Tag Archives: internet

CIEP local groups: connecting and learning

The CIEP’s local groups enable members to share knowledge, hear from guest speakers, and gain new skills. Many groups meet monthly, and all have moved to online meetings since March. In this post, three members share what their groups have been up to.

Herts & Essex

By Antonia Maxwell

On 9 July the Herts & Essex CIEP local group welcomed Melody Dawes as guest speaker at its Zoom meeting. Melody is founder of Just Content (a specialist content services provider), and works closely with publishing clients to build teams of freelancers to meet their project needs.

Melody is ideally placed to offer advice and insight into the freelancer–client relationship. She highlighted the importance of scoping the project at the outset. This means establishing a brief, allocating the appropriate resources, and discussing the details of schedules, timing, pace of work – and of course fees. She emphasised the importance of two-way communication at this stage to avoid problems later on. Establishing expectations, hammering out a detailed brief and assessing the level of work are all areas where a freelancer – who may be the first person to delve into the detail of the project – needs to speak out and offer their expertise.

Melody was keen to explore CIEP members’ experiences of working with publishing clients. Project management was highlighted as a particularly thorny area when scoping a project – where clients may underestimate the level of work required. Offsetting quality of work against budget restrictions was discussed too – and again Melody stressed the need for clear communication and honest appraisal of the project.

The meeting concluded with Melody’s reflections on the future. She has noted a shift in emphasis in publishing towards digital products, but emphasised that the editorial skills required for these products remain broadly the same as for print. Freelancers shouldn’t be afraid of taking on digital work – everyone is learning – and as ever the importance of dialogue to establish the client’s requirements and any training needs was emphasised.

Melody talked about freelancers’ concerns for the future resulting from COVID-19 and lockdown. Although there is uncertainty, she felt that publishing seems to have adjusted to some extent during lockdown – for example, catering to the changing demands of the home school market and increased demand for digital output. Whether a lull in publishers commissioning new titles over the lockdown period will ultimately impact freelancers’ workflow remains to be seen.

Thanks to Melody for sharing her insights and spending time with the Herts & Essex Group!

West Yorkshire

By Helen Stevens

Many freelance editors and proofreaders don’t often need to speak in public. In fact, sometimes there’s little need to speak at all in the course of a working day.

So what on earth would possess a freelance editor to step outside their comfort zone and train in public speaking? Neuroscience editor Julia Slone-Murphy agreed to enlighten us.

Julia described situations in the past when she had been obliged to speak in public: the sleepless nights beforehand, the sweaty palms, the racing heart rate, the script delivered rapidly and without looking at the audience … Stepping several miles outside her comfort zone, Julia decided to tackle her fear by taking a public speaking course.

Perhaps not surprisingly, increased confidence in public speaking was the main benefit of training. But Julia also found she was more fluent and confident in verbal communication generally, whether in meetings, at events or on the phone. Similarly, she found she was more logical, coherent and eloquent in her written communications.

Julia gained a great sense of success in seeing herself improve in leaps and bounds, particularly in an activity she had previously struggled with.

Julia’s top tips

  1. Make it personal: Weave your own experiences into the message you’re conveying. Your audience will relate to your ‘story’, and your speech will be memorable and entertaining.
  2. Focus on the message: Don’t worry about being the centre of attention. Instead, focus on delivering a message your audience will find interesting. This moves the spotlight away from you and onto your audience.
  3. Keep practising: Find opportunities to carry on honing your skills, otherwise you’ll be back to square one!

David Crystal, the CIEP’s honorary president, makes it personal when speaking at the 2019 SfEP conference

Julia encouraged all editors and proofreaders to improve their public speaking skills, whether or not they’re planning to actually make a speech.

Goodbye, sweaty palms and racing heart rate; hello, logical thinking, eloquent delivery and sparkling social and business encounters!

NEW: Discovery

By Claire Handy

Thank goodness for the internet! Without it, the local group meetings would have been another casualty of the pandemic. However, since we’ve moved onto Zoom to stay in touch with our fellow editors, I have attended more meetings, and got to know more wonderful people, than I would normally have done.

For security reasons though, it has meant that only members have been able to attend these events. In normal times, those interested in learning more about the CIEP and proofreading/copyediting could usually attend up to three meetings before deciding whether to join the Institute, giving them a chance to ask questions about starting out, and learn more about what the CIEP can do for them. This isn’t possible at the moment, so Discovery meetings have been created to offer interested people the chance to find out more before a career change or joining the CIEP.

We had two trial meetings back in June before the idea grew into its current shape, and the first official Discovery meeting was held on 17 July – all to great success. Each meeting had a panel of amazing CIEP members who gave up their time to answer questions – questions that we all had when we started, which ranged from ‘What course should I do?’ to ‘How long until I get my first client?’ to ‘Does proofreading bring enough income in?’ to ‘What benefits does the CIEP offer me?’ and more. The meetings lasted just over an hour and all participants reported back afterwards that they were incredibly useful and packed full of information. There was so much excitement and anticipation in the feedback I received, which was lovely to read, and we now have new members joining our ranks.

The Discovery meetings will be continuing for future interested people; check out the Events calendar for dates and times if you know anyone who would like to attend.


Photo credit: video call and coffee – Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Proofread by Lynne Baybut, Entry-Level Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

The internet and the democratisation of English – Part 3: Go home, spelling reform, you’re not needed here.

Sue Littleford, an advanced member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), has written a series of four blog posts exploring how the internet has contributed to the democratisation of the English language. Here is part three:

World Dictionary In part one, I wrote about mob rule in English, and how the internet has delivered the largest mob ever. In part two, I talked about coping with changing norms of language. One of those changing norms is surely spelling.

David Crystal OBE, in his lecture to the 2013 conference, spoke of how he has tracked the dropping of the h from rhubarb over the last few years by simply googling the word from time to time. Who needs the h, anyway? Rubarb sounds just the same without it. Why not agree it’s time it went and update the dictionaries? Wouldn’t that be nice and neat and logical?

Ah, yes, spelling reform. I’m agin it. In detail-less brevity, English spelling shows its breeding. It doesn’t reflect how some words sound now. It doesn’t reflect, necessarily, etymology. Some of our words were taken out to a dark alley and given a wedgie by language bullies who were afraid that good old English was simply not good enough (wedging the b into debt, the p into receipt, the s into island), some of them tripped over their own feet and had a nasty accident (smooshing an h into ghost, for example) and some words were mugged for political purposes (Nathaniel Webster springs to mind). It’s all a dreadful mess, spelling isn’t logical, it’s hard to learn and Someone Ought to Sort It Out. Well, again, no. There’s no Someone to do it. There are millions of someones. (See what I did there? We’re back at the internet.)

I suspect that, quite possibly in my lifetime, there will be natural and inevitable spelling reform based on the weight of opinion on what works best for one speaker of English to communicate with another, regardless of their backgrounds. Globalism demands it. Changing spelling wholesale is contrary to the way language actually works. And if you don’t believe that, count up how many Esperanto speakers you know, or writers of Shavian. Language grows – or, rather, is grown by its users – to meet demand. What starts as wordplay, or slang, or code becomes widespread; those words that are found useful become embedded, at least for a while. Those words that aren’t are dropped. Words come into fashion, go out again, maybe they come back, maybe they don’t. It is usefulness that drives these effects.

Spelling reform will happen, as it has happened constantly since we started spelling, but not as a programme imposed from above, by some ineffable body outside language telling us how things are going to be from now on. Yes, we must be taught how to use our language with facility, we need to learn the norms for spelling, punctuation and grammar that apply to our time; we need to learn about register, about appropriateness, so that the English we use in our school essays and job applications will be different from the English used informally. This isn’t new. What is new is the ease with which so many people of so many points of view can debate, declare, deride uses to such a huge audience. Some memes go viral, others don’t. Some memes have longevity, some burn out quickly after only sporadic interest. Just as general suffrage gives votes to people you don’t agree with, and to people you suspect shouldn’t be trusted with something as important as choosing the government of the country, the internet allows people less educated than me and people more educated than me, on a spectrum that runs from crackpot through people who think just like me and onto a whole other kind of crackpot to use English and to publish constantly.

Consider, though, the impact of spelling reform if it happens any other way. There have been so many schemes, mostly criticising the fact that words don’t look how they sound. So – you’re going to devise a spelling scheme and have it adopted. Upon whose accent do you base spelling? Received Pronunciation? Brum? Scouse? Welsh? Highland Scots? Belfast? Estuary? Then it already doesn’t look like it sounds to anyone with a different accent, or who speaks a dialect. What do you do about homophones? Homonyms? Will you sort out the mess of contronyms, too? But let’s gloss over that and speed on.

A new English spelling system is introduced. Time passes. Not much time – ten or twenty years is more than enough. The literature of the last four hundred years or so is now unreadable to the younger generations who only know the New English. A common enough problem now – Shakespeare is troublesome for many, Chaucer for most. Given the exponential growth of publishing since their day, though, it’s a vastly bigger problem. But it’s not the biggest problem. That is that our young people are cut off from the English of the rest of the globe. A few basic words will survive the revamp, of course: bat, dog, bawl, idiot.

So do we cut off our kids from our culture? Or do we transcribe and republish everything? Or just bits of it? (Which bits? Is the rest of our literature, our history, kept for the comparative handful who learn the Oldies English as a separate, elite, subject?) And what about the internet? The mass of material so huge it’s impossible to imagine?

The difficulty with spelling evolution now, of course, is dictionaries. We used to spell how we spoke, so we all spelled differently. Then came the printed word, which brought about a bit more standardisation, then the spellers, then the dictionaries. How can spelling move away from the monolith of the dictionary? Well, it can and it does and the dictionaries play catch-up. I sometimes amuse myself by checking a spelling on Googlefight before going to the dictionary. The people are speaking, and they’re not all speaking dictionary.

Sue Littleford

Sue Littleford was a career civil servant before being forcibly outsourced. That was such fun she changed tack altogether and has now been a freelance copy-editor for seven years, working mostly on postgraduate textbooks plus the occasional horseracing thriller. She is on Facebook and Twitter.

Proofread by SfEP associate Patric Toms.

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

The internet and the democratisation of English. Part 1: Power to the people

Sue Littleford, an advanced member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), has written a series of four blog posts exploring how the internet has contributed to the democratisation of the English language. Here is part one:

Magnetic letters The very phrase ‘democratisation of English’ is enough to send shivers down the spine of every self-diagnosed language maven who clings to ‘Don’t start a sentence with a conjunction’ or ‘Don’t split an infinitive’ or (hopefully only in days gone by) ‘English should be more like Greek. Or Latin. Y’know, proper languages.’

Breaking news! That thud you hear in the background isn’t the sound of standards falling. It’s the sound of language remaining fit for purpose.

Over the last few months, I’ve noted more and more blog posts, articles and books that are anti-prescriptivism. Indeed, ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic’s song ‘Word Crimes’ (July 2014) was quite widely pilloried for the number of shibboleths it managed to jam in and many fears were expressed that the – well, let’s be polite here – ‘less aware’ would take it as unadulterated truth and propound True Grammar According To My Teachers while the ‘more aware’ shake their heads in sorrow. There are still so many people posting in online editors’ groups asking for ‘The Rule’ for this or that circumstance, and then arguing about the answers. There is only one correct answer to that question. It depends. It always depends. The rule is, of course, that there are no rules – at least none that hold good for every single case in every single variety of English and in every single register in which it is used. What we do have are norms, set at varying levels of granularity in our language.

Nowhere is more democratic about language than the internet at large. Current estimates put English as the world’s most spoken language and third most common native language, with close to a billion people speaking English in some form.

That’s millions and millions of speakers of different varieties of English (well over 330 million native speakers of one kind and another, with some estimating more like 430 million); speakers with a wide variety of backgrounds, education and needs. All these people have votes equal to the number of times their words are intercepted by the search engines and bots indexing away.

So what will happen? I think that Englishes will, over time – and not too far off at that – start to merge. The differences we keep reminding ourselves of between BrEng and AmEng and AusEng and CanEng and all the other Englishes we edit and proofread will, I think, inevitably become ever more blurred. We might – goodness! – end up with just Eng.

A lot of my editing is of books by non-native English-speaking academics, and I routinely see that their spelling and punctuation wobbles from side to side of the Atlantic; often swayed by whatever they used for that part of their own work – spellings and punctuation mimic the variety of source material without thinking about consistency in the new piece. With so much international writing and international-team writing, we are already well on the way towards obfuscation of the differences between AmEng and BrEng.

Still, Canadians seem to cope with their own spelling caught between a British rock and a US hard place. The Editors’ Association of Canada: Editing Canadian English (9781551990453) is quite open about CanEng being a hybrid, and accepts that Canadians may write both ‘harbor’ and ‘centre’, taking internal consistency to a more granular level than the native British or US speaker is used to. It quotes Peter Sypnowich: ‘Henry Fowler declared that American and British English should not be mixed, an injunction that must leave Canadians speechless.’ I fully expect Fowler would be aghast, but I do think Canada is a model that will be followed by other Englishes.

Is this democratisation of our language a race to the bottom? No! How could it be? There will still be the demand for all the different registers – and there will still be a sense of what is well-written and what is more, well, vernacular, but I don’t see English splitting into elite and proletariat versions, and certainly not into non-compatible Englishes, for two reasons.

  1. Globalisation won’t allow it – people need to be able to communicate and English is the lingua franca of much of the world. How will people who need to be able to communicate with each other find it useful to make new and/or stronger distinctions between my English and your English?
  2. Online, people are, I think, less aware of where a particular person is from. The people I communicate with on various forums won’t necessarily know my nationality. We will pick up quirks of a language we like and use them ourselves, spreading them widely. Others will pick them up and spread them further still. And these usages will live or die according to how useful people find them.

Where does this leave copy-editors, in particular? Well, writing a lot of style notes and word lists – if you want the glib answer. People who work with language, as we do, are pretty attuned to different registers and readily absorb a sense of what will and won’t do in a given piece of writing. It will be a challenge if an author demands to know on what authority you made a certain change or recommendation, and it will be harder if that author is old school and clings to ‘What My Teacher Said’. We will have to develop strategies to deal with that, and talk about norms, readability, flow and clarity rather than rules; and remember that there is not now, nor ever has been, only one right way.

It’s often hard to remember that there is no authority handing down the Rules of English to its speakers. Language doesn’t work like that (unless you’re French…) – there is no committee somewhere out there deciding what English usage is right and what is wrong. Dictionaries describe usage – they don’t prescribe or proscribe. There are only the people using English – an awful lot of people – communicating with each other across the world more than ever before, faster than ever before and deciding by mob rule what works and what doesn’t. And do you know? It was always like that. But now it’s big enough and fast enough for us to pull up a chair, grab the popcorn and sit and watch it happen.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford was a career civil servant before being forcibly outsourced. That was such fun she changed tack altogether and has now been a freelance copy-editor for seven years, working mostly on postgraduate textbooks plus the occasional horseracing thriller.

Proofread by SfEP associate Alex Matthews.

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