Category Archives: Professional development

How to guides to help with your professional development.

The thinking behind the new upgrade system

SfEP logoThere’s been much talk within the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) recently about encouraging people to move up the membership levels, to show that the SfEP endorses their experience and professional development. The changes to the upgrade system, launched this week, are designed to make this possible for more people, with a wider range of backgrounds and editorial experience.

When making the changes we wanted to retain and build on the things that were already good about the existing upgrade system. We already had a carefully considered and anonymous assessment of individual applications by the Admissions Panel. We had fairly demanding yet somewhat flexible criteria, showing that people who had upgraded successfully had achieved something of real worth. We also had a system that made a genuine attempt to deal with a wide range of experience … but with room for improvement.

Under the old system, the biggest problems came when an applicant presented training, experience or references that were untypical or unproven (an undocumented training course, or a referee without obvious editorial expertise, for example). If these applications could not be made to fit the rules, the application would often have to be rejected. We also found that experienced editors were unwilling to join as associates, and this meant that the SfEP was failing to acknowledge and endorse real expertise as well as potentially missing out on many highly experienced and well-qualified members.

Before making any changes, we consulted the membership. Their feedback told us that the paper application process needed updating, and the supporting information needed simplification. They also found that some aspects of the system were too prescriptive and inflexible. Particular groups of people felt excluded by the upgrade criteria. And finally, there was much demand for a test to allow people to demonstrate their editorial skills.

To address these issues, the new system has the following important features.

  • We’ve taken the system online. There’s now an online form to replace the paper application, which also allows for plenty of flexibility.
  • We’ve aimed for more clarity. The explanatory materials have been rewritten and redesigned.
  • A wider range of experience can be counted. This has been achieved chiefly as a result of the editorial test, which provides points towards upgrading, and can be used to support experience and references. We plan to introduce an advanced editorial test in 2015 to complement the basic test now offered.

We hope these changes will smooth the path to upgrading for many more applicants from a range of backgrounds – both recent entrants to the profession and highly experienced editors – and will ensure that our accreditation process remains fit for purpose for years to come. To find out more about upgrading, and the editorial syllabus and test, visit the SfEP website.

Liz Jones is the SfEP’s marketing and PR director, and worked on the changes to the society’s upgrade system in her previous council post (professional development).

 

Keeping it real

SfEP ordinary member Dr Rosalind Davies explores what editors and proofreaders, who operate in a largely virtual space, can learn from businesses that function in a more ‘real’ physical environment.

The Chamber of Commerce in Rochester, Michigan, recently welcomed a writing and editing service to the local business community. The new company, So It Is Written, was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4 p.m. on 12 September 2014.

I smiled as I imagined a similar ceremony in my home office – local business leaders making their way up the stairs to my spare room and crowding in the doorway to watch the unveiling of the computer, telephone, photocopier and coffee mug. Although I found it easy to laugh at what seemed to be an over-formal rigmarole, I quickly had second thoughts. Doesn’t the ribbon-cutting ceremony in Rochester symbolise a new way of looking at the business of editing and writing – at my business?

So It Is Written is an editing business that has laid claim to the same presence and credibility as any other business – a restaurant, art gallery or meat production plant. I stopped laughing about the ribbon-cutting when I realised that this opening ceremony represented a grounding of editorial skills, calling them down from the clouds and marking out a physical space for them.

The Good Copy

The same principle is expressed in another new start-up, The Good Copy, which occupies a large building on a street in Melbourne, Australia. ‘Episode 1’ of the promotional video on The Good Copy’s homepage begins in the dust and debris of the building’s conversion into a ‘newsagent for writers’. We watch as builders drink from polystyrene cups and hammer nails into shelves.

Like the Rochester editing business, The Good Copy’s mission is to bring editors, writers and publishers together and to give them real retail space in which to interact. What is usually, for most editorial freelances, an electronic exchange between supplier and client here takes on flesh and blood in the Melbourne suburb. The Good Copy also aims to populate my own empty-looking work space with a tool kit – what it calls ‘hardcore resources’ – trade magazines, notebooks, style guides and dictionaries, and it believes that my skills could be part of a face-to-face market exchange that takes place as I drink coffee with people who are looking for someone to ‘write stuff for them’.

For some in our profession, the act of editing and writing is beginning to take up real space and retail space, and I, for one, love the idea that I could create a tangible presence for work that is mostly solitary and electronic. Even if this is too ambitious, even if the mechanisms for the way I work do not change, there are things that I can do – new attitudes to adopt – that will make a difference to the way I talk about my work and the way that other people perceive it. The business/communal mindset evidenced by the ribbon-cutting in Rochester and the shopfront in Melbourne should help me to revamp my PR skills and fuel my determination to say ‘I’m doing something here. I’m making something. This is the place I do it in.’

It’s a challenge for the editorial professional to communicate real-world skills and the value that they will add to the presentation, effectiveness and clarity of online or printed content. While we celebrate the connectedness and speed of our access to a global market and its clients, it’s a mistake to forget the reality of the local business community. We must find our way into it, to explore new sources of work, to enjoy a sense of belonging and to make space for the real products that are words and messages.

Ros DaviesRosalind Davies is a copy-editor, writer and communications consultant and the coordinator of the Devon SfEP group. You can find out more about projects she is involved in on her Facebook page. You can also follow her on Twitter. She is available, free of charge, for ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

Proofread by SfEP associate Susan Walton.

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.

5 marketing tips for the freelance editor or proofreader

marketing - promoting and selling, research and advertising

Marketing tips

By Mary McCauley

I studied services marketing in college and before my studies began I had a perception of marketing as a complicated and theory-based business system practised by big US multinational corporations. By the time I finished my degree, this view had changed: for me, services marketing boils down to a simple ‘Which customers do you want to serve and how can you persuade them to buy your service?’ So, in relation to a freelance editorial business, my top five ‘marketing’ tips are very straightforward: be nice (provide excellent customer service); be focused (which specific customers do you want to buy your service?); be professional (build your reputation and protect it); be online (establish a professional online presence); and be generous (network).

1. Be nice

As an editorial professional you are a service provider. You may have the keenest editorial brain in the world and a long list of top academic qualifications but unless you realise that in providing a service to customers you must look after those customers as best you can, then your freelance business will not be all it can be. You are an intangible part of the service your client is purchasing and the client has to want to work with you. As Steve Baron and Kim Harris write, ‘customers often use the appearance and manner of service employees as a first point of reference when deciding whether or not to make a purchase’. In every aspect of your service to clients – be they an independent author, a publishing house, an academic or a corporation – be friendly, helpful, genuine and, most importantly, customer-driven. Use every opportunity to put your client at ease, make it easy for them to work with you, and make them want to work with you again. As retired Irish retailer Fergal Quinn puts it, ‘Think of the main task as being to bring the customer back.’ It sounds simple, right? But so many service providers fail to understand the importance of this concept. Think about it for a minute: are there certain people/shops you won’t buy from, no matter how low their prices, simply because they or their staff are rude and unhelpful?

2. Be focused

Don’t try to be all things to all people: identify your editorial speciality and then actively target those clients who seek this specific area of expertise. According to proofreader and author Louise Harnby, ‘Your educational and career backgrounds will help you to identify core client groups.’ A good way to start thinking about this is to imagine someone you’ve just met asks you what you do. Can you define it in approximately ten words? For example, my response would be: ‘I am a freelance copy-editor and proofreader providing editorial services to fiction authors and corporate clients.’

3. Be professional

Clients are paying you (hopefully) good money to provide them with a service. They want to know that their money is well spent. If they haven’t worked with you before then from their point of view they are taking a risk by contracting your service. You can help minimise their perception of that risk by behaving in a professional manner. This is especially the case if you are starting out as freelance editor and have minimal testimonials or no portfolio. Behaving professionally extends to all aspects of your business. Meet project deadlines or alert the client as soon as possible if there will be a delay; issue formal quotations, project agreements, invoices and receipts; acknowledge client correspondence promptly; treat a client’s project with confidentiality; and so on. If you are a member of an editorial professional body, act in accordance with their code of practice.

4. Be online

Again, it’s very simple: if potential clients don’t know you exist how can they hire you? If they search online for editorial services will they find you? A business website is an excellent opportunity for you to control the message you give to potential customers. WordPress, Weebly and About Me offer free, easy options to create and maintain a website. You can list your services, portfolio, client testimonials, qualifications and, most importantly, your contact details! Ensure the content of your website accurately reflects your values and professional approach. Social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.) provide effective means to interact with potential clients. For example, if your target market includes independent authors join one of LinkedIn’s writers’ group forums. Help potential clients find you by listing your services in online directories, such as the SfEP Directory of Editorial Services.

5. Be generous

The more you give the more you receive, and what goes around comes around. They may be clichés but also good mottos for life – and for business! Network not only with colleagues (online through social media, and in person at editor meetings, conferences, courses, etc.) but also with members of your target market. Don’t focus solely on yourself when networking; few like to converse with someone who drones on about ‘me, me, me’. Think about ways you can be helpful: perhaps if your work schedule is booked up and you cannot take on an author’s project you could refer the author to a trusted colleague and thus be helpful to both; share a colleague’s interesting and informative article/blog post with your network of colleagues, friends and clients; or introduce a client to someone who can add value to their project further down the production process, such as an illustrator or typesetter. Genuine goodwill and generosity will come back to you tenfold.

If you would like to learn more about potential marketing tools for your freelance editorial business, join me for the Marketing Tools for the Freelance Editor seminar at this year’s SfEP conference in September.

What’s your top tip for marketing your freelance editorial business? Which marketing activity has worked best for you and which have you found the most difficult?

References

Baron, S and Harris, K (1995) Services Marketing: Text and Cases. Macmillan, London

Harnby, L. (2014) Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business: Being Interesting and Discoverable. Louise Harnby, in association with The Publishing Training Centre

Quinn, F. (1990) Crowning the Customer: How to Become Customer-Driven. The O’Brien Press, Dublin

Mary McCauley

Mary McCauley

Based in Wexford, Ireland, Mary McCauley is a freelance proofreader and copy-editor working with corporate clients and independent fiction authors. She is a member of both the SfEP and the Association of Freelance Editors, Proofreaders and Indexers (AFEPI) in Ireland. She helps run the new AFEPI Twitter account and also blogs sporadically at Letters from an Irish Editor. Around the time she started her editorial business she took up running – not only to keep fit but also to help maintain her sanity. One of these goals has been achieved. Say hello to Mary on TwitterFacebook or Google+.

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.