Tag Archives: editorial judgement

Flying solo: How can we apply our editorial judgement to our businesses?

In her regular Flying solo column, Sue Littleford considers how the critical skill of editorial judgement can be applied to running an editorial business.

Editorial judgement calls for an understanding of context, for knowing your stuff when it comes to technical matters (whether that’s the finer points of grammar or the finer points of Word or the finer points of inorganic chemistry, if that’s your niche), for knowing when to press ahead and when to leave well alone, and for knowing what resources you need and how to use them.

Each of these skills can also be applied to the way you run your business.

Understanding context

Marketing works best when you know who you’re marketing to. Who do you work for? Who do you want to work for? Who’s your ideal client, and what’s your ideal subject matter, your ideal content, your ideal everything?

Just as in copyediting and in proofreading, you can’t make good decisions until you understand the context.

If you have a marketing budget – and that is a time budget, every bit as much as a cash one – then you want to spend it wisely.

What will give you, to coin a phrase, the biggest bang for your buck? Or your hour?

Where do the clients you want to work with hang out? I closed my Facebook business page. No, don’t squeal in horror! My clients aren’t there – in terms of social media and looking to hire, they’re over on LinkedIn, which is where I’ve placed my focus. I’m not wasting my time updating content for people who aren’t there to read it.

Most of my clients come via my CIEP Directory entry, which I had just updated before drafting a bit more of this post. It’s a worthwhile investment of my time to keep my Directory entry fresh – that’s the context in which my ideal clients are most likely to find me.

Technical matters

The business equivalent of knowing your subjunctive from your style palette is fairly wide-ranging.

Do you understand the laws under which your business operates? Do you have all the necessary licences and permissions? UK residents have a fairly easy ride, it always seems to me, when registering as self-employed. I hear much more complicated stories from people trading in other countries. You need to be on top of these technical issues.

Are you au fait with taxation rules? Are you attending HM Revenue and Customs’ live or recorded webinars on allowable business expenses, record keeping and completing your self-assessment return?

Are you budgeting for the Health and Social Care levy payable from April 2022 being added to Class 4 National Insurance contributions (and then as a separate tax from April 2023)?

If you’re not in the UK, are you doing something similar in your own jurisdiction, ensuring you’re up to speed with the latest tax changes that affect you?

Are you reading up on and generally getting ready for Making Tax Digital (MTD) in April 2024 (again, UK folks only)? Have you started investigating the app you’ll need to use to make your returns?

How about your contracts and your terms and conditions? Fit for purpose? Compliant with the law of your land?

Are you on top of IT security – firewalls, anti-malware programs, back-ups?

What about banking? Do you operate somewhere a separate business account is mandatory? (It’s not a requirement in the UK, for instance, but it is in some countries.) Would a separate business account, even if you’re in the UK, make sense in your circumstances?

Judging what action to take

Now you’ve layered up these transferable skills, you understand the context you want to work within and you know where you want to steer your business. It’s time to exercise more judgement in deciding what action you need to take.

Just as you take an overview of an editorial job, and use the brief and your own technical expertise to decide how to tackle each specific piece of work, apply that same thought process to the wider scale of your business.

Do you need a website? Or a better one?

Should you start a blog? Or should you revive or close down a neglected one?

How will you use social media to market yourself? Which platforms will repay your investment of time? Do you need to remove yourself from any that aren’t repaying your time, or try new ones?

Speaking of time, how should you schedule yours? How many hours a day do you want to work? What steps do you need to bring your current hours up or down to that level? Do you need more clients, or just better-paying work? How will you get from where you are to where you want to be?

How does your work fit around your home life? It’s been especially tricky for so many people in times of Covid, and often difficult adjustments have been made in so many households. Have you found the sweet spot yet? What further adjustments would help? Is any untapped support available, or do you just have to endure for a while longer?

Keep your eyes on the prize – you’re thinking now at whole-business level, not just the piece of work in front of you on your desk.

What about a business retreat? Can you either get away by yourself for a couple of days, or with one or two trusted friends who need to do some in-depth thinking about their big pictures too?

If you need to stay at home, can you schedule a couple of days with your email and phone off? Give yourself breathing space in which to lift your eyes up to the horizon and take the long view of where you want to be headed.

From your musings, you will return to your quotidian world with action plans for each area of your business that was under consideration this time.

Maybe you should concentrate your business retreat on just one area. I know I need to be better prepared for disaster recovery, for instance, and I need to give some serious thinking and investigation time to it.

Judging what action not to take

But, just as in editing and proofreading, you also need to know when to leave something untouched – it might not be perfect, but it’s certainly good enough. Don’t pressurise yourself to write action plans to overhaul parts of your business that are working well enough.

Again, just as in editing and proofreading, you also need to think about the brief – the framework you’re operating in – and budgetary constraints. Perfection is a ridiculous and pointless goal. Good enough within the circumstances is what we’re aiming for.

Time spent running your business is an overhead that facilitates earning money, but it is not time spent actually earning it. So keep your action plans modest. No counsels of perfection. No eye-wateringly demanding roadmaps to some unachievable Utopia.

Take simple steps (if they’re not simple, you’ve not broken them down enough) that will either repay the investment now, or lay the groundwork for part of a larger strategy. Just keep it moving forward. Think in terms of the tortoise and the hare, if the tortoise could occasionally break into a trot.

Does each step take you closer to the goal? Or are you doing things that are unnecessary, and no one is paying you for? You try to avoid that when you’re working with text. Apply the same judgement to your business.

Good enough is good enough.

Notepad with a to do list

What about resources?

Now you’ve worked out which actions you need to take, and which you can delay or completely forget about, what do you need to help you along?

How will you make your plans practical?

Do you know where to find business support (in the UK, try Small Business Britain or IPSE) or guidance on getting along with HMRC? How about guidance for MTD preparation?

Would you benefit from advice on IT security? Or on contracts?

If you’re a member of the CIEP at one of the professional grades, did you know you can get some free legal advice? (Log in to the CIEP website, go to the members’ area, then Benefits and scroll down to the last block of info.)

Are you aware of all the member benefits the CIEP offers? It’s a growing list! Are you signed up to and do you use the forums? They’re one of the best benefits – places to ask questions and offer answers to others, and take part in discussions that may well broaden your scope. Even if you only join the forums to lurk – to read without posting – you’ll find a wealth of helpful and interesting material.

If you’re not a member, then take a look at the resources the CIEP offers to the public.

More prosaically, do you buy reference books on paper or use online versions? Style manuals, dictionaries, grammars, editorial textbooks, etc? Which is most cost-effective for you?

Have you checked you’re on the fastest broadband package you can afford from your supplier? If your connection is a bit unreliable, or slow, then you might feel it’s a sensible investment to have paper copies of certain reference works – perhaps in addition to online versions.

What about founding a mutual support group – people who can help out if you can’t work and need someone to complete the job? Could that group also be a mastermind or accountability group to support you in your business as well as your editing and proofreading?

The bottom line

You’ve spent a lot of time and effort – and money – in developing your skills as an editor and/or proofreader. You’ve undertaken training to learn your craft and how to apply editorial judgement as you work with the text.

Businesses don’t happen by accident – and they don’t stay viable by accident, for the most part.

The judgement you rely on when working with words is just as applicable to your business life. Make good use of it!

About 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: tortoise by Marzena7 on Pixaby, notebook by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Forum matters: Editorial judgement

This feature comes from the band of CIEP members who volunteer as forum moderators. You will only be able to access links to the posts if you’re a forum user and logged in. Find out how to register.

Whether to start a post and how to reply to posts are the first decisions CIEP members need to make when taking part in the forums, but the all-encompassing art of editorial judgement reveals itself in almost every thread.

In mid-January, a forum search on ‘editorial judgement’ brought up 15 pages and 441 threads – including on language, taking on clients and choosing tools – in just the previous six months. This highlights how editors need to use judgement in all aspects of their editing life.

Peer judgement

A key aim of the CIEP is that its forums should be a safe space for discussion, and if anyone feels unfairly judged or affected by a post the moderators are there to help to address this. But such interventions are rarely needed.

The forums are more often a source of judicious advice for members who have been overwhelmed by circumstance (both short and long term) and who, unable to make a clear decision, are worried about making errors of judgement (see Thoughts on not coping). Responses range from sympathetic support (because although the experience is new to you, somebody else has already been there), to incisively helpful (because there is always a tool to deal with the problem and with all the years of experience among CIEP members, somebody will know what it is).

Editing judgement

Punctuation insists on being quirky and, in a profession that strives for consistency, this can be a major irritation. In Dialogue, Kia Thomas reminds us how to deal with the quirky in fiction:

as for conforming, I suppose it all depends. Some editors prefer to bring everything in line with an external style guide, whereas others are quite happy to stick with the author’s choices if they’re used consistently (leaving aside, of course, the fact that they’re very often not). It’s a case of judgement – some style choices are so unconventional that they may be distracting, and that may not be what the author wants. For example, a lack of quote marks in literary fiction often means the author is deliberately playing with conventions for effect, and readers will tolerate or even enjoy that. In genre fiction, it may distract readers from the characters and the story.

Don’t even mention capitalisation. Actually, do mention it on the forums: you never know what the ensuing discussion will reveal. As you can see in West/west/Oriental/oriental?, not only do the replies offer practical solutions to finding a suitable answer, but we get a bit of practical philosophy as well (thanks, Luke Finley):

Often there aren’t truly definitive answers to these questions, so subjective judgement is involved. My approach is to err on the side of caution, but not to live in fear of making a mistake. Generally if people see you’ve said or written ‘the wrong thing’ inadvertently, and are open to reconsidering it rather than [being] defensive, they’re OK with that.

As Luke’s thoughts show, a key focus of the forums is language, particularly in the context of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). As Karyn Burnham said on the LGBTQ terminology thread:

we are in no position to offer judgement on any of these issues, only to respect the views of those groups affected and to strive to communicate these views effectively. Professionally, I find discussions like this in the forums extremely helpful and informative, and hopefully they will lead to an improvement in my approach to sensitive topics in the future.

Whatever your editing conundrum, you are going to have to choose the right answer by making a judgement call. The Fact checking thread is a great illustration of what you need to bear in mind.

Client judgement

Before you even begin editing you may need to exercise judgement about whether or not to take on a client. Anxieties about potential jobs can stem from inexperience (or the dreaded imposter syndrome), finance (whether the fee offered covers the time needed), worry about shutting off future work (if you say no this time, will they come back) or red flags (unfortunately there are people out there who want ‘owt for nowt’). All these worries often appear on the forums – see, among others, New client dilemma – advice needed.

Once you’ve taken on a job the judgement calls don’t stop. Page ranges in citations deals with a perennial problem when dealing with student papers: what is the ethical amount of editing you should do?

Judging tools

A wide diversity of client needs can be serviced, as you can read in editing for clients with special needs. This thread points to a variety of tools and approaches to help a partially sighted client. As Christina Petrides points out, the editor–client relationship is also crucial:

It will become easier once you’ve built up a good relationship with [the client] and they trust your judgement, so be as transparent and clear in what you are proposing as possible, and stick to it.

So, making a judgement call is a fact of life in editing and, as John Firth points out in Starting a sentence with ‘So’:

It’s tricky to decide whether something is so serious that you need to call it to [the client’s] attention, but your professional judgement is what [they’re] paying for.

In the end, apply that invaluable mantra when using your editorial judgement: context is key.

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 credit: snowdrops by manfredrichter on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Talking tech: Automating style sheets

In this Talking tech column, Andy Coulson considers the options available for automating style sheets.

The theme of February’s member newsletter, The Edit, is editorial judgement and, as I’m sure you’ll have noticed, this is something computers are not good at! While the latest artificial intelligence systems are great at applying rules consistently and often ruthlessly, they are not good at making those subtle judgements that convey nuanced meaning or reflect an author’s voice. So how can technology help us?

Our main tool for recording our professional editorial judgement is the style sheet, whether that is something created specifically for a job, or by making additions to a style sheet from a client. We have a number of tools that we can use to support our creation of style sheets.

Exploiting your computer’s strengths

So, if our computer is not good at judgement, what is it good for? Computers are very good at following rules and recognising consistency. We can make good use of that to spot patterns in the materials we are working on and inform decisions that we can then record in a style sheet. We can also use these to help us see where exceptions are, as these can be important too (for example judgment in British English refers to a legal judgment; judgement is what you are applying in choosing the right spelling of it!).

One thing I’m not going to look at is the Editor tool in Word itself. In theory this should be able to do a lot of the things I’m going to talk about, but I’m afraid I just can’t get on with it. I find that configuring it is too fiddly when you are working on material where the style can change from job to job. I’m going to look at PerfectIt and Paul Beverley’s macros, as both of these will ultimately allow you to do things quicker and, to my mind, more accurately as editors and proofreaders.

PerfectIt

PerfectIt is a proofreading and consistency add-in for Word. Many of us use it to speed up our workflow and it can be used to help with identifying style sheet issues with the text you are editing. When you run PerfectIt, the content of the document is compared against a number of tests. You can use the results to identify what needs to be included in the style sheet.

Let’s have a look at an example. I’ve got a journal article that the client needs to be in US English and they prefer to use the Merriam-Webster dictionary for spelling. I’ve selected the basic ‘US Spelling’ style in PerfectIt, but you may be able to find (or create) a more comprehensive style sheet that is more applicable. If you regularly use PerfectIt it would be worth keeping an eye on the ‘PerfectIt Users’ group on Facebook, as they are developing a collaborative style sheet project.

Here one of the tests is checking the consistency of hyphenation. As we can see, the author has used ‘photogenerated’ five times and ‘photo-generated’ once. This flags that we need to check and make a judgement. This isn’t in Merriam-Webster, but ‘photoactivated’ and ‘photometered’ are, so I feel comfortable going with the single word and can justify the choice, and that goes on the style sheet.

Hopefully you can see how you would go through and build your style sheet in this way, using the computer’s strength around consistency checking.

Macros

I’ve written before about Paul Beverley’s macros (archivepub.co.uk/index.html) – they are a brilliant resource and Paul contributes so much to the community with these. I’m not going to give detailed instructions about using the macros highlighted as Paul’s book and videos do that really well. I’ll concentrate on an overview of the tools you can use to create a style sheet at the start of a job. Paul also lists his editing process in the book or in his Macro-aided book editing video, and this includes using the macros to identify potential style sheet items.

Overall, I think I prefer this approach to using PerfectIt, although I do use both tools for different jobs. I work on a lot of school textbooks and I find that the macros are able to do a lot more tidying up of formatting than PerfectIt, so they suit my workflow better.

Two key macros to start with are DocAlyse and HyphenAlyse. DocAlyse is a ‘Swiss army knife’ tool that looks at a range of features of the document, such as how numbers appear, approximate US and UK (and -is/-iz) spelling counts, Oxford (serial) comma counts and so on. All of these give you a broad view of your author’s preferences. Paul also has the UKUScount and IZIScount macros that provide more accurate counts if the language and spelling choices are unclear, and SerialCommaAlyse that counts serial comma use more accurately. You can then apply your judgement to the results and record those in the style sheet.

Next up is HyphenAlyse, which looks at hyphen and en dash usage in the document and creates a list of hyphenated phrases along with their open equivalents as well as commonly hyphenated prefixes (for example, net-zero and net zero or coordinate and co-ordinate). The output gives you counts of each usage, helping you to narrow down your choice and again build the style sheet.

SpellAlyse can then be used to make a list of potential spelling issues – this will help identify spellings specific to the topic or flag words that need checking. SpellAlyse has a number of other tricks up its sleeve and Paul’s book explains these. In addition, ProperNounAlyse and CapitAlyse try to identify proper nouns and capitalised words, again helping to inform the choices you make, which can be added to the style sheet.

Unlike PerfectIt you don’t see these in context, but Paul has a number of highlighting macros that can help with this. Because all of these macros produce outputs in Word files it is quick to add things to a style sheet. It is also fairly easy to create a file to use with Paul’s FRedit macro, which performs a scripted find and replace on your file. As well as building a list of corrections to apply to the files you could also use FRedit to highlight a range of issues in the document so you can make decisions about them.

Macros do take a little getting into, but the time savings that they can provide make this time well spent. Over a few jobs you will be able to identify a set of macros that help you create an efficient process, and you will be able to allocate keystrokes to them and create backups.

Hopefully I’ve convinced you to invest a bit of time in learning these tools, as in the longer term they can be real time savers. As ever, back up your customised PerfectIt style sheets (.pft files) and FRedit script files as you can often use and adapt them. There are also lovely people out there sharing other resources like this that they have created. Among the places you can find these are the CIEP forums, where there’s a dedicated ‘Macros’ forum; and the ‘PerfectItUsers’ group on Facebook.

About Andy Coulson

Andy Coulson is a reformed engineer and primary teacher, and a Professional Member of CIEP. He is a copyeditor and proofreader specialising In STEM subjects and odd formats like LaTeX.

 

 

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 credit: laptop by Skitterphoto on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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