Tag Archives: local groups

Curiosity or destiny? The different routes to the CIEP

A diverse group of over 20 proofreaders and editors meet up weekly online for professional support through the CIEP’s Cloud Club West. But what do we actually know about each other? Alex Mackenzie asked in a recent meeting: ‘What was your route to the CIEP? Where were you workwise when the proofreading/copyediting penny dropped?’

Here’s what the group discussed:

  • Are proofreaders and editors born or is it a process of discovery?
  • Is an English literature degree or a Master’s in publishing a must-have?
  • Can family life or challenging health conditions accommodate the job?
  • When did you switch to proofreading and editing?
  • How did the CIEP come into your life and what do you enjoy about it?

My ‘ah-ha’ moment

Did my itinerant life lead me here? Perhaps copyediting was my way of joining up the dots when our international life abruptly halted: COVID-19 meets Brexit. It was the CIEP training, discovering the humble dialogue between professionals in the forums and our ‘e-local’ weekly video meet-ups that grounded me in this fascinating profession.

My question for Cloud Club West (CCW) began an entertaining and revealing round-the-table storytelling that lasted four weeks.

It’s in the blood

‘From an early age I knew – then I learned it was a job!’

Some were students of English literature or creative writing, others hold a Master’s degree in publishing. Isn’t that how real editors are made? Whether fresh out of university or experienced in-house editors with high-profile publishers, we are all now freelancing proofreaders and editors.

Loving the detail

‘I want to do something with books.’

Writing up references for her third thesis – enjoying the rigorous detail of italics and comma placement – one member wanted to put this body of knowledge to use. After writing to 50 publishers, she found work as an assistant with a reputable one. Her CIEP membership number is in the low hundreds, and her editorial life spans the digital revolution: marking up on paper before kids, on-screen after.

Teachers turned editors

‘After decades helping multilingual students find their voice – this was a natural transition.’

For the rest, there was a delayed ‘ah-ha’ moment of discovery. Teaching was the starting point for many. Some changed direction during the training, others resigned with a health condition or burnout; for one fantasy fiction lover and gamer, COVID-19 showed them they weren’t quite in the right place. Though teaching made sense at some levels, we are happier now – a clue? One of us has never missed a CCW meeting!

I need to leave – but now what?

‘After numbers, words – it’s what I should be doing.’

For those editors who arrived through maths and science, there may have been a clear moment of recognition. One left a health-threatening, high-pressure job in a civil service payroll department where, in her ‘spare’ time, she was copyediting multi-author reports and writing how-to documents. The required attention to detail crossed seamlessly into scholarly editing, but now she dictates the work on her terms and the ulcers have healed. 

A serendipitous escape from the macho world of finance

‘Do I know a proofreader? … err … me?’

Several of us were economists – proofreading financial reports with 24-hour deadlines. A financial crash prompted retraining as an English teacher, another tired of the male-dominated office and moved countries every 18 months thereafter. One catapulted herself forward answering the question ‘Do you know a proofreader?’ with ‘Err … yes, me!’

Globetrotter slowed down

‘I’m thankful to be working from home near my very elderly mum.’

Our former lawyer had understandable burnout after 20 years dealing with international commercial litigation, with commutes between the UK and Brussels (twice in one day, even!), as well as Canada, the US and other EU countries. A significant domestic violence practice in her latter years in the law added to the burnout. Though she was a guinea pig for the functionality of the online interface for joining the SfEP (as it was then), she welcomed the friendliness and support of the face-to-face Norfolk group and is now much appreciated, steering our Cloud Club steadily from Canada (… for now!), where in non-COVID-19 times she enjoys the lively Toronto group face to face, and now via Zoom.

A change of heart

‘I’ve grown into the job – I’m doing the right thing in life!’

Another economics graduate left the sector after questioning their calling. An ad offered editorial training in using their expertise for academic research. Later, after moving to Canada, he enjoyed a warm welcome from the CIEP local group, and the 2020 conference ‘sealed the deal’. He is now an in-house editor.

Academic detour

‘I was always checking others’ words.’

In fact, academics across the subject range were thrilled to learn there were paying jobs outside educational institutions, where subject knowledge was valued. After internships, redundancy and shrinking budgets affected many. For one, a chance trial proofread of Voltaire’s complete works meant learning BSI symbols on the job!

A friend of a friend

‘I needed courses and, possibly, mentoring.’

A third party introduction is often a catalyst. One lockdown encounter across a stream led to editing pharmacy documents. A knitting club friend with a maths degree recommended a course that led on to proofreading and later indexing. A holiday romance with a proofreader ended happily: get trained, quit the UK job, move to the States, take over his job, marry him!

Midlife crisis?

‘Well, it all worked out beautifully.’

Health scares, marriage, kids, home-schooling, a partner’s career move, empty nest, divorce, volunteering in a bookshop, retraining as a translator or teacher – many and varied are the circuitous routes to the CIEP, even joining the RAF at the age of 49!

But life’s complicated

‘Is that really a thing I can do?’

Our Cloud Club members tend to be a transient, globetrotting lot, with a UK-based element. A number of us have limited mobility for reasons that include challenging medical conditions (quietly mentioned, though in no way diminished because of that), such as Ehlers-Danlos and cerebral palsy. Proofreading and editing provide a flexible, compatible livelihood when life (or our partner’s decision) takes us off course.

Anyone out there?

‘Cool – there are people doing this on their own!’

Looking for like-minded freelancers, many of us came across the CIEP through online research, often after relocating to a new country. One of us left a publishing house job in India (having succeeded in a walk-in interview alongside 5,000 candidates many years earlier!), but others, not surprisingly, discovered the network more recently during COVID-19.

Wrapping up

‘It felt like everything fell apart all at once – my health, my work, the world – but I was able to get through it thanks to the support and warmth I found in the CIEP community.’

CIEP members joined up their formative dots through:

  • childhood internal drivers
  • serendipity
  • self-awareness and a moment of realisation
  • continuing curiosity about words and the reader experience

One regret was voiced: not joining CIEP sooner!


The CIEP’s 40+ local groups, ranging across the UK and including virtual groups with international reach, offer spaces in which members who live locally to one another or outside of the UK can gather, regardless of the stage at which they find themselves in their professional and membership journey.

Find your local group


About Alex Mackenzie

Alex Mackenzie is a British copyeditor and proofreader living in Asturias, Spain. She moved into editing from a 30-year career in international schools across nine countries. Alex is a published English language teaching (ELT) author with a Master’s degree in education. Areas of specialism are ELT, education, sustainability and meditation, adding creative non-fiction and fiction. She is a Professional Member of the CIEP.

 

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: woodland paths by Jens Lelie; detour by Jamie Street, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

10 etiquette tips for editors

Editor Jennifer Glossop recently shared her top ten etiquette tips for editors with the Toronto CIEP local group. Here, Katherine Kirk details those tips, and explains why they’re in that top ten.

The Toronto CIEP local group invited Jennifer Glossop to speak about author–editor relationships. A guest speaker at the 2018 and 2019 Toronto mini-conferences, Jennifer has worked as an in-house and freelance editor for over 35 years, has taught editing and has written a number of children’s books.

The Toronto group generously invited non-locals to join, and it was an absolute pleasure to learn from Jennifer. I had put her tips into practice within 24 hours! Jennifer shared with us her finely tuned (but ever-evolving) list of etiquette rules for editors:

  • Make a good first impression.
  • Communicate often and promptly.
  • Put it in writing.
  • Praise the author and the work. Criticise only the work.
  • Be sincere and honest.
  • Know when to give in and do so gracefully.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions.
  • Avoid the temptation to lecture.
  • Keep your feedback helpful.
  • Remember whose work it is.

Though some of these tips may seem obvious to experienced editors, Jennifer says it’s often the obvious things that we forget about, and that’s when we get into trouble.

1. Make a good first impression

Whether meeting in person or online, Jennifer reminds us that first impressions last forever. She suggests finding a personal connection with the author, so that you can see each other as people rather than as red marks on a page. We should show an understanding of and enthusiasm for the author’s work. Let them know we are in their corner and be excited to work with them.

Even if you have no knowledge at all of the subject they’ve written about, you can turn that into a strength by saying you’re coming to it without any preconceived ideas or prejudices. Jennifer also points out the impact of a professional website as a first impression, and she encourages us to emphasise our experience on it.

Once you’ve connected with the author and gained their trust in you, you need to help them trust the process, and the best way to do that is by ensuring that they understand the timeline, stages of editing, what to expect from you and what they are responsible for. Freelancers should make sure the scope of work is clear and agreed upon by both parties, and this is the time to discuss payment.

Finally, you need to find out about the author’s vision and goals for the book, and to do so, you need to listen to them and ask them questions. This will guide you in the type of feedback you give them. Get on the same page about the manuscript; this can also avoid disasters later, like the editor thinking the book is a tragedy when the author intended it as a comedy.

2. Communicate often and promptly

It’s important to be reachable, stay in touch and meet deadlines. This is a basic courtesy and Jennifer didn’t dwell on it, but the CIEP’s Code of Practice expands on it, saying, ‘A fundamental requirement in the good handling of any material is to raise major queries without delay and other minor queries in batches as convenient to all concerned’. (COP 5.3.2a)

Be sure to define your boundaries and politely affirm them if necessary.

3. Put it in writing

Back in the day, Jennifer would discuss the job on the telephone, and post letters to clients. She tried always to keep a written record of what was discussed on the telephone, since our memories can’t be trusted. These days, email makes everything a lot easier, but she says the same principles in writing those letters apply.

She recommends the ‘praise sandwich’ approach for written communication, as it can soften the blow of criticism and make the author more willing to act on it. The filling of the sandwich should not be only criticisms, but rather explaining what you did, and what you expect the author to do next.

Jennifer also recommends sending longer communication like editorial reports as attached documents so that they are more easily referenced and don’t get lost in the inbox.

4. Praise the author and the work. Criticise only the work

There is no such thing as too much praise, and even if it feels saccharine or artificial when you’re writing it, if you are being sincere and honest, and use it properly, it can be a very powerful editorial tool. Writers crave praise, and it will soften the criticisms.

Criticism can feel very personal when it relates to sensitivity issues. Jennifer suggests framing those queries from the reader’s perspective and recommending an authenticity read if necessary. It helps to remind the author of how wide (and how diverse) their audience might be, and why using conscious language is important.

5. Be sincere and honest

Editors should not lie to authors or make empty promises about their potential for publishing success. That said, you can stretch the truth a little and tell authors their writing is a little better than it is.

Jennifer says, ‘Honest criticism is the greatest gift you can give. Clear and well-thought-out criticism is useful. Criticism for the sake of saying something can be damaging.’ Editors who want to master the art of querying might want to sign up for the CIEP’s new course.

6. Know when to give in and do so gracefully

Jennifer adds, ‘Even if it’s through clenched teeth.’ Choose your battles and if the hill of the serial comma is not worth dying on, let it be. It’s not your book.

7. Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions

Jennifer says that sometimes editors need to take on the responsibility of being the ‘designated idiots’ in order to fully understand the text and make it clear for the readers who come after us. She cautions us to be careful how we phrase our questions so that they are specific and useful.

8. Avoid the temptation to lecture

Although Jennifer has spent many years teaching us to edit, and many of us have been teachers at some stage in our lives, she reminds us that we are here to edit, not to teach the author. She recommends letting the author come to you with questions where they need clarity, but generally keeping explanatory notes brief and sticking to what is necessary.

Your client might not need to know the difference between a dependent and independent clause, or they might not care. Don’t come across as a ‘tutting school marm’ or condescending.

9. Keep feedback helpful

There are three types of feedback someone can give, Jennifer explains. The first is appreciation, which we might expect from friends. The second is evaluation, which we get from reviewers or examiners, and which can feel demeaning. The third, which editors should strive for, is coaching, where you tell the author what’s wrong, how to fix it and praise them for doing it well.

Jennifer suggests avoiding telling an author to do something beyond their ability or against their wishes. She also suggests breaking your feedback down into a logical and manageable sequence of steps, and helping the author to navigate it, especially for developmental or structural edits.

Jennifer usually starts her feedback with a phone call, as she believes that editing should be a dialogue between author and editor. She sometimes teaches authors techniques for processing the information she’s given them.

10. Remember whose book it is

Remind yourself that this is the author’s book, not yours, and never put your own ideas, jokes or voice into it. It is their book, and they might have spent years creating it, so be sensitive towards them and the text.

Saying ‘this is not my book’ doesn’t mean giving up on doing the best job you can; you’re still a part of its creation, and that should be enough for you to care about doing the work properly.

If you laid out the scope up front, didn’t make assumptions or have expectations about the text, and got everyone on the same page about those expectations and responsibilities, then your role will be clear and you can make the writing shine within the limits of your brief.

Some authors like to acknowledge editors for the role they play in bringing the text to life, by mentioning them in the acknowledgements or in the front matter. Jennifer says this is up to the author and editor to negotiate, but it’s fine to say no and ask for a testimonial or referral instead.

Wisdom sharing

Jennifer’s advice focuses on putting the person first, and encourages us to see the human behind the words we’re editing. It was amazing to be able to pick the brain of someone with so much experience, and yes, we did gush profusely about Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which Jennifer edited.

I left the meeting with a fullness in my heart at the thoughtfulness that informs her editing, and the generosity of editors who are willing to teach each other and help the whole profession grow. The CIEP’s local and international groups are a great space for sharing editorial wisdom, and they’re well worth a visit.

About Katherine Kirk

Katherine Kirk (Gecko Edit) edits fiction and tabletop role-playing games for clients based mostly in the USA. She lives halfway up a volcano in Ecuador and can be found every Thursday at Cloud Club West on Zoom – though she might put on a bunny hug disguise and sneak into more Toronto group meetings in the future.

 

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: Answers by Hadija Saidi on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

The CIEP: getting together again – in person and online

As restrictions around how CIEP members, staff and directors can meet face to face at work and at home shift – at different paces in different spaces around the world – the CIEP’s directors want to share some thoughts with you about getting together again, in person and online at the same time.

Meeting up: face to face vs online

Many of our members and editorial friends have reported how much they miss physical interaction with others, and how they’re desperate to experience in-person events once more – the annual conference, local group meetings, on-site training, professional development days.

‘Zoom, Skype, Teams … it’s not the same’, we say. And it’s not. It can be exhausting editing on screen for hours, knowing that effort will be punctuated by yet more online time with family, colleagues and trainers.

And online conversations are not the same as face-to-face ones. A casual butting-in doesn’t interrupt the flow of conversation in a room quite as catastrophically as it can on Zoom.

Yet in-person business meetings have their challenges too.

  • Emotional: eg time away from family and friends; managing carer responsibilities
  • Physical: eg time spent travelling long distances; managing spaces that don’t adequately serve those with disabilities
  • Psychological: eg being out of one’s comfort zone; managing mental health conditions
  • Financial: eg the cost of travel and accommodation
  • Business: eg more time diverted away from client work

Shifting our former in-person events to online has shown us how we can save time and money, and reduce stress despite the fatigue that comes as part of the online package.

It’s also highlighted what many of us love most about getting together physically – talking shop, hugging, shaking hands, eating and drinking at the same table.

In other words, there’s more than one way, particularly now that we’ve got better at doing digital.

How the editing world learned to do digital better

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when online spoken communication was probably not most editors’ first choice. But many of us embraced it anyway, and the more we did it, the better we got at it.

  • We got used to wearing headsets, putting a hand up and waiting our turn.
  • We began recording some of our meetings so that people who couldn’t attend could still access the content.
  • We created stronger agendas and learned how to stick to them (sometimes!).
  • We got ourselves organised and prepared supporting materials in shared spaces ahead of time.
  • We experimented with subtitles so that being effective was no longer about ‘audiovisual’. It could be ‘audio or visual or both’.
  • We introduced breakout rooms to special events, which helped larger groups function more effectively.
  • And we shifted from shop talk to social talk, switched on the funny-hat filters and zany backgrounds, and raised our glasses.

And now that we’re more confident online and understand why digital networking is different but valuable, it’s time to work out how to partner it with face-to-face events rather than abandoning it in favour of a return to the way things were.

Physical and digital communication both have their pros and cons. The question now is how we in the CIEP use the advantages of one to offset the challenges of the other. That means experimenting with synergy.

What we’ve got planned: synergy rather than side-lining

Given that physical and digital meetups each have their pros and cons, and that members’ circumstances, needs and preferences vary, the CIEP is committed to a strategy that involves a synergy of digital and physical solutions rather than a side-lining of one or the other.

So what does this mean in practice? Here’s what we’re going to be testing in 2021 and 2022.

Expanding reach with the CIEP annual conference

Our first-ever online conference in 2020 was a roaring success. We’re equally excited about the 2021 meeting, which will be bigger, better and also online while restrictions continue.

Book your place at #CIEP2021 now

And while many of us are eagerly anticipating the opportunity to share the same physical space with old friends once again, CIEP2020 taught us something important: yes, online learning is different, but it can be productive, convenient and rewarding in its own way.

It is also accessible. And since accessibility is one of our core values, in 2022 we’ll be asking speakers to consider doubling their offering by both presenting on site and livestreaming! We’re looking forward to hosting an in-person event at long last, but even if you can’t make it to the venue, as long as you have access to a computer you can come to a CIEP conference.

And while it was COVID that first forced us to explore a digital conference solution, exploring ways of developing that solution is now key to our strategy, virus or no virus.

A better way of working for the CIEP Council

The CIEP Council is run by a board of directors drawn from its membership. Those who join have a range of skills and experience but one shared desire: to work as part of a team dedicated to promoting and improving editorial standards, skills and community.

In the past this meant directors travelling from various places to attend meetings in London around six times a year. With the COVID restrictions, we’ve had to rethink that. We knew we couldn’t work to our best effect by replicating the all-day meeting model online (Zoom-ing gets tiring!). Instead, we’ve had shorter but more frequent meetings via Zoom, sometimes to focus on one or two particular issues or tasks.

And it’s a keeper. We get stuff done, and quickly, because we collectively decide what most needs our talking together attention. We’re not tired from travelling, and we know each meeting is not going to go on for too long.

Plus of course we continue the day-to-day work of running the Institute via our dedicated Council forum.

But we’ve also recognised that it’s important for us to get together sometimes, especially when we need to tackle the big strategic and policy issues. So, when we’re allowed and it’s safe, we’ll be having two-day in-person strategy meetings once or twice a year to really get down to business.

By embracing a synergy of the digital and physical, we’ve found a good way for us to be more productive.

Making local groups more accessible

We want to make our local groups more accessible too. Imagine a group with 20 members.

  • One person’s hearing is impaired.
  • Three people have carer responsibilities that mean they can’t leave their homes during daytime hours.
  • One has a fear of open spaces that makes leaving their home during any hour, day or night, challenging.
  • One temporarily moves to another part of the UK to care for a friend.
  • One uses a wheelchair and finds the venue accessible but inconvenient.

Having a mixture of in-person get-togethers and online meetings (with captions enabled) increases the opportunity for every member of the group to participate. That makes the group a richer, more interesting, more diverse space in which to learn, develop our editorial businesses and build friendships.

The importance of testing

Are the digital/physical solutions we’re planning the right ones, the best ones? We honestly don’t know. That’s why it’s important to test them out. Those experiments, and the feedback we receive from our members, will show us the way forward.

There will be hiccups certainly, because there always are when any of us embarks on something new. But these are to be embraced because through them we learn how to do things better the next time around.

Why a holistic approach is the way forward

Approaching our meetups with a holistic mindset – one that seeks to integrate the digital into physical spaces – is nothing but an opportunity.

The easier we make it for CIEP members, staff and directors to get together in ways that respect people’s different needs and preferences, the more voices we bring to the conversation. That expands our community.

The more voices in the conversation, the more we learn. And that expands our understanding.

There’s a lot of work to do, and some of it will involve jumping through some high technical hoops, but we hope you’re as excited about it as we are!

Tell us how we can do better

Do you have ideas about how we might integrate digital tools into in-person events? What would make your life easier? How can we improve things?

Please share your thoughts with us in the comments or by email. We’re listening.

About the CIEP Council

The CIEP Council comprises up to 12 directors, who stay in post for up to two years following their election by the membership.

Meet the directors

 

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: hello by Drew Beamer on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

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.

Dealing with imposter syndrome

By Lisa de Caux

The Manchester CIEP local group meets every three months, and chooses a discussion topic in advance. ‘How to deal with self-doubt, lack of confidence and imposter syndrome’ was a very popular topic with those who attended the January 2020 meeting.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines imposter syndrome as ‘The persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills’. Meanwhile, googling ‘imposter syndrome’ brings up more than three million search results. And a quick survey of the CIEP’s forums reveals that it’s a problem familiar to many editors.

I posted on LinkedIn ahead of the meeting to elicit thoughts on #ImposterSyndrome. I had a fantastic response, and people were so willing to share their experiences, just as they were later in person. We had a lively and engaged meeting – we all had stories to share, from the newbies among us to more experienced members.

This post covers what came out of that meeting, focusing on imposter syndrome and editorial professionals. I’ve included a list of helpful resources at the end.

What is imposter syndrome?

I’ve shared the dictionary definition, but let’s talk about it in a less formal way. It’s the feeling that ‘I’m not good/qualified enough’. It’s about self-doubt and lack of confidence. We set ourselves exacting standards as we work on clients’ projects, and this tends to carry through into the standards we set for ourselves and our businesses. You don’t want to feel as though you haven’t met your own expectations.

Most of the people at our meeting were freelancers, so we concentrated on this area. As a freelancer, especially working from home on your own, you can experience feelings of isolation. While one of the benefits of being a freelancer is a lack of structure, which allows self-direction and taking control of your business, the flip side of this is there is no one to automatically check in with you. When you’re an employee, you have appraisals and regular meetings with your manager to provide validation, and you have conversations with colleagues about questions and minor hiccups while making a cup of tea. As a freelancer, there is no built-in interaction with people – you must build it yourself. It’s one of the reasons the CIEP’s forums are so popular – they provide a chance to talk to others who understand where you are coming from.

The CIEP has a newbies forum, where I posted about imposter syndrome after our meeting. It struck a chord with a lot of members. While imposter syndrome may be more common for newbies, it can come back in waves for more experienced professionals. As we moved through our meeting, we talked about how imposter syndrome might be triggered by changing your business’s direction (for example, moving from non-fiction to fiction) or by taking the next step professionally (for example, upgrading to a higher level of CIEP membership). Instead of taking pride in your achievement, you may feel anxiety in case people think that standards must have dropped for you to have succeeded. When something new and unexpected happens, you may feel that you *should* have known. Then imposter syndrome builds up and you discount your experience.

Recognising it

Whether you’re a newbie or an experienced editor, imposter syndrome reflects the level of stretch you’re going through and how far out of your comfort zone you are. We all agreed that it’s particularly important to acknowledge this feeling if it starts to take over more of your thoughts. It can impact your mental health, and then you need to take action. We talked about the practical impact of imposter syndrome too – for example, the knock-on effect on the way you quote for work. Imposter syndrome can encourage you to be apologetic about raising rates, especially for existing clients. Whether you’re thinking about your mental health or the practical impact, a strategy to cope with imposter syndrome needs to be found.

Overcoming imposter syndrome

The group suggested lots of ideas. Some come from external support (for instance, talking to people) and some are internal support mechanisms (like creating a win jar). What suits one person won’t necessarily suit another. Call it what you will – this is an individual demon/monster/battle to face.

We recognised that, as a newbie, you have less experience and less chance of positive feedback to turn to. At this stage, talking to people is so important. Then, as you complete more projects, you will, hopefully, receive good feedback. An even better weapon against imposter syndrome is repeat work. It’s a real vote of confidence in your service. Although experience brings great benefits, we spent a lot of time talking about coping strategies that are useful to all.

Coping strategies

You can record positive feedback in a notebook, a ‘sunshine file’ or a ‘win jar’. You could have a gratitude journal. It’s so useful to have tools that you can constantly keep updated. A ‘win jar’ is a jar you keep on your desk, where you leave positive feedback (for instance, a complimentary email). If you feel like you need it, reach in and pull out a win to read. A sunshine file is a similar concept. Since our meeting, I’ve created a Word document where I save screen shots of positive feedback.

Another way to cope is to understand the value that you provide – not everyone can do what you do. How do you track improvements over time? What experience and training do you have? When you’ve found a typo or factual error, what impact would it have had on the document if you hadn’t found it? Keep track of these achievements!

At the meeting, we were keen to embrace talking to friends and colleagues – CIEP local groups and forums really come into their own here. Attending face-to-face courses or professional development days can provide reassurance about what you do know.

Finally, our conversation moved gently into the positive side of self-doubt. A little (in moderation) will keep you learning and trying harder. It will improve your business. It may lead to a particular type of training. I was surprised to discover that a long course (like the PTC proofreading course) is not completed by everyone who signs up for it. Completing training acts as a confidence boost!

There’s such a lot to think about – at the end of the discussion, we were all ready for our mid-meeting comfort break.

You are not alone

I’ve focused on the editorial profession, but imposter syndrome does not have industry boundaries and it does not respect your level of experience. I recently caught up with a friend who’s an oncology consultant. I explained about writing this blog and asked if she’d come across imposter syndrome. She smiled in recognition – yes, she often feels it and often talks about it with her medical colleagues.

Every conversation gives me the clear message: you are not alone.

A lot of us are going through it, including the people you assume are absolutely fine. You can find a coping strategy that suits you. My own battle with imposter syndrome will continue, I’m sure. If you’re battling too, I wish you the very best!

Helpful articles and blogs

Mental Health Today: Imposter syndrome
Northern Editorial: Time to kill the monster
KT Editing: Imposter syndrome and editing
The Avid Doer: Imposter syndrome: Intuition in disguise?
Harvard Business Review: Overcoming imposter syndrome
Louise Harnby: I’m a newbie proofreader – should I charge a lower fee?

 

 Lisa de Caux is a CIEP Intermediate Member and coordinator of the Manchester CIEP local group. She specialises in editing and proofreading for business. Lisa is a career changer, and spent many years as a chartered accountant before becoming a proofreader.

 


Face-to-face interaction with peers can help with imposter syndrome and provide a great boost to confidence and motivation. A recent blog post covered upcoming in-person CPD, and the CIEP’s local groups meet regularly. (And don’t forget that booking for the first CIEP conference opens later this month!)


Proofread by Joanne Heath, Entry-Level Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Turn networking into training: how to be a selfish and very wise newbie

By Ally Oakes

You’ve just ventured to your first CIEP local group meeting. Nice, but a bit nerve-racking! You daren’t open up too much yet, because that might make you reveal those GAPS that sometimes make you break out into a cold sweat. Surely you’re the only person who still doesn’t know XYZ? It’s hard enough trying to remember the names of all those nice people.

Now, while it’s still ever so slightly painful, turn this on its head. Instead of ‘What will they think of me next time?’, go for ‘What do I want?’ Think of one particular GAP IN YOUR KNOWLEDGE. Then think of someone in the group you like, or who strikes you as super-knowledgeable. Preferably both. Let’s call this person *star*.

Be direct. Try asking *star* this: ‘Is it ok if I email you with a couple of questions about XYZ in my current training/work project?’ (A couple, huh? Start small.) Or ‘Could I please phone you sometime about XYZ? It would be easier for me if I have it there on the screen in front of me while I talk about it.’ There. You haven’t even had to confess to *star* that you actually have no real idea at all about XYZ – you’ve simply given a good, positive impression that you’d like to improve your skills or knowledge.

That’s level one. You may well understand it all completely now. Read on for the next level.

Take it up a level

If this GAP IN YOUR KNOWLEDGE seems pretty big and scary, then ask *star* for a coaching session.

  • Explain that you absolutely intend to pay *star* for one or two hours, at their normal hourly rate.
  • Decide where to meet – it may be at their house, or it may be at a coffee shop or library halfway between you.
  • If you’re driving, use your satnav! Even if you entirely abhor its existence and feel that it is there in your car simply to leech away your own excellent map-reading abilities. The alternative is the ‘Help, I’m lost!’ phone call five minutes before you’re due to arrive. This won’t do much for the impression of assured willingness to learn that you intend to give to *star*, now will it? Believe me.
  • Take a small gift.
  • Ask loads of questions – make the absolute most of your own personalised tuition session. *Star* wants to help you just as much as you want to be helped.
  • Make tons of notes.
  • Ask how they want to be paid, pay promptly and ask for a receipt.
  • Review your new knowledge and practise your new skills over the next couple of days.

If you and *star* do agree to meet in their home, you might be lucky enough also to gain: a peek at someone else’s working environment; a chance to discuss office furniture and reference books with someone who has similar aims in their working life, but a different journey; a view of their beautiful, super-stylish, all-white-flowering garden; a feel of their luxurious underfloor heating; and maybe a scrummy lunch. Oh, and do make sure that you leave promptly: you’re both working people.

Then, a month or two down the line, you’ll realise how often you’re making use of their knowledge – which is now your new knowledge – far more than if you’d simply googled the questions. (You’d done that anyway, but hadn’t understood the answers.) You’ll be further on professionally because of them. You’ll have paid *star* and made them feel what they are – knowledgeable and wise, and a little bit richer. And you may well both have made a new friend.

 

Ally OakesPrecision, punctuality and a passion for clients’ words. These are all in the pot that is Oak Proofreading. Add many spoonfuls of focus, a large tub of knowledge from training and experience, and an overflowing ladle of CIEP wisdom-sharing. Season generously with great client communication – and there’s a pot of Ally Oakes’ proofreading curry.

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Wise owls: networking

Networking works in different ways for different people – the wise owls are back to share their experiences and preferences.

Metal owl ornaments huddled on a shelf

The parliament has also grown this month, with three new owls offering their maiden contributions: please welcome Louise Bolotin, Michael Faulkner and Nik Prowse, all Advanced Professional Members of the SfEP.

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin

I’m not a fan of formalised networking. At business networking meetings, the chat to others often feels forced and you’re supposed to have a dinky little elevator speech – it can get quite competitive and if you’re not a slick business type it’s easy to feel your face doesn’t fit.

Most such meetings I’ve attended in the past have involved breakfast and as I don’t usually eat until after 11am and never talk to anyone until I’m fully caffeinated, I long ago stopped inflicting such events on myself.

If you’re not a morning person, find an evening networking event if you can as there is usually a glass of wine on offer and a little booze can be a useful lubricant if you’re hesitant to go up to strangers and introduce yourself.

I haven’t stopped networking, however. I just take a more informal sideswipe at it. And where do I network? Everywhere. Bus stops, trains, the corner shop, the lifts in my block of flats… I make a point of talking to anyone. Networking is much more about building personal relationships, than practising an elevator speech everyone will have forgotten within five minutes. So make it personal. Have a funky business card and spread it around liberally, even in places you wouldn’t think to.

And make yourself memorable. My tip is to say something about yourself that’s not work-related. “I’m Louise, I’m a freelance editor and when I’m off-duty I like going to gigs. Who’s your favourite band?” A bit of small talk and, then, if you think it might be fruitful go in for the kill – subtly. I prefer, however, to see networking as a long game as it takes time to get to know people and understand how you might be able to work together.

Michael FaulknerMichael Faulkner

If you are interested in proofreading dissertations and theses, scour your address book for academic types with contacts in the universities, talk to people who are at or who have recently left uni, and join the alumni family of your own institution (if appropriate) – all with the aim of building a list of current profs across all the disciplines with which you’re comfortable. Then research the institutions’ proofreading policy and make a direct approach by email to each person identified, offering your services with the usual caveats. For a supervisor with language-challenged students, a trusted proofreader who understands the parameters is a time-saving resource, and they will come back again and again and will pass your name around.

Always carry a card and practise a concise pitch, cleverly disguised as small talk, which you can wheel out at any gathering. It’s amazing how many people there are who haven’t a clue what editing is about but who can still offer you work. If you edit fiction, for example, be aware that in any group of people there may well be one or two who have a novel in them, or a friend who writes, or an exercise book of poems at the back of the cupboard.

During the life of any project, get to know your client and, without being a pain, make sure the experience is fun. This will lead to repeat business and a growing network through referrals.
Allocate time-limited slots for daily social networking. LinkedIn is invaluable for cold introductions (‘You don’t know me, but we’re Linked’). Facebook groups and online editors’ organisations are great for accumulating knowledge and widening your list of contacts (and have a look beyond editorial groups at those servicing your target market – an obvious example for a fiction editor is a writers’ organisation with a directory of services for writers).

Finally, I find lots of referrals are generated by constructive engagement on the Society’s forums. Conversations begun there can be carried on by email, and a list of trusted colleagues can be built up quite quickly to whom work can be referred – which of course is a two-way street.

Liz JonesLiz Jones

I find networking easier to stomach if I don’t actually think of it as networking. For me it’s more about having conversations that reveal shared interests or a personal connection, and they can happen anywhere – it doesn’t have to be in the context of a business breakfast at the local work hub, or some other kind of formal networking event.

Some of my most successful ‘networking’, in terms of commissions won and money in my business bank account, has taken place at SfEP conferences or local group meetings, over coffee. Other ‘networking’ has happened on Twitter, and the connections I’ve made there have tended to be people who might share a professional specialism, yet have responded to me for some of the more offbeat, non-editorial things I share. This goes to show that there’s scope to relax and be yourself. In fact, I would argue that it’s essential. Not everyone will ‘get’ you, but those who do will truly value what you have to offer.

Another source of interaction that might classify as ‘networking’ has been via my blog, which often veers away from the strictly informational, editorial type of post and into the personal – and conversations arise from that. Again, not everyone will like it, but many people appreciate the honesty and like knowing that there’s a real person behind my website, who will take proper human care over their work. A final thing about networking: the editorial world is surprisingly small. Be nice to everyone (or if you can’t be nice, keep quiet). Give it a few years, and that newbie editorial intern you were patient with could turn out to be the publishing director… and with luck, they’ll still be sending work your way, and suggesting that their staff do too.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

I am a very reluctant networker. Not for me attending functions and introducing myself to strangers. But I refuse to feel guilty that I take a more sotto voce approach. I may not get the wide visibility that the more active marketers achieve, but I’m okay with that.

There are, however, small things you can do. A couple of Christmases ago, I sent out cards to my contacts, as I usually do (most of my work is repeat business). At the last moment, I popped a business card in each envelope. Hey presto – two clients I’d not worked with for a few months promptly booked me in straight after Christmas (mentioning it was getting my card that made them contact me), and I’ve worked several more times for each one since.

I always have at least a couple of business cards on me when I leave the house. You simply never know who you’re going to bump into – at a reunion recently, a friend I’d not seen for ages wanted to pass on my details to someone she knew. Easily done with the card I gave her.
At an SfEP conference I got talking to one of the speakers, who duly asked for my card – which, fortunately, I had on me. That got me more than half a dozen books to copy-edit.
I do do social media – mostly Facebook and Twitter. I got very grumpy with the discussion groups on LinkedIn, but I do keep an inactive profile there that I remember to update once in a blue moon, and if I’ve had a good interaction with someone in a Facebook editors’ group, I’ll eventually get over to LinkedIn and offer to link with that person. I’ve not got any jobs from my social media (so far as I know), but for me it’s more about adding to my online presence to give prospective clients a feel for me as a copy-editor.

If you’re a happy active networker, great. If you’re not, don’t despair – small actions can work very well indeed.

Nik ProwseNik Prowse

There is more than one reason to network as an editorial freelance, and they serve different purposes. It’s not a case of ‘today I will do some networking’ but rather having an open mind about anyone you encounter in a business context. Part of this does involve actively seeking out a person with the aim of securing work, but it may just be a case of not turning your back on a working relationship that hasn’t always gone smoothly.

If you work with someone who you don’t get along with, not cutting your ties, not telling them what you think in a way that ends that relationship, may well serve you better in the long run than expressing your feelings in the present. You may decide that you don’t want to work with that particular person again, but keeping your bridges unburnt will keep the door open. The way a person comes across or acts can be the result of the organisation they are working within. In the future, that person may move to a different company with a different outlook. They may remember you and look you up, offering work. You might change your mind about perceived interpersonal difficulties if you find yourself short of work. Or the person may have a much more pleasant colleague whom they suggest you to, which could lead to a different, more fruitful relationship.

Keep doors open once a job is finished. I always aim to end a project on an upbeat note, perhaps with a cheery email to say how much I’ve enjoyed the work, wishing them good luck with the remainder of the production process and indicating my availability for the coming weeks. There are often projects in the pipeline. I work especially hard at this if it’s the first job for a new client, because repeat work is the Holy Grail in this instance. If your contact doesn’t have any work coming up, perhaps a colleague does? Often they will offer to circulate your name, or you could ask them to.

Maintaining links with people who work for your clients can sometimes be tricky: jobs change, roles merge (sadly, redundancies happen) and people move on. If I get a whiff of anyone moving on I always ask where to. They may be going to another company – read: potential client – with which you can forge a new connection. Freelancing is a lonely business, and having friendly personal contact with the people you work with (=for) can be rewarding. But it can also be good in terms of networking.

Finally, probably the most personally rewarding type of networking is the sort you do with freelance colleagues, the others at the coal face. This is one of the most valued aspects of my membership of the SfEP, with the local groups and the online community of the forums. This is where problems can be shared, solutions found, ideas started, and friendships made. Recently I made an effort to connect to a lot more editors on Twitter, and it’s made me feel part of a true community.

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

 

SfEP local group: Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland local group was established in 2011, the first time there has ever been an SfEP group in Northern Ireland. Our founder and coordinator is Averill Buchanan.

Belfast meetings are typically informal events held in cafes in the centre of Belfast, the benefit of which is that cakes and pastries are readily available! There’s usually six or so members at any one meeting, and with no fixed agenda everyone gets the opportunity to talk about the issues that are important to them. It’s also a chance for new SfEP members to meet more established members to ask questions about things they may be struggling with in their work and careers. But it’s not just a chance for us to network professionally. Many firm friendships have been established over the years since the first meeting.

The experiences of members vary widely. Between us we cover lots of different specialisms – business writing, educational texts, fiction, music, student theses – and within those areas there’s a mix of skills – project management, developmental editing, copy-editing and proofreading, as well as book design, formatting and typesetting. We’re really quite a mixed bunch!

Better together

Our presence at a local level has grown considerably since 2011, and we are now invited to local publishing events. Earlier this year we had a stand at a local publishing fair in the Linen Hall Library in Belfast where we stood alongside publishers and other professionals in Northern Ireland. This enabled us to spread the word about the SfEP, and offered us a great chance to network.

We also have our own website (www.epani.org.uk) and Twitter account (@epa_ni), which helps to market our members’ services in Northern Ireland. We have more clout working collectively to win new clients. Indeed, earlier this year, several members got together to bid on a big local government project that would have been beyond the reach of any one individual.

Three local group members made the trip to the SfEP’s annual conference in Birmingham in 2016. We spent some time at the September local group meeting talking about the conference and encouraging others to consider going next year. We had thirteen people at that meeting, including three first-timers – a record number for a group meeting. We drew names out of a hat to give away the fabulous Cult Pen goodie bag from the conference.

We’ve just had our annual Christmas lunch, always a popular event, with thirteen attendees. We spent an enjoyable couple of hours eating, chatting and drinking a very welcome glass of prosecco bought by a member who couldn’t join us in person – thanks, Mike!

If you’re based in Northern Ireland, or if you’re an SfEP member visiting Belfast, you’d be very welcome to join us at our next meeting. Contact Victoria Woodside (victoriawoodside@me.com) for more information.

Victoria Woodside is enjoying her second career working as a freelance editor and proofreader in between caring for her four little people. She likes nothing better than a roaring fire and a glass of red on these cold winter nights. You can find her at www.proofreaderni.com, on Facebook as ProofreaderNI or on Twitter @vicproofreader.

 

Image credit: Tim Fields Creative Commons 2.0

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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