Monthly Archives: July 2015

Supporting sentences and each other

The other day, I was discussing the concept of bullet points with my six-year-old daughter.

‘Part of my job involves checking the punctuation of bullet lists,’ I told her.

She looked at me pityingly. ‘Sad job,’ she said.

She had a point of course. But, on the other hand, a commitment to consistency and clarity can in fact make for a very happy job, especially when you find others who feel the same way. And they’re certainly out there, especially online. Follow any thread on The Editors’ Association of Earth Facebook group, for example, and you’ll find eloquent international specialists eager to share their knowledge, united by their passion for the English language.

Lunching with like-mBlog post pubinded locals

Here’s another scenario. A group of professionals listens as a potential client describes her requirements for contractors. She explains the type of work she offers, the skills she’s looking for and the rates of pay on offer. Does her audience size each other up, ready to betray their competitors’ weaknesses, Apprentice-style, with a clever put-down or underhanded action?

Of course not. This is a group of editors and proofreaders, and, perhaps because we’re used to working alone, we find our strength in numbers.

The professionals in question were the Norfolk SfEP group on a tour of a local typesetter. In the pub afterwards (what better excuse for a rare business lunch?), veterans of the battle for clear prose offered advice to nervous newbies, and we all openly discussed what we thought of the rates on offer. They were on the low side – acceptable to those looking for a route into editorial work but less attractive to those with a larger network of contacts. There was no sense of rivalry; some of us were simply keener to work for the typesetter than others. Talk moved on to more typical pub chat – weddings, construction and the City of London Corporation.

I don’t get to local meetings as often as I’d like but, when I do, I’m always welcomed warmly and come home brimming with inspiration and motivation. The Norfolk group (or chapter, as I like to call it) is one of 39 local SfEP groups throughout the United Kingdom that give editors and proofreaders a welcome opportunity to discuss sentence structure, spelling and standing desks with others who care about such things. SfEP members further afield can join the international group or and even the Skype Club – there’s no reason to feel isolated even if you normally work by yourself.

The perils of going it alone

Here’s a third example, which I hope isn’t typical. I was telling a designer at a networking event about my strong editorial community – the friendly conferences, the funny Twitter chats, the engaging Facebook posts. He stared at me in amazement. ‘I don’t speak to other designers,’ he said. ‘They’d only steal my clients.’

‘So you always work in isolation?’

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘It’s the price you have to pay for being a freelance designer.’

Sad job, I thought.

TSO group and

Julia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications (www.wordfire.co.uk) has more than 15 years’ experience of publishing and marketing. When she’s not hanging out with other editors (virtually or otherwise), she authors and edits textbooks, writes digital copy, proofreads anything that’s put in front of her, spends too much time on Twitter (@JuliaWordFire) and posts short book reviews on her blog, Ju’s Reviews.

Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Susan Walton.

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

Eight tips for editing cookery

photo (9)Perhaps cookery is already one of your editorial specialisms, or it may be an area you’d like to try. In many ways, the same rules apply as for editing any other material – the text needs to be clear, accurate and consistent. However, there are some particular things to watch out for. Here are some tips for editing or proofreading recipes.

1. Know your way around a kitchen/Enjoy food

As with any other specialist area, how deeply you need to be immersed in the subject as an editor or proofreader is open to debate. I would suggest that it is necessary to be a competent and reasonably adventurous cook yourself, though, and a love of food definitely helps. You will often need to imagine carrying out a particular task as you read the recipe to check for sense, and it is useful to have a good awareness of kitchen equipment and how to use it, as well as a wide range of ingredients.

2. Have a feel for measurements

Although as an editor you are not required to test the recipes (unless you want to, which does happen; see number 8), you do need to sense-check them as you go, and this includes spotting any silly quantities. Can you picture 100g of various different ingredients? Do you know what 2 litres of liquid looks like? Do you understand the relative proportions of ingredients that usually go into a cake, or pastry, or a stew?

3. Account for every single ingredient

Every ingredient that is listed needs to be used – even if not all at once. In the same way, every ingredient that is mentioned in the instructions needs to be listed. Usually, publishers will want the ingredients listed in the order in which they are used, but the house style may specify exceptions to this. For example, salt and pepper often come at the end of the list.

4. Tie up loose ends (or ask the author to do so)

As well as making sure every ingredient mentioned in the instructions is listed (and vice versa), you need to make sure every ingredient’s story is followed through to its conclusion. Don’t leave the reader wondering what happened to that pastry that was rolled out two steps ago, or the egg that’s been beaten and set aside … forever.

5. Apply logic

The oven is often preheated at the start of the recipe – but this makes no sense if the preparation begins the day before the actual cooking. And some ingredients need to be prepared far in advance, while others would suffer. Although consistency is extremely important (see the next point), you also need to apply a generous dash of common sense when it comes to expressing a recipe sensibly. You can’t apply a blanket rule to every eventuality. This is where it helps to be able to picture the process that is being described.

6. Maintain consistency

Editors are always concerned with consistency. In cookery, particular things to watch out for include descriptions of ingredients (is it chopped onion – or onion, chopped?); instructions for particular processes that crop up again and again (such as steaming a pudding); use of measurements (obviously metric and imperial are not used interchangeably, but also make sure you don’t switch between teaspoons and 5ml, for example); names of things (capitals can be tricky; think of cheese or wine) and naming of recipes (does the recipe actually contain all the things mentioned in the title, and in what proportions?).

7. Tread the fine line between preserving voice and adhering to house style

Many cookery book publishers will supply an extensive house style (which is helpful, but do allow time to absorb it). At the same time, many cookery writers, in common with all other writers, will have their own particular way of expressing themselves. If you’re copy-editing, it can be a real challenge to strike a balance between toning down the wildest authorial excesses while maintaining that distinctive voice (it may be a voice that readers are familiar with the sound of, too), and also beating everything into style guide submission as far as possible.

8. Work as far away from the kitchen as possible

Trust me – you will get hungry. Especially if there are pictures …

This list is not exhaustive – it’s a starting point. Perhaps you have other suggestions of what to look out for?

Photo on 28-05-2015 at 13.51 #2Posted by Liz Jones, SfEP marketing and PR director.

Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Susan Walton.

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

Different types of editing – do the labels matter?

pigeonholes

Sometimes what we do fits neatly into a category of editing … and sometimes it’s less clear.

Recently I’ve seen (and participated in) a few discussions about different types of editing – what they involve, how rates of pay work out for each, and the level of skill or knowledge required to undertake them.

In terms of ‘editing’ (from the perspective of many members of the SfEP), there are several commonly understood types or levels of editing:

  • structural or development editing
  • copy-editing
  • proofreading

The SfEP provides useful descriptions of what is meant by ‘copy-editing’ and ‘proofreading’ – tasks that occupy many of its members for much of their working time.

Then there is also a hybrid we sometimes talk about: proof-editing. This often seems to refer to a job described and commissioned by the client as a proofread, but that actually involves a greater degree of intervention than we might strictly expect of a proofread. There can be various reasons for this, not least of which is the possibility that only one editorial professional has ever laid eyes on the material about to be published – you.

Dialogue with clients

In terms of talking to each other, and to publisher clients, these labels (especially the first three) can be highly relevant and useful – they provide a kind of shorthand to help us understand the parameters of a particular job. Proofreading involves making essential corrections only; copy-editing involves a higher level of stylistic decisions but is still constrained by the client’s requirements and the need to respect the author’s voice, and so on. By using such labels, we have a good idea of what the client wants, and the client in turn knows what they are paying for, and what they should expect to get back from us.

However, being too fixated on these labels can cause problems when we work with people who are not familiar with the traditional book publishing process, which might include a huge range of clients: from self-publishing authors, to students wanting their theses proofread, to business clients, to government departments and various international organisations.

Labels as barriers

How do you deal with editorial work that resists categorisation? Should you try to make it conform by rigidly carrying out the tasks that you would associate with the level of work ostensibly being asked for? Should you reject it on the grounds that you have only been trained to proofread, but it actually looks more like a copy-edit? Or should you adapt to fit the needs of the client? It’s possible that by clinging on to very rigid notions of the prescribed nature of proofreading, or copy-editing, we will fail to provide the service that a client actually requires … and both sides can lose out.

A business client might, for instance, ask you to ‘proofread’ a document. However, it may not mean much to this client if you return the ‘proofread’ document marked up with perfectly executed BS 5261C: 2005, having made only very minimal interventions. It’s highly likely they were actually expecting you to perform major editorial surgery, and provide them with changes clearly set out in such a way that a layperson (not another editor or a typesetter) could understand.

This is where communication with the client is paramount; this applies whatever kind of client you are working for, but is especially important when it comes to assessing the type of work that is required for a ‘non-publishing’ client – you need to understand what they want you to do, and how far they want you to go … and they need to understand the service that you will be providing. As Kate Haigh said when she discussed working for business clients on this blog: ‘business clients want to know that you understand their needs and their material’.

Labels versus rates

The SfEP also suggests on its website minimum rates for the different types of editing, with proofreading seen as commanding a lower hourly rate than copy-editing, and development editing tending to be paid at a higher rate than copy-editing. Project management (which may or may not involve hands-on editing) is expected to command the highest rates. How these rates actually work out in practice is often the subject of hot debate. And many editors will choose to take the line that their time is their time, and should be paid for accordingly, no matter what specific editorial task is being performed.

In short, labels for the types of work we do can be helpful when we talk to other editorial professionals, when we communicate with publisher clients (although all publishers are different, and the exact requirements of a ‘proofread’, say, can vary), and when we assess for ourselves the level of work a job requires. Where the labels can be less helpful, or perhaps where we need to be prepared to be flexible, is when it comes to selling our services to a diverse range of clients, and when it comes to adapting our working methods to fit a client’s requirements – such important parts of winning business, and securing repeat commissions.

Photo on 28-05-2015 at 13.51 #2Posted by Liz Jones, SfEP marketing and PR director.

Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Christine Layzell.

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

Social media round-up – June 2015

SfEP logoIn case you missed them, here are ten of the most popular links shared across the SfEP’s social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) in June.

 

In which our heroine stops and asks herself, “Why?” (Facebook, 2 June)

Why keep freelancing? A thought-provoking post on the benefits of freelancing from Copyediting.com.

Top 10 proofreading tips (Twitter, 5 June)

Proofreading is a difficult art, especially when you’re trying to check your own writing; here, John Espirian provides 10 proofreading tips to help you correct and improve your work.

Retention (Facebook, 5 June)

An extremely popular link to one of Iva Cheung’s editorial cartoons. We’ve probably all been there!

Word tool to check document structure (Facebook, 9 June)

Focus on the overview of a document by hiding most of the content – on Copyediting.com.

Networking for introverts: how to connect with confidence (Twitter, 10 June)

A detailed post on how to approach networking to make useful connections without sapping your energy or spirit in the process.

How do I cope with the ups and downs of freelance life? – When the work goes away (Twitter, 16 June)

How do I cope with the ups and downs of freelance life? – When there’s too much work (Twitter, 16 June)

While the freelance workflow can be tricky to manage, there are positive things you can do during quiet periods, and when things are too busy – advice from LibroEditing.

Onscreen proofreading tips – Reorganizing your stamps palette in PDF-XChange (Facebook, 18 June)

Louise Harnby explains how to arrange the stamps palette to enable more efficient use of her custom proofreading stamps.

A tool to correct for your biases (Twitter, 18 June)

Thoughts on avoiding bias in writing from John E. McIntyre, with a link to an excellent handout on inclusive language from Sarah Grey.

Swear words, etymology, and the history of English (Facebook, 19 June)

English and German draw their swear words from a shared stock in a way that English and French do not. Given that nearly two thirds of the words in English come from Romance roots and only a quarter from Germanic roots, this seems odd. Oxford Dictionaries investigates …

 

Posted by Liz Jones, SfEP marketing and PR director.

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

 

Working at a treadmill desk

One of the benefits of being a freelancer and working from home is having more control over how I use my time. This presents numerous opportunities for optimising my work–life balance, and recently I started considering practical solutions to the problem of fitting regular exercise into my working day.

I wondered whether a treadmill desk could work for me: I loved the idea of getting exercise while working and not using my free time running or going to the gym (activities I don’t find particularly enjoyable), and was also keen to get away from a sedentary lifestyle slumped over a computer. I now finish each working day having walked around four miles, and it’s a great feeling to relax in the evening guilt-free knowing that I’ve already had a workout!

The first thing to consider is which type of treadmill is right for you: resistance (magnetic) or electronic. I decided that a resistance running machine would be the best option for me, as they are cheaper (my one cost around £90) and more robust (there is no motor so there is less to go wrong). It is also relatively small, and I can fold it away once work is over.

Resistance treadmills are not the typical choice. Stopping/starting and the speed you are walking is driven by you rather than the machine, and you need to steady yourself with at least one hand in order to maintain momentum, but I have found that it is ideal for copy-editing as so much time is spent reading.

While in motion I can do small interventions (a macro shortcut for example) and use a mouse, but for anything that requires two hands or more sustained attention (including drinking a cup of tea) I stop. Much like driving a car or riding a bike, after a while your brain is so used to the motion that you balance and walk quite naturally. A resistance treadmill desk also turns easily into a standing desk, although I find that (perhaps surprisingly) it’s actually more comfortable to walk than to stand for long periods.

If you do a lot of typing then an electronic treadmill might be more suitable. These are more expensive and have motors that eventually burn out, and you need to turn the machine off manually every time you want to stop walking. They are also a lot heavier and bulkier than resistance treadmills.

In setting up my workspace I simply pushed the treadmill up to my desk and raised the laptop, monitor, and mouse using whatever I had to hand. Using a high-resolution monitor and zooming in further than normal I can read just as well as before. If you like DIY then customising your desk more substantially shouldn’t be a problem, and there are plenty of online resources. You can also buy ready-made desks if money is no object.

As well as the obvious health benefits from regular cardiovascular exercise, once I got used to walking all day my posture and flexibility improved and shoulder and back pains abated. However, depending on how enthusiastic you are it can be quite tiring, and it’s advisable to wear loose-fitting clothes and running shoes – this is not the kind of thing you want to do in your slippers!

There is also evidence that treadmill desks help you to concentrate. I have certainly found this to be the case, and as the treadmill is fairly loud it works particularly well with another method I use to improve my productivity – listening to white noise (free noise generators are available online). The impact of low-level background noise is not always obvious, but it constantly (subconsciously) distracts your brain from the job in hand, and by blocking it out my concentration levels are much higher.

In summary, I won’t be going back to a sitting desk. Making this change has proved an effective antidote to the physical stagnation that freelancers working from home can feel – quite frankly it would look out of place in an office, so we are in the perfect position to give it a go!

11663890_10153381080045450_802605348_oDan Harding is a freelance copy-editor, proofreader and digital production specialist, and an Advanced Professional Member of SfEP. He works with authors, publishers, NGOs and professional societies on subjects across the humanities and social/political sciences – please visit the Spartan Eloquence website for more information.

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