Tag Archives: professional development

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.

CIEP social media round-up: April and May 2020

Two of the strangest months in memory, recorded through our social media accounts

Times such as these are tricky for a social media team whose focus is on publishing and freelancing. As with pretty much everything right now, long term we don’t know what COVID-19 might mean for publishing, the book industry, or editors and proofreaders. We entered April 2020 wondering what we could communicate to our audiences on a day-to-day basis. Too much doom would be unhelpful. Too much levity would be unwelcome. What to do? Like so many others, we took each day at a time.

Silver linings

But heartening developments emerged, at least where publishing was concerned: increased book buying during lockdown, and the appearance of online book festivals and other events, with the Hay Festival, from 18 to 31 May, presenting an impressive array of personalities including our own honorary president, David Crystal. (David also starred in Mark Allen’s new podcast, That Word Chat, on 11 May.) Online events, by their nature, could include many more people than would have attended physically. ACES, the society for editing in the US (@copyeditors), took its conference online with #ACES2020Online on 1 May, and we were promised great things by SENSE, the Society of English-language professionals in the Netherlands (@SENSEtheSociety), whose online conference was to take place in early June.

Revising our lexicon

We covered the updating of dictionaries that the coming of COVID-19 required, so that editors and proofreaders were informed about how to refer to the virus. We posted articles about new terms such as quarantini and coronacoaster, and terms that were gaining popularity such as infodemic, as well as whether we were using older terms differently now. We reminded our followers of the differences between similar terms we were now using a lot, such as hoard and horde (‘There are hordes of people hoarding toilet paper’, one Facebook follower observed).

Keeping up with tech

Video conferencing packages are now part of our lives in a way they never were before. We covered Zoom in various ways, from why Zoom makes you tired to sports commentator Andrew Cotter’s Zoom meeting with his two Labradors: a treat. Meanwhile, Cambridge Dictionaries introduced us to new video conferencing terms like zoombombing, zumping and teletherapy. Merriam-Webster noted the coining of two news-and-phone-related phrases: doomsurfing and doomscrolling.

Shelf isolation

More attention is being paid to bookshelves in these Zoom days (see ‘Bookcase Credibility’, @BCredibility, an account launched in April that comments on the bookshelves of various public figures). Of course, at CIEP we appreciate a good bookshelf (and a good book nook, a scene or figure that can be placed between shelved books). On 25 March we had proved ourselves ahead of the curve by asking our Twitter followers to #ShowUsYourShelves. To fill these shelves still further, during April and May there were a number of articles and postings about the books we could read in lockdown, to comfort us, return us to our childhoods, inspire, uplift or offer us escape, or simply to get us through. We enjoyed artist Phil Shaw’s ordering of books to tell a story with their titles, something that Orkney Library (@OrkneyLibrary), now temporarily closed, had often done for its 70K followers. And, remaining with libraries, the true story about the cleaner who rearranged the books in a library in size order – oh, horror! – inspired sympathy and hilarity in many.

Actors available

Suddenly, actors and other artists had time on their hands and were doing impromptu readings and recitals. Jennifer Ehle, Elizabeth Bennet in the famous BBC 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, read the novel chapter by chapter, and we shared this on Twitter on 6 April. Andy Serkis read The Hobbit online for charity. @SirPatStew (Sir Patrick Stewart) read a Shakespeare sonnet every day until 22 May. Our post announcing this got 83 likes and 33 shares from our delighted Facebook followers.

Home comforts

Of course, we editors and proofreaders are, for the most part, well used to all aspects of working from home, from furry assistants to endless tea or coffee drinking. And, alas, with beverages occasionally comes spillage. One of our most popular posts on Twitter was about an artist who made coffee stains into illustrations of monsters. There were a lot of them. Boy, was he unlucky with his coffee.

Funnies, Friday or otherwise

If you’re a devotee of the CIEP Facebook page, you’ll know that there’s a Friday Funny at about 4pm every week to send everyone off into the weekend with a smile. These are often comic strips by book-appreciating illustrators such as John Atkinson or authors who understand the trials of working from home such as Adrienne Hedger. When we’re very lucky, the legendary Brian Bilston releases a poem. His ‘Comparative Guidance for Social Distancing’ got 160 likes and 105 shares on our Facebook page, and it wasn’t even posted on a Friday. Sometimes the stars align and there’s a cat-and-books story we can post at the end of the week. Such an event took place on 22 May, when we enjoyed Horatio, a cat who wears (or, really, bears) costumes to promote his local library. As one Facebook user commented, ‘That is a patient cat.’ Truth.

Lockdown LinkedIn

We only started posting our blog-based LinkedIn content regularly last June, and since we passed the 10,000 followers mark last August our followers have increased again by another 8,000. Since lockdown, engagement has reduced as many of our followers seem to be working parents who are grabbing opportunities to work while suddenly morphing into teacher mode. During April and May 2020, posts that proved popular included: Denise Cowle’s week in the life of an editor (more than 8% engagement rate and 45 likes), a post by Intermediate Member Hilary McGrath sharing tips for staying motivated when starting a course (more than 4% engagement rate and 38 likes) and, showing reading-related content is our bread and butter, Abi Saffrey’s post about evaluating her year in books (more than 5% engagement rate, 32 likes and 8 comments).

Rounding up the round-up

During April and May 2020 on the CIEP’s social media, the emphasis was on editors and proofreaders looking after themselves, diverting themselves, keeping informed and looking for light where it could be found. As ever, our social media was overwhelmingly about support. We got a new emoji on Facebook – ‘care’, the usual little yellow head hugging a heart. Gotta tell you, it’s coming in useful.

Don’t miss a thing in editing and proofreading. Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


Photo credits: wall emojis by George Pagan III; cat by Andrii Ganzevych, both on Unsplash

Proofread by Victoria Hunt, Intermediate Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

CPD: staying motivated

By Hilary McGrath

Have you ever tried to study but found it hard to stay focused? Am I alone in formulating a great plan, then abandoning my learning when the initial enthusiasm has waned? Continuing Professional Development is important but staying motivated can be hard.

Building on the study of language has always been particularly important for me as a translator and proofreader. Being able to write well and to correct errors was not enough though – I wanted to be able to properly name the troublesome parts of the texts I was working on. A dangling modifier? An attributive adjective? A predicative phrase? I needed to study the function and structure of English grammar, so I considered my options.

Take a course

I considered taking an in-house course. Having a fixed date and a valid reason to take some time off work is an advantage. But the need to travel and pay for accommodation makes this an expensive choice.

Another option was an online course – an efficient way to learn, especially for those who live far from big cities. Distance learning usually means there are start and end dates, deadlines and a certificate to show you have put in the work. The CIEP offers a Brush Up Your Grammar course, for example.

But I had to take cost into account. Unfortunately, I’d already dipped into my CPD budget, having recently attended a one-day workshop and completed an online course. How about self-study, then?

Buy a book

Buying a book and working through it slowly but surely was the next obvious thing to do. But, before I could even choose a book to buy, I knew my main problem would be staying motivated. How could I be sure I would stick with my learning plan?

Find a buddy (or several)

I made the fortunate discovery, through the CIEP forums, that other editors and proofreaders had the same idea as me. Together we selected a book – Grammar: A student’s guide by James R Hurford. Then, Slack was suggested as a communication tool for collaborative study. It was free, easy to join and very intuitive to use. It would become our virtual classroom.

Set some SMART goals

  • Specific – we chose a textbook that had exercises at the end of every section and answers to check at the end of the book.
  • Measurable – we studied the agreed section during the week, completed the exercises, checked the answers and discussed any difficulties or revelations once a week.
  • Attainable – the chosen textbook started with the basics but provided fuel for further discussion.
  • Relevant – as professionals working with language, building on our knowledge of English grammar was useful and important.
  • Time-bound – we would work through the book, literally from A to Z, on a weekly basis over a few months.

How did it work out?

As motivation was my key concern prior to starting, I was pleased that I was always able to find the time to join the weekly meetings. If I had been working on my own, I might have been less diligent. The whole exercise gave me a solid foundation in grammar and the desire to continue building on this in the future.

An unexpected outcome

This was a great way to get to know colleagues better. The group was small enough so that we could chat comfortably, but large enough to keep moving forward if one person couldn’t attend. There were so many advantages to working together like this – the most unexpected one was that the learning experience was so enjoyable.

Working alone but together

I found that this kind of learning suits me. I could work at my own pace during the week but use the regular meetings to keep on track. It was nice to know that I was not alone when I found something particularly hard to understand. And Slack was ideal for our purposes, giving us a dedicated space to work together.

What’s next?

For me, a combination of taught courses and self-study is perfect. But self-study is easier if you can find people with similar goals, whether in your personal life or through your professional networks. Then all you need is a book and a plan. Would I do this again? Absolutely! Anyone interested in joining me?

Hilary McGrath is a freelance proofreader and translator (French–English) living in the southwest of France. Find her on Twitter @hilary_mcgrath.

 

 


Photo credit: opened book by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Proofread by Victoria Hunt, Intermediate Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Accountability groups: What? Where? Why?

Over the past few years, more and more accountability groups have been popping up some of them coordinated by organisations, others by individuals, with members from one industry, related fields, or a wider spectrum of professions. Four CIEP members have written about the what, where and why of their accountability groups, and show that no two groups are the same.

Eleanor Abraham

Last year, I invited three colleagues to join an accountability group. Why? I felt like I needed to be more ‘out there’ in terms of marketing but it’s scary doing it on your own. I liked the idea of having a small group to share ideas with.

We are all members of bigger groups, and getting invaluable advice from there, but I do like our smaller group. We don’t pressurise or nag. I hope we support and encourage each other… and console when things are tough.

There was no real criteria in asking them other than they are all lovely people, and, while three of us are editors, all four are writers (Shauna would make an excellent editor – hint, hint, Shauna), so we had that in common.

I thought we all had varied enough backgrounds and experience to enable us to share and teach each other some new tricks in publishing, marketing and so on. We usually communicate using Facebook Video. We keep it to one hour a month, and sometimes we have a topic but more often we just have a catch up.

I think I still have a lot to learn about running an accountability group and making the most of it, but we all have busy lives and extra pressure is not something we need. So we’re happy to keep it low-key for now.

I like that we can chat in confidence. It’s good to have other perspectives, but sometimes you don’t want 150 slightly different opinions, but rather the chance to talk things through with people you trust and respect. There are probably more dynamic accountability groups out there, but I do like knowing my colleagues are there and that they will understand and advise on my challenges.

Erin Brenner

Since we founded the Quad in 2015, we’ve helped each other in our editing businesses in several ways:

  • Ongoing chat thread. We talk about business and daily life.
  • Monthly goals check-in. We discuss how our previous month went and our goals for the coming one.
  • Occasional goal sprints and virtual retreats. We’ll take anywhere from a half-day to a week to work on individual projects, with periodic check-ins.
  • In-person retreats. We set up goals ahead of time, lead training sessions for each other, and work on projects throughout the week. We make time for touring and hosting special-guest dinners.

The purpose of any mastermind group is to grow your business while helping all the other group members grow theirs. You’re creating accountability for each other. And that’s been true for us. We’ll refer each other for work and collaborate on projects. Some of us have even partnered up for new business ventures, and we regularly discuss opportunities to do so.

The biggest thing we get out of the Quad, however, is the friendships. I don’t know if that happens in every mastermind group, because this is the only one I’ve been in. The ongoing chat has meant sharing daily ups and downs, both professional and personal. We cheer for each other, and we cry together. We help one another beyond business, and we love hanging out with each other. One of the struggles of our in-person retreats is making sure we get enough business done in between our play!

Editing as a career has changed enormously in the last 20 years. Employee positions are becoming increasingly hard to find, and finding one where senior editors will mentor you is even harder. More of us are freelancing and working by ourselves. Mastermind groups are a powerful way to keep editors connected and maintain that personal investment in another editor.

Michelle McFadden

I’ve spent my editing career bouncing between periods of freelance work and in-house employment. I appreciate that I may sound indecisive, but I love both ways of working equally and I am currently in a great in-house position.

One of the things I love about working in-house is the sense of collegiality. The chit-chat about what we all did at the weekend. The availability of another experienced editor to bounce ideas and questions off, not to mention the shared complaints about how the office dishwasher is on the blink – again. And the great sense of achievement we share when we’ve worked together on a massive project and get it over the line just in time. Obviously, working with other editors also means that the memes, gifs and puns are just that little bit funnier.

So how did I find that support and social interaction as a freelancer? I’d like to tell you that it was all part of a carefully constructed plan, but if you know me, you’ll laugh at that idea. I just happened to be fortunate enough to meet two fabulous, clever and chatty women at an SfEP (as it was then) conference. We shared many things including our sense of humour, a love of good food and maybe the odd trip to a spa hotel, too.

We also agreed to form an edibuddy accountability group to encourage each other. We swapped hints on potential jobs and supported each other through dips in confidence. And I honestly don’t think I would have ever completed the PTC training course – the one outstanding thing I needed to be able to upgrade my professional membership – without their encouragement. Life, family, country changes and work responsibilities have pushed their way in, but I will always be grateful for the experience of being part of that small accountability group.

Julia Sandford-CookeJulia Sandford-Cooke

What is the collective noun for a group of seven editors who share tips, goals, frustrations, successes, work leads, gossip, laughs and occasional tears? Well, to begin with, we were an accountability group. It all started a few years ago, when I was thrilled to be invited to join a Facebook group of other Advanced Professional Members with whom I was acquainted, to varying degrees, and who were all committed to continuing professional development. Our initial aim was to encourage each other to reach the targets we’d set ourselves – perhaps financial, perhaps subject-specific, perhaps training-related. The idea was to be accountable to the rest of the group for doing what we said we would do. After a few video conferences, I soon found that peer pressure has a particular way of focusing one’s mind.

Our second objective was to gather for a ‘retreat’. Inspired, I think, by a group of veteran North American editors who had blogged about the many benefits of taking time out to reflect on their career, we discussed the practicalities of getting together for a working weekend. Thus, we moved from Facebook to Slack and became the Retreat Group. With members around the country (one, in fact, in a different country), and children and partners to organise, this wasn’t as straightforward as it sounds – but one hot June weekend in 2017, we convened for an amazingly productive series of sessions around a rather posh Airbnb kitchen table, with the overseas member joining us via Skype. Wine, good food and silly games also played their part in cementing us as a unit. A further retreat, and several informal lunch meetings, have followed. We were planning another retreat this year, but dates, venues and stars struggled to align and then COVID-19 popped up – so hopefully 2021.

Having shared our experiences so profitably, we evolved, I suppose into a mastermind group. We’ve become confident about sharing embarrassing skills gaps (shockingly, some of us have never got to grips with macros), difficulties with clients or projects, and even personal issues. Collective wisdom often provides solutions to thorny problems, or at least lends an understanding ear. For me, the overwhelming benefit has been to know that, although I sit alone at my desk, there are others out there ready to listen and offer advice, or even just a stress-relieving chat.

What do you call this group of editors? I call them friends.


If you’d like to build your own accountability group, the CIEP’s forums and local groups are great ways to meet like-minded peers.


Photo credit: Hilltop silhouette Chang Duong on Unsplash

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.

Ten tips for your first copyediting job

By Liz Jones

If you’ve focused on proofreading until now, the idea of copyediting can seem daunting. For a start, you’ll probably be working on a Word document rather than a PDF or paper proofs, which means you’ve got far more freedom to make changes. But are you qualified to do the work? How sweeping should your changes be? And how can you tell the difference between what needs to be changed, and what can be left alone? Here are some tips for coping with that first job. 

1. Don’t panic!

First, take a deep breath. You’ve got this. Proofreading and copyediting are on the same continuum – it’s all editing, just at a different stage of the process and therefore with a different emphasis. Copyediting is about preparing the raw text for layout, rather than applying the final polish before publication. (That said, you want the copyedited text to be as clean as possible.) For copyediting, just as for proofreading, it can help to approach the work by considering what can stay the same, rather than what needs to change. The author’s preferences are a good place to start, and if you’re working for a publisher, their style sheet can offer useful guidance on many editorial decisions.

2. Read the brief.

This is your best clue to how much you need to intervene. What is the client expecting? A publisher might offer very clear instructions on the extent and scope of the work, and how much they would like you to change (or not). But what if there is no brief? If you’re working for a self-publisher or a non-publishing business client, the brief might be open-ended or even non-existent. In this case, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the reader. Your job as copyeditor is to remove barriers to understanding the text, and make it ready for publication. Consistency, clarity and accuracy are key. Take a look at the CIEP’s FAQs on copyediting for more tips.

3. Assess the work.

You wouldn’t start to build a house without a plan, would you? (Well, I hope you wouldn’t.) It’s probably a smaller job, but likewise you shouldn’t start a copyedit before you’ve assessed the scope of the work. When you quoted for the job, you will have looked at what it involves and should have a good idea of the time it will take. But before you start the edit look again, and more closely. Work out a plan of action. How will you order the necessary tasks? Can you figure out the most efficient way to complete the work to a high standard? (This is crucial if you’re being paid a flat fee.) It can be tempting to get stuck in right away, but a little forward planning can save a lot of time later on. You might also identify problems you need to discuss with the client, such as missing material or a heavier-than-expected level of editing.

A good way to get an overview of the whole document before you start editing in detail is to style the headings first. (It’s also all too easy to miss mistakes in headings when you’re immersed in the main text.)

4. Clean up the text.

Assessing the text (see tip 3) will have given you a good idea of the tasks that can be batched and automated. Lots of editors choose to run PerfectIt at the start of a job, for example, to highlight inconsistencies. Macros (such as those by CIEP member Paul Beverley) can also help you identify things that need editing, and make the necessary changes more efficiently. Cleaning up the text before you start the language editing can help you focus on flow and readability with fewer distractions.

5. Build a style sheet.

One of the key tasks of a copyeditor (aside from actually editing the text) is compiling a style sheet – either starting from scratch, or adding to the one supplied with the job. This helps you as you progress through the edit, providing a point of reference for all the editorial decisions you make. It also helps the client, and eventually the proofreader, so they can understand your working and hopefully won’t arbitrarily undo your editorial decisions.

6. Consider working on the references first.

If the document you’re editing has a lot of references (and it might not!), it can help to work on these first. There are several reasons for this. First, this is another way of gaining insight into the main text before you start to read and edit it in earnest. Second, the references need to be consistent, so editing them all together can be more effective than dealing with them as they arise in relation to the main text. Finally, they can take a surprisingly long time to sort out, especially if you need to check them for accuracy and tidy up formatting. If you’ve got them sorted before you start the main bulk of the editing, you don’t need to worry about spending an unexpectedly long time on them at the end of the job.

7. Work through the text in order.

Although I know plenty of copyeditors who adore references (!), for me this is the fun part. Read through the whole of the text, and make edits as you go to ensure it is consistent, clear and accurate – as in tip 2. It’s a skilful balance between knowing when to leave things alone, and when to tweak things to improve the flow of a sentence, or to help the author express themselves more effectively. Question (almost) everything – but don’t spend too long doing it.

Some questions arise: What is the copyeditor’s responsibility, and what is not? How many times should the copyeditor read the text? The answer is usually ‘it depends’ – on the brief, on the budget, and on the schedule. Keep track changes switched on (unless your client’s specified otherwise), and be careful not to change the meaning of the text. If something’s ambiguous, query it. If a change is unarguable, and can be justified, go for it with confidence. You’ve been hired for your expertise, and your ability to interpret the client’s needs.

8. Query sensibly and clearly.

How you present your queries might be specified in the brief. You might write them as comments on the Word document, or as a separate list, or both. However you present them, try to ensure they are worded clearly, and politely. It can be tricky knowing what to query, but generally you will want to defer to the author on matters of fact or content that you can’t easily check and verify. If a meaning isn’t clear, this will also need to be queried. You might also flag up editorial changes where they deviate from the author’s preferred style to explain why you did something (such as changing gendered pronouns in favour of singular they/their). For more about querying, see the CIEP’s fact sheet.

9. Carry out a final check for consistency.

Many editors run PerfectIt again at this stage, which can help you weed out straggling inconsistencies. But how many times should you actually read the text? If I’m being paid enough, I read everything twice. Once for the edit, then once to check over what I’ve done. I often find things to improve on this second pass. However, if there isn’t the time or the budget to support an entire second read, I would certainly check over all my corrections to make sure I haven’t introduced typos or other inaccuracies.

Also, check your queries. By the time you finish editing, you might find that some of the answers are clear and don’t need to be referred back to the author.

10. Return the edited document(s) with care.

Don’t rush the return: get things in order, check the brief again to make sure you’ve dealt with everything, and make sure your covering email is informative and clear. As well as the edited text, send your queries and style sheet. Let the client know they can ask you if they have any questions about what you’ve done. Once you’ve submitted everything, invoice promptly, put the kettle on and look forward to the next copyedit! All jobs are different, but your confidence and efficiency will increase with each one.

 

Liz Jones has been an editor since 1998, and freelance since 2008. She specialises in copyediting and proofreading non-fiction, specialising in architecture, art and other practical subjects, as well as highly technical material. She is one of the CIEP’s information team, and is also a mentor in proofreading and copyediting.

 


Photo credits: Getting ready – Johny vino; planning – Glenn Carstens-Peters, both on Unsplash

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.

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.

British Library Study Day: Fairy Tales

By Tor Hegedus

Once upon a time, on a not-so-Grimm Saturday in January, a group of fairy-tale enthusiasts gathered at the British Library for a sold-out study day. Thanks to a post on the SfEP forums highlighting the event, I was lucky enough to be among them.

I’ve always loved fairy tales – the magic, the feeling that anything could happen and the dark little corners found in even the most child-friendly retellings – so the library’s promise that I would ‘discover stories I’d never heard before’ was a temptation I couldn’t resist. Also, as a children’s specialist who has worked on numerous fairy-tale retellings and collections, I was curious to learn more about the history of these traditional tales and see if there were any takeaways to be found for editing them.

Arrival

Upon arrival, we were treated to tea, fancy biscuits and goody bags (!) containing a copy of the programme, as well as a beautiful British Library notebook and pencil. The programme had been updated at the last minute due to a dropout, but the replacement lecture by Dr Erica Gillingham sounded promising … if anything, I was more excited than before. And I didn’t have long to wait. Soon enough, we were invited to take our seats in the library’s Knowledge Centre Theatre for the morning session.

The morning session

The day was kicked off by Michelle Anya Anjirbag from the University of Cambridge. Michelle’s talk, ‘Unlocking the Cabinet of Stories: Fairy tales, subversion and representation’, touched upon our understanding of fairy tales – our expectations and the biases those expectations reveal. She also talked about the issues surrounding representation and diversity in fairy tales, both historically and in modern-day retellings.

Michelle was followed by Jane Suzanne Carroll from Trinity College, Dublin, who talked on the subject of landscape within fairy tales. Her lecture, ‘Into the Woods: Spaces and places in fairy tales’, explored the familiar spaces within European fairy tales and explained why the same spaces occur again and again. It also examined the ways that stories have become embedded in real landscapes, using Irish and Welsh examples.

The late addition to the programme, Dr Erica Gillingham, closed off the morning with her talk ‘Cinderella and the Huntress: A lesbian retelling of Cinderella in Malinda Lo’s Ash’ – a lecture that not only spoke to the twisting of tropes in Lo’s Ash, but also offered a wider perspective on LGBTQ+ representation in YA fairy tales.

The afternoon session

After lunch, the afternoon opened with a thrill – Lucy Evans, a British Library curator, took us on a fascinating journey through the library’s collection of fairy tales. We were able to see examples of printed materials from the archives – from theatre posters and chapbooks to beautifully illustrated fairy-tale collections and even original manuscripts!

Next was Gillian Lathey, an honorary senior research fellow at the University of Roehampton, with her talk, ‘The Princess and the Multiple Peas: The translation and transformation of fairy tales’. In this lecture, Gillian discussed how the choices and personal styles of translators (and editors!) have impacted familiar tales over time.

Finally, author and publisher Dr Tamara Pizzoli took the stage for her talk, ‘The Tooth Fairy is a Black Woman and Other True Tales: A modern griot’s quest to rewrite history one fairy tale at a time’. In this talk, Dr Pizzoli opened up about the founding of her publishing company, The English Schoolhouse, as well as her journey as an author and what inspires her to continue writing both diverse retellings of existing fairy tales (such as The Ghanaian Goldilocks) and original stories (like Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO).

Highlights

All of the speakers were engaging, knowledgeable and passionate about their chosen topic. With such a high-quality line-up, it’s no surprise that there were plenty of memorable moments throughout the day. Some of the most fascinating content for me included:

  • Michelle Anya Anjirbag discussing representation and diversity in Disney’s fairy tale adaptations – their history, the steps they’ve taken and the steps they still need to take.
  • Jane Suzanne Carroll presenting a map tracking the geographical origins of Irish selkie stories. During this segment, it was pointed out that certain Irish surnames hold links to selkie folklore … leaving one surprised audience member checking themselves for webbed toes during the break!
  • Lucy Evans sharing an image of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. (I’m not ashamed to say I let out a squeak of excitement – The Bloody Chamber is a long-loved favourite of mine!) Lucy also shared this – a chapbook with a subtitle I still can’t quite shake!
  • Gillian Lathey discussing the changes made in one translation in the story of ‘The Princess and the Pea’. The translator, who felt it unrealistic that a single pea would be felt under so many mattresses, took it upon themselves to add multiple peas – a change that can still be found in subsequent versions today.
  • Learning that in early instances, Goldilocks was not as we know her today. In fact, early versions of the story had her as an old woman with silver hair!

Into the sunset

With a hot chocolate and my notes to keep me company on the train home, I found myself reflecting on the day. Overall, it was a fantastic experience – well worth the price of admission. It would have been beneficial to have a few more breaks dotted about … the seats were comfortable, but two and a half hours is a long time to be sitting in one place without a break!

The only (VERY minor) disappointment I had related to additional materials provided after the day. While I did take my own notes, we were told we would receive additional materials from the speakers via email in the following week. I was looking forward to a more comprehensive memory jog from these, but for the most part they lacked the depth I was hoping for.

For anybody interested in attending a future event at the British Library, you can browse here to discover what’s on.

Tor Hegedus is a writer, editor and Professional Member of the SfEP. Formerly an in-house copyeditor at a well-known children’s publisher, Tor ditched the commute to fully embrace freelance life – pyjamas and all. When she’s not wrestling commas, she can be found slurping tea and reading picture books to her cats.

 

 


Photo credits: open book Natalia Y; woods – Donald Giannatti, both on Unsplash.

Proofread by Victoria Hunt, Intermediate Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

 

From terrified to trainer

By Cathy Tingle

I never planned to be a trainer. I hate speaking in public. My voice is soft and I’m prone to saying ‘um’ and ‘er’ as I struggle to articulate my thoughts. When I get going, I trip over my words. I certainly don’t have what you would call the gift of the gab.

As part of my job, I’d run a couple of courses years ago, fuelled by youth and, I don’t know, luck. Since then, I’d been made redundant, moved city, had kids, and lost confidence the way you do when you’re at home all day interacting with small children and a screen.

So imagine my feelings when I received an email in August 2018 from Margaret Aherne suggesting I take over two of her copyediting courses.

If you’ve not been on one, Margaret’s courses are a treat. Her Publishing Scotland ‘Welcome to’ and ‘Further’ courses in copyediting and proofreading were exactly what I needed as I started out in editing in 2014. She was clearly an expert, vastly experienced, but hilarious with an endearing nerdy slant (keen on steam trains, bus shelters, that sort of thing). Her exercises were masterful – thought through and clever. I signed up for all her Edinburgh courses. Afterwards, we kept in touch by email, and I was secretly hoping she’d write a new course I could attend.

Taking up the mantle

But it wasn’t to be. Family and health stuff meant that Margaret couldn’t make the trip (always by her beloved train) from Bristol to Edinburgh any more. So, did I fancy taking on her Publishing Scotland copyediting courses? Denise Cowle would be running the proofreading ones.

Me? She must have confused me with someone else, or mistaken my shiny-eyed interest (I was a bit of a Margaret groupie) for training ability. But … what an opportunity. I replied with an update on my work and what training I’d run before, adding: ‘I do feel very green and inexperienced compared to you!’ It didn’t seem to put her off and we arranged a meeting.

In the meantime, I almost bottled it. One evening it became crystal clear. What I was I thinking? I could barely string a sentence together with my own family, let alone a set of delegates. I’d never manage Denise’s capable, clear and confident delivery (for I had checked her out on YouTube talking about semicolons). I’d email Margaret and tell her I couldn’t do it. And I did. She was incredibly understanding but gave me the night to think about it and the chance to confirm my decision in the morning.

In the morning, I felt … OK. Still a bit scared, but all right. So it was on again, and I met Margaret a few weeks later in Glasgow, where she talked me through the content of the course and assured me she’d give me advice and guidance whenever I needed it. I hugged her goodbye. It felt like I had been anointed.

Five steps

And so began the long countdown (of around six months) to delivering my first day-long course. What did I do to prepare? Here are my tips for going from terrified to trainer.

  1. Familiarise yourself with the content. Nothing makes you confident like knowing your stuff. So I made sure I was completely au fait with everything in the course. I looked out for extra examples and other material that could augment the learning points. Becoming familiar with the content also involves anticipating questions. The course included a section on grammar and punctuation. What if the delegates asked hard questions at that point? Time to raise my game. When the opportunity arose, I volunteered to take over ‘A Finer Point’ in Editing Matters from Luke Finley.
  2. Read a book. Sounds like a cop-out, doesn’t it? But it will give you a chance to get your thoughts in order. It will also make you realise that your situation is far from unique. I read How to Own the Room by Viv Groskop, which contains case studies of well-known women speaking in public. The book told me: ‘You can’t get around fear. You can only go through it. And the way to go through it is to speak in public and get more used to it.’ Argh. Was there no other way?
  3. Talk to an experienced trainer. I went to see someone my sister knew who had decades of training experience. He gave me some great ideas for icebreakers and tips for dealing with questions. He also pointed out that nerves are a bit of vanity, aren’t they? The day’s not about you. Above all, though, he listened to my concerns, was encouraging, and told me the story of when he found himself dry heaving from nerves in the toilets of No 10 Downing Street before running a training session. So.
  4. Practise. Viv Groskop said it. The best way to feel better about the whole thing was to do it, or a version of it. So I put myself on the rota of people that give the welcome and notices at church, to get used to being confronted with expectant faces and hearing the sound of my own voice. The most useful experience was when I didn’t realise I was down for one Sunday, turned up as the service started and was told: ‘Thank goodness you’re here! We didn’t think you were coming!’ So I had to get a lightning brief and just go out there and do it. My slightly breathless delivery, some of it on the verge of giggles, was complimented. Coming across as human obviously worked.
  5. Make the takeaways good. I wasn’t kidding myself that the delegates would hold on to my every word, and I wanted to relieve a little of the pressure on my performance, so I made sure that there was an exhaustive resources list and prepared a ‘keep in touch’ sheet so I could email everyone with the presentation. This would also be useful as a vehicle for answering any questions that completely stumped me. I could say, ‘I can’t answer that now, but I’ll look it up and let you all know’.

And that was all I could do in the time I had. I was still nervous on the day. I always am. I’ve done three training courses now – two whole days and a half (with Denise running the other half) – but the more training I do, the more I enjoy it. After coming home from the first day-long course I had to have a lie down; the second time I went out in the evening. So it must be getting easier. Comments from the delegates have been positive. One made me laugh: ‘Cathy is nice and quite funny’. Only ‘quite’! Looks like I still have a way to go before I’m a Margaret.

Cathy TingleCathy Tingle is an SfEP Advanced Professional Member, based in Edinburgh. Her business, DocEditor, specialises in non-fiction editing. She runs ‘Introduction to Copy-editing’ and the copyediting section of ‘Further Copy-editing and Proofreading’ for Publishing Scotland. Like Denise Cowle’s ‘Introduction to Proofreading’ course for Publishing Scotland, both courses attract three SfEP upgrade points and are offered at a discounted rate for SfEP members.


In March 2020, the SfEP will become the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), and the CIEP’s first annual conference will take place at Kents Hill Park, a purpose-built conference and training centre in Milton Keynes, on 12–14 September.

The provisional programme will be released before booking opens in March, and will feature a mix of high-quality workshops and seminars on various aspects of editing and proofreading, as well as running your own business and developments in the publishing world. If you would like to suggest a topic or speaker (it could even be you!), contact the conference director as soon as possible (conference@sfep.org.uk).


Photo credits: laptop on table Patrick Robert Doyle; chairs and flipchart Kovah, both on Unsplash.

Proofread by Alice McBrearty, Entry-Level Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

 

Face-to-face CPD in 2020

CPD is a critical part of every editor and proofreader’s year. There is now a vast array of online courses available, but there really is nothing like being in a room, talking with and learning from peers and experts. Here are some possible face-to-face CPD (and networking) events that you could invest in in 2020.

Conferences

SfEP CIEP 2020

The SfEP conference has been a mainstay of many editors’ calendars for years – this year will be the first ever Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading conference, which is bound to be packed full of informative and challenging sessions and learning opportunities, just like the 30 SfEP conferences that preceded it. Booking will open in March.

www.sfep.org.uk/networking/conferences/
Dates: 12–14 September 2020
Location: Kents Hill Park, Milton Keynes

ACES 2020

The 24th annual national conference of ACES, the Society for Editing, has sessions on developing a quality editorial process, the gift of imperfection, editing memoir, diverse content, thinking like a linguist, and editor health and self-care (including a mile-long #StetWalk!). Registration is open now, and spaces are filling up.

https://aceseditors.org/conference/2020
Dates: 30 April–2 May 2020
Location: Hilton Salt Lake City Center Hotel, Salt Lake City, UT

EDITORS20 / RÉVISEURS20 / CORRECTORES20

Editors Canada hosts the International Editors Conference this year, which offers three days of seminars, workshops and keynotes on the theme of ‘From Papyrus to Pixels: International Editing Trends’. Registration is open now, with earlybird rates in place until April.

www.editors.ca/professional-development/conference/international-editors-conference-2020
Dates: 19–21 June 2020
Location: Le Centre Sheraton Montreal, Montreal, QC

METM20

The Mediterranean Editors and Translators Meeting (METM) offers three days of presentations and keynote speeches, workshops and ‘Off-METM’ events for editors, translators, interpreters and other providers of English-language support services, this year on the theme of ‘The Style Issue’. Registration begins in late spring, and is open to members a week ahead of everyone else.

www.metmeetings.org/en/presentation:1265
Dates: 15–17 October 2020
Location: Olarain University Hall of Residence, Donostia/San Sebastián, Spain

IPEd Conference 2021

Okay, yes, this one isn’t until 2021 (as IPEd holds its conference every two years), but if you don’t live in Australia, you’re going to need that extra bit of time to save your pennies! The theme is ‘Editing on the Edges’, inspired by Hobart’s geographic location and the fact that editors are always dealing with edges, whether they be geographic, demographic, technological or ethical.

https://iped2021.org.au/
Dates: 28–30 June 2021
Location: Hobart Grand Chancellor, Hobart, TAS

Book fairs

London Book Fair

This year’s London Book Fair has over 200 sessions planned covering 11 dedicated seminar streams, including Authors: Central to our Business, and People Development: Re-skilling our Industry. Hundreds of publishers – and of course the CIEP – will be in the exhibitors hall. Tickets available now.

www.londonbookfair.co.uk/
Dates: 10–12 March 2020
Location: Olympia London, Kensington, London

Frankfurter Buchmesse

2019’s Frankfurt Book Fair was the biggest ever with nearly 7,500 exhibitors – we’ve got to assume that 2020’s fair is going to be larger yet. There isn’t much information about the 2020 event available at the time of writing, but it looks like a great place ‘to exchange ideas, be inspired, try out new technologies and cultivate contacts’. Tickets on sale from April (private visitors) and June (trade visitors).

www.buchmesse.de/en
Dates: 14–18 October 2020
Location: Messegelände, Frankfurt am Main

Workshops and courses

In the UK, the SfEP continues to offer its Introductions to Proofreading and Copyediting as one-day workshops, and usually hosts a different one-day workshop on the day before its conference starts. Local SfEP groups can work together with the SfEP office to organise workshops on other topics. The Society also offers bespoke in-house courses for companies and organisations.

The Publishing Training Centre has 21 classroom-based courses in its schedule for 2020, covering core publishing skills, project planning and management , strategy and list building, professional development and marketing.

SfEP local groups

And no summary of face-to-face CPD would be complete without a mention of the SfEP’s local groups – meetings offer a great way to share knowledge and experience (and often also tasty food and beverages).


Photo credits – all SfEP, taken at the 2019 SfEP annual conference.

Proofread by Victoria Hunt, Intermediate Member.
Compiled and posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

Not just fun and games: the CPD of escape rooms

By Julia Sandford-Cooke

You might think I’m just a meek and unassuming editor, but I have a secret identity. When I’m not correcting content, I may be stealing diamonds, exploring Egyptian tombs, solving crimes or perhaps even saving the world (twice from a renegade sheep). Despite my reputation for remaining calm under pressure, I have been known to scream, ‘Why are you just standing there? We only have three minutes to defuse the bomb!’

Yes, I’m an escape room enthusiast. Bear with me because the link to continuing professional development (CPD) isn’t as tenuous as you might think. After 20 years as an editor, I’m still committed to learning but I’ve completed most relevant courses at least once, so have begun to seek out new ways to build and apply my skills. After all, we editorial professionals don’t just spend our days correcting grammar and swearing at Microsoft Word – we also practise problem solving, time management, team working and lateral thinking. And all these skills are tested and strengthened in escape rooms.

What is an escape room?

Basically, you and your team of two to about seven people enter a room to solve puzzles relating to a particular theme or story within a set amount time (usually an hour but, increasingly, 90 minutes). In fact, ‘escape room’ is rather a misleading term. It’s really more about escapism than escaping. Although you may need to find a way out of a setting like a prison or cabin within the time limit, instead you could solve a crime, find a relic, save a pirate ship or pass all your wizarding exams. Sometimes the challenge is just collecting as many toy cats as you can. You won’t actually be locked in (I believe that’s illegal) and, in fact, many rooms allow you to leave at any time – but what would be the fun of that? I won’t spoil your future games by describing the puzzles you’ll encounter in detail but they may involve matching words, spotting inconsistences, identifying patterns, remembering sequences, cracking codes, finding pieces of a jigsaw and completing it, or something more physical, such as shooting foam bullets at a target. Typically, you’ll need to identify a numeric sequence or locate a key for a padlock. It’s seen as bad form to require external general knowledge (that’s what pub quizzes are for) so, as long as you know simple maths and the alphabet, you’ll be able to make a start. If you get stuck, your games master, who monitors you on CCTV, can provide a hint.

Most escape rooms are aimed at adults but switched-on kids aged over eight or so often excel as part of a grown-up team, as long as the theme isn’t too scary – my 11-year-old escape room veteran refuses to do any rooms relating to Egyptian mummies, zombies or school detentions. As for the rooms themselves, some are charmingly homemade, some are slickly mechanised and some have amazing movie-quality sets but all require players to accept the scenario in which they find themselves and work together to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome. Can you see the parallels with publishing yet?

Julia and her husband test a virtual reality game at ERIC. Photo by Guy Wah Photography.

Take my nearest venue, Fakenham Escape Rooms. In this game, we have been employed by the International Rescue Corps to complete the work of a missing professor who had been working on new technology that predicts the time and location of natural disasters. Our mission is to find his research and coordinate our findings to discover where and when the next disaster will be. It’s a fun, immersive room and, as it happens, we were top of the leader board for six months until some professional escapologists (pah!) completed it slightly quicker. It’s the taking part that counts – but beating other teams does motivate competitive players like me. The owners subsequently asked us to test their new room before it officially opened, and listened to our constructive feedback on the experience, a bit like a physical version of proofreading.

It’s all about teamwork

So, what makes a good escape room team? Well, I’ve edited enough business books to be intimately acquainted with the Belbin team roles, and have played enough escape rooms to know that combining people with different skills is going to get the job done quicker and better. For example, my daughter has a mind like a trap and is good at finding hidden items. My programmer husband can apply logic to any situation, and I delegate all the maths puzzles to him. Some of the friends I’ve played with are efficient, organised and focused. Others are highly creative or have an in-depth knowledge of binary. As for me, when I asked for feedback on my performance, Team-mate 1 (my daughter) said I’m quick to make connections between different elements and Team-mate 2 (my husband), after some thought, said I’m better at reading than he is. Our greatest triumphs have been a result of focusing on the goal, clear communication and mutual respect for each other’s abilities. All of which are ingredients for successfully managing any project.

Benefiting more than just me

I’ve attended two excellent conferences this year. One was (naturally) the SfEP conference at Aston University. The other was the amusingly named ERIC – the Escape Room Industry Conference in glamorous Dagenham. Covering everything from game theory to marketing, with a little acting thrown in, it was the most enjoyable small-business foundation course that you can imagine. I came home brimming with ideas for developing my own editing business (‘escape rooms’ now features as a key word in my SfEP Directory entry – puzzle tester for hire). As a textbook specialist, I’d love to look at ways of engaging learners via puzzles and for improving testing methods such as those tricky multiple-choice questions that authors always struggle to perfect.

What’s more, while I’m not quite ready to open my own escape room (watch this space), I made a contact at ERIC which has resulted in another exciting new project. I’ve joined forces with my local library to coordinate a treasure trail for teams of Key Stage 2 pupils (9 to 11 year olds) in which they have to use the library facilities to tackle puzzles and act out a narrative – hopefully developing their literacy and problem-solving skills, and their enthusiasm for libraries, in the process.

Try it for yourself

There are now about 1,500 escape rooms in the UK, and maybe 20,000 in the world, so there’s likely to be at least one near you. Some are inevitably better than others – read reviews before you go to gain an idea of quality because it’s admittedly not a cheap hobby. The typical cost is around £20 per person, and it can be even more expensive if (as a purely hypothetical example, of course) you choose to celebrate 20 years with your husband by travelling to Margate to play five games over two days (Kent being the unlikely escape-room capital of the UK). It’s still cheaper than formal training as well as fun, educational and a welcome break from those ubiquitous screens.

Excuse me, I’m just off to Google ‘Milton Keynes escape rooms’. If you want to join my team for some extra escapist CPD while we’re in town for the 2020 CIEP conference, let me know!

Julia Sandford-CookeJulia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications has 20 years’ experience of publishing and marketing. She has written and edited numerous textbooks, specialising in vocational education, media studies, construction, health and safety, and travel. In her spare time, she’s a pirate, spy and astronaut.

 


Thinking about your CPD plans for 2020? The SfEP offers a wide variety of courses, and more informal CPD is available through its members’ forums and local groups.


Photo credits: Sheep Jonathan Poncelet, Escape Rooms sign – Zachary Keimig, both on Unsplash; Julia and her husband testing a virtual reality game at ERIC Guy Wah Photography.

Proofread by Emma Easy, Entry-Level Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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