Category Archives: News

There’s more to being a proofreader than the ability to spell…

To celebrate the launch of our three-level suite of proofreading training courses, the SfEP ran a competition to ask people what they had discovered about the profession of being a proofreader and why training for the role is important. Our winner is Stephen Pigney, who is making the move from academia to launching his business as a freelance proofreader. Here is Stephen’s winning entry.

Wiser now than I once was, I make this confession of former folly: for a long time I believed that proofreading required little more than the ability to spell and punctuate, a sound grasp of grammar and a hawkish eye for detail. A text, a red pen (most likely of a metaphorical and digital kind) and someone reading and correcting the text: this was the image my mind conjured up of proofreading. The process was, I supposed, simultaneously interesting and mechanical. Perhaps it is natural to imagine unfamiliar professions in simple ways; no doubt many consider an aptitude for quick thinking and persuasive argument sufficient to make a lawyer. If such misconceptions encourage ventures into a profession, then they are not without merit. We all have to begin somewhere, and simple-minded confidence is not the worst place to start. So it was that, self-assured about my abilities and knowledge, I forayed into proofreading – and soon learned that I knew far less than I had imagined.

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Fill the gaps in your proofreading skills and knowledge on one of the SfEP’s respected courses

I discovered that there is more to proofreading than meets the eye. I had been mistaken to think only of a proofreader’s relationship with a text, for I had missed how the proofreader stands at a crucial intersection between different people. The eyes of a hawk are not enough; the proofreader needs to see a text as an author, a typesetter, a publisher or a reader sees it. Proofreading is a delicate art of facilitating communication; it consists of honouring and respecting an author’s voice, a typesetter’s skills, a publisher’s vision and a reader’s needs; it requires precision, judgment, tact and informed understanding. Texts are complex artefacts, embodying language, ideas, creativity, design, meaning and (frequently) commercial intention – and this is before they take on life in the hands and minds of their readers. In the process that begins with an idea and ends with a publication, the proofreader has, perhaps uniquely, both an intimate relationship with the text and a connection with each interested party. Yet – and this too must be learned – the ideal proofreader must strive for invisibility: proofreading is noticed not when it is done well, but when it is done ineptly or badly.

‘…proofreading is noticed not when it is done well, but when it is done ineptly or badly.’

There has been much more I have learned: how to follow a brief; how to mark a text; how to work with various formats; how (and when) to raise a query; how to use style guides. I became familiar with numerous resources and how to utilise them; I became acquainted with typographical and publishing conventions, with workflow, schedules and project management, and with the role played by budgets and timescales. And I learned how different texts have varying requirements and present distinct challenges. A marketing brochure, a retailer’s catalogue, a local newsletter, a scholarly monograph, an illustrated book, a blog post, a glossy magazine feature, a novel – all have their own characteristics, demands and potential complications.

A gradual accumulation of experience has contributed to my growing knowledge. Above all, however, I have benefited from training. Good training (such as that offered by the SfEP or PTC, with their extensive resources, expert tutors and industry recognition) is about professionalisation. I did not so much learn this as have it confirmed: fortunately, when I set out to establish myself as an editor and proofreader, I had the good sense to put training at the heart of my plan. It was through training that my understanding of the proofreader’s role deepened; it was through training that I learned skills and best practice; and it was through training that I became familiar with a wider range of texts than I would have encountered through practice alone.

Acquiring, improving and reinforcing skills and knowledge is reason enough for my professional vision to focus on training – especially given the rapidly changing and digitally evolving world of writing and publishing. But there is much more to training than this. To join a training programme is to connect to a body of knowledge, practice and experience; it is a gateway to recognition, status and a community. It is also about building and strengthening self-confidence. As a freelance proofreader, endeavouring to manage and grow my business from scratch, robust training has given me the confidence that I can develop the skills, expertise and flexibility necessary to enhance my reputation, market myself successfully and, most importantly, provide an exceptional proofreading service. This is why training has been and will remain important to me: it constitutes the fertile foundation from which my business can flourish and my practice can excel.

Stephen PigneyStephen Pigney is a former (although still part-time) academic historian. After many years of occasional proofreading and editorial work, in 2017 he set up his full-time editorial business (stephenpigneyeditor.com). As well as editing, he enjoys thinking and writing about many topics, and even pens occasional fiction. He is based in London.

 

Posted by Margaret Hunter, marketing and PR director

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

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Social media round-up – June 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) in June.

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  1. Which words are people looking up post-Brexit? http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2016/06/word-trends-brexit/
  2. Digital publishing is now ‘fabric’, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy http://www.publishingtrainingcentre.co.uk/blogs/item/digital-publishing-is-now-fabric-but-that-doesn-t-mean-it-s-easy
  3. Shortcuts in editing (are they allowed?) http://cmosshoptalk.com/2016/06/07/shortcuts-in-editing-are-they-allowed/
  4. How well do you know football terminology? http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2016/06/football-terminology/
  5. How to work with publishers: 8 tips for freelancers https://bookmachine.org/2016/06/21/how-to-work-with-publishers-8-tips-for-freelancers/
  6. How to combine freelancing with teenagers. A (not) definitive guide http://workyourwords.co.uk/copywriter-blog/entry/how-to-combine-freelancing-with-teenagers-a-not-definitive-guide
  7. Stop. Using. Periods. Period. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/06/13/stop-using-periods-period-2/?tid=sm_tw
  8. What makes a bestseller? https://bookmachine.org/2016/06/09/what-makes-a-bestseller/
  9. But it’s nothing like the book! Why film adaptations rarely stay faithful http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/but-its-nothing-like-the-book-why-film-adaptations-rarely-stay-faithful-a7058271.html
  10. Could a movie about editing possibly be, well, genius? http://www.signature-reads.com/2016/06/could-a-movie-about-editing-possibly-be-well-genius/?platform=hootsuite

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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

May social media round-up – May 2016

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

  1. If a client complains that there are errors in the manuscript, how can an editor turn failure into success? https://www.copyediting.com/the-do-over-edit/
  2. Can I publish this photograph of the Mona Lisa? https://americaneditor.wordpress.com/2016/05/23/can-i-publish-this-photograph-of-the-mona-lisa/
  3. Are adult colouring-in books a recent fad? https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/may/21/17th-century-adult-colouring-in-book-albions-glorious-ile-michael-drayton-william-hole
  4. English Dialect Dictionary online https://stancarey.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/english-dialect-dictionary-online/
  5. Enid Blyton’s Famous Five spoof books to be published http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-36369366
  6. Printed book sales rise for first time in four years as ebooks decline http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/may/13/printed-book-sales-ebooks-decline
  7. The editors role https://anthimeriarampant.wordpress.com/2016/05/03/the-editors-role/
  8. 5 reasons why a library is the best place to hide during a Zombie Apocalypse http://blog.oup.com/2016/05/library-hiding-zombie-apocalypse/
  9. How do you become an editor? https://nailyournovel.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/how-do-you-become-an-editor/
  10. A day in an editor’s brain http://www.stevelaube.com/day-editors-brain/

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

A tribute to Judith Butcher

Judith ButcherIt is with great sadness that we report the passing on 6 October of our honorary president, Judith Butcher. Judith was an important influence in our professional world as a teacher, author and colleague, and she was a good friend and kind mentor to many members of the Society. We are fortunate that she has passed on her wisdom to us through her presence and her writings. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.

Judith Butcher will be remembered for her life-long service to UK publishing. She has done more than anyone else to establish and maintain the high editorial standards that have earned the UK publishing industry worldwide respect. Her work has undoubtedly improved the quality of published works in the UK and around the world, benefiting all types of readers by enhancing their enjoyment and understanding of the printed word.

Judith is best known as the author of Copy-editing: The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Copy-editors and Proofreaders, referred to throughout the English-speaking world as ‘the copy-editor’s bible’. But her book is only the most tangible product of the dedication to editorial excellence that characterised her long career. Her achievements can be grouped under three headings.

Manager and trainer

During her 20 years as chief subeditor (= copy-editor) for Cambridge University Press, Judith developed the emerging craft of copy-editing into a fully fledged discipline and established it as an essential stage in the publishing process. The unreliable and costly tradition of trusting the printer’s readers to pick up errors after typesetting was replaced by a methodical system of preparing manuscripts for typesetting and eliminating errors in advance. Judith set up and managed what CUP’s former chief executive Dr Jeremy Mynott has called ‘the best subediting department of any academic publishing house in the English-speaking world’. By personal example and using the growing file of notes that eventually became the Cambridge Handbook, she trained scores of copy­editors, many of whom subsequently carried her principles and standards to other publishing houses in the UK and overseas.

Author

Judith turned her training notes into a house manual for CUP’s copy-editors and eventually into the book published by CUP as Copy-editing. It was the first copy-editing manual in English and has remained the undisputed authority in its field for over 40 years. When she retired from employment Judith kept the book up to date, making extensive revisions to keep abreast of changes in publishing technology and procedures. However, the fundamental principles that she set out remain unchanged. The book set the standard for good editing practice and disseminated it throughout the UK, the English-speaking world and even beyond: it has been translated into several languages. Copy-editing enabled standards to be maintained during the structural changes of the 1970s and 1980s, as publishing houses shed staff and turned increasingly to freelance copy-editors. Copy-editing is now predominantly a freelance occupation, and the book has provided indispensable guidance to generations of freelances without access to in-house training.

Mentor

It was to support the growing number of freelances that the Society of Freelance Editors and Proofreaders (now the Society for Editors and Proofreaders) was founded in 1988. Judith enthusiastically agreed to become its first honorary president, and in this voluntary capacity she gave the society’s officers invaluable support for many years. She attended almost every annual conference and local meeting of the society, participating fully in workshops and discussions. In particular, Judith continued to nurture new copy-editors and proofreaders, giving unstintingly of her advice and encouragement.

Judith’s personal modesty, tact and generosity informed her work in all these spheres. As a manager, she inspired as much affection as respect; as an author, her tone was friendly as well as erudite; and as president of the professional body, she underpinned its ethos of mutual support and cooperation.

 

From notes compiled by Naomi Laredo in 2004, with contributions from SfEP members and former colleagues of Judith (updated by Margaret Hunter 9 October 2015)