Category Archives: In-house life

Posts about working in publishing houses.

My life in publishing

By Alysoun Owen

‘Publishing a book is like stuffing a note into a bottle and hurling it into the sea.’
Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is expressing her views as an author of course in the above quotation, but it might just as well have been uttered by a publisher or an editor: a variant on the ‘publish and be damned’ theme. A strange maxim on which one’s whole working life has been based! And by one, I mean ME and my living and breathing of all things literary and publishing related for, ahem, the last 25 years. Ah, the wonderfully inexact, mercurial world of publishing, a put-your-finger-in-the-air, test-the-waters, wait-and-see sort of profession.

As we publish the 110th edition of the great red tome, all 816 pages of it, that is the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook (on 28th July), I’ve been reflecting on the two strands of my life and career that have led me to my current role as editor of the Yearbook: the love of literature and desire to see the best possible writing made available to the many combined with a need to get things right – to create saleable ‘products’ that are accurate, reliable and economically viable. Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2017That’s what we hope to achieve with the Yearbook: a successful book that readers, in their tens of thousands, want and need (what Susan Hill calls ‘the writer’s Bible’ and Deborah Levy, who penned this year’s foreword, describes as ‘full of information that all writers need to know’). A book that is full of reliable, factual information: who to contact at a book publisher or literary agency, how to write an agent submission, mastering social media, the dos and don’ts of self-publishing, copyright, tax and other financial advice AND which brings together the words of wisdom of great writers who were once themselves debut novelists, poets, screenwriters, journalists … to inspire each new generation of writers and illustrators who wish to try their luck in the turbulent waters of publishing; hurling their own message in a bottle into the high seas.

I started my own publishing life when I was little, making up little books of stories when I was a child. Not very good stories: I was always much better at collating my sister’s efforts and illustrating them into a creative whole than being an author. I was blessed: I lived in a house lined with bookshelves and chatter that was often about books and plays. My mother was an English teacher. My father, now I think about it and fittingly for a blog on the SfEP site (see the BSI symbols for proof-marks), worked for the British Standards Institute (BSI); he was an electrical engineer and concerned himself with international safety standards in that field. Often in the evenings, my mother would be sat marking or editing her pupils’ work at the kitchen table, whilst my father sat at his desk reviewing and revising (i.e. proofing and editing) the latest Standard. You could say it was no real surprise that I would then opt to take a degree in English Language and Literature: a three-year scamper through the literary canon from Beowulf to Woolf (with a smattering of more modern American writings thrown in). From university, I spent six months learning from experts how to print, desk-top publish, take photos, bind books and most relevantly to copy-edit and proofread using the correct marks. Armed with a degree in English, a diploma in Publishing and my trusty red and blue manuscript-correcting biros, I began my career shepherding hundreds of titles for students of literature in Longman’s Higher Education Division. What a delight to actually be working with and editing the texts of former tutors and the writers of edited texts and critical editions that I had relied on so heavily as a student.

Each of my subsequent roles in the industry has contributed to my present position: from Longman I headed to OUP to desk edit and then commission notable reference titles: The Oxford Companion to English Literature, The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, The Oxford Companion to Wine … and one of my proudest and most lucrative (for OUP that is!) commissions, celebrating the magic of words, Simon Winchester’s The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Forays into online publishing at the dawn of a new era of digital publishing, establishing a publishing consultancy and project management company and working with publishers large and small in a new freelance capacity offered me the chance to experience all sorts of editorial and strategic avenues: coming up with new ideas for print and digital propositions, establishing teams of freelance editors, project managers and designers residing in far-flung places, but working collectively to make each print book or ebook or CD or website the best it could be. I love being in charge of my own destiny, professionally speaking, not allied exclusively to any one employer. Yes, freelance life can be precarious, but highly rewarding and flexible. Which takes me back to the Yearbook – which I edit for Bloomsbury from January to June each year with a band of expert editors: as a group we commission, collect and collate the content for each new edition. It reminds me how lucky I am to be working in such a field.

Photography by Paul Wilkinson Photography Ltd.Alysoun Owen is the editor of the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook and the Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. She has worked in publishing for 25 years, runs her own publishing consultancy business and is a regular speaker at literary festivals on how to get published. For advice, news, blogs and details of editorial services and events, visit www.writersandartists.co.uk.

 

SfEP members get a discount when buying the WAYB or CWAYB. Click on the book image above or go to benefits in the members’ area of the website.

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

Round-up of the ten most popular SfEP social media posts in January

SfEP logoSocial media moves very quickly, and the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds are no different. So, to ensure you don’t miss out, here’s a summary of our ten most popular posts in January:

  1. What is the Oxford comma and why do people care about it so much? Grammarly blog. (Posted on Facebook and Twitter 6 January.)
  2. Marginalized – notes in manuscripts and colophons made by Medieval scribes and copyists. Laphams Quarterly. (Posted on Facebook and Twitter 15 January.)
  3. Ten words we should all be using more often. i100 from The Independent. (Posted on Facebook and Twitter 15 January.)
  4. 8 words whose definitions will surprise you. Huffington Post. (Posted on Twitter 22 January and Facebook 26 January.)
  5. Young people of the internet: can you not (write properly)? The Guardian. (Posted on Facebook and Twitter 2 January.)
  6. Why language matters when discussing terminal illness and death. SfEP blog. (Posted on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn 16 January.)
  7. Forensic linguistics and sticking to your style. KateProof blog. (Posted on Twitter 27 January.)
  8. 6 best practices for working from home. entrepreneur.com. (Posted on Twitter 29 January.)
  9. Editing with style (sheets). Editor Queries blog. (Posted on Twitter 27 January.)
  10. Working with self-publishing authors – Part 2: expectations and implementation. SfEP blog. (Posted on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn 27 January.)

Joanna Bowery

Joanna Bowery is the SfEP social media manager. As well as looking after the SfEP’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and the SfEP blog, she offers freelance marketing, PR, writing and proofreading services as Cosmic Frog. Jo is an associate of the SfEP and a Chartered Marketer. She is active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Proofread by SfEP associate Karen Pickavance.

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

A round-up of the ten most popular SfEP social media posts in December

SfEP logoSocial media moves very quickly, and the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds are no different. To ensure you don’t miss out, here’s a summary of our ten most popular posts in December:

1. Seven words you need to stop capitalising, according to Danny Rubin, managing editor of the Huffington Post. (Posted on Facebook and Twitter 16 December.)

2. 51 of the most beautiful sentences in literature. Many of our Facebook followers were keen to add their own favourite literary sentences to this Buzzfeed list. (Posted on Facebook 11 December.)

3. Celtic and the history of the English language. Jonathon Owen on Arrant Pedantry points out that the origins of the English language are not always clear. (Posted on Facebook 2 December.)

4. Ebooks can tell which novels you didn’t finish. We wondered if any of the books on this list featured in the Guardian stand out as unfinishable, and if any in these lists surprised you? (Posted on Facebook 10 December.)

5. Gram marly texting speedTrue or False? Your texting speed is drastically slower than your friends’, because you insist on using standard spelling and grammar. Via Grammarly Cards. (Posted on Facebook 5 December.)

6. Tips on tact and tone. You may be an excellent editor, but how’s your bookside manner? Pat McNees provides some tips on tact and tone for copy-editors on the Writers and Editors blog. (Posted on Twitter 1 December.)

7. 15 ways to overcome procrastination and get stuff done. An infographic from entrepreneur.com. (Posted on Twitter 12 December.)

8. The continued decline of the homepage. According to Gerry McGovern’s New Thinking blog, every page should be a homepage for someone. (Posted on Twitter 3 December.)

9. Making good use of business down-time. This was also the topic of conversation on the SfEP forums recently. Ruth E. Thaler-Carter suggests a few ideas to ensure freelance editors make the most of any workflow lulls on the American Editor blog. (Posted on Twitter 1 December.)

10. Warm-glow proofreading. SfEP training director Stephen Cashmore got us all into the Christmas spirit of goodwill with a heart-warming tale of a time when he offered to proofread a book for nothing. (Posted on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn on 23 December.)

Joanna Bowery

Joanna Bowery is the SfEP social media manager. As well as looking after the SfEP’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and the SfEP blog, she offers freelance marketing, PR, writing and proofreading services. Jo is an associate of the SfEP and a Chartered Marketer. She is active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Proofread by SfEP associate Chris Charlton.

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

 

Eleven Christmas gift ideas for editors and proofreaders

The festive season is well and truly upon us. If you’re still stumped for gift ideas for the editor or proofreader in your life, then why not find some inspiration from these eleven suggestions?

Proofread ash grey t-shirt1. Proofread ash grey t-shirt £15.50 from CafePress.

 

 

 

Leather book cufflinks2. Leather book cuff-links £26 from Society of Little at www.notonthehighstreet.com.

 

 

 

Keep Calm Travel Mug3. Keep calm travel/commuter mug £17.95 from Zazzle.

 

 

 

Bottle opener / keyring write drunk edit sober4. Bottle opener/keyring – write drunk, edit sober £4.99 from Book Lover Gifts.

 

 

 

Literary Britain teatowel5. Literary Britain tea towel £8.95 from Present Indicative.

 

 

 

Go away I'm proofing mug6. Go away I’m proofing mug £9.95 from The Literary Gift Company.

 

 

 

Paperback perfume7. ‘Paperback’ perfume £20.00 from Present Indicative. [EDITED: no longer available]

 

 

 

Grammar grumble set of 6 mugs8. Set of six grammar grumble mugs £44.00 from The Literary Gift Company.

 

 

 

Quotation mark earrings9. Quotation/speech marks earrings £5.99 from Book Lover Gifts.

 

 

 

The Editor mousepad10. The editor mousepad £8.50 from CafePress.

 

 

 

SfEP Guides11. One of a selection of the SfEP Guides £5 (or £4 for PDF version) from the SfEP online shop.

 

 

 

We’d love to hear about any gifts you’ve given or received that are particularly apt for an editor or proofreader.

Joanna Bowery

Joanna Bowery is the SfEP social media manager. As well as looking after the SfEP’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and the SfEP blog, she offers freelance marketing, PR, writing and proofreading services. Jo is an associate of the SfEP and a Chartered Marketer. She is active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.
Disclaimer: This list was created by the SfEP social media manager Joanna Bowery. Products listed here are not endorsed by the SfEP or Joanna Bowery and no payment has been received as a result of listing products in this post. Prices correct when this blog was posted. We cannot guarantee that all items are in stock.

This article was proofread by SfEP associate Karen Pickavance.

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

The 10 most-popular SfEP social media posts in November

SfEP logoSocial media moves very quickly, and the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds are no different. So, to ensure you don’t miss out, here’s a summary of our ten most popular posts in November.

OverSixty – amazing tips and tricks for using Google. Ten tips and tricks to help you master the Google search engine. Useful at any age. While you probably know some of these hacks, even we didn’t know them all. (Posted on Facebook 19 November.)

4 myths about editors. From know-it-alls with red pens to people who make no mistakes, myths about editors abound – but what are editors really like? This post busts some of the myths. (Posted on Twitter 7 November and Facebook 10 November.)

Why typos and spelling mistakes don’t really matter. An article from the BBC that is sure to raise the hackles of any editor or proofreader. (Posted on Facebook 3 November.)

A Twitter post from @davidjayharris. “Not sure how this made it through proofreading, peer review, and copyediting. Via the Wiley Online Library.” An embarrassing slip-up exposed via Twitter. (Posted on Facebook 12 November.)

11 idioms only Brits understand. There was some discussion on our Facebook page about how ‘British’ the examples in this blog actually are. (Posted on Facebook 18 November.)

Britain’s silliest place names. From Bottom Burn to Nethergong, a new map highlights the silliest towns and villages in Britain. For those times when you have to triple-check if there really is a place called … (Posted on Facebook 21 November.)

Twelve-step editing. For when the line between structural editing and copy-editing is blurred. (Posted on Twitter 10 November.)

5 social media sites you should be using. Recommended social media sites for editors and proofreaders. (Posted on Twitter 3 November.)

Beating workaholism. An insightful article about how workaholism, rather than procrastination, is the biggest issue homeworkers face. (Posted on Twitter 11 November.)

Go away spelling reform, you’re not needed here. Part three of Sue Littleford’s series of blogs for the SfEP on how the internet has contributed to the democratisation of English. (Posted on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook 4 November.)

Joanna Bowery

Joanna Bowery is the SfEP social media manager. As well as looking after the SfEP’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and the SfEP blog, she offers freelance marketing, PR, writing and proofreading services operating as Cosmic Frog. Jo is an associate of the SfEP and a Chartered Marketer. She is active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

This article was proofread by SfEP associate Thomas Hawking.

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

 

25 tips for writing effectively for older readers

Vera

Sarah Carr’s friend, Vera, celebrating her 100th birthday – when she was born in 1911, the UK had 102 centenarians; by 2013, it had 13,780.

Misleading information, unclear instructions, technical jargon and illegible print: these are all barriers that can stop older people accessing products and services. Apart from the obvious ethical problem – it is unacceptable for a civilised society to withhold important goods from citizens – it makes good business sense to value older consumers. The 65-plus age group represents 20% of the UK consumer population (those aged 16 and above) and is expected to rise to 25% by 20301.

As experts in written communication, members of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) are well equipped to help ensure that texts meet the needs of target readers. The SfEP is launching a three-tier commercial package for organisations targeting older consumers. Comprising a communications audit, editorial consultancy and in-house training, the project kicks off with the publication of a booklet on communicating with older readers. Drawing on research and anecdotal evidence gathered with the help of SfEP members and editors from other English-speaking countries, Sarah Carr presents in this blog a list of 25 top tips. For more ideas, and advice on how to implement these in your work, watch out for the booklet!

Attitude

  1. Do what you can to challenge attitudes towards ageing and older people.

Features of older people

  1. Understand the needs of older readers, remembering that they have widely varying abilities, and encompass two or even three generations.

Inclusive writing

  1. Take an inclusive approach to writing, suitable for all members of the public (sometimes known as ‘plain language’).

Purpose, content and structure

  1. Before you start writing, think about why you are doing so, what you want the text to achieve, and the best medium for this purpose.
  2. Plan your messages and ideas, ensuring they are clear and honest.
  3. Organise the content logically, using an appropriate structure and good navigational aids, and avoiding very long paragraphs.

Style and grammar: words and phrases

  1. Consider using graphics to help present your ideas.
  2. Omit redundant words, and use short, familiar words and phrases.
  3. Use jargon and abbreviations only when necessary, and explain each term when you first mention it.
  4. Ensure that you refer to people equally; failing to do so may not only offend readers (and so lose their attention) but also helps prolong inequality.

Style and grammar: sentences

  1. Ensure that you use good grammar, spelling and punctuation.
  2. Aim for an average sentence length of 15 to 20 words, with some longer and shorter for variety and effect.
  3. Use strong verbs (rather than nominalisations/deverbal nouns, e.g. ‘decide’, not ‘make a decision’).
  4. Favour active verbs (‘the team decided’, not ‘it was decided by the team’), writing in the first and second person (‘I’/‘we’ and ‘you’) and phrasing points positively.

Layout and design

  1. Use a simple, clear font, in sentence case, at a size of 12 to 14 point, avoiding italics and underlining.
  2. Align text to the left, with lines of a reasonable length, and avoid splitting words between lines.
  3. Use white space effectively, for example to help show the logical structure of your text.
  4. For text on paper, use good-quality paper with a matt finish, ensuring a good level of contrast between background and ink colours.
  5. Keep images clear and simple, ensuring they do not stereotype older people.

Writing for the web

  1. Ensure it is easy to understand the structure of your website, and to navigate around the site.
  2. Think about web-specific aspects of layout and design, and the readers’ familiarity with using computers and the internet.
  3. Include text alternatives, e.g. audio and video.

Checking the suitability of your text

  1. Aim for a reading-age level of 12 to 14 years, using a readability formula (available in Word).
  2. Consider testing your text on a real audience, if time and money allow, or otherwise using plain-English editors to provide an expert opinion.

Acquiring or commissioning the skills

  1. For a professional and cost-effective service, commission support from SfEP members. And don’t forget our specialist training courses and publications!

1 Analysis by the Personal Finance Research Centre at Bristol University quoted in Age UK (2010) Golden Economy: The Consumer Marketplace in an Ageing Society (research by ILC-UK).

Sarah CarrSarah Carr works as a writer, editor and proofreader, specialising in plain English and business communication. She feels strongly that our society should value old age and older people more, and is saddened by its mysterious obsession with youth. As a practical demonstration of her principles, she refuses to dye her (increasingly) grey hair!

Proofread by SfEP ordinary member Louise Lubke Cuss.

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

Look for pleasure in editing

Pleasure in editingProofreaders and editors love examining the text on which they are working. This is also the case with subeditors. Here, Humphrey Evans, subeditor, former tutor on the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) ‘Getting started as a freelance’ course, and author of e-books such as Edit: 23 Guidances for Editors, Subeditors and Copyeditors, talks about how to find pleasure in subediting.

Deep into reading a newspaper article about a woman’s relationship with her grandmother, I came across this sentence: ‘Her diaries were a thing of lore, huge tombs that looked like the Magna Carta, filled with pages of inky writings.’ I liked that reference to ‘huge tombs’ rather than ‘tomes’. It’s a mistake, and a mistake I feel should have been picked up by whoever subedited the piece, but it’s a mistake with wings.

It does raise the idea of diaries as tombs – for all those happenings and hopes and wishes recorded day by day. It raises, too, the idea of ‘tome-stones’, rows of large and worthy books that might furnish a room in some sense but are unlikely to be taken down and read.

Subediting offers up these flashes that enliven the humdrum checking of this and correcting of that. I was listening to a late-night radio programme devoted to the topic of subediting once, one in a series about words and their place in the world, when they interviewed a woman who worked as a subeditor at The Sun. She told how she’d been asked to handle a squib about Scottish men spending more and more money on grooming products. She’d worked her way to the headline ‘Robert the Spruce’ and you could still hear the pleasure she’d found in coming up with that.

Pleasure in subediting seemed to me the attitude to take when I had the chance to write for the Chief Sub column in the Journalist, the magazine of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

The then editor, Tim Gopsill, had established the column to shine some light on one of those journalistic skills that could so often be overlooked. His main contributor was Wynford Hicks, author of English for Journalists, which, according to one of the reviews (the one I wrote) is ‘… a jolly useful book. It’s short. It’s accessible. It’s cheap. And it tells you what you want to know.’

I lobbed in an interest in some of the odder byways of subediting, such as the ins and outs (or possibly in’s and out’s) of apostrophes.

I realised that people did actually read the pieces when someone wrote in to say I’d made a mistake. I hadn’t fully understood the intricacies of whether or not London’s Earls Court has an apostrophe. It doesn’t, except for the fact that the station and some of the nearby roads appear to have acquired one. Tim asked me if I had a response, so I was able to see this printed right beside the letter that provoked it: ‘Your reader is right. I was wrong. I am sorry. I will never believe anything I read in the Journalist again.’

Maybe not. But believe these pieces which, in the main, come from the Journalist. You don’t necessarily have to follow all the advice – but you will, hopefully, find that you have learnt a bit about editing and subediting and been entertained along the way.

What do you enjoy most about editing?

Humphrey Evans

Humphrey Evans

Humphrey Evans has spent 40 years subediting and writing and proofreading and teaching subediting and writing and proofreading, quite often for the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) where, for a long time, he was one of the tutors on the much-praised ‘Getting started as a freelance’ course. ‘Look for pleasure in editing’ is the result. Humphrey has written books including: Edit: 23 Guidances for Editors, Subeditors and Copyeditors; More Edit: 20 Guidances for Editors, Subeditors and Copyeditors, which is based on his experiences as Chief Sub; and Subedit: 25 Instructories for Anyone who has to Sub.

Proofread by Thomas Hawking.

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

London Royal Holloway - the venue for the 25th SfEP annual conference 13-15 September 2014

10 ways to get the most out of the SfEP annual conference

London Royal Holloway - the venue for the 25th SfEP annual conference 13-15 September 2014

The 25th SfEP annual conference takes place at London Royal Holloway from 13-15 September 2014

By Joanna Bowery

Whether you’ve already booked your ticket or you’re still considering whether to go, here are ten ways to get the most out of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) annual conference.

1. Set goals. Think about what you want to gain from the conference and how this links with an area of editing or proofreading you’d like to find out more about or want to get involved in. Look at the conference programme and write a list of things you want to learn, questions you’d like to be answered and people you want to meet. Once you’ve written down your goals, review them after the sessions at conference and again when you get home to see if you’ve achieved them.

2. Book early! Get in early to book your preferred workshops and seminars; online booking opens on 23 July and the sessions are allocated on a first come, first served basis. When choosing your sessions, don’t just go for the ones where you would feel most comfortable: choose one session that could introduce you to new ideas or subjects.

3. Prepare. Research the sessions and the speakers, to find out what they might be talking about and to help you come up with questions, both in the sessions and when you’re socialising. When you arrive, check out the delegate list. Is there a name from the SfEP forums or the SfEP social networks – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – that you recognise? Now is your chance to meet them in person. Familiarise yourself with the Royal Holloway campus map, to reduce the risk of getting lost.

4. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the sessions, especially if it helps you develop your knowledge of an area of editing or proofreading that you identified when you set your goals. Outside the conference events, asking questions of everyone you meet is the best way to start a conversation.

5. Be approachable. If you are engrossed in your phone or look grumpy, you won’t get to talk to anyone. Make eye contact and smile and you’ll soon get chatting to others. When you sit down, speak to the person next to you. If you’re nervous about ‘networking’, practise one introductory sentence about yourself and then have ready a couple of questions. ‘Where have you come from?’, ‘What have you enjoyed the most so far?’ or ‘What session are you most looking forward to?’ are easy openers that can get a conversation started. And don’t forget to hand out – and ask for – business cards, so you can follow up on your new contacts after the conference.

6. Join the conversation online. Use the #SfEP14 tag and follow the hashtag on Twitter. Chatting online before the conference can make it easier to meet delegates in real life. It can also be fun to discover others’ perspectives on the conference and sessions. Also, by talking about the conference on social media, you will be showing your professional contacts that you are committed to professional development by attending the conference.

7. Socialise. All work and no play can make for a very dull conference. Informal chatting to colleagues and potential clients helps to cement connections and makes you more likely to keep in touch after the conference. As well as going to the gala dinner or for a drink after the sessions, make an effort to eat with people you haven’t met before, and be confident enough to strike up conversations. One of the best things about the SfEP conference is that it is an opportunity to meet other freelance and in-house proofreaders and editors and to share experiences and advice. So make the most of the opportunity to make or catch up with professional contacts; this can often lead to future business opportunities and friendships too.

8. Think about what to wear. While you may be sitting down for workshops and seminars, you will also be doing a fair bit of walking and standing. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, so you can focus on the sessions and on meeting new people and catching up with old friends, not on your throbbing feet after a day spent wearing new shoes!

9. Make notes. Remember to bring a notebook so you can jot down some notes about what you learned in the sessions and who you met. After the conference, compile your notes into a report. Why not share your experiences by posting a blog or contributing to the SfEP conference report?

10. Have fun! Enjoy your time out of the office, developing your knowledge, meeting new people and – of course – celebrating 25 years of the SfEP annual conference.

The SfEP 25th annual conference – Editing: fit for purpose – takes place on Saturday 13 –Monday 15 September 2014. You can book tickets until 18 July.

What advice would you add to help delegates make the most of the SfEP conference?

Joanna Bowery social media manager at the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP)

Joanna Bowery is the SfEP social media manager. As well as looking after the SfEP’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and the SfEP blog, she is a freelance marketing and PR consultant operating as Cosmic Frog. Jo is an associate of the SfEP and a Chartered Marketer. She is active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. In her spare time, Jo enjoys rugby (although she has retired from playing) and running.

Proofread by Jane Hammett, an advanced member of the SfEP.

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

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Computer tools for proofreaders

Computer tools for proofreaders

Computer tools for proofreadersThanks to continuing developments in computer technology, there are more and more tools available for editors, but is there any help for proofreaders? The short answer is yes. To start with, there are tools for on-screen mark-up of PDFs, but they only give you a more efficient ‘pen’ to put your mark-up on the ‘paper’. To see how computers can help more fundamentally, we need to think about what you, as a proofreader, actually do.

Obviously, you have to read every word of the text, to check that it conveys the author’s meaning properly. But you also have to watch out for all sorts of other things: spelling, punctuation, hyphenation, layout glitches, numbering, etc. And that’s just the words – there are also figures, pictures, tables, etc. to check.

You have a lot to think about as you read, and you can easily be distracted from the meaning of the text by the smaller, mechanical changes needed, or you can miss some of the mechanical changes while concentrating on the meaning. This is where using computer tools can help, because they are good at dealing with the routine changes so that you can concentrate on the communication of the author’s ideas. You can rely on the computer, knowing that it will work consistently, without being distracted by the phone or by the cat walking across your keyboard.

By ‘computer tools’ I’m talking about powerful programs that you can buy, such as PerfectIt, as well as the sort of pre-programmed macros that I use. Now, to many people a ‘macro’ is just ‘a shortcut to a task you do repeatedly’, to quote one website, but pre-programmed macros are far more powerful and versatile than that.

There are plenty of pre-programmed macros available, and you even can tailor them to your own way of working with very little programming knowledge – Jack Lyon’s Macro Cookbook is a very useful resource.

So, the main way that computer tools help me in proofreading is by analysing the text as a whole and alerting me to issues of (in)consistency, and they do so before I start to read. Am I the only person to have made a hyphenation decision (say, changing ‘non-linear’ to ‘nonlinear’) based on Chapters 1 and 2, only to find that Chapters 3 to 12 are consistently the other way round? What a waste of time! Do I undo my changes in Chapters 1 and 2, or persist in deleting all the hyphens from ‘non-linear’?

Now, I can’t tell you the ‘best’ way to use computer tools, because every job is different; proofreaders are all different too, in the way they like to work. And I certainly can’t give you unbiased advice, because the only tools I use are my own home-grown macros, but I hope I can give you an idea of what’s possible. Here are some areas where macros can provide aids to consistency – the macro names in italic will allow you to find details of them in my free book, Macros for Writers, Editors and Proofreaders:

• Hyphenation – HyphenAlyse provides a list of all the hyphenated words (or potentially hyphenated words, e.g. nonlinear) in a document, showing how often they appear as a hyphenated word, two words, or one word (e.g. sea-bed, sea bed or seabed).

• Proper nouns – ProperNounAlyse creates a list of proper noun pairs that could possibly be variant spellings of one another, and how often each occurs, e.g. Brinkman (3), Brinkmann (1).

• Spelling – With SpellingToolkit, you can create a copy of the document (in Word) with all the likely misspellings highlighted, and IStoIZ or IZtoIS will indicate all the -is/-iz inconsistencies, e.g. organise/organize.

• Other inconsistencies – DocAlyse creates a list of the frequency of other issues, such as inconsistencies in capitalisation, alternative spellings, and serial (or not) commas.

Other tools that can be used for proofreading include MatchBrackets, MatchSingleQuotes, MatchDoubleQuotes and AuthorDateFormatter.

Using these tools does take time and effort – both in learning how to do it, and also in implementing them on a given job – so only you can decide if it’s worthwhile. Certainly, the longer the job, the bigger the pay-back from the time spent in preparation.

But, regardless of the time saved, if these tools enable you to produce a better standard of work, it seems to me to be a good investment.

Members and associates of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) can find out more about macros on the SfEP discussion forums.

Which computer tools do you find most useful when proofreading?

Paul Beverley

Paul Beverley

At 65, Paul Beverley doesn’t want to retire – he finds freelance proofreading and editing far too enjoyable. He loves polishing text for optimum communication, and finds it very satisfying to use his programming skills to write macros that increase his own and other people’s efficiency and effectiveness. As an OAP with government support he can also cherry-pick his jobs – a great privilege.

 

Proofread by Jane Hammett, an advanced member of the SfEP.

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

Five reasons editors like Twitter

Five reasons editors love Twitter

Five reasons editors like Twitter

Five Reasons Editors Like Twitter

If Twitter has so far passed you by, congratulations – you’re probably more productive than the rest of us. But you’re missing out if you think it’s just about Lady Gaga’s latest selfie or what a stranger’s had for dinner. Here’s why the micro-blogging site is so popular with editors around the world.

 

1. You can learn new things 

Hands up who reads The Bookseller every week. Thought not. But you can easily keep up with industry news by reading tweets from @TheBookseller and other publishing organisations such as @SYP_UK, @PublishersAssoc and, of course, @TheSfEP. If a headline grabs your attention, simply click through to the website. That way, you absorb the information that you want to – or need to – know, without it feeling like hard work.

People use Twitter because they have something to share. You can learn a lot if you follow the right users – those who do what you do, those who are influential in areas you’re interested in: publishers, agents, authors, potential clients, and yes, even celebrities (or at least those with opinions worth discussing). I’ve learnt a lot about publishing, marketing, language and linguistics that I never would have found out any other way.

2. You can market yourself – painlessly

Many editors, shy and introverted types that we tend to be, find the idea of networking intimidating. But with Twitter it’s easy to get out there and get known. Chatting to people on social media isn’t like trying to explain to your local accountant at a business breakfast what a proofreader does.

You can follow any account that takes your fancy, and you can also start or join conversations with anyone you like, without them thinking you’re odd (although that, of course, depends on what you say).

As with all marketing, it’s helpful to have an objective. For example, if you want to find work with businesses near you, most counties and regions have a dedicated Twitter networking time and hashtag (a label to identify it) to help you jump into the fray easily – mine is #Norfolkhour but there are many others.

I can’t claim to have actually got any work as a direct result of Twitter, but many editors have. I’ve certainly raised my profile and got to know many other small businesses nearby.

The only proviso, if you’re running a company, is to stay away from controversy. You might have heard about some high profile corporate Twitter embarrassments – one thoughtless comment could destroy your reputation. But then, that could happen when you’re talking to an accountant at a business breakfast too.

3. You can get to know other editors and proofreaders

Editing can be a lonely job and it’s easy to go feral when you’ve not seen anyone all day. But there’s a whole online community of people like you. Just as many of us share our experiences on the SfEP forums, social media provides an opportunity to chat to others who share your pain about hyphenated adverbs and comma splices.

There’s nothing competitive about building relationships with people who do what you do. They might be looking for the same type of work but they can also be partners, supporters, sharers, colleagues. You might not be able to do a job for a new client but perhaps you know someone who can. And then they return the favour. It makes business sense.

A good place to start is @TheSfEP list of members and associates who tweet. And when you finally meet them in person at the SfEP Conference, you’ll find you have readymade friends.

4. You can practise your editorial skills

Tweets are 140 characters. That’s not much. Putting your message across focuses your thoughts and hones your editorial skills.

That was only 126 characters, by the way.

5. You can win books

Still not convinced? This is the clincher. I’ve won around 100 books on Twitter, mostly in publishers’ prize draws, simply by retweeting their post or answering a simple question. Once I won a beautiful book on the history of home décor by tweeting a photo of my ugly bathroom. My husband would prefer me to win holidays and cars but, hey, I work in publishing. I like books.

So yes, Twitter is educational, sociable and sometimes lucrative – but most of all it’s fun. It opens your eyes to how fascinating and diverse and creative people can be. And that can’t be a bad thing can it?

If you’d like some guidance on the technicalities of starting up your Twitter account, join me at the SfEP Conference, where I’ll be holding a ‘something for everyone’ session called Twitter for Beginners.

And when you do take the plunge, follow me @JuliaWordFire and introduce yourself. I look forward to tweeting with you.

Julia Sandford-Cooke

Julia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications

Julia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications has more than 15 years’ experience of publishing and marketing. When she’s not on Twitter or contributing to the SfEP’s Facebook page, she authors and edits textbooks, writes digital copy for a pub chain, proofreads anything that’s put in front of her and posts short, grumpy book reviews on her blog, Ju’s Reviews.