SfEP wise owls: continuing professional development for experienced editors

Welcome to the latest SfEP wise owls blog. This month, the owls provide advice on continuing professional development for experienced proofreaders and copy-editors.

website-votenow-1The team would like to take this opportunity to invite you to support our nomination for the 2017 UK blog awards. The public vote is open until Monday 19th December and you can vote for the SfEP blog via the UK blog awards website. We hope you have enjoyed reading about the SfEP and its members in the blog and would appreciate your support!

 

melanie_thompson-spotlightMelanie Thompson
Sometimes the best CPD comes from unexpected places. A long time ago I did a brief stint as a school governor. I was sent on a short training course, and I learned a lot from that about working in teams, understanding more about how schools tick, and – crucially – things about curriculum development and changes in teaching methods. A few years later I attended a “maths for parents” evening class at my son’s infant school and learned some handy new mental maths techniques. Fast forward to 2016 and I went along to a parents’ forum at my son’s (senior) school, where the discussion topic was “use of IT in classrooms”, especially ebooks and students’ use of tablet computers. All these lessons popped into my mind during a session on education publishing at this year’s SfEP conference, and continue to inform my approach to working in that sector.

Hazel BirdHazel Bird
If you’re feeling on top of your game with your editorial skills, consider improving your knowledge of the fields you edit and the conventions those fields use. For example, if you edit fiction, take a creative writing course. Or, if you edit history, attend a webinar, read a book that challenges you, or consider a course or qualification. You can also attend subject-specific conferences or join discussion groups on social media such as Facebook. The more you know about your specialist fields (or the fields you want to specialise in), the better you’ll be able to tap into how your clients think, what they want from you as an editor and what conventions their field will expect them to follow.

John EspirianJohn Espirian
Invest time in learning how to improve your website and how you can apply basic SEO to stand out. There are a million and one podcasts about digital marketing techniques. Listen to them while walking, driving, cooking, whatever. Even if only a tiny bit of that knowledge sticks, it will likely put you ahead of a lot of people who don’t know the first thing about optimising and promoting their online presence.

Answering questions on LinkedIn, Facebook and especially the SfEP forums will help you realise where you’re strong. Can you answer every question you come across? If not, what areas are you weak in? Why not deep-dive on those? How much of the SfEP’s own editorial syllabus do you know inside out?

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford
Lack of money doesn’t mean you have to forego learning. These are all free of charge. Explore the world of MOOCs (massive online open courses) as a free way of developing your subject, editorial or business knowledge (e.g. from FutureLearn, and Oxford University is offering its first MOOC from February), and use HMRC’s free webinars and videos to make sure you’re on top of your self-assessment, and claiming the right business expenses. Keep up with tech changes. Each month pick one, say, Word function you struggle with and master it. Don’t waste your time fighting with your software – find a YouTube video to help you use it and sign up to the WordTips emails for daily or weekly emails and access to a library of tips. Join the macros SfEP forum to get an insight into how people use macros to save time and improve effectiveness, and get support as you try things out. Apply the same approach to other software you use.

Margaret HunterMargaret Hunter
I’ve found that a good way to sharpen up my understanding of what it is that I’m doing is to think about how I explain the process to clients, especially non-publisher ones. Over the years I’ve written (and rewritten!) mini guides to help my clients, for example what happens during copy-editing and proofreading, and a checklist of things for self-publishing authors to think about. I’ve also put together business documents I need or find helpful, such as terms and conditions, a services contract, style sheet and queries templates, and the like. Thinking about how you explain your business to others could help you identify any gaps in your knowledge (go fill them!) and enable you to sharpen up your working practices to become more professional.

read-owl-1376297_640

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SfEP social media and blog round-up October 2016

In case you missed them, here are some of the most popular links and members’ blogs shared across the SfEP’s social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) in October.

share on social media

The history behind 8 Halloween words

Problem Clients, Part 4: How to Attract Your Ideal Clients

Slang: the changing face of cool

10 popular word origins that are absolute codswallop 

Infographic: the 69 rules of punctuation

What are the shortest words in English?

SfEP members’ blogs round-up

5 things to do before you send your book to a copy editor by Sara Donaldson

Being kind: coopetition versus competition by Liz Dexter

The business of editing: putting out the fire by Richard Adin

Not sure if you should hire a proofreader? Read these 4 quick tips now by Sarah Dronfield

Standing up for editing by Melanie Thompson

Author editing, authors’ editors and the perils of what to call ourselves by Kate Haigh

EPANI – who are we and what do we do? by Victoria Woodside

The perfect proofreader’s pen by Selena Class

Learning to write engaging dialogue by Mel Green

Carry on freelancing by Alexa Tewkesbury

A short dash to oblivion: 16 tips on hyphens and dashes by Howard Walwyn

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

Mediterranean Editors and Translators: All About Editing

First, a bit about me

As a ‘re-emerging’ translator, I have been attending METM conferences as another stop on the road to reconnecting with a profession I fell into years ago and laid aside due to personal circumstances. As a bit of an outlier, I justify my presence by moderating the ‘off-METM’ Translation Slam. A few weeks before the conference, I sent two ‘volunteer’ MET members a short text to translate from Spanish to English, and during the slam we discussed the choices they made (word choices, but also punctuation choices!). I mention this as it has a great deal to do with my experience of the METM16 conference, which this year was all about editing.

Wait, what is MET?

MET (Mediterranean Editors and Translators) is an association of translators and editors whose main language is English, whose objective is peer training, and whose founders thought Mediterranean sounded sexier than European.

Based in Barcelona, MET holds workshops two or three times a year, but the big bash is the annual conference in mid-to-late October. Following an afternoon and morning of workshops as warm-up, the day-and-a-half-long conference is filled with panel discussions, lectures, interactive sessions, and presentations set two or three to a timeslot, except for the two keynote or plenary talks.

metm16-cloister-lunch-sfep-cescanadon

This year’s conference, ‘Raising standards through knowledge sharing and peer training’, was held at Tarragona’s Centre Tarraconense ‘el Seminari’. The cathedral-ceilinged auditorium filtered the sunlight through its stunning stained-glass windows onto keynote speakers Margaret Cargill, in from Australia, and Mary Norris, the New Yorker’s ‘Comma Queen’. Jealous yet?

Workshops and conference sessions

As I said, it was all about editing for me this year. I attended Joy Burrough-Boenisch’s fantastic three-hour Friday-morning workshop, Editing theses and dissertations written by non-native speakers of English, where I also learned about a series of online proofreading and editing guidelines. In the afternoon, John Linnegar taught me the difference between light, medium, and heavy editing; I was impressed by Kate McIntyre and Jackie Senior’s work as in-house academic editors in the Netherlands (and also made a note to look at SENSE’s guidelines); and Valerie Matarese talked about author editing. After a panel discussion on interventionism as an editor/proofreader of academic papers, I learned about ITI from Sarah Griffin-Mason, about the social science genre from Susan M DiGiacomo, about translating and editing titles from Mary Ellen Kerans, misused English in EU publications from Jeremy Gardner, and disability-related terms from Mary Fons i Fleming.

Keynote talks

Friday evening, just before the Clos Montblanc-catered wine reception in the cloister, Margaret Cargill shared with us her studied understanding of ethics and education in academic publishing in relation to editing and translating. The issue of what constitutes teaching, and where the line is drawn at what my professors used to call cheating, are hot topics. Times change, technologies change, the world is changing, and we professionals must keep abreast of how these changes affect the way that we work, whether our field is in academics or technology, business or fiction.

Right before Saturday’s cocktail lunch, also in the cloister, Mary Norris held us captive during her keynote talk, ‘New Yorker style: the major arcana’. Using a few New Yorker cartoons and a piece of fiction, Mary led us through the process of query-editing copy to the characteristically peculiar standards of the famous magazine. She even gave us an example or two of times when she clashed with the ‘artistic vision’ of certain authors. Sometimes she wins, sometimes she loses, she confessed, but she never seems to lose her good cheer or her enthusiasm. What a pleasure it was to have her at the conference, and it was an added pleasure to have both Margaret and Mary among the Sunday-morning post-conference diehards who took a stroll along Tarragona’s Roman amphitheater and beachfront to El Serrallo and a final vermouth among colleagues and friends.

But getting back to me

It turns out that what is showcased in every translation slam – the infinite ways in which a given translation can be resolved – is also true when editing text. The ethics involved in translating a 150-year-old Spanish text into the English of 2016 are as complex as those of editing a non-native-English speaker’s PhD thesis, even though the possible consequences may not be as dire.

Happily, the eternal question remains: How far can you stretch the truth of the original text to make it fit into ‘proper’ English? And what is proper English, anyway? I’m hoping to attend a few more sessions on this very subject a year from now in Brescia, Italy. #METM17

kymm1Born in Boston, Kymm Coveney has lived in Spain since the 1982 World Cup. A former commercial translator, she is currently transitioning to literature (Catalan/Spanish/English). Meanwhile, accounting pays the bills.

Links to poetry, flash fiction and translations are at BetterLies. Glasgow Review of Books showcases her latest poetic translation. She tweets mostly about poetry @KymmInBarcelona.

Photo credit: Cesc Anadón, MET

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

Proofread by SfEP Professional Member Tom Hawking.

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

SfEP wise owls: how to take (guilt-free) time off at Christmas

At the time of publication, there are only 48 days until Christmas. While everyone else is concerned with buying presents, spending time with relatives they don’t like, and how to avoid getting food poisoning from an undercooked turkey, freelancers also have to organise taking time off during the holidays. As an early Christmas present, the SfEP parliament has wrapped up their advice on how to take guilt-free time off over the Christmas period.

Owl Santa

Sue BrowningSue Browning

My advice? Banish the guilt! Isn’t freedom to work when we choose one of the reasons we go freelance? Why then do we burden ourselves with guilt when we do just that? The only thing we should worry about is making sure we do what we have promised to do by the time we promised to do it. Give yourself permission to reject a job if it will mean working when you don’t want to.

So, unless you actively choose to work over Christmas (and there are plenty of good reasons you might wish to do so), block the time off in your schedule and resolutely say no to taking on a project that would mean working over your holiday period. Close your office door, switch off your phone, and go and enjoy your family and friends, your food and wine, your Christmas walk (just me?), and your rest. Return to your work when you choose to, knowing you’ll be all the better at it for having relaxed and refreshed yourself. And banish that guilt!

Liz JonesLiz Jones

Remember that your time is as valuable as anyone else’s, and you have a right to take holidays. You can’t do your best work if you’re over-tired and feeling put-upon, so give yourself a break. Plan definite work-free time in advance – block it out as you would any other project, on your calendar or in your diary. Tell all the people you need to tell that you’re taking this time off, and stick to it as you would any other professional commitment. Christmas is easier than some other holiday periods because most offices either shut down completely or are very nearly empty, with little sense of urgency. If you waver in your resolve, just remember that most clients won’t expect you to be working flat out at this time anyway, and email traffic is likely to reduce. For a total break it can be wonderful to stay offline completely for a few days (no email, no social media) … if you have the self-control!

Abi SaffreyAbi Saffrey

Try to decide a few months in advance which days you are taking off work. Write HOLIDAY in your calendar in big letters so it takes thought and effort to cross it out. If you can, fit a few more projects, or better paying ones, into the months leading up to your break so you’re not worrying about earning when you should be taking time out. Tell your clients when you’ll be ‘away’ and that you won’t be responding to emails during that time. When your holiday finally comes around, don’t check your email, steer clear of social media, and if you think of something work related that needs doing, make a list, tuck it under your keyboard and walk away.

Taking a whole week or two off a couple of times a year is really important – especially in the dark winter months. You’ll come back refreshed and enthusiastic, keen to get back to your routine, and you’ll be more productive.

John EspirianJohn Espirian 

Plan the calendar well ahead. If you book up your work time in, say, two-week blocks, then book your Christmas time off three or more weeks ahead. That way, you won’t let work dominate the holidays. A general life lesson is to plan the fun stuff first and then the work to fit around it. That’s why most of us are freelancers, after all – freedom.

I always know I’m going to be doing the cooking, so can be sure that I won’t be working when I’m spending time in the kitchen. But I actually love that. If there are young kids around, plan to get them involved with the prep so that the whole thing doesn’t feel like a chore.

Send clients Christmas cards with a reminder of when you’ll be back at work. Could lead to more business! Always be top of mind.

Turn off phone notifications and even turn off delivery of emails.

Margaret HunterMargaret Hunter

Decide on something nice / creative / challenging you want to do during your time off. Get out that sewing project that’s been on hold; sort out your photo albums; plan an overnight long hike. Anything that’s going to make you feel good and less guilty about not working.

Hazel BirdHazel Bird

Theoretically, taking time off at Christmas is easy if you plan it in advance and tell those contacts who need to know. But, in practice, existing work can end up spilling into our well-earned down-time, or lucrative offers can tempt us back to our desks. To prevent work spilling over, consider taking on slightly less work just prior to your break so you can be sure you’ll get it done in time, even if it takes a bit longer than expected. As to being tempted to take on new work, plan in advance what you’d say if you received an offer and what rates you would charge to justify giving up your planned break. Maybe there’s no fee that would make it worth it – but even coming to that conclusion could help to fortify you against tempting offers.

Melanie ThompsonMelanie Thompson

Never, ever feel guilty about taking planned time off.

There are laws to protect the holiday rights of employees, but no equivalent for freelancers. That means you have to police yourself. Everyone needs a break. Plan yours well in advance; tell your clients you’ll be ‘out of the office from x to y’. (They don’t need to know why unless you want to tell them.)

The number one benefit of being a freelancer is the freedom to decide what is right for you.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

Downtime is essential for your health and well-being. No guilt required. To ensure you take time off, you need to commit, and commit early. Mark the time off in your planner. When offered a job with a due date on the far side of your break, double-check that the timescale is feasible. One client’s software regurgitates a due date based on word count, ignoring all bank holidays, so I get the date extended. Reject any job that has a due date during your planned break so you don’t try to squeeze it in and finish it early – if you fail, you end up working, stressed and resentful.

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

 

 

Tips for proofreading children’s books

In many ways, proofreading books for children isn’t that different from proofreading any other material … but there are a few extra things to look out for, especially in highly illustrated titles.

betty-nudlerMind the flaps!

Many children’s books, especially non-fiction titles, feature interactive elements such as flaps, pop-ups, stickers and activities. If you’re proofreading on screen, you’ll see the pages in two-dimensional form, but be aware that you might need to consider how different elements of the book would work together in real life. (Would the outline provided fold up into a model of a robot? Are there really 10,000 stickers, as claimed on the cover?) You won’t necessarily need to print things out to get the job done, but you might need to sense-check activities, cross-reference different parts of the product, or count particular elements (all 10,000 of them). Make sure you factor this in to the time you allow to proofread the book, even if the word count is tiny, and consider using a second screen if you don’t already, to speed up the work and increase your accuracy.

When is a book not a book?

When it’s an ebook or an app – both popular formats for children’s books, and with a different set of considerations from physical books. You might be asked to check how a highly illustrated layout transfers to ebook format, for example, possibly with reflowable text. Are all the elements still there, in a sensible order?

With ebooks and apps, you’ll need to find the most sensible way of returning comments, which might not take the form of a more traditional mark-up, but could instead be a list of corrections. With apps you’ll need to make sure you’ve checked and clearly recorded corrections to all the places where text appears – which might not be easy to deal with in a linear way.

childrens-book-week-liz-2Less can be more … when it comes to mistakes

In some ways, children’s books seem too easy. In books for younger readers in particular, you might have as few as twenty words. (Your per-thousand word rate is likely to be reassuringly astronomical!) However, the lack of text can be almost intimidating. Any remaining mistakes have nowhere to hide, and will come back to haunt you for all eternity … or until the books are pulped. Make triply certain that the title on the spine matches the title on the cover and on the title page, for example. Surprisingly often, it doesn’t.

 

Reading order

In boring old adult books, usually you start reading at the top left of a page, and keep plugging away until you get to the bottom right, and then start the process all over again. This isn’t necessarily so in children’s books, where layouts can be considerably more dynamic, with smaller blocks of text arranged across the page or spread, integrated with the pictures, and interspersed with smaller text elements such as boxes, captions and annotations. Pay attention to the reading order of the different elements – it needs to be logical. Sometimes, captions will be the only part that is read, so these need to stand alone. They should work hard, add value to the picture they refer to, and not simply repeat part of the main body text. It seems obvious, but it’s easily overlooked: annotations need to refer to the part of a picture they are pointing to.

Consider the reader

Whatever we edit or proofread, we need to consider the intended reader. But with children as the audience, there are extra considerations. Is the text legible? Are the fonts used appropriate? Although by the time you are proofreading, basic decisions such as font choice will have been made long ago in the process, you might still find instances where things need to be tweaked to help a young readership. Also look out for words, especially technical terms or jargon, that don’t fit the reading age or need to be explained where they appear.

Diversity and inclusion

Children’s publishers often have guidelines for authors and editors on inclusion and diversity. Although these aspects should be considered from the outset of a project – or rather, as this article argues, a book should ‘be diverse without diversity being its selling point’ – it’s still an important aspect of children’s publishing for proofreaders and copy-editors to be aware of.

children-book-week-liz-1Don’t neglect the pictures

You might think of yourself as a word person, but in many children’s books, much of the sense comes from the pictures, so you must pay as much attention to them as to the text. If the text describes something shown in a picture, such as a colour, does the picture reflect that? If the pictures show a step-by-step process, are they in the right order? Many children’s books are commissioned in the knowledge that they will be co-editions, or sold into a range of territories. Often you will need to look out for parochial details in the images that could limit a book’s marketability, such as obviously right-hand-drive cars, or very British-looking police uniforms.

Marking up

Finally, think about the best way to mark up a highly illustrated book. Your client might have guidelines on how they want you to mark up PDFs, but remember that marks can easily be overlooked on busy, brightly coloured backgrounds. If you think a mark might be lost, draw a big box around it or highlight it with a helpful arrow. Go for maximum clarity.

photo 2016 croppedLiz Jones worked in-house for two children’s publishers between 1998 and 2005, and still proofreads children’s books alongside a range of other freelance editorial work for publishers, business clients and individuals. When not editing she writes fiction, and also blogs about editing and freelancing at Eat Sleep Edit Repeat.

 

Photo credit: Betty Nudler Creative Commons

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Sarah Dronfield.

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

SfEP celebrates Children’s Book Week 2016

boston-public-library
Every year, the Book Trust hosts Children’s Book Week to help young people learn the pleasure of reading, and during the week adults are encouraged to share their favourite book from childhood with the younger members of their family. To mark Children’s Book Week (31 October to 6 November 2016) SfEP members were asked to share their memories of the book they treasured most when they were younger and say why it still means so much to them today. As you can expect from a society comprised of enthusiastic booklovers, we received some wonderful replies. I hope you enjoy reading them.

 

Julie Marksteiner
The Naughtiest Girl in the School by Enid Blyton

My favourite book when I was growing up was The Naughtiest Girl in the School by Enid Blyton. Blyton’s school stories hark back to a simpler, more innocent time in the 1940s – a time full of tuck boxes, pinafore dresses and lacrosse matches. I was a fairly quiet, bookish sort of girl (not much has changed there), so I lived vicariously through Elizabeth Allen’s antics at Whyteleafe School. She was muddy-kneed and messy-haired, when I had to be neat and tidy. She broke the rules and did her own thing, whilst I reluctantly played it safe. I thought she was fantastic!

I was fascinated by the idea of boarding school and the camaraderie between the girls – nothing like the suburban primary school I spent my days in. I even tried my hand at writing similar school stories of my own, modelling characters on myself and my friends. You’d have to ask my mum if they were any good, though … I suspect not!

children-book-week-introJulie Hopkins
When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne

Children’s lit is very close to my heart, partly because I never grew out of the little girl that I was; comforting, cherished memories of sitting on my Nannie’s knee or lying in bed listening to her read to me with her soft Wiltshire accent. I only have to glance at certain books (which I still have displayed on my working desk today) and I’m transported back in time …

One of my most precious possessions is my 1970 copy of When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne. I was three years old at the time and my grandmother used to read these wonderful poems to me to help me get to sleep. ‘Nannie’ came from Upavon in Wiltshire, and although she lived in the North West for the longest time, she never lost that soft accent. The book is a treasure trove of poetry harking back to a time now almost forgotten, when children were supposed to be seen and not heard, and to respect their parents, elders and betters. I knew ‘The King’s Breakfast’ (‘The King asked the Queen, and the Queen asked the Dairymaid…’) by heart from a very young age, and particularly loved ‘Vespers’ (‘Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed…’) because sometimes I’d creep into Nannie’s bedroom late at night to find her doing exactly the same – and so I tried to emulate her, too! And I still can’t go into a garden centre today without wondering whether they have ‘…delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red)’ (‘The Dormouse and the Doctor’). It was this short anthology of poems that taught me to look after my own mother or else! (‘Disobedience’: ‘James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree Took great care of his Mother, though he was only three…’). And it was this book that served as my introduction to royalty in ‘Buckingham Palace’, where they changed guard all the time – or so I thought, imagining myself clearly as ‘Alice’! I used to believe author and illustrator E.H. Shepard was a spaceman – purely because the vignettes on the back were framed in circles, which to me looked like space helmets!

Great times. Precious memories. The book sits proudly on my office shelf today, always in sight.

Natalie Weiner
The Bear at the Huntsmen’s Ball by Peter Hacks

My favourite book when I was a child used to make my mum laugh her head off reading it to me, which is why I liked it. It’s no longer in print (as far as I’m aware), so my copy is much cherished. It’s a picture book called The Bear at the Huntsmen’s Ball by Peter Hacks (illustrated brilliantly by Walter Schmögner), published in 1975.

It tells the story of a bear (slightly tipsy from the start) heading off to a fancy-dress party, dressed as a huntsman. On the way, he bumps into …a real huntsman. He mistakes the bear for the ‘head huntsman’ and they head off together to the huntsmen’s ball.

Once there, all the other huntsmen mistake the bear for the head huntsman. Much drinking of beer ensues. The bear then decides they should ‘go out and shoot the bear’. Obviously.

After much drunken stumbling in the snow, and an accusation (by the bear) that the bear ‘must be hiding among us disguised as a huntsman’, the bear’s irate wife turns up, reads him the riot act and takes him home.

The story has the classic ‘he’s behind you’ element – we know the bear is the bear, the huntsmen can’t see it. (That’s beer for you, young readers, let that be a lesson!). It’s ridiculous. I love it.

Julia Sandford-Cooke
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss

Do you like Green Eggs and Ham?
Yes, I like it, fan I am.
I like the strong and rhythmic lines.
I like the very pleasing rhymes.
I like the ways it can be read –
Aloud, alone, tucked up in bed.
I like to do the funny voices –
Grumpy, lively – all those choices!
And those bold, distinctive drawings
Stop repetition being boring.
It’s said the book was written when
A publisher (slyest of men)
Bet fifty dollars Seuss could not
Create an entertaining plot
From a fifty-word kids’ lexicon.
Of course, Seuss answered ‘Yes, I can!’
He did it in exactly fifty
Unique words, which was rather nifty.
The fifty dollars he was due
Never came – that’s publishers for you.
But Seuss did make lots of money
From all his books, profound and funny,
Subversive, clever, full of fun,
Not just for kids but everyone.
So, yes, I like Green Eggs and Ham
But what on earth’s a Sam-I-am?

Picture credit:

Children’s Book Week by Boston Public Library via Creative Commons.

Collated and posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

Why would anyone join a local SfEP group?

Why indeed? I am a freelance editor (and researcher) involved in the SfEP Edinburgh Group, and these are some of the reasons I came up with.

Do you want to meet new people and make new friends? Your local SfEP group could be just the thing. The Edinburgh group draws its members largely from Edinburgh and the surrounding area, but we’re not an exclusive bunch and have welcomed people from as far afield as Germany to our recent meetings. The group includes well-established, highly experienced editors and proofreaders, although the balance is probably towards those who are relatively new to this type of work. Several of us have come to editorial work from other careers – a surprising number of us have, like me, worked as civil servants and local government officials. We meet on a roughly monthly basis with breaks over summer and Christmas, and have a varied programme of meetings and events. And it’s true, you probably already have friends. But do any of them want to talk – or even care – about punctuation and the difference between ‘that’ and ‘which’?

lewis-packwood1

Do you want to get out more? Over the last year, our group has organised a range of social activities. These have included walks (with and without dogs and cake), lunch meetings, and a Christmas outing. There was even a jazz outing. You can dip in and out of activities and meetings, and you don’t need to go to anything, but being part of a local group means you have access to like-minded people who probably have a similar working life to your own and might just be keen (and available) to leave the house and talk to someone once in a while.

Do you want to improve your editorial skills? We have had peer-led sessions on topics such as tackling complex briefs, editing theses, and the costing of jobs. Experienced editors in the group have been incredibly generous in sharing their knowledge and experience with those who are just starting out. We’ve also been able to demonstrate enough demand to lure tutors north to run SfEP courses here in Edinburgh – being part of a local group means that we have been able to encourage fellow members to register their interest in courses and reach that critical mass of six students. And, of course, training can be quite a commitment in terms of time and money, so being able to ask other people about the courses they have attended can take some of the risk out of signing up.

Do you want to get work? Well, who doesn’t? But it’s not always easy, especially for those of us who are new to editorial work or freelancing (or both). We all work as individual freelancers, and all need to look after our own interests, but we can all recognise a win–win situation when we see one. Within our local group, we share information about work opportunities and advertise jobs to our local colleagues when we are lucky enough to have too much work to take on a new assignment or can see a commission is outside our area of expertise. We’ve even set up our own Edinburgh Editors website promoting our group and our services (thank you, Lewis!). This is all especially helpful to the newbies amongst us.

Do you want to make freelancing work for you? I used to work in a large organisation with a personnel team, a welfare team, and an IT department, all of which disappeared when I decided to go it alone, but a local group can provide some of that business ‘infrastructure’. Over the past couple of years, the Edinburgh group has organised sessions on tax and finance, client liaison, marketing, and using social media. One of our best-attended – and most entertaining – sessions was our occupational health session run by Glasgow-based editor Denise Cowle, who previously worked as a physiotherapist. At a more informal level we have shared tips on timesheets, software packages, hot-desking opportunities, and billing overseas clients. This isn’t about being a good editor or proofreader, but it is about allowing us to work more effectively and sustain and build our businesses.

Or maybe you just want to ask a daft question?  We all know the SfEP forums are great for seeking advice from fellow editors. But sometimes it’s nice – and maybe a bit less daunting – to be able to ask people you know. Being part of a local group means you have access to a pool of people who can be relied on to give you a helpful response, however daft your question is.

If any of this strikes a chord, I would encourage you to check out your local group (you could even set one up if there isn’t one). For me, having access to a local group is one of the main benefits of being a member of SfEP, and I know I am not alone in this. Fellow Edinburgh editor Marie said: ‘As a newcomer to the world of editing and proofreading, belonging to a local group has been a lifeline for me. Through it, I’ve made good friends, useful contacts and discovered a wealth of support and inspiration.’ I couldn’t have said it better!

alison-plattsAlison Platts is an Edinburgh-based freelance editor and researcher. She is the author (or co-author) of a wide range of research reports, and she edits/proofreads academic articles, student theses, conference reports, research papers and reports, websites, and corporate publications of all types.

 

Image courtesy of Lewis Packwood

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

Proofread by SfEP Professional Member Tom Hawking.

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

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Volunteering can be a good way to get experience

By Tracey Roberts

Although I have been doing editing and proofreading tasks for my company for a while, I knew I needed proper training plus experience of working in different settings to make sure my skills were up to scratch. I’m sure many new editors and proofreaders face the same dilemma – how do you get that vital work experience to show that you know what you are doing?

Not every proofreader and copy-editor begins their freelance career with a ready-made portfolio of relevant experience to offer potential clients. Some editors start their freelance careers after working in-house for several years and therefore begin with a wealth of experience and industry contacts, while others begin from scratch following a career change or a desire to achieve a flexible work–life balance. Many new editors begin by undertaking training, including the range of excellent courses offered by the SfEP. But what can new editors do next to consolidate their newly acquired skills and develop their résumé?

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While it’s tempting to offer your services for a reduced price or even for free so that you can build up a client list, there are a number of important questions to consider before volunteering your valuable time:

Who should you volunteer with?

An obvious (and possibly rewarding) option is to help a charity or non-profit organisation. Smaller charities may lack the funds to hire a professional editor to assist with a newsletter or website and would welcome your help. But don’t assume so – many charities have healthy budgets for such things and can afford to pay. Many regions in the UK have volunteer centres that help local charities, and you can find your local centre on Do-it.

Or you could help an organisation you are personally interested in, for example a poetry newsletter or the SfEP. This blog relies on a team of volunteer proofreaders who check posts prior to publication and others proofread our web pages, training materials etc.

What will you get out of it?

This is important. If the person or organisation you are volunteering for doesn’t know what’s required of a good editor or proofreader, how valuable will their testimonial really be? Will you actually get any constructive feedback? Working for a client (or especially a friend) who doesn’t understand the process (and while you are still learning yourself) could turn into a tricky or negative experience.

Volunteering might allow you to network and build useful contacts, so factor in who you want to work with in the future to your decision about which organisations to approach. Spending a few hours helping the right person could provide a valuable reference for marketing material and possibly lead to other organisations in the same field hiring you in the future.

What skills do you want to practise?

While any experience gained could be beneficial, it’s important to try to match your efforts with your overall career goals. If you want to copy-edit for biomedical journals you may get more benefit from editing a friend’s science PhD thesis than a website publishing short stories, for example.

How much time are you happy to provide?

In the early stages of your freelance career you will be busy building your new business and need time to develop your marketing strategy, website etc. All of these tasks take priority over volunteering. Any time spent volunteering must fit around the creation of your new freelance business, and other important personal commitments, to ensure a healthy work–life balance is maintained. There will come a time when you are too busy with paid work to volunteer and must decline future opportunities (see Laura Poole’s recent blog How to say ‘no’ for advice).

Remember too that if you work for a client for free, or even a reduced rate, it will be very difficult to start charging at full rate when asked to take on future projects.

Mentoring – a good option?

One opportunity that will provide useful practice and good feedback is the mentoring programme offered by the SfEP. All mentors are experienced SfEP Advanced Professional members who share examples from their paid work for mentees to proofread or copy-edit. Mentees have the opportunity to work on real-world projects and receive feedback based on the mentor’s experience.

If you would prefer to develop your skills in a less formal manner, check out Liz Jones’ recent blog post Practice makes (closer to) perfect.

I was fortunate to be invited to coordinate the SfEP blog, and I have gained valuable experience in this voluntary role. I have worked with the editors who regularly contribute to this blog and learned so much – exactly what the right volunteering role should provide. I hope the advice provided helps you find the ideal opportunity to get some quality experience and achieve your goals.

If you are interested in joining the SfEP team of volunteer proofreaders, please email blog@sfep.org.uk

TraceyTracey Roberts is an Entry-Level member of the SfEP. She currently works for the Cochrane Schizophrenia Group based in Nottingham and is the SfEP blog coordinator.

 

 

Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Sarah Dronfield.

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

The new girl and the SfEP conference, Part 2

By Karen White

(You can read Part 1 here.)

I survived! Actually, I did more than survive – I thrived!

On the day I got back to my desk after my first SfEP conference I spent a lot of time tweeting and Facebook messaging people I had met in person over the weekend, sending follow-up emails, and connecting with people on LinkedIn. I looked over all the notes I took, watched some of the live videos I missed, and reduced my coffee consumption to two cups all day.

I have to confess to having felt a bit nervous last week as all the chat ramped up about nail polish, tiaras and navigating Birmingham’s roadworks, but as it turned out, I needn’t have fretted at all. I did take a wrong turning off the Ring Road, and had to ask for directions to the registration desk (Who did I ask? Only Louise Harnby herself!), but once I’d registered and had the Cult Pens goody bag in my hand, all was well and it was straight into the AGM. Then it was straight from the AGM to the first-timers’ drinks, to dinner, then the quiz, then back to the bar. All the time chatting to people whose names I recognised from the Forums, Facebook groups and Twitter, as well as plenty of people I hadn’t crossed paths with before. And they were all really friendly and welcoming, and all had interesting angles on editing and proofreading work that were mostly very different to mine: maths, menus, fiction, legal, Shakespeare, Welsh. Plenty to ponder as I made my way back to my room (with its king-size bed, fluffy white towels and separate desk area), and the conference itself hadn’t even started yet!

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Sunday was the first full day. After a substantial breakfast and the Whitcombe Lecture given by Susan Greenberg (My favourite quote from Susan’s research, asking editors about their work was: “You have to tell people they’ve got to do a shitload more work, and try to make it sound interesting.” (Constance Hale, freelance book editor)), I was off to a session on developing my editorial and professional career. Chris McNab’s message in this session was all about thinking where you want to be in the future, and working out the skills you need to get there. Getting there may involve stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new. This was a message that was repeated in Sue Richardson’s session on moving from freelancer to entrepreneur, and again in the Speed shake-up session on ways to revitalise an established career. I had selected sessions that were on a similar theme because this is the stage I’m at in my career, and the conference has coincided with a quieter than usual patch on the work front, so I’ve come away with plenty to mull over.

The live session I went to on Sunday afternoon was the great fees debate. Always a hot topic, and always interesting to hear others’ thoughts. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to whether we should accept lower rates sometimes, but it’s reassuring to hear that the idea of showing solidarity in the face of unacceptably low fees is popular. This is a topic being discussed a lot at the moment in my community of ELT (English Language Teaching) freelancers, and I know it’s not going to go away any time soon.

On from sessions to the TweetUp, which is such a great idea when you usually only communicate in 140 characters. I’d had conversations with so many SfEP-ers on Twitter before the conference, and it was lovely to be able to get to know the people behind the tweets a bit more. I think I contributed quite well to the #sfep16 hashtag, which is a great way to follow the conference if you’re not there in person, or to follow sessions that you weren’t in.

Drinks reception, tiaras, rapping, gala dinner, award presentation, Lynne Murphy and Antiamericanisms. I have honestly never been to such an entertaining and varied conference before. Nor have I been to one in such a well-appointed venue.

Was Monday really only the second day? I did a quick Live video with John Espirian for my business Facebook page, then headed off to the first session, which was Laura Poole’s look at being an effective freelancer. Entertaining, and full of sound advice. I will never book a 9am doctor’s appointment again, when I could be using the most productive part of my day for working. Appointments are for late afternoons from now on. More useful tips followed in Sophie Playle’s session on making the most of your website. This is something I’m definitely not doing at the moment, so my to-do list just got a bit longer. Then David Crystal’s closing lecture on the impact of the internet on ‘text’ came all too soon.

I didn’t come home with a raffle prize, but what I have brought back are a lot of things to think about for my business, a determination to check and contribute to the Forums more frequently, a lot of new friends and contacts, the knowledge that there is a great supportive community out there, and a resolution to attend another SfEP conference. Oh, and a speeding ticket as a result of my eagerness to get there on Saturday!

Karen WhiteKaren White is a freelance project manager, editor and trainer specialising in ELT publishing. She runs a Facebook page where ELT editors can chat and share information, and blogs about editorial issues at White Ink Limited. If you’re a Twitter user, you can find her @KarenWhiteInk.

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Sarah Dronfield.

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

Social media round-up: SfEP 2016 conference

Anyone following the SfEP on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn will have seen a number of great blogs written by attendees of the 2016 conference. In case you missed them, a selection are summarised below.

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The 27th annual SfEP conference by Katherine Trail
It’s been a couple of days since I returned from my second SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) conference, and I’ve just about regained the power of speech, although I can’t guarantee this blog will make 100% sense (but when do they ever?!) …

Kat has also produced a great video blog on The value of conferences

#SfEP2016: reflections on the 2016 Society for Editors and Proofreaders conference by Hazel Bird
I spent the weekend just gone in Birmingham at the 2016 Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) conference – my fourth. There were over 30 hours of excellent CPD and networking opportunities, and I’ve emerged re-invigorated and with plenty of new ideas for my business and personal development, if a little brain-weary …

Conference Call by Sara Donaldson
At the 2015 conference, as a newbie, I felt like a rabbit in the headlights (it was the first time I’d ever met ‘real’ editors), but this year was a much more relaxed affair, meeting up with all the wonderful people I met last year who I’m proud to call friends (and some lovely new friends too).  It was more relaxed, even if I did take a wrong turning, ended up heading back out of Birmingham, and arrived at the Aston Conference centre a little shaken up (thanks SatNav app) …

Lessons from #SfEP16 by Melanie Thompson
I have been to several SfEP conferences, but this was by far the most enjoyable. I learned a lot and had a great time meeting familiar faces and making new friends. Here are my sixteen top ‘takeaways’ …

Looking back at #SfEP16 by Graham Hughes
This was my second SfEP conference, the first being last year’s gathering in York. That time, I arrived with some trepidation, as if I was going to be surrounded by veterans who were out to judge me. I soon realised, though, that this was nonsense. Everyone was there to learn, share ideas and enjoy themselves. This year, I could turn up without any of those worries. The experience that I’d gained in the last 12 months also helped me feel more confident, and being a local group coordinator had possibly even put a slight swagger into my step …

Converting put-downs into pitches by Liz Jones
I went to the SfEP conference at the weekend, had a brilliant time catching up with friends and colleagues, and came back fired up with loads of new ideas and objectives for continuing to develop my editorial business. And yet … over the course of the weekend, still I came out with some absolute clangers when called upon to describe my professional self and what I do …

Setting up Mastermind and accountability groups was mentioned as a possibility for members of the SfEP at the conference, and John Espirian discusses the key issues in his latest video blog.

Compiled and posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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