developmental editing

In this regular feature for The Edit, former training director Jane Moody shines a light on an area of the CIEP’s Curriculum for professional development.

Developmental editing is a tricky one to pin down in the curriculum. You could argue that anything that applies to general editing also applies to developmental editing, so all the skills are equally applicable. There are not many specific resources to support learning in this area, although there are some specific courses.

In the table I have picked out some of the competencies, skills and attitudes that you should be able to evidence under each of the criteria. I’ve listed some suggested supporting resources below the table.

Knowledge criteriaEditorial competency, professional skills and attitudes
2.2.3 Voice and tone• Understands reading level, register (degree of formality) and use of terminology appropriate to the type of publication and audience
2.3.1 Judgement of sense• Has general knowledge appropriate to the genre and subject area they are working with
• Understands judgement of sense: does content appear correct and appropriate for context? If doubtful: flag, query or change? Is change justified and appropriate?
• Understands vocabulary and idioms (corrects any easily confused words; if not the right word, can supply a suitable replacement)
• Can explain/justify changes
2.3.2 Judgement of voice• Understands and respects author’s voice but can assess whether suited to the content and the target/likely audience, appropriateness for context
• Can make changes in keeping with context
2.3.3 Clarity in writing• Understands the need to avoid ambiguity
• Understands appropriate use of language and tone
• Understands conciseness (elimination of redundancy/repetition)
• If space is limited or layout is fixed, is aware of the need to fit any change into the available space without causing a new problem
• Can reword appropriately to simplify, clarify or shorten text
• Can identify whether material is well expressed and flows logically, with the ideas and wording easy to follow
2.3.4 Author and client queries• Understands judgement required for author queries (when, what and how) and how many queries are appropriate
• Can ask relevant client queries (remit, style, problems), and to judge how many, when and how to ask
• Can formulate clear, concise, useful questions
• Understands when to alert client to problems of content
• Can raise appropriate queries and deal with redundancy, omission, errors and inconsistencies, all within the limits of schedule and budget
2.4.9 Project style sheets• Can create a project style sheet
• Is aware of what can be expected, what is usually essential, what could be included in a project style sheet
2.4.10 Managing an editorial project• Understands the possible extent and limits of an editorial project manager’s remit
• Understands scheduling and planning a project
• Can adapt to changes in schedule or resources
• Understands the need to work within a budget
• Understands the need for good communication and briefing with all parties in a project
• Can take on aspects of the editorial project manager’s role when necessary
3.1.2 Assessment of the manuscript and brief• Has ability to assess a manuscript and agree a brief
3.1.3 Structural editing• Understands the principles of structural editing: detailed analysis of the text, advising the author of any structural or major changes required
• Can identify and analyse themes and plot types; author’s voice and style; different points of view; dialogue; consistency of plot, timeline and setting, character, language

Resources to support your learning and CPD

When it comes to fiction, developmental editing is possibly served by more resources, and you can find courses and literature to support your learning.

Sophie Playle has written a CIEP guide, Developmental Editing for Fiction, which is a good place to start.

If you work in non-fiction, the equivalent CIEP guide, written by Claire Beveridge, is Developmental Editing for Non-Fiction.

Both guides give a good list of further resources at the end, so I won’t repeat them here.

Sophie Playle offers training courses in this area for fiction editors:

  • Developmental Editing: Fiction Theory
  • Developmental Editing in Practice

She has also recorded a useful webinar: Guiding Principles for Developmental Fiction Editing.

The blog post What Is Developmental Editing? The Writer’s Guide to Developmental Editing by Alice Sudlow is aimed at authors but is also a neat summary of the process for editors.

I found an interesting summary from Scott Norton, in his book published in 2009: Developmental Editing: A Handbook for Freelancers, Authors, and Publishers, published by the University of Chicago Press. He gives a concise set of 12 ‘rules’ for developmental editors, starting with ‘be realistic’. The book is available from all the usual sources.

Of course, the CIEP online courses will help you too. You might try:

About Jane Moody

Jane has worked with books for all her working life (which is rather more years than she cares to admit), having started life as a librarian. She started a freelance editing business while at home with her two children, which she maintained for 15 years before going back into full-time employment as head of publishing for a medical Royal College.

Now retired, she has resurrected her editorial business, but has less time for work these days as she spends much time with her four grandchildren and in her garden.

 

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: Sticky notes and coloured pens by Frans van Heerden on Pexels.

Posted by Sue McLoughlin, blog assistant.

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