Tag Archives: proofreading

Definite articles: CIEP social media picks, April and May 2022

Welcome to ‘Definite articles’, our social media team’s pick of editing-related internet content, most of which are definitely articles. If you want our pick of our own recent content, head straight for ‘CIEP social media round-up: April and May 2022’.

In this column:

  • Celebrating books
  • All things fictional
  • Different ways to be an editorial professional
  • Behind the scenes
  • What words do
  • Learning about language
  • A Thursday funny

Celebrating books

Our review begins in the first week of April, with the London Book Fair. This massive publishing event last took place in person in 2019 so there was plenty to celebrate. There were more than 500 international exhibitors, 400 speakers, 75 first-time exhibitors and 125 events. ‘Are you there?’ we asked our social media followers, and got two contrasting responses on LinkedIn that seemed good representative samples: ‘Sure am; and making great connections, having fantastic conversations and acquiring new knowledge!’ and: ‘I wish!’

You’ll recall that at the end of the last ‘Definite articles’ we celebrated the return of Charles Darwin’s notebooks to Cambridge University Library this spring. During April and May we enjoyed two more tales of long overdue book returns: a London library book returned almost 50 years late (its fine would have been £1,254) and another returned to a library in Ipswich from Croatia, 64 years late. One follower on Facebook responded: ‘Oh wow! I’m definitely returning my library book tomorrow! Thanks man …’

We mused on our relationship with books, which are ‘Portable Magic’ but sometimes over-valorised, according to Emma Smith who has recently written a history of reading. An article about whether it was OK to treat books as ornaments got our followers chatting, as The Guardian covered the story that celebrity Ashley Tisdale’s shelves were filled with books she had purchased simply for decoration. This has been a growing trend since Zoom made public the insides of all our houses, but one of our followers revealed a different reason for buying books indiscriminately in bulk:

I lived in a Victorian terrace house and wanted some extra sound insulation on the wall we shared with next door. I put up shelves and filled them with books from charity shops. I didn’t read the blurb on the back, knowing that I would stick to my favourite genre if I did. I certainly didn’t read every book I had on the shelves but it made for interesting insulation and I read books I wouldn’t have otherwise.

All things fictional

An article we shared in April about the psychology of fiction demonstrated how reading could be transformational, helping us develop empathy and social and cognitive skills as well as teaching us about ourselves. We encouraged our followers into this positive pattern in April and May, posting articles about female sleuths, Jane Austen and food, Dracula (125 years young!) and the classics recommended by OUP if you’re a fan of TV shows like Bridgerton and Sanditon. We shared fiction-based Friday funnies, too: ‘Gentler genres for these tough times’ from Tom Gauld (including Soothing Sci-Fi and Dainty Dystopia) and ‘Classic Novel Merch’ (including the Lord of the Flies Swatter and Jane Eyre Freshener) from John Atkinson of Wrong Hands.

We also looked at the benefits of writing fiction, even when the world seems like it’s on fire: a process that not only offers solace to the reader but changes the writer for the better.

The fiction editor’s point of view was well and truly covered, too, with articles from CMOS on exclamation marks in creative text and whether the subjunctive mood – expressing ‘an action or state as doubtful, imagined, desired, conditional, hypothetical, or otherwise contrary to fact’ – was right for fiction. ‘Would that it were’, wittily responded one Facebook follower, although the article made it clear, using numerous examples, that the subjunctive was indeed right in certain circumstances.

Different ways to be an editorial professional

We posted content about many different types of editorial professional in April and May, including publishing project managers, cookery editors, indexers and, er, rabbits. We looked at the different ways editors and proofreaders work, from using Google Docs and CMOS for PerfectIt to marking up PDFs. We also considered where they worked, with an article that talked about the variety of attitudes worldwide towards remote working.

One thing that all editorial professionals can relate to, however, is that feeling when you see a mistake in a text you’d previously been rather proud of your work on. Iva Cheung captured the torture of this experience in her cartoon ‘Blues’.

Behind the scenes

There was an insight into one editor’s behind-the-scenes issues in ‘Clients hire me to edit their books and then get angry about my feedback’. Our followers offered a range of advice, many sensing that the editor seemed weary of the work. They suggested expanding into other areas of editing, which might return the editor refreshed to their original sphere. Followers also recommended being more cautious about accepting work and improving editor–client communication. Another article, from Editors Canada, was relevant too. It talked about building long-term relationships with clients to make freelance life less stressful. This approach could also be an answer to the issue of low rates and the undervaluing of freelance work in the creative industries, which the #PayTheCreator campaign, from the Society of Authors and others, seeks to draw attention to.

We also got an insight into the publishing stories behind famous books from A Christmas Carol to Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Did you know that originally these works were self-published? There was a lesson on how too much pressure on authors can lead to big mistakes like plagiarism, and a look at what’s behind an acknowledgements section.

What words do

We heard the latest from the Historical Thesaurus of the OED, which has recently expanded many of its categories. One of these was ‘types of rock music’, to which has been added ‘darkwave’, ‘queercore’ and ‘nu metal’. Among the other words and terms we educated ourselves about were those that described admirable qualities, new eco-words, odd insulting words and those with a ‘toothy’ quality, such as ‘you managed that by the skin of your teeth’. One of our Friday funnies covered the Scottish word ‘beastie’. The illustration, with 12 creepy crawlies, each of which bore the caption ‘beastie’, delighted our followers, who said ‘This is awesome’ and ‘One of my favourite words!’, although one pointed out: ‘I’m sure that at least one of those specimens is a critter.’

There was more talk of the differences we find in languages and dialects, and the way we view certain words and terms as a result of our lived experience. We got a primer on the language of Shetland; we discovered how American Sign Language reveals that the evolution of language sometimes occurs just to make our lives a little easier; and we considered how speakers of different languages name and categorise experiences like colour, smells and touch differently. Within one language alone there are varieties in how we pronounce certain words and terms, and James Harbeck surveyed the different ways we say ‘succinct’.

Or you could make up your own words. In ‘Riverbankhungrydeerwillow: How we give names to nature’, Marc Peter Keane explored how we could reflect the connections between things in the process of naming them.

It matters what words we give things, and this was powerfully conveyed by CIEP Advanced Professional Member and Wise Owl Louise Bolotin in an interview for the Editing Podcast in May. Louise is dying of cancer, and she couldn’t have been clearer about how unhelpful it is to frame her experience as a ‘battle’ or apply to it any sort of verbal sugarcoating. No talk of ‘journeys’, please, however well meant.

Learning about language

As ever, during April and May we posted lots of articles about the nuts and bolts of language. Why is plain language a good idea (and may even make your readers admire you)? Could poetry be key to making science accessible and inclusive? Are capital letters harder to read? When should you use ‘You and I’ and not ‘You and me’? Plus apostrophes, contractions and the word ‘like’, which, in a fascinating article, was lifted from being an often-scorned bugbear to a richly nuanced indicator of intelligence. Grammar Girl covered other discourse markers, such as ‘you know’, saying that ‘conscientious people use discourse markers, such as “I mean” and “you know,” to imply their desire to share or rephrase opinions to recipients’.

A Thursday funny

We’ve mentioned some of our Friday funnies above. One popular funny didn’t appear on a Friday, however, but a Thursday: 12 May, Edward Lear’s birthday and National Limerick Day. We shared Brian Bilston’s ‘Four Imperfect Limericks’, and many of our followers responded with their favourites (thank you all!), including ‘There once was a man from Hong Kong/Who thought limericks were too long.’ That’s it. That’s the limerick. #genius.


For more picks from our social media team, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. See you online!

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: feathers by Pierre Bamin, bookshelves by Paul Melki, rabbit by Hassan Pasha, all on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Editing theses and dissertations Q&A with Kate Haigh

Often when students ask a proofreader to look at their thesis or dissertation, this is their first experience of working with an editorial professional. Advanced Professional Member Kate Haigh shares her experiences and tips for success.

What services do you offer in relation to theses/dissertations?

I generally only offer proofreading services for work that is to be submitted for assessment. With permission from supervisors, I also offer copyediting services.

My website goes into detail on this because I think the terms ‘proofreading’ and ‘copyediting’ are not always very clear to those outside the traditional publishing world. Even ‘copyediting’ doesn’t exactly nail the service I provide, as it’s more of a general language edit. I will flag contentious language but I don’t generally deal with style (though can address passive/active verbs), and I don’t deal with structure.

I don’t fact-check or comment on the key arguments. This is where working on theses and dissertations differs from almost all other types of work because of plagiarism and collusion concerns.

My Ts and Cs detail what the services include so that my clients are clear on what I will be doing and what to expect. Also, universities often have rules on what a proofreader/editor can or can’t do; it’s essential that the student is aware of those and passes those details to me because I don’t want to intervene more than is allowed and jeopardise their studies.

Why did you decide to start working in this field?

When I was on my year abroad in Germany as part of my degree, I had to write a dissertation in German. My tutor suggested I get the text proofread, which was something I’d never have thought of and in fact might have considered it cheating since I thought I was being assessed for my German-language skills. The reality was that the content was what mattered, though if my German hadn’t been understandable, the content would have been lost.

This process stuck with me and so when I was setting up Kateproof in 2010, I did a SWOT analysis and realised that students would benefit from my services. At the time, I lived in a very student-populated town so it felt like a great marketing opportunity. I was able to make connections with local universities and took things from there. Once my web presence got established and word-of-mouth referrals started spreading, I built a client base of students and academics across the UK and the world.

Do you have a subject specialism?

No, I make sure to emphasise to clients that I am not a specialist in their field, but my more generalist approach often helps to ensure clarity. Acronyms and jargon exist in theses and dissertations just like in many other publications, so this distance from a topic can help, especially if readability is a concern.

That said, I recommend that students writing very technical theses find someone with more of a maths/science background.

What types of students/clients do you work with?

I now mainly work with postgraduates on longer dissertations and theses or on articles being submitted for publication that might become part of their thesis. I do work with undergraduates but my minimum fee means this is often not the most cost-effective option for a 3,000-word essay.

I work for students of all backgrounds, whether English is their first or fifth language. Imagine if you’ve spent four years working on a thesis – you’re too close to the text. Passing the file to a proofreader is often a relief for them, as a fresh pair of eyes will pick up on things that might otherwise have been missed.

What do you enjoy about working on theses/dissertations?

Over the years, I’ve realised I much prefer working directly with clients. It’s great to have the rapport and relationship with a client as I find it’s much easier for both parties to have clear boundaries and expectations on what I will do.

I’ve also got clients who are academics now but I started working with them at master’s level so it’s great to keep that client relationship going.

I love the variety, not just of topics but also with style guides and reference systems. It feels like I am learning while working and that’s always a positive. It’s great for quizzes, too.

What are the benefits to students of engaging an editorial professional to work on their thesis/dissertation?

Different universities will have different grading rules but if the text isn’t clear or has numerous errors and inconsistencies, that will have an impact on the grade or on whether a student passes or fails.

If funds are tight, students can get friends or family to proofread the work, but the specific benefit of working with an editorial professional is that we have years of experience doing this and usually have software to help us pick up on the finer details.

How far in advance would you advise students to contact an editorial professional?

This comes down to the size of the project and the flexibility of the schedule. As a rule, I would advise getting in contact at least one month in advance for a thesis or long dissertation. Shorter documents might be possible to fit in around other projects, but last-minute requests often command a premium, especially if it needs to be done at the weekend (I don’t offer weekend work but know other proofreaders who do).

I know lots of PhD students have appreciated having a firm deadline to work to for sending me their final draft – it gives them a focus and a bit of positive pressure to get the work done.

How long does it take to edit a thesis?

For most long theses, I ask for two to three weeks for the work. I try to give students the best possible price I can and a bit of leeway in the schedule enables this. For shorter documents of say 10,000 to 20,000 words, I ask for a week. If a deadline requires it, I can speed up but editing and proofreading are all about the detail and that takes time. I will always do my best but if I have to work quicker than usual, quality might suffer.

What common issues do you encounter while working on theses/dissertations?

Since really clarifying my remit, I have learned how to successfully manage expectations, but this took time. In my first year of freelancing, a student said she was disappointed I hadn’t made the text ‘more academic’, so I learned from this and made it clear that’s not what I do.

Another common issue is with schedules and deadlines: I only have one pair of eyes and, in busy periods, the schedule I book for a student is often the only time I have available for their work. If they miss the deadline, I can’t always fit the work in. It is then additional stress for the student and of course lost earnings for me. This is why I don’t recommend booking the work in too far in advance because, from experience, that’s when scheduling issues occur.

Do you have any standout successes?

I don’t have specific permission to discuss clients’ work in detail (part of my confidentiality guarantee) but one of the things I love about working with students is when I get feedback to say they have passed their course.

I had a client recently who had already submitted their dissertation twice and had one last submission allowed, which is when he contacted me. Whether it was due to my proofreading or his content changes, I don’t know, but he sent me a lovely message to say he’d passed.

Finally, what are your top three tips for students who are looking for an editorial professional?

  1. Be clear with what you want from the proofreader/editor. If your expectations don’t match my service offering, either I can explain what I will do or you can find someone who offers a different service. It’s best to be as clear and open as possible.
  2. When sending the sample, make sure it’s representative of your work. I base my quote on this so if the sample is worse than the rest of the file, I might charge you more than it should cost. If the sample is substantially better than the rest of the file, this might have implications for the schedule as the work will take longer, and, as per my Ts and Cs, I might need to change the quote.
  3. Find an editor/proofreader you trust, especially if you are being asked to pay some of the fee up front. Ask friends/colleagues if they have a recommendation; look for someone being a member of a reputable organisation (such as, but not restricted to, the CIEP).

About Kate Haigh

Kate Haigh is a freelance proofreader and copyeditor who works with a range of clients; this includes working with students and academics to help get dissertations, theses and articles ready for submission. She set up Kateproof in 2010 and is an Advanced 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: motarboard lights by Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash, library by andrew_t8 on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Editing theses and dissertations Q&A with Marieke Krijnen

Marieke Krijnen uses her own experience of academic studies to provide editorial support to PhD students whose first language is not English. We asked her to share her working practices and her tips for success.

What services do you offer?

I offer copyediting, proofreading, document formatting and reference formatting services to PhD candidates. The service that most of my clients pick is copyediting, which is of course a spelling, grammar, typo and consistency check but also includes improving word choice and usage, fixing overly long sentences and pointing out things that are not clear.

I also check that references are complete and correctly formatted and that university guidelines are followed. Reference formatting is my second-most-used service. Clients send me their list of references, which I format according to the required citation style. I also look each one up and make sure the author name, title, journal name and other details are spelled correctly.

Why did you decide to start working in this field?

I got my PhD in 2016 and was doing my first postdoc in 2016–17. After nearly experiencing a second burnout, I knew academia wasn’t for me in the long term. I needed to earn more money, work less and have more flexibility and at the same time security. I think that owning one’s own business can bring a lot of security, because you can always get more work and more clients and no one can make you redundant; I know not everyone agrees with this.

My writing and level of English had always stood out to others, and they often asked me to read things over for them. I decided to see if I could make money providing editorial services.

I had a lot to learn, of course, and slowly discovered the world of editing associations, editing training, style guides and edibuddies. I was extremely pleased with what I found (a bunch of people nerding out over punctuation and usage) and essentially never looked back.

Do you have a subject specialism?

I edit almost exclusively in the social sciences and humanities. I do not at all trust myself to edit something from the life sciences or physics. While I don’t get involved in the content of dissertations, I can often understand which terminology is common in the field and which terms may actually be a mistake or a false friend (I work with many ESL clients). I very often look things up regardless of what I think is the case, but if I were working in a discipline that’s not my own, I would spend all my time looking things up. Not fair to the client!

What do you enjoy about working on theses/dissertations?

I enjoy learning about new research and ideas, and I thoroughly enjoy the process of supporting someone during the last stages of their PhD. I know from experience how intense things get in the final months, so to be able to be there for them and reassure them feels very rewarding. PhD students are the only clients I make an exception for in terms of being available during weekends and evenings.

What are the benefits to students of engaging an editorial professional to work on their thesis/dissertation?

I think the biggest benefit is having a second pair of eyes go over their work, reassuring them that things are complete and consistent. Clients often tell me: ‘No one has read and engaged with my thesis as closely as you have.’ And it’s often true: I’m the first person who reads the entire document from cover to cover, engages with it, tries to understand what it says, and checks all the details at the same time. Sadly, most supervisors and jury members simply don’t have the time to do this.

While an editor should not do a candidate’s work for them, having someone check that all elements are in place and correct or that all citations are present in the reference list can relieve a lot of last-minute stress before submission of the thesis. Moreover, I’ve heard from clients that working with me provided them with the motivation to continue writing and finish their thesis, as they had to send it to me by a certain date.

How far in advance would you advise students to contact an editorial professional?

I generally book out around three months in advance for larger projects such as theses. I like to have a month for a full thesis edit, so contacting me as far as possible in advance is the best. I need to draw up a contract, I need an email from the supervisor confirming that editing is allowed, I need to find out how I will get paid … The earlier all this is set up, the better.

What should students look for in a potential editorial professional?

They should make sure that the editor has had editing training or has other editing credentials. The editor should have some form of online presence (a directory listing, a website) with information about their training, experience and skills. If testimonials are provided, this is even better. Vetted editors can be found in the CIEP Directory, for example, which lists Professional and Advanced Professional Members only.

PhD candidates can also ask their colleagues if they can recommend an editor. I get most of my work through referrals. If someone says they had a great experience with an editor and online research seems to confirm that the person is qualified and professional, I would say go for it. Check that the editor is responsive, draws up an agreement (either via email or in a separate document), and asks for supervisor permission.

What are students’ main concerns or worries about engaging you?

The cost of my work can be a bit of a shock to clients. I am usually paid with university funds, so most PhD candidates don’t pay me out of pocket, but some do (note that in many western European countries, PhD salaries are not that low).

I have heard from clients that while they were worried about paying so much at first, they did not regret it, because they realised afterwards how much they got in return. They were unaware of how many checks are involved in editing, the extent to which an editor goes to check and double-check things and make the writing consistent, the style sheet that is drawn up, the level of support they receive during the final stage of their PhD and so on.

I can imagine some clients are worried about an editor changing the meaning of things, but a good editor is always careful. For example, the editor makes a suggestion in a comment instead of changing something and always uses tracked changes so the client can see exactly what was changed.

What common issues do you encounter while working on theses/dissertations?

I have encountered instances of plagiarism. Usually, universities run a plagiarism check on submitted PhDs, so if I catch it before that happens, I can signal it to the client. Depending on how egregious the plagiarism is (is it entire pages? Is it just a few sentences the client forgot to provide a citation for?), I either flag it, leave a comment about it, and move on or send back the work and tell them I can’t work on it any more.

How much do you intervene?

I do not intervene in the content/argument of the thesis. I intervene when something is ambiguous or unclear, leaving a comment explaining what precisely is ambiguous and why (ie, ‘it could mean this but it can also be read as that; please clarify what was meant’). I also frequently intervene when I suspect that a ‘false friend’ was used. For example, if someone writes that a neighbourhood is characterised by a high level of promiscuity, and I know that person’s first language is French, I go to my dictionary, look up ‘promiscuité’, and see that it means ‘overcrowding’. This is one of my favourite things to do, and I have a list of such terms now that I can refer to. I keep my (digital) French, Italian, German, Dutch and Spanish dictionaries open at all times for this reason.

Finally, what are your top tips for students who are looking for an editorial professional?

If you want to engage a good editor, start looking for one months in advance!

Second, make sure editing is allowed at your institution, because a good editor will ask for your supervisor’s permission.

Finally, try to have an idea in advance of which kind of English you want to use in your thesis (British, Canadian, US spelling?), which university guidelines are in place regarding writing style and which citation style you will use. A good editor will ask all these questions once you contact them, but if you have this information for them already, they will be grateful.

About Marieke Krijnen

Marieke Krijnen is an academic copyeditor and an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. She obtained a PhD in Political Science and has a background in Arabic and Middle East studies and urban studies. In her free time she enjoys trains, birds, and playing violin. She’s on Twitter as @MariekeGent and her website is www.mariekekrijnen.com.

 

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: students graduating by RUT MIT, students studying by Brooke Cagle, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Definite articles: CIEP social media picks, February and March 2022

Welcome to the first edition of ‘Definite articles’, our social media team’s pick of internet content, most of which are definitely articles, for editors and proofreaders. If you want our pick of our own recent content, head straight for ‘CIEP social media round-up: February and March 2022’.

In this column:

  • Special days and news events
  • Reading recommendations
  • Thinking about language
  • Dashes, slashes and book stashes

Special days and news events

There were a number of special days during February and March 2022. On 11 February, the UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we shared Cambridge Dictionaries’ look at how we talk about science, and on 8 March, International Women’s Day, we encouraged our friends and followers to read about Hidden Sci-Fi Women of the OED, from Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle upon Tyne, to Storm Constantine.

3 March was World Book Day, as many parents scarred by this annual festival of competitive literary costume-creating will know. We gave them a non-costume-based chance to get their kids into literature by posting National Geographic’s ‘Seven literary destinations around the UK to inspire children’, which included Ashdown Forest, East Sussex, the inspiration for AA Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood, and (checks notes) Scotland. Which sounds as if National Geographic might have forgotten that Scotland is a large and varied country until you read that 2022 is Scotland’s Year of Stories.

Not long after World Book Day was World Poetry Day, and to celebrate this we posted ‘A little light verse’ by Brian Bilston: a poem in the shape of a lightbulb, which considers how many poets it would take to change one.

And we looked forward to a very special day in the summer: the Queen’s Platinum, er, ‘Jubbly’? As all sorts of souvenirs and memorabilia started to emerge in preparation for the big event on 2 June, the BBC ran a story about a particular set of crockery that celebrated ‘the Platinum Jubbly of Queen Elizabeth II’. ‘I would love to buy one of these pieces!’ declared a follower on LinkedIn. Well, move fast: there are only 10,000 available and they’re fast becoming collectors’ items, partly because of their Del Boy connotations. ‘Cushty’, as one Facebook follower observed.

The news wasn’t great during these two months. Publishing Perspectives published an interview with a Ukrainian publisher, Julia Orlova, who described the working conditions in early March for her publishing house, Vivat, and her determination to continue producing books for those in Ukraine who needed them. ‘“We provide electronic versions of books for children who are now staying with their parents in shelters,” she says. “And some of our staff continue to edit manuscripts whenever possible. We try our best not to stop the process of creating books.”’

Also in early March came the news that Shirley Hughes, children’s author and illustrator, had died. Hughes was famous for her character Alfie, among many others, and our followers paid tribute: ‘Wonderful author and illustrator. I’ve loved her books since they were read to me by my parents, and I love them even more having read them to my own children, and to the children I’ve looked after for many years. Reminiscent of a simpler and less frantic time.’

As is often the case at this time of year, the weather made news too. As Storm Eunice took hold in mid-February, we posted ‘The problem of writing poems on a wild, stormy day’ by Brian Bils … sorry, the rest of the name seems to have blown away. Who was the poet? We may never know.

Reading recommendations

At the beginning of February we posted a story from the Washington Post about a reading recommendation: by eight-year-old Dillon Helbig, of his own book, entitled The Adventures of Dillon Helbig’s Crismis and signed ‘by Dillon His Self’. Dillon took his book on a visit to his local library with his grandma and while he was there slipped it onto one of the shelves. The library manager said: ‘I don’t think it’s a self-promotion thing. He just genuinely wanted other people to be able to enjoy his story … He’s been a lifelong library user, so he knows how books are shared.’ Dillon got his wish. The book has been officially added to the library’s collection and can be borrowed. In fact, there’s a long waiting list.

This lovely story was a good start to a couple of months during which we shared a whole host of reading recommendations, from 12 books to read in celebration of America’s Black History Month to the overlooked masterpieces of 1922, magical books you’ll keep coming back to, ten new books to read in America’s Women’s History Month, what TikTok’s book reviewers are recommending and the longlist for the International Booker Prize.

We also enjoyed The Guardian’s series ‘Where to start with’, and posted its pieces on the works of Agatha Christie and James Joyce.

Thinking about language

As if considering the works of James Joyce wasn’t already giving our language-processing centres enough of a workout, article after article about the meanings and implications of language was posted by our tireless social media team. These included new terms such as swicy (sweet and spicy) and seaganism (‘the practice of eating only plant-based foods and seafood’), and the use of light verbs which ‘get their main semantic content from the noun that follows rather than the verb itself’. Examples are take as in ‘take a walk’ or do as in ‘do battle’. There was a moderate reaction to this among our thoughtful followers, but no one made a comment.

We explored the taste of words in how food is written about, and also in the experience of synaesthesia, where ‘words have an associated physical experience as well as a meaning’. Occasionally that association can be flavour. Someone who knows all about this is James, who describes journeys on the London Underground when he was a child. Tottenham Court Road was his favourite stop: ‘“Tottenham” produced the taste and texture of a sausage; “Court” was like an egg – a fried egg but not a runny fried egg: a lovely crispy fried egg. And “Road” was toast. So there you’ve got a pre-made breakfast.’ Fascinating. And delicious.

We are always looking to learn more about inclusive language. Early in February we posted a piece about a new gender-neutral pronoun, ‘hen’, in Norwegian, and then a few weeks later we shared an OED panel discussion, ‘Language prejudice and the documentation of minoritized varieties of English’, and a response to it by CIEP member Robin Black.

Bringing new and inclusive language together, we posted an article explaining what it means to be ‘out of spoons’. Spoons have become a metaphor for energy, Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty explained, which is particularly useful in helping people with a disability, condition or chronic illness explain what their lived experience is like; for example, they might start the day with only a certain number of spoons, and with every activity they might lose one or more of these spoons. Fogarty explored how the concept has proven so useful that it has become widespread, with a new self-named ‘spoonie community’ and the use of the term as a verb, as in ‘spooned out’.

Dashes, slashes and book stashes

Our social followers enjoy a quiz and we’re only too happy to oblige. During February and March 2022 we posted quizzes on dashes and slashes (both courtesy of CMOS), and book stashes: ‘How well do you know your library quotes?’ One notable quote that didn’t feature in this quiz was ‘Librarian, Happy Easter X’, a message that landed in a pink bag in Cambridge University Library, along with two priceless missing notebooks belonging to Charles Darwin, in March. After careful verification of the notebooks the story broke in early April, which is too late for our February and March survey but, a bit like Dillon Helbig’s home-made library book, it’s far too good a story not to include in our collection.


Join us again in June (after the Jubbly) for our pick of April and May’s internet gems, or if you can’t wait you can always follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. See you online!

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: fruit by Lukas, storm by Diziana Hasabekava, spoons by Vie Studio, all on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

The many benefits of being a member of the CIEP

Once again it’s that time of year when we’re asking CIEP members to renew their membership. If you’re a CIEP member who can’t quite decide whether to renew or not, perhaps the five editors below can persuade you it’s worth it …

Laurie Duboucheix-Saunders

I have been a member of the CIEP – back then it was the SfEP – since I started freelancing in 2008 and I have never considered not renewing. With no professional editorial experience, I found out about the Institute when looking for a training course. Being a member allowed me to gain the skills I needed to become a good proofreader and editor, but remaining a member has allowed me to stay at the top of my game. Even though I am an Advanced Professional Member, I still benefit from doing courses with the CIEP, to refresh what I know or to keep up with an industry that keeps changing.

That’s not even what’s best about the CIEP. Being a member is not just about having the CIEP’s ‘seal of approval’ (read ‘logo’), it’s about belonging to a community that supports you and challenges you. The forums are a great place to go when you’re stuck and need the hive mind’s input. There’s always someone who can help you find the answer you need or point you in the right direction. The CIEP’s knowledge pool is vast, and chances are someone will be able to answer your questions about martial arts or architecture or nuclear fusion, as well as help you locate an obscure rule in a style guide so large you wonder what sort of mind it takes to come up with so many different rules about commas and full stops.

The CIEP is part of my daily life. Thanks to it, I have met people, online or in real life, who have become colleagues and friends I interact with every day. Being a freelancer can be a lonely business and the CIEP’s support (legal helpline, suggested minimum rates) is invaluable, but its members are what makes it indispensable.

Pedro Martin (Sanderling Editorial)

Renewing my CIEP membership is a no-brainer. I ended up getting my biggest client so far – both in terms of repeat work and total billable hours – from the ‘marketplace’ forum, so my membership definitely paid for itself.

I really appreciate how useful it is for people who are new to freelancing. I joined as a Professional Member with in-house experience, so I felt confident on the editorial side of things, but I was so clueless about transitioning to freelancing! Navigating your first few months as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader is especially tricky, so it’s great having access to so many knowledgeable and experienced editors who are happy to help with your questions.

And that’s on top of all the other membership benefits (like free guides for members, discounts on editing software and subscriptions, and the forums in general). I look forward to another year of advice, training, CPD, discounts, collegiality, resources and support for copyeditors and proofreaders with the CIEP!

Janet MacMillan

Janet MacMillanThere are so many reasons why I’m renewing my CIEP membership: the vibrant forums where you can get an answer to what’s on your mind day or night, the highly respected training and continuing professional development, the enquiry- and work-producing directory, the helpful guides and fact sheets, the mentoring and the standards, among other things.

But the fundamental reason for me is the community. The CIEP community has helped me through thick and thin, especially in the last couple of years when we’ve all been struggling through plagues, war/political conflicts, earthquakes, blizzards, fires and even loo roll shortages.

The fact that I have so many lovely colleagues all over the world is a true joy, and that I can see and chat to at least 20+ of them every week is an incomparable pleasure. I see community members boosting each other up, both professionally and personally, taking pleasure and pride in each other’s successes, supporting one another in all that the world throws at us, and doing gentle kindnesses for each other.

The gorgeous card someone sent me earlier this year, the gratuitous offers of help with work and CIEP commitments when I faced trying caring responsibilities recently, the unexpected, but touching, comment on my first haircut in over two years, the entertaining GIFs someone likes to send, the ridiculous jokes and banter among members on social media, members travelling long, long distances to meet up, so many members working so hard for the common good, are all part of the CIEP community. To paraphrase a mid-2021 comment by a colleague in an international Cloud Club West Zoom meeting: the fact that I retain any semblance of sanity is, to a huge extent, thanks to the CIEP community. I wouldn’t be without it!

Caroline Petherick

I’ve subscribed to CIEP since the early nineties, and right from the start – even before I managed to access the infant internet – I found the sub worthwhile, because by being a paid-up member I got relevant training, hence confidence in what I was doing, combined with the expertise of some experienced editors one to one. That helped me start my business, even though for the first few years it was slow. Then, since around 2000, with the developing range of resources and support that the CIEP has provided, membership has been intrinsic to the success of my business and (particularly with the forums) to my enjoyment of life at the laptop. I can’t imagine being without the CIEP.

Alex Mackenzie

In a face-to-face conversation recently I found myself describing why our virtual CIEP network is so valuable to me. No, we’ve never met in person, but we are in weekly (some of us daily) contact. Our online video meetups – Cloud Club West (CCW) – is where (mostly) international members meet for professional support and online company.

Working from home is isolating anyway, and in this profession things can get pressurised and tense, with moments of complete loss and mind-boggling confusion. (The usual culprits: misbehaving tables, testy authors, a slow month, quirky layout, low motivation, time management, technology bugs, scope creep, grammar, ethics and copyright, to name a few). We need to reach out to like-minded people sometimes.

Two years ago, CCW spawned another smaller accountability group comprising seven members who spur each other on to market ourselves and get more clients. Both groups share personal and professional stories (even displaying our pets, children, artwork and knitting) – the CIEP membership makes this possible. (Read more in our blog post.)

What I value is the breadth of experience in editing and proofreading, from newbies to Advanced Professional Members. Being reflective about language is what many of us have always enjoyed (we speak close to 20 languages, from Afrikaans to Luxembourgish). But we come at it from all angles (history; environmental and social sciences; role-playing games; politics; law; economics; education; maths and statistics; chemistry, as well as English literature and linguistics). And we are spread across the globe – in diverse personal contexts – with fascinating stories to tell.

This means there’s always someone to offer advice, answer a query or point towards an alternative approach. This is an excellent professional resource and I always have a running list of queries for the next meeting. As we all value investing in high-quality CIEP training, we recommend courses to each other, and sometimes buddy up to work through them together too. And it’s nice to put faces to names when they pop up in the forums.

I know I speak for many in the CIEP when I say, the professional network is a major pull for continuing our membership.

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 by Larisa_K on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

The CIEP’s proofreading exercises: a preview

Annie Deakins leapt at the opportunity to review and proofread the exercises in the CIEP’s new Exercise Bank. In this post, she explains what she reviewed and how she did it.

I was asked by Jane Moody, the CIEP’s training director, if I was interested in reviewing a bank of resources being drafted for CIEP members to practise proofreading. I absolutely was interested! I would act as a guinea pig by reviewing the proofreading exercises in the Exercise Bank, and then proofreading the material as part of the job. So, what did the review involve, and what’s in the bank?

In this article, I’ll cover:

  • My role in the review
  • An overview of the exercise bank
  • How to proofread an exercise
  • Tips and support
  • Benefits

My role in the review

This was the sequence of the tasks I carried out:

  1. Do an exercise (as a practice proofread).
  2. Compare my answer to the model answer and note any differences.
  3. Read the commentary explaining the model answer.
  4. Compare the model answer with the final published version (if appropriate).
  5. Record how long it took to do the exercise.
  6. Repeat steps 1–5.
  7. Proofread all the materials – instruction/brief, exercise, model answer, and commentary – by finding typos and inconsistencies. Note down any queries for the training director to review.
  8. Provide feedback on each exercise: suitability, appropriateness of level, how easy/hard I found them, time taken and suggest changes for improvements.

An overview of the exercise bank

There are nine proofreading exercises in the bank. Permission was obtained from the authors and/or publishers to introduce errors for the purpose of proofreading practice. The exercises vary in difficulty from level 1 (reasonably straightforward, no complex elements) increasing to level 3 (complex, detailed exercises; may include complex figures/graphs/illustrations and/or references or other elements). The exercises are a variety of lengths, so I could pick and choose to fit them around my schedule.

The Exercise Bank covers a variety of topics including fiction and non-fiction, published through traditional channels, or by businesses and self-publishers. Examples include: a chapter from a business book that was traditionally published; an extract from a self-published novel by a first-time author; the programme for a conference by a medical organisation; a story from a traditionally published children’s magazine; and a market report for a technical industry (print finishing).

Each exercise includes background information and a brief which explains the task. Sometimes a house style is provided. If a house style is not provided, you are asked to compile a style sheet.

How to proofread an exercise

Open the file and check all the components are present. In the case of this bank of exercises there will be a brief or cover letter, exercise, model answer (or two), commentary, and final clean copy (if applicable).

Brief

Read what the brief requires. There might be a particular emphasis on layout, or a need for amendments to be kept to a minimum because of a tight publishing schedule. There may be a need to respect the author’s voice, particularly in fiction.

Errors

Examples of errors to be found range from a missing full stop at the end of a paragraph to erroneous capitalisation or the wrong word or term. Others include layout issues and tables that are incorrectly formatted, or wrongly entered numbers.

When something amiss jumps out at you, it’s okay to brag inwardly about the error caught (oh yes, that was sneaky). Add any errors missed (oh no, that was sneaky!) to your personal list of areas for improvement.

Queries

The model answers include examples of author queries to indicate where confusion is present in the text. Indeed, tips accompany the exercises on how to differentiate mark-up between instructions to the typesetter and queries to the client. So valuable. Model queries show how to be fair, polite and respectful.

Explanations

Checking the exercise against the model answer was the best part for me – I managed to resist the temptation to peek before finishing the task … When reading the explanations in the commentary, there were always learning points for the reasons behind the mark-up in the model answer.

Tips and support

  1. If the text is too distracting with, say, small font or too much colour in a leaflet, enlarging content by zooming in on the PDF can help identify errors.
  2. Prior knowledge of BSI symbols is useful. Guidance is given if you have not used proofreading stamps before. I recommend doing the CIEP’s Proofreading 1: Introduction course before proceeding with the level 1 bank of exercises.
  3. A range of model answers are given to show the variety of mark-up methods used and how the marks should appear.
  4. Support is given with resources, e.g. links are provided for the Adobe Acrobat DC video tutorials and help pages for assistance with marking up PDFs, whether that’s using commenting tools, sticky notes, or BSI symbols.

Benefits

The exercises are self-paced with no need for a tutor. They work in the same way as Margaret Aherne’s Proofreading Practice book which can be bought through the CIEP (with a discount for members).

Proofreading speed and accuracy increase with practice and confidence. Once you can calculate how many words you can proofread in an hour, it makes it easier to quote for work from prospective clients.

I had already completed CIEP’s suite of proofreading courses, but reviewing these exercises helped me further improve my proofreading skills and gave me confidence in my ability to spot errors and catch inconsistencies. Tackling the proofreading exercises also gave me the confidence to book my place on the CIEP proofreading mentoring scheme. I highly recommend them.


In addition to the proofreading exercises described here, there are seven copyediting exercises and three on grammar.

Visit the Exercise Bank

If you would like to add an exercise to the bank, please get in touch with the training director: training@ciep.uk.


About Annie Deakins

Annie Deakins taught in Essex (via Paisley) for 30 years. She started CIEP proofreading training in 2016 and is an Intermediate Member. She proofreads non-fiction, education, and children’s books. She is a Partner Member of ALLi. Her job portfolio includes tutoring, and she blogs as #TallTartanTalks.

 

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: colourful shelves by Maarten van den Heuvel; Practice/Practise by Brett Jordan, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

A week in the life of a sustainability proofreader

Proofreader Alex Mackenzie regularly works for a sustainability company. In this post, she explains what her week looks like.

I’ll come clean from the start – I am not a sustainability expert. My qualifications are in the arts and language-learning education, but a European sustainability company has contracted me as a proofreader, giving me regular paid work – which I absolutely love!

The job popped up through an email alert from a recruitment website. They put me through their timed test, which I passed, and then trained me. The quality control team are great people and support me with speedy feedback – I’m learning a lot.

A typical Monday morning (and often Tuesday and also many a Friday) looks like this:

  • Check the promised document has arrived in my inbox at 8am.
  • No? Get on with my preferred morning routine (tea, more tea, yoga and meditation, coffee, browse CIEP forums and our accountability group posts on Slack, answer emails, highlight deadlines on my wall calendar, fiddle with the bullet journal).
  • Continue with some fiction or English language teaching (ELT) editing – or write a blog post!
  • Coffee break and the document arrives – work for three to five hours in highly focused hour-long chunks.
  • Return the improved document to the consultant, with the office copied in.
  • Complete the company’s online tracking and feedback spreadsheet, listing the language and formatting issues I attempted to solve.

On accepting a work request, I know a little about it: the number of pages, the deadline, the choice of UK, US or Australian English, whether the document needs to be transferred to a company template or not.

Expected tasks:

  • Check the document type is as described (report, video storyboard, slide deck).
  • Check against the style guide and correct template (headings, logo, images).
  • Check spelling, punctuation and grammar (capitalisation choices, CO2, tCO2e).
  • Check captions for tables, photos and figures.
  • Check digits are UK English (1,500 not 1500; 0.08% not 0,08%).
  • Suggest rewording as necessary and add any queries.
  • Make final checks (test in PDF format, update table of contents, run slideshow).
  • Double-check final checks and go through comments.

On opening the document, I know much more: the region (most often Latin America, many times Southeast Asia, occasionally Africa and Australia, recently Greenland). I also soon discover the quality of the language and any formatting issues. The best bit is when I learn about the project itself (indigenous planting techniques in post-colonial cocoa farms, sustainable forestry and community gardens, green energy in garment factories, soil and water conservation in conflict zones).

The joys:

  • Seeing a night shot of a tapir in a Colombian forest.
  • Improving the readability of a table that stretches across multiple pages, describing carbon emission reduction in industry.
  • Persuading template headers to switch from portrait to landscape – and back again.
  • Breaking the template rules (once or twice) in the name of getting that table to fit, preserving the logo’s white space.
  • Wrestling a Spanglish sentence into plain English.
  • Being a small part in persuading governments or multinationals to change direction.

The consultant and their team often work in challenging conditions, so Google Docs is their easiest method for recording shared data and collaborating with teams in the field. The company’s quality control section (with me as one of their externals) filters the flow of information for these essential projects (through keen-eyed attention to the style guides and templates). The aim is that our documents are used for lobbying governments and encouraging corporate participation in worldwide initiatives that track and reward sustainable choices towards net zero.

The challenges:

  • Machine-translated documents confound my Spanish–English skills, but I get to read some delightful Spanglish images – ‘contemplating’ the soil type? Nice, but ‘considering’ would be better.
  • Google Slides are pleasing to work with, but Google Docs are an unreliable conduit to the company templates.
  • Handling specialised terminology across Englishes and in translation.
  • Editing multi-author documents with their internal inconsistencies.
  • Finding text that has been copied and pasted but tweaked – didn’t I just correct this?

Wrapping up

It is a privilege to bookend my week with paid work that takes me across the globe to the incredibly diverse projects protecting our planet and its Indigenous peoples, waterways, flora and fauna.

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 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: cocoa farm by David Greenwood-Haigh; notebook and pens by Amanda Randolph, both on Pixabay.

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.

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.