Author Archives: Margaret Hunter

Social media round-up – January 2016

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

  1. A new Beatrix Potter story is going to be published, with illustrations by Quentin Blake: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/prh-publish-lost-beatrix-potter-story-320848
  2. Method writing sees novelists immerse themselves in their characters’ lives and minds. Is there such a thing as method editing? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-35379361
  3. The meaning of fairy tales: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/what-to-read/neil-gaiman-on-the-meaning-of-fairy-tales/
  4. How well do you know the dates, months and seasons which feature in Shakespeare’s year? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35171468
  5. 16 elevating resolutions for 2016 inspired by some of humanity’s greatest minds: https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/01/04/resolutions-2016/
  6. How did the months get their names? http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2016/01/months-names/
  7. 10 secrets from inside @TheSfEP social media team, just some of our brilliant volunteers: http://blog.sfep.org.uk/sfep-social-media-teams/
  8. Penguin Random House UK removes degree requirement from job applications: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/prh-removes-degree-requirement-job-applications-320371
  9. Do you want to increase your freelance rates? http://www.elegantthemes.com/blog/tips-tricks/how-to-increase-your-freelance-rates-8-tips
  10. Free word count tools for PDF, Office and text files: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/3-free-word-count-tools-pdf-office-text-files/
  11. 10 top proofreading tips for fiction writers: http://www.writing.ie/resources/top-10-proofreading-tips-for-fiction-writers-by-mary-mccauley/
  12. How to take care of your hands and wrists: http://selfpublishingadvice.org/writing-how-to-take-care-of-your-hands-and-wrists/

Margaret HunterPosted by Margaret Hunter, SfEP marketing and PR director

The views expressed here or in these linked articles do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

Are you the same ‘you’ everywhere – what’s your business identity?

By Margaret Hunter

There’s an interesting discussion at the moment on the SfEP forums about choosing a name for your editing or proofreading business. Should you use your own name to emphasise that your business = you + your particular skills, choose a clever play on editing-related words, or perhaps go for something creative with no hint of what you do to pique interest and act as a conversation starter? Is it better to have a short name that’s easy to spell or go for something that people will remember? There’s a good checklist of things to consider when naming your business in a previous blog post.

That got me thinking though about the other nuggets of good practice when setting up your business that have been shared by fellow editors. What is clear is that it pays to spend some time thinking about your complete business identity – or brand. You may not have thought of yourself as needing a brand before but the businesses that look most professional, however small, are the ones with a consistent look, feel and message, wherever you encounter them.
blank notebook

A strategy for consistency

For starters, answer the following.

  • When did you last update all of your directory entries and social media profiles? Did you even remember that you had an entry in Freeindex or About.me or your local business listings?
  • Do all your profiles use the same photo or logo?
  • Did you perhaps experiment at one point with a quirky avatar that you’ve forgotten about but which still lingers out there on the web?
  • Is your ‘blurb’ consistent – perhaps just tweaked for different platforms?
  • Have you used the same branding on all your business documents – e.g. terms/contract, invoice, style sheet, information for authors?
  • When people visit your website (you do have one, don’t you?) will they recognise you as the same person/business that they’ve seen on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn?

Housekeeping your online presence

When prospective clients search for you online, what will they find? Have you clearly separated your personal online presence from that of your business? Crucially, is there anything from your business or personal past that you’d rather people didn’t now see? Member of the SfEP Julie Marksteiner, who started the conversation on business names, has a good strategy:

‘The first thing I did when I decided to go freelance was to Google my name, which resulted in deleting a lot of old social media accounts and cringeworthy photographs. Would rather prospective clients take notice of my proofreading, not the Myspace account from my “emo phase”!’

Resources to help

Copy-editor and proofreader Mary McCauley has a wealth of tips and resources about branding and marketing yourself as a freelancer on her blog. And if you’re serious about revamping your business identity and marketing strategy you also could get hold of proofreader Louise Harnby’s book Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.

Margaret HunterMargaret Hunter (daisyeditorial.co.uk) is a freelance copy-editor, proofreader and book formatter, and is also marketing and PR director of the SfEP.

Proofread by Advanced Professional Member Liz Jones

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

Leather sofas and cakes – my first experience of the SfEP local groups

The SfEP has 39 local and regional networking groups where editorial professionals come together for support, knowledge sharing, visits to places of bookish interest… and quite often eating cake or having a glass or two of wine! David Smith has just attended his first SfEP group meeting in Glasgow and shares his experience with us here.

cakes at Glasgow SfEP local group

Photo © David Smith

Leather sofas, real coffee, home baking and an inviting ambient atmosphere all created an ideal setting for my first local SfEP meeting. This was the Glasgow group’s first meeting in its new location, the Singl-end café and bakehouse (@thesinglend).

I didn’t attend the old venue, but I would be surprised if it was as good as this one.

The 16 attendees sat on the sumptuous leather in a small room off the main area. The meeting was opened with introductions to welcome the newer members.

This was followed by an informative and entertaining report of a recent course on gaining work from non-publishers. The members who gave the report had travelled from Edinburgh, highlighting how the groups generously help each other.

Next up for discussion was how to make the monthly meeting more accessible to more members. A survey will be distributed to gauge preferences regarding times and location.

The majority are freelance and are more able to rearrange work to attend during the week; however, for employees, like me, the midweek daytime schedule prevents regular attendance.

An evening meeting would cause problems for those with childcare concerns, and the evenings are not always the best after a busy day at work. It is always a difficult balance to get right. It must suit those who shoulder the organisational burden, as without those heroes the meetings may not happen at all.

Next a member raised a question she had about a work issue. This prompted plenty of advice from those who knew, and added to the knowledge of those who didn’t.

There seemed to be a vast range of expertise in the group, and all were helpful in offering advice where required. The benefits of such a group are legion. From expertise on a variety of work-related problems to simple networking with your peers.

This point cannot be overstated for those in a predominately solitary profession. It is good to get out and to practise your social skills, and if those you practise with also understand your predicament, so much the better. It can be all too easy to suffer in isolation, but there is no reason to when you have an active local SfEP group like the Glasgow one.

I was made to feel very welcome, and the two hours passed far too quickly. It would be a regular date for me if I could manage it, but I may have to keep in touch via the second best option, the forum.

The meetings are thoroughly recommended, and if you are able to attend it is well worth the effort.

David SmithDavid Smith is currently employed as a technical author and works as a copy-editor, proofreader and article writer. He likes being outdoors, but dislikes British winters.

If you are not yet a member of the SfEP but would like to find out more by attending your local group (sfep.org.uk/networking/local/groups), you may go along to three meetings as a non-member. We hope you’ll be so impressed that you’ll sign up for membership straight away!

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

Specialist Q&A – oceanography and medicine

Specialist Q&AOur editorial industry is made up of people carrying out a huge range of tasks across many different sectors. Although we are bound by common aims – to make text consistent, accurate and clear – our chosen areas of work can differ in fascinating ways.

Cathryn Primrose-Mathisen is an onscreen copy-editor. She has answered some questions on her main specialisms: oceanography and medicine.

  1. Briefly, what’s your work background?

Following university, I worked for Fugro GEOS/OCEANOR for 14 years. I was involved in metocean measurement and real-time monitoring projects, holding roles such as project/sales manager in Trondheim, operations manager in Houston, and senior oceanographer in Singapore. I also completed many fieldwork visits, installing and servicing instrumentation on moorings and offshore platforms, as well as reporting the results and presenting them at conferences. I worked with very different clients, such as oil and gas companies, governmental organisations and universities. In terms of medicine, when I was younger I used to work in the summer holidays at the health centre where my mother worked as a GP.

I have been freelance copy-editing/proofreading for about six years. I specialise in science, technology, business and medicine. I have copy-edited numerous scientific articles both pre- and post-submission to journals, and I have copy-edited books about, for example, climate change, marine ecology, earthquake engineering, international relations and clinical diabetes. Over the past five years I have worked with a local doctor providing English language review of his PhD thesis as well as articles that have been published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders and the BMJ.

  1. How long have you specialised in this particular kind of editorial work, and how did you get started?

I have specialised in these areas for most of my freelance career. Initially, I took The Publishing Training Centre’s ‘Basic proofreading by distance learning’ course and joined the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). I marketed myself as a proofreader, emphasising my academic qualifications (MSc Oceanography, BSc (Hons) Geography) and the subject areas I studied at university (climate change, palaeoceanography, geopolitics, culture etc.). It soon became clear that I was a more natural copy-editor and that I had a broad range of both academic and commercial experience. A couple of my proofreading clients asked whether I would like to do some onscreen copy-editing work and it grew from there. I studied Barbara Horn’s Copy-Editing and decided to supplement my knowledge of MS Word by taking the SfEP’s ‘Onscreen editing 1’ course. I plan to take the level 2 course when I can.

  1. What specific knowledge, experience or qualifications do you need?

A sufficient academic grounding enables you to know whether the flow of a text is correct for the fields in which you specialise, helps you to communicate with the authors, and helps you to spot obvious mistakes. My master’s degree has helped me to obtain projects, but it is not a prerequisite for all clients.

One of my best commercial clients contacted me specifically because I had spent a great deal of time working offshore on oil rigs. They knew that I was familiar with the stringent health, safety and environment procedures found there. Similarly, one of the PhD theses that I copy-edited last year was about project management, and the client contacted me because of my previous commercial experience.

A close family member has diabetes type 1 and uses an insulin pump. The system is similar in many ways to the real-time metocean monitoring systems that I installed for Fugro, and we troubleshoot it in the same way.

  1. How do you go about finding work in this area?

I started by approaching some of the larger academic publishers and replying to job announcements sent via the SfEP. Over the years I have built up my experience and have maintained a good relationship with my clients, leading to repeat work.

I upgraded my SfEP membership so that I could obtain a directory entry and have received some good leads from different types of clients in this way. I have also experimented with other directories, finding some more suitable than others.

My aim is to continue to expand my commercial base. I have attended the SfEP’s ‘Getting work with non-publishers’ course, which has helped me to clarify my goals. I will soon be working with a local business mentor to help me build my business network in the cities closest to where I live, and I have also joined my nearest chamber of commerce (Norwegian equivalent of). Last year I attended the Aqua Nor conference in Trondheim, Norway, and this year I will be attending the Oceanology conference in London. I am fortunate that our local business development organisation Bindal Utvikling AS is providing some financial support.

  1. What do you most enjoy about the work?

I enjoy being able to make use of my university and work experience to help clients from around the world. I particularly enjoy copy-editing articles about data collection during fieldwork and the subsequent presentation and analysis of results.

  1. What are the particular challenges?

Cross-referencing many pages of tag numbers proved ‘interesting’, but I found that the key was to develop and apply a clear and logical sequence of actions.

  1. What’s the worst job you’ve had – and/or the best?

The worst job I had was really two and this was very early on in my freelance career. I naively accepted two large proofreads that overlapped and I did not anticipate delays with the first one. This led to very long days and nights.

  1. What tips would you give to someone wanting to work in this field?

Do not overestimate your potential earnings. Also remember that you may not be able to focus properly for more than about four to five hours a day on a long-term basis.

  1. What is the pay like – and are there any other perks?

Pay from my commercial clients is generally higher than from my publishing clients. I aim for balance in my work and family life, and I enjoy going for a walk in the hills at lunchtime.

  1. What other opportunities do you think editorial work in this area might lead to?

Over the next few years I will increase the marketing of my rewriting and website copy-editing skills. I shall also continue to reach out towards the aquaculture industry, where my skills and experience can also be used.

I have recently completed my own print-on-demand book of landscape photographs and have used design software to compile a recipe booklet for fundraising for a school class.

Cathryn Primrose-MathisenCathryn Primrose-Mathisen is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP, specialising in science, technology, business and medicine for everyone from individuals to multinationals. Following a successful commercial oceanographic career around the world she now lives in Norway and helps others to acquire more customers, sell more products and services and/or present clear safety and technical information or scientific results. She walks wherever and whenever possible. Find out more at: www.cathrynprimrose.com, www.sfep.org.uk/directory/cathryn-primrose-mathisen and www.linkedin.com/in/cathrynprimrose

Proofread by SfEP Professional Member Christina Harkness

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

10 things you didn’t know about the SfEP social media teams

By Julia Sandford-Cooke

With more than 13,500 Facebook ‘Likes’ and 5,000 Twitter followers, the SfEP social media accounts are a popular way of promoting the Society to a wider audience.

But do you know what goes on behind the scenes of our Facebook and Twitter accounts? Have you ever wondered who the digital ninjas anonymously posting links are? Well, social media team members have kindly allowed me to expose their true identities and reveal a few social secrets.
social media

  1. Members of the Twitter team each post on a particular day of the week

The team is Cheryl Brant, Richard Sheehan, Sarah Perkins, Alison Walters and Anna Nolan, who are committed to a particular day every week. They will also respond to any direct Twitter communications on the day they are on duty.

  1. Members of the Facebook team each post for a week, on a rota

This means we are responsible for posting each working day for a week, every five or six weeks. The team is Dan Harding, Jayne MacArthur, Becca Wells and me. There is currently a vacancy for a fifth person.

Margaret Hunter, marketing and PR director, ably and patiently oversees both teams.

  1. We’re all volunteers

We’re not elected to a committee or paid for our time. We are all at different stages of our editorial careers but we feel it is important to actively support the work of the SfEP.

Anna says, “When I first got involved with the team, I had not long before joined the SfEP and had not started work as a proofreader or copy-editor, whatsoever. I was an absolute newbie, coming from a non-publishing background and in need of training. I did know how to use social media and loved the idea of helping out the SfEP and keeping updated with the latest ideas and developments in the editing/publishing world.”

Dan and Jayne agree. Dan says, “This is the best way for me to keep engaged with SfEP on a regular basis.”

I’ve been in the team for a few years now and think of it as an enjoyable bit of community service that fits in well with my other commitments. My nearest local SfEP group is at an inconvenient place and time but being on the Facebook admin team means I can help my professional society and share ideas with other editors without even leaving my desk!

  1. We usually share posts beforehand

We use a closed Facebook group to post suggested links or ask questions. Like the rest of the team, if a link catches my eye, I’ll post it to the group even if it’s not my week, in case the person on duty can make use of it. We choose our favourite links from here and either post them live or (more likely) schedule them each day.

The function of the SfEP’s social media pages is to provide links to useful or entertaining posts about books, language, editing and proofreading while acknowledging the achievements of our members and, of course, promoting the work of the SfEP. External links are interspersed with links to the SfEP website and blog, so that those who have discovered us only via our social media streams can find out more about the SfEP and perhaps even become members.

We try to post a range of different subjects, styles and sources but you may notice links from certain sites coming up regularly – that’s because they are so good (for example, we might as well link to every post written by Rich Adin and his network of contributors on the An American Editor blog!).

That said, linking to an external post does not necessarily endorse it. Although we try to promote only good-quality posts that uphold the SfEP’s values, some readers may disagree. Quality is subjective and we can’t take responsibility for others’ mistakes. In any case, sometimes we link to posts that we simply enjoy and think our readers will also appreciate, and hope that they will forgive the occasional typo in content we cannot amend.

While we do our best to help anyone who contacts us, we are not a job board. We direct people asking for quotes for work or proofreader recommendations to the SfEP website and/or directory.

  1. We are truly international

Perhaps surprisingly, about a third (4,600) of our Facebook fans are from the USA, with about 3,000 from the UK. Next come India, Canada, Australia and South Africa, with Brazil and the Philippines close behind in terms of numbers. Spanish and Portuguese speakers are our biggest non-English language audience. Although we are a British-based society, we try to bear this cultural variety in mind, for example by posting links that may be of particular interest to Canadians and Americans later in the day.

  1. We agonise over errors – and alleged errors

When we write a post, we check and check again… and check again. We’re painfully aware of how it appears to readers if the SfEP’s posts have typos. But sometimes, as with any project, errors slip through when we are juggling paid work and other commitments with our admin roles. Believe us when we say we cringe and put it right as soon as we realise.

Anna says (and I agree): “I am mortified when I realise too late I’ve made an error – and feel even worse when someone points it out.” We beg a little patience from those who are quick to point out mistakes. We’re only human and we’d prefer comments to focus on the content of the links, not the introductory copy.

And sometimes, as we know, errors are in the eye of the beholder.

What’s more, on Twitter in particular, we have only a few characters to get over a sense of a link – sometimes this necessitates a simpler introduction than we’d like. If the post isn’t to your taste, move on – we’ll be posting another very soon.

  1. We don’t have a stylesheet – gasp!

Yes, we’re editorial rebels. While we use standard British punctuation and spelling, it was decided early on that to impose a style sheet on all the posts would be too arduous for posts that are essentially intended to be fleeting and for editors and proofreaders in the team who already have enough stylesheets to follow.

I have to admit, however, that I sometimes rephrase introductions to avoid en rules (which are difficult to use on a web interface) or complex punctuation.

And, for the record, I hyphenate ‘copy-editing’ after the style of Judith Butcher’s handbook but other team members may use ‘copyediting’ or ‘copy editing’ – all are correct.

  1. We take the Friday funny very seriously

Regular followers of our Facebook page may enjoy our Friday afternoon tradition of posting an editorial cartoon or meme. I really struggle to find appropriate funnies that haven’t been all over the web already but luckily my colleagues are always on hand to provide suggestions. Recent popular posts (not posted by me) include Snoopy’s attempts to write a novel and tips for procrastination.

laughingOver on Twitter, if you’ve engaged with the SfEP over the week, perhaps by retweeting or responding to a post, or if you’re a member of the SfEP, you may find yourself featured in a #FF (Friday Follow).

  1. We learn a lot

We don’t volunteer purely out of the goodness of our hearts – an element of continuing professional development is key.

Richard says, “It feels good doing something to contribute and it also keeps me up to date with what’s being posted online around the internet.”

Sarah says, “I reckon being on the team makes me keep reading blogs and finding out new things. If I didn’t have to find something each week, I wouldn’t get round to keeping up to date.”

Dan adds, “Being involved in sourcing and posting content is a great motivator and helps me to keep up to date with articles that I wouldn’t otherwise read.”

And, obviously, it’s a great excuse to browse the web.

As Cheryl says, “It’s a good way to take a break from a project without feeling guilty about web browsing when you should be working.”

  1. We’re always looking for more volunteers

The formula of posting links to external content and to the SfEP website and blog works well. A few people have even told us that our social media feeds are among the best they’ve seen from an organisation like ours. We’re delighted to receive such positive feedback and are proud of what we achieve as a team.

Anna says, “I love being part of a friendly, helpful and communicative team. I think we all work well together and there is a really strong sense of cohesion among us!”

Sounds like fun? Contact Margaret Hunter on marketingpr@sfep.org.uk if you are a member of the SfEP and would like to volunteer for the social media team or find out more.

Julia Sandford-CookeJulia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications (www.wordfire.co.uk) is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP. When she’s not hanging out with other editors (on Facebook and in real life), she authors and edits textbooks, writes digital copy, proofreads anything that’s put in front of her and posts short book reviews on her blog, Ju’s Reviews.

 

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

The SfEP blog’s best bits 2015

By Margaret Hunter
2015 review

The SfEP blog highlights

We’ve covered a lot of ground in the SfEP blog posts over the past year, and there are lots of great tips and advice for editors and proofreaders, as well as some thought-provoking opinions. In case you missed them, or just for the chance to read them again, here is my pick of the highlights, plus the rest of 2015’s ‘best bits’.

Best of the rest

If you would like to write a post for the SfEP blog in 2016, don’t be shy! You can see that we cover a wide range of topics from advice and tips, to professional development and musings on freelance life. We also welcome guest posts from non-members. See the how to contribute page for more information.

Margaret HunterMargaret Hunter is the SfEP marketing and PR director

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

Reasons to be cheerful about freelance home working

By Lesley Ellen

Sitting at the computer in my home office and looking out the window on this wildly wet and windy morning, I can’t help reflecting on how lucky I am to be able to work from home as a freelance editor.

When I recently took voluntary redundancy after working in local government – for, well, let’s just say more than 20 years – I knew I didn’t want to return to the commuter treadmill, trundling into an office every day to work fixed hours under the watchful eyes of a boss – a boss who wasn’t me. Having done a fair bit of writing and editing throughout my career, the world of proofreading and copy-editing appealed to me, and two years on with some training and work under my belt (but still a great deal to learn), I can say that I haven’t regretted for a single minute taking this up as a second career.

Earlier this year, I was lured back to the corporate world to work two days a week to help out with a maternity cover. The work has been interesting, my colleagues are lovely and the organisation is located in stunning parkland in one of Edinburgh’s most beautiful, hidden areas, where lunchtime walks amongst this year’s especially glorious autumn trees made me very grateful to be outdoors and away from either of my desks. But now that the weather has turned and with my contract ending in just a few days, I can’t wait to huddle down indoors and focus full-time on my editing career.

Never again the early morning bus ride in the dark, followed by the return journey also in the dark – commuting in Scotland in the winter months is invariably in the dark. Just as I do on the days I’m currently at home, I’ll be able to get up at a time that suits my own schedule and cast a sympathetic glance at neighbours scurrying out to work while I put the kettle on and settle down in my cosy study.

freedom to work outsideWith my son living away at university and my husband out at work, the house is my domain and, being my own boss, I can fit my schedule to suit looming deadlines and other necessary tasks. If I need to, I can work five or six hours, or even more (with the appropriate health breaks of course) to meet a deadline. I can take time off to clean the bathroom (I have to be working on a particularly dull project for that task to appeal). Or, instead of furtively looking at live results on my phone, I can take time out to watch a tennis match on TV (something that does appeal, at least until we get into the long drawn-out torture of the typical Andy Murray match). If I want to make that time up by working later at night, then that’s my choice. In the summer, I can break up my working day with an hour pottering in the garden or just eating my lunch outside – weather permitting naturally.

I don’t need to ask for time off for holidays. As long as I let my regular clients know that I’m going to be away and don’t take on any extra projects, I can take my holidays whenever I want; no more agonising over whose turn it is to staff the office during the Christmas/New Year period. I don’t need to worry about how to fill the hours on a slow day in the office or about getting stressed that I didn’t manage to do everything I needed to because I kept getting interrupted by colleagues and phone calls. (That’s not to say I don’t get stressed when up against a looming deadline at home, but I’d say it’s a different kind of stress.) And of course, I don’t need to get involved in any office politics.

Getting support from ‘virtual colleagues’

Sure, there can be downsides to working from home. Some people can find it isolating and you do have to take care of your health and ensure that you don’t sit at that screen all day long without regular breaks. You might miss the chat at the coffee machine, and something I do miss from time to time is the opportunity to stick my head above my computer and say to a colleague: ‘You know when you’re trying to format a document and Word won’t let you … How do you fix it?’ Or, ‘In a sentence like this, can you say …?’ But the fix for this, as a member of the SfEP, is to log in to the SfEP forums where you can ask these questions, even if you do feel a bit stupid sometimes, and you’ll get a sensible reply, usually within minutes. It never fails to amaze me just how generous members are with their time and their advice. And using the forums does make you feel like you are part of a community.

Access to the forums is one of the major benefits of being an SfEP member, but for me the biggest benefit is being a member of the local SfEP group. Our group has only been running for just over a year, but I already count members of it as friends and colleagues with whom it’s wonderful to share experiences and information. I have learned and continue to learn so much from them, both longstanding SfEP members and newer entrants. Our group seems to be going from strength to strength and we have much to look forward to in the year ahead.

So, as Christmas and the end of the year approach, I’m thankful for the working opportunities I’ve had this year, both as a part-time employee and as a freelance editor, but I’m gearing up for a new year of opportunities and relishing the chance to be my own boss, fully focused on my editing career and working from home.

Lesley EllenLesley Ellen (www.elleneditorial.com) is a Professional Member of the SfEP and coordinator of the SfEP’s local Edinburgh group. She has a background in modern languages and previously worked in local government where she wrote and edited all manner of business documents and communications. As a freelance editor, Lesley specialises in academic copy-editing and editing for non-publishers.

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

Specialist Q&A – Linguistics

Specialist Q&AOur editorial industry is made up of people carrying out a huge range of tasks across many different sectors. Although we are bound by common aims – to make text consistent, accurate and clear – our chosen areas of work can differ in fascinating ways.

Sue Browning is a freelance proofreader and copy-editor. She has answered some questions on her main specialism: linguistics.

  1. Briefly, what’s your work background?

I have a degree in linguistics and spent 22 years in speech technology research, first in academia and then for a government research establishment. I started freelance editing in 2005, and have worked on a range of humanities subjects as well as linguistics.

  1. How long have you specialised in this particular kind of editorial work, and how did you get started?

I’ve been editing linguistics right from the start of my editing career. My early work came mainly from students, through ex-colleagues in academia, advertising on free online directory sites like Freelance Proofreaders, and then by word of mouth. Later, a project management company for which I was already copy-editing a range of subjects happened to ask about specialisms, and since then I have edited many academic linguistics books for them.
phonetics

  1. What specific knowledge, experience or qualifications do you need?

Linguistics is a huge field, encompassing everything from phonetics and phonology (the sounds) to pragmatics and discourse analysis (entire conversations or even larger language elements), to parts of cognitive science and psychology, and it helps to be familiar with the terminology and conventions of all these different fields. My specialism is phonetics and phonology, so I need a good working knowledge of the phonetic symbols and how to code them so they print correctly.

  1. How do you go about finding work in this area?

I started by making sure that academics I had worked with in linguistics departments knew I was an editor, and that brought me work on linguistics PhDs and occasionally for academics preparing papers for journals. Most of my work now comes by word of mouth or repeat business with existing clients. So I just make sure that relevant clients know my specialisms and that all my online profiles mention linguistics.

  1. What do you most enjoy about the work?

Learning! I’ve recently edited a number of books on evolutionary linguistics, which wasn’t a thing when I studied linguistics, so it was entirely new to me and I find it fascinating. I also love learning how speakers of other languages view the world. Did you know, for instance, that while speakers of Indo-European languages (like English) talk of events in the past as behind them and those in the future as in front of them, speakers of Aymara, an Amerind language that privileges knowledge gained at first hand, talk about past events as in front of them, so open to inspection, and future events as behind them, so not visible. That kind of blew my mind when I first read about it.

  1. What are the particular challenges?

I’m not sure there are any particular challenges. Being interested and knowledgeable about language, most linguists write pretty well, even non-native speakers, but they make the same lapses that all authors do. Sometimes an author will use a specialist phonetic font that gets mangled in the pre-processing so I need to be able to spot that and check what it should be with the author. Wrangling linguistic examples so they align correctly can be tricky too.

  1. What’s the worst job you’ve had – and/or the best?

Like most editors, I’ve had nightmare jobs, but it is rarely because they are linguistics books! I also edit fiction, and one of the jobs I enjoyed the most was for a sci-fi author who had made up an alien language. We had great fun making sure it was internally consistent.

  1. What tips would you give to someone wanting to work in this field?

Make use of any links you have with people in the field, and tell people about your specialist areas.

Oh, and while linguistics gives you a great understanding of what grammar is and how language works, you still need the basic training in editing and proofreading.

I find that a knowledge of linguistics sometimes helps in explaining the need for a change and it also helps counter some of the ridiculous pet peeves you might come across (like those that Geoff Pullum spoke so entertainingly about at the 2015 conference).

  1. What is the pay like – and are there any other perks?

The pay is pretty typical for the academic humanities, i.e. not great. I do it more for the pleasure of being able to read fascinating books by erudite authors, and I have to confess I get a particular thrill from editing books by my linguistic heroes.

  1. What other opportunities do you think editorial work in this area might lead to?

A knowledge of linguistics is very useful for teaching English to both native learners and non-native speakers, and I edit in these fields too.

Sue BrowningSue Browning is a Professional Member of the SfEP, specialising in copy-editing linguistics and other humanities and social sciences. She mainly works on books for academic publishers but also edits for individual academics and authors. As well as prowling the halls of academia, she also walks on alien planets, editing sci-fi and fantasy fiction.

Website: www.suebrowning-editing.co.uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SueBrowning_ed

LinkedIn: uk.linkedin.com/in/SueBrowningEditing

 

Proofread by SfEP Professional Member Louise Lubke Cuss (WordBlink)

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

Beyond the proofreader’s remit?

By Liz Jones

When proofreading materials for book and journal publishers, we are not always presented with a thorough brief and there is often a tacit understanding of what the role of the proofreader includes … and what it does not include. The SfEP sets out some commonly understood responsibilities of the proofreader and the copy-editor in the traditional publishing process. However, it’s apparent that these roles are becoming increasingly fuzzy in the academic publishing world.

Recently a discussion arose in the SfEP forums on the thorny topic of whether a proofreader should check references in an academic book as a matter of course, and exactly what that checking should entail. The original poster referred to a proofreader being expected by a client (an academic publisher) to cross-check a reference list against the in-text citations. Many experienced editors weighed in on the debate, and gradually a consensus emerged. The general understanding was that such detailed checking of references should be part of the copy-editor’s role, not the proofreader’s. In an ideal world the proofreader would then simply need to read the reference list, checking for small inconsistencies of styling or typos. Several posters said they would perform spot-checks of a few citations during such a proofread to ensure that the reference list seems to be in accord with the main body of the text. It was also pointed out that it is certainly not the proofreader’s job to check the factual accuracy of references, or even that authors’ names are spelled correctly.

work stressThe problems start when a proofreader finds (perhaps through performing spot-checks) that the references have not been properly edited, or that other errors are present, perhaps as a result of formatting. In more extreme cases the proofreader may suspect that the text and associated references have not been copy-edited at all. In this case, the proofreader is presented with a difficult choice:

  1. They can carry out the proofread as briefed and within budget, but without doing any work that might be considered beyond the remit of the proofreader. The proofreader knows that some errors are likely to remain, but decides it is not their responsibility to make the text perfect, and is not willing to reduce their hourly rate to compensate for shortcomings earlier in the publishing process.
  2. They can go beyond the standard proofreader’s remit in order to bring the book up to a publishable standard. This means the proofreader carries out a proportion of what might be considered ‘higher-level’ copy-editing work, while being paid as a proofreader. It may also entail significantly more time being spent on the job, reducing the hourly rate still further.

Neither of these solutions is ideal. As editorial professionals we tend to be hard-wired to want to help the client produce excellent work … but at the same time, as business owners we don’t want to be taken advantage of.

What should make a proofreader wary?

Sara Peacock, former chair of the SfEP, provided examples of the problems she sometimes encounters as a proofreader:

  • None of the citations cross-checked against the references list.
  • References wildly inconsistently presented, with lots of missing information.
  • Bullet lists inconsistently presented, in terms of capitalisation and punctuation.
  • Figures not correlating to text in terms of style and sometimes content, or the text referring to coloured portions when the figures are reproduced monochrome.
  • Inconsistent capitalisation in headings.
  • Lists of what is to come in the text not corresponding with the text that actually follows.

These are clearly the responsibility of the copy-editor, but as a proofreader, we do not know the reasons behind problems we may find with copy-edited text.

Experienced editor, trainer and long-standing SfEP member Melanie Thompson made the point that errors might be ‘potentially down to problems of the files not being imported correctly (tracked changes carrying across by mistake) … Could the author have been given back the [copy-edited] file and undone a lot of the good work? And then of course there’s the possibility that the publisher/client never had the material copy-edited in the first place …’

Veteran editor and SfEP member Kathleen Lyle pointed out that ‘one problem is that things can happen to the references in the gap between copy-editing and proofreading – for example, an author may decide to add some new references to bring a chapter up to date. Depending on the publisher’s workflow this new material may be dealt with in-house and not be seen by the copy-editor; this could well cause discrepancies of style or content between text and list. As a proofreader I’d expect to pick up discrepancies of style in the text or list, and cross-check any strange-looking items.’

From these comments alone it is clear that text may appear badly edited for a number of reasons, including lack of time and budget, or technical glitches. There is also the possibility that the copy-editor lacked training, or tried to get away with providing substandard work due to other pressures. It is also a fact that many in-house editors and project managers are very pushed for time and may not be able to closely monitor and assess the work of all their suppliers on every job. (I say this as a former in-house editor.)

What can we do?

If we find ourselves presented with poorly edited text as a proofreader, there is a third way (beyond the stark dilemma presented above).

First, we can establish the brief. Gillian Clarke, trainer to many editors over several decades via the SfEP and the PTC, said simply that ‘it is hugely important to establish from the very beginning exactly what the client wants’. This can help at whatever stage in the process we are working. If the client hasn’t provided a clear brief, consider sending them your own checklist of tasks covered by proofreading (and not).

Assuming that the brief is clear, you can then try the following if presented with text from a publisher that needs a lot more attention than a straightforward proofread.

  • Assess the work: Does the budget cover what you need to do? Is it within your capabilities in the time allowed? If the answer to these questions is yes, and the job is fairly self-contained, you might decide in that case simply to get on with it and provide feedback for the publisher along with delivery of the completed work.
  • Raise the issue: If the budget and schedule do not allow for satisfactory completion of the job, or if you feel the work goes beyond what you are comfortable doing – in short, if there is any reason why you think a job is not possible within the given parameters – tell the client straight away, and wait for their response before proceeding. If they don’t answer first time, try again – this is important.
  • Ask for more money/time: If the client can offer more of either or both, the issue might be resolved in the short term, enabling you to complete the job.
  • Adopt a pragmatic attitude: If the client will not budge on money or the schedule, and you decide to proceed with the work, be strict with yourself about what you can and can’t do with the available resources, make sure the client is aware of this, do the job and move on.

However you deal with the job, you should make it clear in your handover notes to the client what the editorial shortcomings were when the project reached you, and what you had to do as a result. Be clear and matter-of-fact about the ways in which you needed to go above and beyond in order to complete your work, without making assumptions or personal attacks. You need to do this because the client might otherwise remain unaware of the issue. However, you don’t need to start telling them what to do with this information.

Questioning clients and (re)negotiating rates can be daunting, especially for newer proofreaders and editors. It’s also tempting for proofreaders just starting out to go above and beyond to try to impress new clients and secure future work. This is where discussion in the SfEP forums, on other online platforms or with your local group can help enormously.

Summary

This really all boils down to the simple question of whether the proofreader should have to compensate for inadequate copy-editing. It’s the client’s budget or yours – something has to give.

However, it also has wider implications for our industry, perhaps most pressingly in the academic publishing sector. A lack of investment in careful editing by trained professionals may help publishers balance the books in the short term, but the eventual outcome will surely be a drop in the overall quality of output, and a growing reluctance among the more experienced proofreaders to work for certain clients at all, which would surely be much more detrimental in the long term.

Next controversial topic: how far should a proofreader go in checking an index …?

Liz JonesLiz Jones (www.ljed.co.uk) has worked as an editor in the publishing industry since 1998, and has been freelance since 2008. She specialises in trade non-fiction and educational publishing, and is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP.

 

 

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

Christmas gifts for book and word lovers

OK, so I ranted to friends the other week about seeing a giant inflatable Santa outside our local garden centre BEFORE HALLOWEEN, but even I have to admit that we’re now pushing towards December and haven’t got much time left for buying presents by post. So here are some ideas for Christmas gifts for your fellow grammar nerds word lovers, or to add to your own letters to Santa…

  1. Harris tweed pencil case: https://folksy.com/items/4214762-Harris-Tweed-pencil-case-zippered-pouch-in-mustard-and-steel-grey-checkHarris tweed pencil case
  2. Quotation mark earrings: https://www.etsy.com/listing/255810856/earrings-quotation-speech-marks-bookquotation marks earrings
  3. Banned books socks: http://www.theliterarygiftcompany.com/banned-books-socks-48474-p.aspbanned books socks
  4. Recycled wood fountain pen: http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/auraque/product/morley-recycled-wood-fountain-penrecycled wood fountain pen
  5. Alice in Wonderland cushion: https://www.etsy.com/listing/235304408/alice-in-wonderland-throw-pillow-choose?ref=shop_home_active_8Alice in Wonderland cushion
  6. Book in the bath caddy: http://www.theliterarygiftcompany.com/aquala-bath-caddy-3157-p.aspbath caddy
  7. Your name in crochet: https://folksy.com/items/4391633-Your-Name-in-Crochet-6-letters-e-g-ALEXIA-BARNEY-DANIEL-RACHELyour name in crochet
  8. Great British ‘bark-off’ apron: http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/sweetwilliamdesigns/product/jack-russell-great-british-bark-off-apronGreat British Bark-off apron
  9. Letter cookie cutters: http://www.bodleianshop.co.uk/gifts/gifts-for-writers/letterpressed-cookie-cutters.htmlletters cookie cutters
  10. Book phone case: https://folksy.com/items/6318591-Book-Phone-Case-for-iPhone-4-4S-5-5S-5C-6-6-Plus-and-Samsung-Galaxy-S3-S4books phone case

Happy shopping!

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

Margaret Hunter

 

Posted by Margaret Hunter, SfEP marketing and PR director.