Tag Archives: professional development

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. 

The 2021 CIEP conference: blog round-up

The CIEP conference took place online in September this year, and, as usual, before long there was a fine crop of blogs reviewing the event. We read them to see how conference newbies, veterans and session presenters experienced #CIEP2021. This round-up post covers:

  • The newbie view
  • Veterans’ verdicts
  • Presenters’ perspectives
  • What next?

The newbie view: ‘I was unprepared for just how much I got out of it’

‘When I joined the CIEP in January, lots of people told me about the value of their annual conference,’ says Philip Ridgers in ‘My first time attending the CIEP annual conference’. ‘I expected to pick up some tips and maybe meet a couple of new people. However, I was unprepared for just how much I got out of it.’ Starting with the networking sessions, Philip said: ‘The most valuable thing I took away was that others struggle with the same things I do.’ Far from meeting ‘a couple of new people’, at one point Philip found himself plunged into a Wonder room with some of the CIEP Council: ‘For a few minutes I was the only other person there! This could have been terrifying, but they were all so welcoming.’ He went on to describe his team’s performance in the quiz (‘we placed last’) and concluded that ‘the conference made me feel like I belonged. It made me want to further my knowledge and get more involved with the editorial community.’ We think he means his editorial knowledge, but who knows, maybe next year Philip will return armed to the teeth with all the quiz-related facts necessary to blow the other teams out of the water.

Eleanor Bolton had a lot in common with many other newbies – she was joining us from somewhere far from the UK: in her case, Houston, Texas. She says: ‘As it was online this year, it was easy to attend despite the time difference … I came away from the conference with a renewed sense of energy, plenty of ideas about future training and business development, and a long list of book recommendations to add to my reading list.’

Alison Gilbert, who had been to last November’s online conference, but not (yet) to an in-person one, translated her own learning points directly into action, by blogging about blogging, specifically ‘Blogging: Making it work for you and your business’, presented by Kia Thomas, Liz Dalby and Claire Bacon. As Alison, inspired by the session, observed: ‘Blogging is as individual as each person’, and with her maths degree and her love of lists, her blog, a list of top-ten blogging tips, testified to this.

Veterans’ verdict: ‘I really felt at home’

Among those who had been to CIEP (or SfEP) in-person conferences, some of them on many occasions, a word used to describe the event was, well, we’ll hand over to Sue Littleford: ‘a triumph. Full stop. How Beth delivers such fabulous conferences year in, year out, I don’t know. Hats off to her and her team!’ Jill French used the same word: ‘it was a triumph’.

It was Annie Deakins’ fifth conference, and at the end of her blog post she helpfully included links to her reviews of a couple of previous conferences, useful for those who wanted to compare the online and in-person events.

The comparisons by our veterans were favourable. Kia Thomas spoke for many, in ‘A post about CIEP2021 and also not entirely about CIEP2021’:

The conference team did a fantastic job of making sure we got as many of the best bits of the ‘real’ conference as we could – brilliant speakers, opportunities to learn things, the famous quiz and, best of all, the chance to catch up with colleagues and make new friends. There were plenty of opportunities for video networking, and the virtual space meant that many were able to attend who wouldn’t have been able to make it in person.

Louise Bolotin singled out Wonder as the tech aspect that made the conference so conference-like for her:

The one thing that made the conference as near a replica to being there in person was the Wonder platform. Browser-based, it allows you to join or form circles with others within a dedicated ‘room’ and chat via webcam. Chatting to colleagues is always one of the best things about attending a conference – the only thing missing was buying each other a drink, but otherwise Wonder ticked an awful lot of boxes.

Sue Littleford enjoyed the international feel:

One clear advantage of an online conference is that far more delegates can attend (we had plenty of members staying up very late indeed, or getting up painfully early, depending on their time zone), but the second advantage is that speakers can also be spread around the world – we had contributions from Canada, the US, Thailand and Australia, as well as from all around the UK.

The ability to catch up later through recorded sessions was invaluable to many, particularly Louise Bolotin, who described herself as ‘frantically rushed off my feet’ with work at the time of the conference. Jill French appreciated this too:

There was the added bonus of staggering some of the delivery beyond the conference with materials including not just digital handouts but hours of recordings to watch back.

Jill also discovered the benefits of networking from home:

As a mainly introverted soul, used to working alone, I did wonder whether the networking side of an online conference could work at all, but it did. I even found that, as I was sitting in my normal work place (true for most delegates I suspect), this was conducive to relaxed interactions where I really felt at home, wait – I really was at home.

There was one final benefit to holding the conference online, something we might call the ‘Hugh Factor’. Jill French explains: ‘Hugh Jackson, a most capable, self-effacing and amusing chair, made entertaining introductions, talks and commentary through the whole event.’ This sort of ubiquity wouldn’t have been as possible in person, and there was something about Hugh’s warm ‘fireside chat’ style that translated particularly well to the screen. Plus, online no one else need see us blubbing. Sue Littleford says: ‘Last year, [Hugh’s] closing words reduced a great many of us to tears … This year, we were ready with our tissues, fortunately: he did it again, dammit.’

Some things don’t change, whether the conference is online or in person. On her Facebook business page, Nicky Taylor talked about ‘Fizzing with energy and new ideas, but aware I need space and time to formulate something coherent and meaningful.’ Many of us can relate to that.

Presenters’ perspectives: ‘It was genuinely fun’

How did the experience compare for the speakers? Although Liz Dalby didn’t relish the prospect of delivering her session on Zoom, she said yes when Beth came knocking, and (in a post entitled ‘Learning to say yes’) she says:

I’m so glad I did say yes, because the session went well – in fact, it was really enjoyable – and we received positive feedback from the people who came and watched and asked questions. I enjoyed it just as much as I’ve enjoyed taking part in panel sessions in the past in real life, or giving short talks and presentations. Which is to say, it was genuinely fun.

Sophie Playle, who ran a session on guiding principles for development editing, found she enjoyed presenting on screen more than when she’d done it in person, describing it in her Liminal Pages letter as ‘the perfect middle step between having little presenting experience and presenting confidently in-person. Talking to my laptop in my own living room is far less daunting than standing in front of a crowd! I was still nervous, but nowhere near as much as I was before.’

Jill French was another session leader, presenting on Word styles, and her short mention of the event was notable in its emphasis on the distances all but cancelled out by the online format: ‘A big thank you to Janet MacMillan from Canada who graciously introduced the session I ran from Hampshire.’

What next?

Based on the reviews of this year’s conference, it feels like it hardly matters whether next year’s, scheduled for 10 to 12 September 2022, is online or in person. And the good news is that it’ll be both. There’ll be an in-person event at Kents Hill Park near Milton Keynes, and a virtual element running alongside. After #CIEP2021 there must be many people who feel the same as Annie Deakins, who, looking forward to next year, wrote: ‘If real life isn’t possible, I’ll be just as pleased to see you all online.’


#CIEP2021 on the CIEP blog

Summaries of all of the 2021 CIEP conference sessions are now available on this blog! Don’t miss Hugh Jackson’s opening remarks or Dayita Nereyeth’s heartwarming summary.


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: group call by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

The 2021 CIEP conference: A surprising journey

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 12 to 14 September. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. It was Dayita Nereyeth’s first conference, and she didn’t know quite what to expect.

Hesitation

I’ll be honest. When I signed up for the CIEP conference I hardly knew what to expect. Before this, I had never attended a conference for editorial professionals. I was interested in some of the talks, but at face value, it was another commitment, another series of hours in front of a screen, another bunch of Zoom calls, another three points for my CIEP upgrade, another …

On hearing CIEP chair Hugh Jackson’s opening remarks, something in me shifted. He spoke about the community’s resilience and welcomed us home. I then let go of my initial hesitations and opened myself up to an experience unlike any other. In a place I never would have imagined – a symposium of editors – I found connection, balance, power, joy, and hope.

Connection

At the networking events, I was probably the youngest person in every breakout room – I gathered this from anecdotes about careers that had begun before I was born. I had much to absorb. In most cases, I chose to listen. While spectating was useful, I also discovered that a good way to break the ice was to ask a question.

Still, networking is never easy. And the Zoom format had its own challenges – the added constraint of the screen and the awkward dance of unmuting and beginning to speak only to hear someone do the same, followed by sheepish apologies and an uncomfortable pause before the conversation could continue.

Any awkwardness from Zoom networking dissipated on Twitter. Tweeting up a storm via #CIEP2021 was a fun way for delegates and speakers to connect. As I listened to talks, I tweeted what I resonated with, quite aware of my editor-proofreader audience.

Balance

A theme that emerged in many sessions and my personal approach to the conference was to find balance: in considerations of right and wrong, in prioritising the author’s voice, and in life.

‘Isn’t language amazing? Even when it’s wrong, it’s kind of right.’ With this, Ian McMillan summarised what it means to work in this profession. When we impose preference or style, we risk losing an author’s intention and charm. But precision in language is everything, so we traverse a middle way between the rights and the wrongs. In the same vein, Erin Brenner reminded us that there is no single correct way to teach editors.

Sophie Playle’s approach to fiction editing was eye-opening and applicable to any genre. One message stood out: what you edit is not yours. This is fundamental because it helps to weed out ego and personal preference from the editing process. Like Ian and Erin, Sophie invited us to find a working method rather than giving us a singular recipe.

Similarly, on marketing, Malini Devadas emphasised taking small steps, sitting with discomfort to understand it, and redirecting negative energy towards productivity. She also urged us to find a work–life balance, which I’ve been interested in for a while now.

I got creative with discovering this balance during the jam-packed conference. To be kind to myself (my eyes, in particular), I looked away from the screen during talks and took the opportunity to colour. I also attended some off-camera sessions horizontal, from bed. Still, I slowly yielded to Zoom fatigue. I didn’t follow speakers or other delegates into ‘Wonderland’ after presentations; I took breaks to recharge. No doubt, it was easy to make these choices because I knew that all the sessions were being recorded. I had to live with missing the more ephemeral interactions.

‘Fish fish fish fish fish.’ – Ian McMillan

Power

Several sessions emphasised the power that English speakers have. And as editors, we are responsible for shaping not just the what but also the how, of words. From making language accessible using Cathy Basterfield’s Easy English to incorporating Crystal Shelley’s invaluable insights on conscious and inclusive writing, we can effect change in many ways.

It’s easy to take literacy for granted. Before listening to Cathy’s talk, I hardly considered the amount I read every day; even a grocery bill or signpost can seem like a reading test to someone with low literacy. Importantly, as editors, we are gatekeepers, working on prevention rather than cure. ‘If we’re waiting to follow, we’re never going to catch up,’ Crystal told us. This is crucial. We are change-makers – we can discourage harmful trends (‘died by suicide’ instead of ‘committed suicide’) and encourage inclusive writing (using the singular ‘they’ to embrace all genders).

Joy

In addition to educational and profound moments during the conference, there was lots of good fun.

A highlight was the quiz, orchestrated by Beth Hamer. Despite knowing the answers to only four of the 60 questions, I ended up on the winning team (my teammates can take all the credit). I had heard great things about the quiz so even though I’m not a night owl, I stayed awake until about 3am to play (I definitely spent the last couple of rounds asleep with my eyes open).

The lightning talks were fun, bite-sized presentations, a refreshing change from the longer ones. It was incredible how much information the speakers packed into five minutes. Each one’s interests and personality echoed Ian McMillan’s words about the joy and excitement in language.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how happy Jill French’s play-by-play presentation of Word Styles in action made me. I’ve only recently begun to automate certain aspects of editing, so it was extremely satisfying to witness her logical process and put it to immediate use.

Hope

Listening to Benjamin Dreyer in conversation with Denise Cowle was an excellent way to wrap up the conference. On revealing that Penguin Random House has no house style, so each manuscript is dealt with on its own terms, Benjamin touched on these themes of connection, balance, power, and joy in editing. He encouraged editors to listen to authors rather than going in with expectations (exactly how I should have approached this conference). As other speakers did, he also reminded me about the people behind the words. It’s easy to forget about the humans when all we see are tracked changes, comments, emails, and tweets.

At the end, Hugh gave a moving speech that took us back to the CIEP of the past and offered hope for its future. Before I knew it, the conference had flown by. I stayed on Twitter for a while longer, unwilling to leave this space that I was initially reluctant to enter.

The links to recordings of the conference sessions arrived the following day, as promised, releasing me from my conference withdrawal. I now have the chance to revisit talks and dig into those I couldn’t attend live.

For now, I’ve gone (relatively) quiet on Twitter, and my engagement with editors I’m not directly working with is dormant. But my participation in this vibrant community will continue. I initially thought this conference would be a ‘one and done’ affair. But after attending, networking, tweeting, learning, listening and sharing, this time around, I think I’ll return. If only to listen to one of Hugh’s calming speeches, colour another sea creature, give a lightning talk, or win next year’s quiz (so long as Beth includes a ‘musicals’ section).

Dayita Nereyeth is an editor, a dancer, and an Alexander Technique teacher trainee based in Bangalore, India. She is a senior editor at The Clean Copy, where she has worked since 2017. Dayita primarily edits academic manuscripts in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

She is passionate about making text simple and clear. You can find her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Photo © Heui Song Son

 

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:

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

The 2021 CIEP conference: Don’t get left behind: Career development for freelancers

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 12 to 14 September. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Umber Khairi reviewed Don’t get left behind: Career development for freelancers, presented by Suzanne Collier.

Suzanne Collier is both a Careers Adviser as well as somebody with many years of experience in book publishing, so this was a very useful conference session for CIEP members – particularly those who are new to freelance work or who have recently set up their own businesses.

Suzanne said that most of the freelancers who contact her for career advice have one main question: how can we keep up to date? She said that this is a major concern because of the ‘overwhelming speed’ with which the industry is changing and technology is advancing: ‘Publishing almost got dragged into the twentieth century and is now sort of speeding through the twenty-first.’

She pointed out that freelancers can often feel isolated and invisible, so it’s easy for them to feel hard done by and get left behind. However, the key thing is to remind yourself that this is a job, your job, and you have to make an effort to update skills and keep abreast of developments within the industry. Suzanne emphasised the importance of taking responsibility for your development, and with the availability of many free resources, this does not have to be an expensive proposition.

She said that social media – despite sometimes being a ‘cesspit of hell’ – is a great resource, adding that you need to make it work for your business by finding the right people or organisations to link to. Suzanne advised that you follow publishers, individuals and organisations who are relevant to your business and then stay informed of what they talk about or do.

Suzanne also spoke about the importance of LinkedIn and gave some very clear advice on things that do not work on this platform. These include what you write in your bio: for example, she said you should not put in vague terms like ‘publishing professional’ or write ‘I help people to …’ but instead be specific and focus on keywords and skills. And don’t just wait around till people contact you via LinkedIn, but engage with others on the platform.

Suzanne reminded freelancers that they need to make an active effort to remain connected to their industry by joining networks and by knowing what is happening in their field. She recommended signing up for free news updates relating to their relevant industry, so for example, for book publishing she mentioned Bookseller, BookBrunch, Publishers Weekly and Publishers Lunch.

Another way of keeping abreast of what’s happening in your field is by attending events; this, she said, you should regard as CPD. At this point in the talk, we learned that many years ago Suzanne was a certified aerobics instructor and she cited the example of being required to have a certain number of hours of training/teaching to keep her aerobics accreditation updated. Freelancers, she said, should use this same logic and invest the time and money needed to attend events like book fairs or conferences – in other words, treat this as part of keeping their ‘accreditation’ current. She said book fairs were a great place to see ‘what was going on and who’s who’ and to meet people in the profession. She mentioned that the Frankfurt Book Fair might be partly virtual this year, so that may be a good opportunity for many people who might otherwise not be able to attend.

Suzanne also pointed out that being thorough in one’s work should extend to researching potential clients as well as industry trends. She said freelancers need to know what is happening in, say, a particular publishing house or genre and suggested making regular visits to bookshops and libraries to see what’s being produced, what it looks like in the finished form and how it’s being marketed.

In terms of free resources, Suzanne mentioned Google Digital Garage (where you can get free online certification for Google products), Codecademy and Coursera and said it was a good idea to check what was available in terms of Adobe training and also to check out the Independent Publishers Guild (IPG) Skills Hub. Here, she also said that although the LinkedIn training, Lynda is paid-for training, free trials of this are often available so it’s worth checking on this.

The main thing that Suzanne stressed throughout this conference session was that keeping up to date is not just about updating your tech skills, it is about keeping informed and aware of what is happening in your industry – of the trends (whether in terms of tech or genre), debates, products and other developments – and looking for resources and networks that can inform and educate you. She also identified podcasts as a very useful resource and gave the example of the Extraordinary Business Book Club as one such podcast. Suzanne herself has a weekly careers podcast on her website Bookcareers.com and she recommended that, as an editing and proofreading professional, you should look for, and identify, podcasts that are relevant to your work.

Later on in the session, she answered a question many of us ponder: ‘How important is having a niche area to one’s career progression and opportunities?’ Suzanne’s view was that while this could help you in some ways it could also hinder you and that it was probably better to ‘have some niche areas but also to keep editorial skills transferable’.

This was an inspiring session as it was a reminder of the many advantages of being a freelancer – you get to design and direct your CPD and develop your networks with no office politics or annoying boss being involved! However, as Suzanne Collier made clear in her talk, you do need to be proactive in this and not let yourself become complacent.

Umber Khairi is a new CIEP member and has a background in journalism (print, then news websites, then radio). She took early retirement from the BBC in 2018 and she is co-founder of the independent, journalist-owned magazine, Newsline, in Pakistan. She is a compulsive proofreader. Areas of interest include South Asia, Islamic culture, the news media, current affairs, new fiction and health and nutrition.

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:

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Podcasts and editors: what the word nerd heard (part 2)

In the first part of this blog, I explained why I’m a fan of podcasts and how their focus on narrative and storytelling make them particularly appealing to writers and editors.

In this second part, I’ve identified a few shows that I think fellow editors may enjoy – and they’re not necessarily what you’d expect. It’s just a small selection from the two million plus podcast series that are available, so existing podcast fans will probably wonder why I’ve not mentioned their favourite show. Well, I probably don’t know about it – but I’m always looking for new ideas so do put a link in the comments to any podcasts you love.

1. Podcasts about working with words

I only listen to a handful of podcasts that deal explicitly with language. I spend enough of my day wrestling with words as it is. But these are all diverting enough for listening not to feel like work, and could even be regarded as CPD (continuing professional development).

The Editing Podcast: All about writing and editing

Our friends, CIEP directors Denise and Louise, may have given you your first taste of the wonderful world of podcasts. They already have six seasons of bridging the gap between writers and editors, showing that our profession is both approachable and knowledgeable. What better combination? Add to that the fact that their shows are short and they don’t take up all your phone memory, and it’s a must-listen.

By the Book: The power of books and friendship

Here’s another couple of literary ladies, these ones quite different to Louise and Denise. Kristen and Jolenta live by a different self-help book each week, with varying results. For editors, it’s fascinating to note what it is about this genre that appeals to readers. But it’s not so much about how useful the books are, as about how powerful relationships are. Even if you have little in common with their New York lifestyles, these two not only are great role models as friends, but also seem to have helpful and supportive husbands who don’t mind their personal lives being recorded for the entertainment of thousands of listeners.

Because Language (was Talk the Talk): Cutting-edge linguistics

Much of the engaging character of this show also stems from the relationship between the three presenters. They take a very modern and descriptivist approach to language use, which is interesting from an editorial point of view. One might argue that they can be a little too tolerant of certain uses while shutting down others, but that’s the balance that linguists must negotiate.

For another option, Lingthusiasm is probably the best-known linguistics podcast, due to one of its presenters being the author of the excellent book, Because Internet – and it is worth listening to – but I have to admit my mind tends to wander during their lingthusiastic discussions.

The Allusionist: Exploring language in society

Helen Zaltzman explores language in relation to everything from cookery books to the censorship of Brazilian newspapers to Dickensian theme parks. It packs a lot into 20 minutes or so, and sheds a lot of light on both American and British culture, including the latest thoughts on sensitive language. The transcripts are particularly comprehensive, with lots of supporting material and enough links to get lost in for the rest of the day.

Something Rhymes with Purple: Jolly japes with Gyles and Susie

Everybody loved Susie Dent’s interview at last year’s CIEP conference and her etymological podcast with National Treasure™ Gyles Brandreth is just as entertaining. Both presenters are incredibly erudite, but wear their learning lightly (unlike Gyles’s famous jumpers) as they spark off each other while discussing the words of the week. It’s also quite funny to hear these respectable celebrities discuss sex and swearing so openly.

For ideas for more podcasts about language and writing, check out the suggestions at Podchaser and Book Careers.

2. Podcasts about narrative and storytelling

You may have noted that, for me, the appeal of my favourite podcasts often comes from the interaction of the presenters, and how they construct their narrative.

It’s the same for these podcasts, which focus on broader themes – real experiences and the world around us.

The Moth: The art of (true) storytelling

This is the original performance-storytelling podcast – real-life anecdotes told live on stage without notes. From an editorial viewpoint, it’s about constructing a compelling narrative but, on a more emotive level, it’s about life experiences across different times and cultures. Some stories are funny, some are tragic, some are compelling, all are memorable.

Don’t miss a lovely story by Mr PerfectIt himself (I nearly crashed the car when I heard the name Daniel Heuman), the amazing experience of an astronaut struggling to swim, or my absolute favourite – a woman remembers how reluctantly collecting milk-bottle tops for charity became something much greater than she expected.

Also check out spin-offs like The Dublin Story Slam, which features mostly Irish storytellers recounting their experiences. Mortified is another variant on the theme, in which adults read out their own teenage diaries on stage, with comical and cringeworthy results.

Spooks and Bogles: Never let the truth get in the way of a good story

Actor, author and historian (and – disclaimer – my friend) David Kinnaird found himself short of an audience at the start of last year’s lockdown so, with typical energy and panache, he used his considerable knowledge and performance skills to write and perform a weekly podcast about Stirling’s history and ghost stories. If that sounds a little esoteric, well, that’s part of the charm, but David’s research and storytelling is exemplary. And in fact, after around 70 episodes, it’s broadened its focus to Scottish, and sometimes Irish and English, folklore – the starting points for fascinating explorations of history, politics and the nature of reality.

For context, start at the beginning with Dead Man Talking.

99% Invisible: Putting the visual world into words

This one’s a lesson in style for non-fiction editors – every episode succeeds in vividly explaining the influence of design and inventions on the world. Presented by the memorably named Roman Mars, each of these mini-documentaries about architecture or technology or town planning or ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’ by the Baha Men* will have you repeating random facts at everyone you meet.

They’ve covered almost literally everything – but several episodes are about books and here’s a recent episode, The Clinch, about the sexy covers of romance novels.

*If you’re interested in the origin stories of cheesy pop songs, an honourable mention goes to this uplifting episode of Every Little Thing, about the origins of that wedding-reception classic, ‘Cha Cha Slide’.

How I Built This: The stories behind the brands

Another memorably named presenter, Guy Raz, interviews entrepreneurs of brands you may or may not have heard of about their experiences of starting, running and sometimes leaving businesses. It sounds horribly dry and capitalist but it’s actually very engaging – another lesson in how storytelling works in factual contexts too. Guy’s politely probing interviewing style results in some candid revelations from CEOs. Look out for him making a point of asking both women and men how they balanced work with childcare, and also note the answers to his most famous question … was your success due to skill or luck?

As a daily Duolingo user, I like this episode about the surprising story of the world’s top language-learning app.

Beautiful Anonymous: A weekly tribute to empathy, openness and honesty

It’s a simple premise. New Jersey comedian Chris Gethard chats with an anonymous caller for an hour. They tell their life stories in their own words, so you get perspectives from those whose voices you may not normally have a chance to hear. Some callers have rather dull lives; others certainly do not – but it’s all about what it is to be human.

There are more than 270 episodes so far. Chris himself recommends his favourite early episodes in this article.

And finally …

My Dad Wrote a Porno: The best editing podcast of all

You’ve probably heard of this one – it’s one of the most popular British standalone podcasts and has picked up numerous celebrity fans. And it really is all about writing and editing! Jamie and his friends read out – and comment on – his dad’s explicit but amateurish porn novels. It’s both hilarious and, er, educational, in more ways than one. They’re quick to pick up on inconsistencies, factual errors (especially involving body parts) and structural issues – showing that readers do notice such things. The spin-off book was a marked-up manuscript – I’ve got a copy right here next to Hart’s Rules.

And you’ll never think of pomegranates in the same way again.

Enjoy listening and do tell me about your own favourite podcasts – the more obscure the better!

About Julia Sandford-Cooke

Julia Sandford-CookeJulia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications has spent more than 20 years in publishing. When she’s not listening to podcasts, she writes and edits textbooks, speaks very bad Dutch and posts short, often grumpy, book reviews on her blog, Ju’s Reviews.

 

 

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: play/pause by Thomas Breher from Pixabay; Listen by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

When publishing contacts move on, and how to keep moving as a freelance editor

Leena Lane reflects on the importance of career moves and development – for freelance editors and for the people they work with – and focuses on thoughts regarding:

  • career paths
  • choosing freelance or in-house
  • networking
  • benefits of CIEP membership

I often take 15 minutes before starting work, especially on Mondays and Fridays, to scroll the news headlines across both current affairs and updates within the publishing world.

Posts which can make me both joyful and wistful at the same time are the ‘I’ve got news’ tweets. An individual who has been my main contact at a publishing house is making a career move to another company or is going freelance themselves. This has happened twice since COVID-19 hit and is no real surprise as people reflect on their lifestyle and commute, their career path, or just feel the need for change.

Despite working remotely as a freelancer, and having shared the stress of many deadlines and also those punch-the-air moments of success, I often come to regard these clients as ‘colleagues’ of a sort. When they move on, it stirs up conflicting thoughts and feelings.

Sadness

I’ll miss them! They’ve been great to work with and a friendly contact over many years. Sometimes I’ve known them start as the newbie enthusiastic/stressed editorial assistant, move up within the company to assistant editor, commissioning editor, and then move away to be editorial director.

Excitement

I’m genuinely pleased for the individual – their skills, character and contribution have been recognised and rewarded. They’ll be fabulous at their new position.

Trepidation

In the past, losing a personal contact has sometimes meant losing regular work with that company – how can I prevent that happening this time? How can I make contact with their replacement? How can I shine out from the pool or list of freelancers they’ll see on arrival, and how can I cultivate relationships with a wider team at the same company?

Opportunity

New doors to push? As they move on, might they be able to use my services within their new company, or introduce me to someone who will? Time to polish the website, Twitter profile, CIEP Directory entry, LinkedIn profile, etc, and prepare for some self-marketing.

Wistful reflection

After ‘slowing down’, even just for a year, in terms of career-focused work to start a family, it can be challenging to make it back to where you hoped to be. Relatively few publishers offer part-time or job-sharing as a serious option for key editorial roles.

Though many people appear to succeed and ‘do it all’, a long commute, high childcare costs and having no family locally made a full-time in-house position increasingly difficult for me. I started freelancing to bridge this phase of life until I could find the right in-house role again, but it has quietly turned into a more permanent path.

There have been many pros:

  • the rich variety of clients and projects
  • flexibility
  • focus groups in my own house (aka lots of bedtime stories, Middle Grade critiques and YA rejections)
  • focus groups in my community (aka being a primary school governor and seeing what parents, teachers and children are really reading, needing, thinking).

There have also been some negatives:

  • missing that buzz from being part of a regular team
  • lonely moments
  • erratic income at times
  • and a few regrets:
    • Should I have tried to get promoted one more level before having kids?
    • Should I have taken less parental leave?

Constructive reflection

As a freelancer, how have I still tried to progress in my career?

This is where the CIEP has been instrumental in keeping me on track and also in strengthening my resolve that being a freelancer can be just as fulfilling and valid for me as being an in-house editor.

Since joining, and upgrading twice, I’ve come to appreciate this group of editing professionals more each year: some on a similar path juggling career and family; some going freelance to provide variety they perhaps couldn’t find within just one publishing company; others continuing to work in-house − all striving to provide excellent editorial service within the industry.

One fantastic resource to guide career progression is the new CIEP Curriculum for Professional Development which details what editors and proofreaders need to know, and how they can acquire that knowledge.

In lockdown I’ve finally met up with my regional group, albeit on Zoom, and have bounced ideas around and received some really valuable tips and advice from both new and experienced members. The CIEP’s annual conference – online in 2020 and 2021 – is a wonderful opportunity to meet with editorial professionals, to learn and to laugh.

As I turn back from news-scrolling to my current project, I congratulate those moving on and progressing in their career in publishing, especially those who are, only now in 2021, finding chinks of fairer access and representation – there’s still so much more to be done. Within the community of the CIEP, I feel challenged to stay alert and fresh in my own career.

About Leena Lane

Leena Lane is a Professional Member of the CIEP  and is a member of its Berkshire local group and Run On. Leena provides editorial services to publishers and authors, specialising in children’s Middle Grade and Young Adult books. She’s committed to making stories more representative for all young readers.

 

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: signposts by Javier Allegue Barros; doors by Robert Anasch, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Podcasts and editors: what the word nerd heard (part 1)

In this first of two blog posts, Julia Sandford-Cooke introduces us to podcasts and looks at how they can be a useful development tool for editors. She answers the following questions:

  • What is a podcast?
  • Do you have to pay for them?
  • Who listens to podcasts?
  • What can podcasts be about?
  • OK but how does this all tie in with editing?
  • Don’t know where to start?

I have to admit something that you might find shocking. Brace yourself …

I don’t listen to BBC Radio 4. No, not even The Archers.

In fact, I haven’t listened to live radio, or live TV for that matter, for years. But I somehow still manage to be well informed on topics that interest me. In fact, spend any time with me and one thing I’m likely to say (other than ‘How can the dishwasher be full already?’) is ‘I heard [insert fascinating fact] on a podcast’.

According to my aptly named Podcast Addict phone app, I’ve spent 91 days listening to podcasts since 2016. Last week alone, 10 hours and 36 minutes of my time were accompanied by podcasts. So I must have spent 10 hours and 36 minutes on my morning walk, cooking, tidying, cleaning and, yes, dealing with the dishwasher. It’s just like listening to the radio – any task that would otherwise require me to listen to my own thoughts can be carried out while listening to other people’s. It’s my own form of curated content.

What is a podcast?

Podcasts are a form of on-demand audio media. Many people, at least in the UK, seem to think they are simply radio shows you download from the BBC website. Well, some are, but you’re missing out if that’s the extent of your podcast experience. The majority are standalone audio recordings, usually part of a series, researched, recorded and produced specifically for listeners to access via their computer, tablet or phone. You can download episodes to listen to when you want, or you can stream them if you have a reliable WiFi connection.

Episodes can be any length, from five minutes to a couple of hours. Most of those I listen to are between 20 and 50 minutes long – again, like a radio show. But unlike radio shows, many have transcripts, along with images, on their websites, so people who are unable to hear or have difficulty taking in spoken information can still access the content.

One of the many wonderful things about podcasts is that it’s very easy to create your own. Three of my friends (separately) started shows during last year’s lockdown – everyone can have a voice, though whether they have an audience is another matter and that, as with books, is down to promotion and word of mouth.

Do you have to pay for them?

Podcasts are generally free to access. However, a downside is that many have to keep stopping for adverts from their ‘sponsors’, which is a bit tedious if you’re used to ad-free media. But you can always fast-forward through them, and it’s worth putting up with the ads if it means the shows remain free. Others are funded by fans donating to Patreon or similar crowd-funding platforms – I support my friend David’s historical storytelling in Spooks & Bogles, for example, and the entertaining and erudite Strong Songs has more than 1,250 subscribers willing to pay a monthly fee to hear about the songwriting techniques behind their favourite tracks.

Most podcast apps and platforms, such as Spotify, are free for the basic service. I chose to pay £2.99 several years ago to get the premium version of my app and I still think it was a great investment.

Who listens to podcasts?

Well, who watches TV or plays football? Anyone who wants to. Anyone who can. Recent statistics suggest that 55% of the American population has listened to a podcast, and about 18% of people in the UK listen to at least one podcast every week. They are particularly popular in South America.

Some research suggests podcast listeners are ‘loyal, affluent and educated’ – and not necessarily young. I know a man in his mid 70s who likes nothing better than to plug in his headphones to spend some introvert time with the latest episode of his favourite science show.

Far from being the latest newfangled fad, podcasts are really pretty mainstream. It’s estimated that 14.6 million people in the UK listen to podcasts (numbers have shot up since the pandemic started).

They have been around for quite a while by today’s technology standards. They first began to gain momentum in 2004, to the extent that ‘podcast’ was declared word of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary in 2005. There’s even an International Podcast Day™ on 30 September. Interestingly, organisers used to describe it as an opportunity ‘to educate current and future consumers about podcasting and advance the podcasting discipline’ but now simply say it is ‘a celebration of the power of podcasts’. An example, perhaps, of the impact of their recent popularity?

What can podcasts be about?

Part of the mainstream appeal comes from the huge variety of subjects that two million different podcast series inevitably bring.

Statistics indicate that British listeners are most likely to download podcasts in the genres of sport, news/politics and comedy (mostly produced by the ubiquitous BBC). There are apparently 18 different daily news podcasts in the UK alone but, sport, news and politics not being topics on which I wish to spend my leisure time, I subscribe to only a couple of the current top 100 iTunes podcasts, which is surprisingly few considering I follow more than 50 podcasts overall.

Personally, I prefer documentary-style factual content or autobiographical shows. In the mood for onstage anecdotes? Play The Moth. Hungry? Play The Sporkful. Fancy a bit of contemporary socioeconomic theory (and who doesn’t)? Play Freakonomics.

Podcasts can be fiction too, and the format allows for original approaches to dramatic audio production. I enjoyed the thriller Carrier (soon to be filmed for Netflix) but that’s because its star Cynthia Erivo can do no wrong. But most scripted shows are ‘docudrama’ style, often based on the discoveries of a (fictional) investigative reporter, and I find these get tiresome pretty quickly. I’d rather read a novel.

OK but how does all this tie in with editing?

  • There’s the obvious thematic link. Many podcasts are about language, linguistics, writing, publishing or editing. Our very own Denise and Louise host The Editing Podcast, a must-listen for writers and editors alike.
  • Then there’s the structural link. My favourite shows are less obviously related to my profession but, in my opinion, are just as immersed in narrative and storytelling, as I’ll demonstrate in the second part of my blog.
  • Podcasts are collated, compiled and edited just like books. Producers choose what to keep and what to remove. Like books, they have tropes and formats that we come to expect, from an introductory clip to capture our attention to carefully selected background music. John August, in the first episode of Launch (a podcast about publishing his novel), does a fine job of identifying some of these. (He’s also very nice about copyeditors.)
  • Listening to podcasts improves my general knowledge. You can choose which podcast you listen to but you don’t necessarily know what they’ll be talking about so you never know when the history of barbed wire, the story of Wigan Casino or the fact that certain species of baby spider eat their mothers will come in handy. Many’s the time that I’ve run to Google to find out more about something I’ve just heard.
  • Listening also increases my awareness of other cultures and beliefs, and (because I listen to so many American shows), my awareness of how other cultures view my own. Admittedly, I roll my eyes at the frequent, outdated criticisms of British food (Gastropod, I’m looking at you) or mentions of generic ‘British accents’, but it’s nevertheless illuminating to appreciate that stereotyping works both ways.
  • I spend so much time with the written word that spoken language provides a useful balance, with its own layers of meaning and surprise. Surely I’m not the only person not to know that apparently ‘pho’ (the soup) should be pronounced ‘phar’? (Disclaimer: I can’t be sure that it is – I just heard it in a podcast.)

Don’t know where to start?

With so many podcasts to choose from, it can be hard to identify the ones you’ll enjoy most. What are you interested in? Websites like Podchaser group shows by genre – business, technology, comedy, audio drama and so on – or check the iTunes charts to see what’s popular in the UK at the moment.

If you have a hobby or special interest, from quilting to paddleboarding, there’s bound to be a podcast (or several) that covers it. Or perhaps you’d like to hear the stars of your favourite 2000s TV show (like The West Wing, The OC and Gilmore Girls) reminiscing. Ten years ago, backstage gossip might have been in book format but today it’s actors and the production team interacting.

Just browse until something catches your interest and then stream it online – via a website or on Spotify – or download it to an app, which I prefer because it’s portable.

Still looking for ideas? The second part of this blog will give you a few more starting points.

About Julia Sandford-Cooke

Julia Sandford-CookeJulia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications has spent more than 20 years in publishing. When she’s not listening to podcasts, she writes and edits textbooks, speaks very bad Dutch and posts short, often grumpy, book reviews on her blog, Ju’s Reviews.

 

 

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: Listen by Nick Fewings; podcasting set up by Will Francis, both on Unsplash.

What editors need to know when asking authors questions

The Art of Querying, a new CIEP course, is on its way. Its creator, Gerard M-F Hill, gives
us a speedy tour through questions and queries, and what the course offers editors
and proofreaders.

Is the current King of France bald?

Questions are of many kinds, and not all of them are good questions – or even answerable.

Whatever you edit – advert, magazine, novel or research paper – you soon start asking yourself questions. What does this mean? Where did those come from? How am I supposed to know that? Is that all? Or even just: why? Of course queries should be clear and concise, but it’s good to be constructive too. What makes a good query?

Before you fire off a query, ask yourself what the problem is. You need to have a reason for asking, because the author may not think it is a problem at all. You first identify the problem by analysing what is bothering you. As a result, you will craft a better question and often you will identify an answer (or answers); then the author just needs to say yes (or no, not exactly … more like this).

Might I suggest?

As queries take up the author’s time (as well as yours), it is only common courtesy to keep them as few and as short as possible. So you need criteria to decide when to ask a question, and you also need a range of suitable formulas that you can adapt for each situation. Good questions will help to ensure that you get a usable answer.

Queries can be short, but they don’t have to be abrupt. It pays to be diplomatic. There are good ways to approach an author, to frame a question and to follow up an incomplete answer – and there are some even better ways.

Does it match the brief/blurb?

Who is this publication for? What will readers want to know? What will they expect to find? What are they expected to know already? Will they know all these facts, names, words, idioms, allusions or connections? Will they resent the presentation as either patronising or trivialising?

As an editor, you ask yourself such questions because they are a big part of the expertise that you offer and that your client is paying for. A publisher does not wish to hear of such defects from unimpressed reviewers or disenchanted readers.

Does it make sense?

What is the writer trying to say? Are they getting their message across? Does it make sense? Why is this different from that? You ask yourself such questions on behalf of the reader, who should not be left to wonder and has no way of asking the author to explain.

If it doesn’t make sense, if the plot or proposition doesn’t add up, if defective grammar is stuffed with malapropisms or other unsuitable words, the reader will soon drift off and never return. The editor aims to prevent any such crisis by smoothing the reader’s path so they can be informed, educated or entertained without being tripped up, distracted or misled.

Are you happy with this?

Where possible, make it easy for the author by presenting your query as a simple choice: A or B? This, that or the other? Would this [rewritten sentence] represent what you are saying?

Have forgotten something?

It’s easy to see that ‘you’ is missing in that sentence. It’s not so easy to spot when a whole topic or aspect of a piece, or the dénouement of a subplot, has been overlooked. The questioning editor keeps a lookout for content that the reader may be expecting, but which is not there.

Easy questions

Why is water wet? This penetrating question from a thoughtful child nonetheless demonstrates that ‘the greatest fool may ask more than the wisest man can answer’, though children are not fools. The saying is often attributed to King James I and VI.

In checking the reference (as all good authors should) I found to my surprise that the aphorism did not come from the wisest fool in Christendom, but from Charles Caleb Colton’s Lacon, published in 1820. In non-fiction, references – inadequate, unconvincing, mangled or missing – usually generate half your queries.

Here’s the answer!

Between 2010 and 2019 I regularly ran a session at the SfEP conference on The Art of Querying, and since then I have been expanding this workshop into an online course. It begins with the whole question of questions. For a start, what do you need to ask yourself? Can your author query be answered at all? Is there only one way to answer it? Could it be misinterpreted? Does the text assume the answer to an unspoken question?

The course next looks at questions to ask the project manager, with a checklist, and how and when to approach the author, with examples of how to do it and what not to do. This section discusses practicalities, from typefaces to time zones, alongside the principles and professional ethics that underlie all editorial queries. It Looks Funny examines your five options before you ask anything, followed by advice on formulating queries and notes, with six rules to help you.

Readers struggle with four major problems – inconsistency, ambiguity, omission and error – and each of these topics has a whole section of the course to itself. Different types of content have their own pitfalls, so there are sections devoted to prelims, narrative and argument, vocabulary and terminology, references, tables and artwork.

The Art of Querying is meant to be instructive, stimulating and enjoyable while extending your editing knowledge and skills, with lots of questions (and answers), well over a hundred real-life examples, copious but concise study notes and a variety of exercises to let you think through different solutions, along with a decision tool to determine whether and what to query, six rules you can follow and a dozen checklists for you to download and use. The Art of Querying is also (I hope) a good read and good fun!

Find out more about The Art of Querying

About Gerard M-F Hill

After several years teaching and 16 years driving heavy lorries, Gerard retrained as an indexer and copyeditor. Since 1990 he has worked on over 500 books and mentored over 100 proofreaders.

As a director of SfEP (2007–16) he devised the basic editorial test used by CIEP and as chartership adviser (2016–20) he worked with the chair, Sabine Citron, to obtain the institute’s Royal Charter.

 

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: question mark by Emily Morter; Answers 1km by Hadija Saidi, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

The CIEP Curriculum for Professional Development

The CIEP’s training director, Jane Moody, has been working closely with directors, tutors and the wider membership to create a curriculum for professional development. In this post, Jane explains:

  • why we need a curriculum
  • what that curriculum covers
  • how the curriculum works.

Do we need a curriculum?

Yes, we do! Most professional organisations have a set of skills and knowledge that you need to understand or at least know something about to call yourself a professional in their area. Some test their members on this set of skills (physiotherapists and accountants, for example) before they can call themselves members of their professional body. All expect their members to refresh their skills and learning against this skill set periodically. Continuing professional development, CPD, is expected of all members, no matter their status in the organisation, and this is true of copyeditors and proofreaders as well.

We, as editors and proofreaders, now also have a framework of study – the CIEP Curriculum for Professional Development.

What does it cover?

At first glance, you might think that you won’t need to know about everything in the curriculum. Have a closer look, though. Any publishing professional needs a basic grounding in publishing ethics and law – even if you only scratch the surface, you should at least know something about the moral rights of authors, plagiarism and copyright. If you work as a freelance editor/proofreader, you are running your own business, so you need to know something about keeping records, what HMRC needs to know about you, and how to work efficiently. You will have your own equipment, so a basic knowledge of how to manage your files and keep them secure is essential for your own and your clients’ peace of mind. That takes you to the end of Domain 1 of the curriculum: Working as a professional.

You may be working in-house in a company and, if so, there will be some aspects of business management and practice that may not be immediately relevant to you. The knowledge in this area will, however, be useful to most members working in our profession today.

Even if you never work for a ‘traditional’ publisher with an editorial department, a production department and a marketing department, you will need to understand the basics of a publishing workflow. There are good reasons why some tasks are done before or after others. The more you understand about the industry and its processes, the wider your client base can be and the more useful you can be to your clients.

Working with words means that you need a good knowledge of the English language and its mechanics, and how different people, groups and organisations use the language. You need to be able to judge whether something makes sense, is clear and appropriate for the audience, and to be able to raise queries with an author or client in a concise and sensitive manner.

How you work is critical to getting repeat business – do a good job and you may pick up a regular client; do what you think you need to without learning about how and why and you are not likely to be asked for a second date. The nuts and bolts of copyediting and proofreading processes have been refined over many decades and, no matter who you work for, understanding what you are doing, who for and why matters if you want to do the best job you can. And now you are at the end of Domain 2.

Not all editors/proofreaders will use all the skills and knowledge included in these two domains of the curriculum in their day-to-day work. Nevertheless, as you grow in skills and experience, you are likely to want to broaden your awareness of publishing processes and the breadth of publishing outside your initial comfort zone. Developing your knowledge and acquiring a broad range of skills are essential CPD.

Some people prefer to remain as ‘generalists’, working for many different clients in several genres and subject areas. If this is true for you, you may never need to consult Domain 3. Others like to specialise, some in traditional areas where there is a body of specialist publishing, such as medicine, music, fiction or the law. Each of these specialist areas has its own conventions, specialist knowledge and terminology. Domain 3 covers a few of these specialisms and others will be added – if there is a specialism that you think should be included, copy the template at the start of Domain 3 (page 28), fill it in and send it to the training director.

How it works

Each domain of the curriculum is set out in columns. The first column divides the domain into detailed topics. The second column shows the competencies, professional skills and attitudes expected of a professional copyeditor/proofreader for this topic, and the third lists some resources to support learning in this area. Eventually, there will be a fourth column, which will list the ways in which a copyeditor/proofreader can demonstrate their competency in this area – a test pass or other kind of assessment, perhaps. This is an aspiration for the future.

We hope that you will contribute to keeping the curriculum alive. Have you taken a course that helped to expand your knowledge and skills? Have you come across a book or other resource that is really useful to you in your practice? Do tell the training director about it.

Download the curriculum now

About Jane Moody

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

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

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: book stacks by by Lysander Yuen on Unsplash; cogs by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

Should I volunteer when my business is established?

Many editors and proofreaders volunteer time and skills at the beginning of their careers to gain valuable experience that might lead to paid work. But once you’re established in your business, with a regular client base, what are the benefits of volunteering? We talked to some CIEP members to find out how volunteering works in a more settled career landscape. In a previous blog, we looked at volunteering when you’re just starting out, and covered the questions you need to ask yourself before giving away your valuable time.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • Value-led volunteering
  • Making yourself useful
  • Helping colleagues out
  • Supporting the wider editorial community
  • Reaching across the earth
  • Giving back

Value-led volunteering

All volunteering is value-led to an extent, but for some of our members their values are the deciding factor in working out what volunteering work to take on.

CIEP Professional Member Ben Dare says: ‘I have offered voluntary proofreading to a number of organisations that I knew were either volunteer-led or had very restricted budgets. I thought that all of them were interesting or aligned with my values.’

In the end, some of this value-led voluntary work turned into value-led paid work:

  • One turned into a counter-offer of a few hours a week of paid work.
  • One connected Ben with a publisher’s editorial assistant, also volunteering, who connected him with their publisher. That turned into a number of proofreads, Ben’s first copyedits, and an ongoing relationship with the publisher.
  • One organisation incorporated Ben’s work into their funding applications so that they could start paying him for his work on their projects.
  • One remained a voluntary role, but it was fun and meaningful.
  • One remained voluntary with a paid project in the middle and the possibility of more in future.

Ben continues: ‘I also offered to do an unpaid proofread for a few charities when Covid was at its peak, knowing that finances were so uncertain, but also not expecting it to remain voluntary for future projects.’

  • One insisted they pay and sent a few projects Ben’s way.
  • One took a voluntary proofread and continues to follow up with paid projects, and referred Ben to another client.
  • One took a voluntary proofread and continues to follow up with paid projects.

Even with this impressive return, and a client base that increasingly reflects his values, Ben consistently offers a certain proportion of his hours for free. From his records, he has noticed that his percentage of voluntary hours has remained at around 10%. He says:

While I’d obviously have been better off had all those voluntary hours been paid, it’s not a big portion on paper. The important thing is that I only offered voluntary proofreading where I thought there was a need, and when I knew I would be satisfied doing the work, paid or not.

Making yourself useful

Some people volunteer long term for one organisation when there is absolutely no chance of ever being paid for it. Editing church or other faith-based magazines is a good example of this. CIEP Intermediate Member Annie Deakins has been volunteering for her monthly parish magazine since 2017. Her account of how this has benefited her, giving her skills that have helped her wider career, echoes the experiences of some of our newer members:

2017: I offered to proofread the monthly parish magazine for the local church. I was an Entry-Level member. I learnt how to use the PDF tools.

2018: The magazine editor retired, so she trained me to take over. I learnt about having a style sheet.

2019: A new church administrator was appointed. Her job role was tightened, so I took over invoicing the advertisers. I placed my own advert for proofreading services. I learnt about communication, diplomacy and tact. Very handy when querying.

2020: The vicar got promoted. She had done all the church social media. She taught me how to do it. I learnt how to market my own business.

There’s no denying that volunteering will push you towards skills and knowhow that you might not feel comfortable trialling in a paid role. However, for Annie, it’s also about offering a talent that’s genuinely useful to others:

I still volunteer with the Publicity Group at church because that is where my talents lie. I’m not happy doing catering, DIY or Finance. Therefore I do the church social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and edit the church magazine.

During lockdown, when we weren’t sending the magazine to print, I still produced an online PDF version, accessible from the church website. Usually the magazine is printed in black and white with a colour cover. During lockdown, when it was online only, the illustrations on each page could be in colour, which made each issue cheerier and raised spirits. Even if they didn’t have the hard copy in their hands, I still felt that my volunteering was valued.

Helping colleagues out

Kath Kirk (Gecko Edit) and Christina Petrides (Last Glance), both Intermediate Members of the CIEP, trade their skills by editing each other’s blogs before publication. Working in different sectors – Kath edits fiction and educational materials while Christina focuses on academic and business editing – there’s rarely overlap in their blog material. Their informal barter arrangement benefits them both, and pushes them to dig into aspects of editing that they might not encounter in their usual work.

Sue Littleford, our columnist on business matters, explains how this arrangement works tax-wise:

If you swap proofreading services with a friend for your blogs or your websites, you need to enter the cash value of the services received and rendered in your accounts, too. If they balance, it’s ‘free’ in monetary terms (other than your time), as the tax liability will exactly offset the tax relief. But if you spend one hour on your friend’s blog and your friend spends two on yours, there’d be greater tax relief than the tax liability (and vice versa), which is why it has to go through your accounts.

Supporting the wider editorial community

As a non-profit organisation, the CIEP relies on voluntary help. Its directors give a certain number of hours voluntarily every month, for example. Our social media team (SMT) is made up of volunteers, too. Obviously we have to keep the names of these ninja-like communicators secret, but one comments:

I’ve learnt about tone of voice, and tweeting for the CIEP has sharpened my copywriting skills. Being a member of the team has thrown me together with CIEP members with similar interests, eg in content marketing and user design. I feel I better understand engagement, and I’ve learnt how to write for the different social media platforms. All really useful for my business. And when I was starting out, I learnt about loads of interesting organisations in the publishing world by seeing who the CIEP follows on Twitter etc.

Another says: ‘I think it’s contributed to my appreciation of the wider industry. This can be a solitary old existence, so the team itself is a benefit. In terms of specific skills: awareness of use of appropriate language (gender-neutral pronouns!) and improved skills with web platforms, Slack, SmarterQueue, which is all very useful.’

Louise Harnby, the CIEP’s social media director (at the time of writing), testifies to the value of her team:

I work with an exceptional team of volunteers who deliver every piece of content that engages with the wider publishing and editing community. That frees up my time to focus on strategy and scheduling content that promotes membership growth, training, blog content, and our Directory of Editorial Services.

A team approach ensures the CIEP’s social media strategy is framed in a way that reaches beyond the bubble of a single director. Instead, there’s a support group in which we can share ideas about how best to put the strategy into practice – whether that be the design of our branded templates or the timing of our posts. Plus, there’s more than one set of eyes on our social media feeds and the questions our followers are asking. That’s more enjoyable and more effective.

Being a member of the SMT requires being able to write pithy messages that are engaging but hold our brand tone of voice, understand the principles behind content and social media marketing, and evaluate a post’s relevance and its alignment with CIEP values. For that reason, our volunteer editors and proofreaders tend to have some experience when they come on board.

Over the past few years the size of the SMT has decreased. But what’s stayed the same is the value and expertise our volunteers bring to the table. I love working with them and learning from them. And I’m very thankful for them! Delivering our social media strategy would be impossible without them.

Reaching across the earth

CIEP Professional Member Sarah Dronfield has become known among editors worldwide for running weekly blog round-ups on the Editors’ Association of Earth Facebook Page. She became a member of the editing community on Facebook soon after starting her editing and proofreading business in 2016, and explains how she spotted a need:

Lots of editors were saying that they read blog posts or listened to podcasts as part of their continuing professional development. I knew it was possible to follow individual blogs, but I thought it would be handy for us to have all the latest posts in one place to dip in and out of during coffee breaks, so in 2017 I started a weekly blog round-up in the Editors’ Association of Earth (EAE) Facebook group.

Later that year I took over the running of the weekly accountability thread in another of the EAE groups. That thread is a place for editors to share what they’ve done that week to market their business or advance their professional development. Many editors form their own private accountability groups with others who are at a similar stage in their career or who work in the same field, and the thread is useful for those who are not part of such a group. Having said that, I know lots of editors (myself included) who are in a private accountability group but still like to participate in the weekly EAE thread!

Posting these weekly threads makes me feel like I’m giving something back to the community that helped me so much when I was starting out. It also gives me a routine and a sense of normality that is essential these days.

Giving back

So, why do they do it? At this point in these professionals’ careers, their motivation isn’t so much future employment but adding something to their working lives. Volunteering can lead to work, but often it’s something that runs regularly alongside work, taking up a fairly predictable amount of time. It’s a way of getting CPD and forming new contacts as well as gaining satisfaction from helping in a way that’s consistent with their values. They’re giving something back, which may in time encourage others to do the same.

Do you volunteer? What do you do, and why? Let us know in the comments below!

Written by the CIEP information team. With thanks to the CIEP members who generously shared their experiences.

About the CIEP information team

Abi Saffrey, Liz Jones, Margaret Hunter, Cathy Tingle

Liz Jones, Abi Saffrey and Cathy Tingle are the CIEP’s information commissioning editors. If there’s a topic that you would like to see covered in a blog post, fact sheet, focus paper or guide, drop the team a line at infoteam@ciep.uk.

 

 

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: tree by Brandon Green; Why Not? by Ian Dziuk; sprout by Sushobhan Badhai, all on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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