Tag Archives: editing

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.

The Linnets – Singing for Editors and Proofreaders

By Sarah Patey.

The Linnets SfEP conference 2011Long ago and far away – well, Cirencester 1998, in fact – I was a Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) conference newbie and rather overawed. Conference newbies these days may feel the same, but at least the name-labels are likely to look familiar, thanks to the SfEP forums. The faces too, unless the wearer uses a cartoon avatar. I’d met a few people at courses, but not many.

Chick Linnets

I made an effort to sit with different people at meals, and quickly noticed that every table seemed to have at least one other choral singer (you can tell my small talk is limited). When I next booked a conference (Cambridge 2002) I suggested via the new(ish) SfEPLine, the email precursor to the forums, that a group of us might sing something before the conference dinner. The response was encouraging, and the medium caused one participant to christen us The Linnets (Line – gerrit?). Rather ambitiously, I got hold of an eight-part arrangement of Flanders and Swann’s The Slow Train, and those present tell me they still have fond memories of it.

Fledglings

I didn’t make it to Birmingham in 2003, but have been to every conference since, and the Linnets have become a firm favourite. Once conference preparations are well under way, the call goes out to ask if anyone coming would like to join in. Perhaps unsurprisingly, our demographic produces more sopranos and, particularly, altos, than basses and, particularly, tenors. Usually there are around fifteen or twenty of us, and the music is sent out in advance, as we only have very limited time to practise. The conference director obligingly arranges a room, and those involved sacrifice precious drinking socialising time for the two rehearsal spots – one for familiarisation and one for polishing. We’ve become less ambitious over the years in terms of complexity of music, but work hard to make the words clear. They are always worth it.

Home-grown talent

Most years since 2003, talented members have contributed entertaining lyrics on various aspects of our editorial life: stylesheets, SfEPline, our 20th anniversary, punctuation, deadlines, and so on, and of course the vagaries of Word. Musical arrangements have been provided sometimes in-house, and sometimes by friends and family who’ve been willing to have an arm twisted. Piano accompaniment, when needed, and conducting have also been in-house (well, by extension if you count spouses).

Breaking the pattern

In the dog days of 2006, a spoof poem ‘in the style of’ appeared on SfEPLine. The gauntlet was down, and from all quarters further contributions in all kinds of styles were sent in. We had clerihews, sonnets, haikus, new words to old songs, and so on. TS Eliot seemed to provide particular inspiration. It was a treat, as summed up (à la McGonagall) by one of our founder members:

O Beautiful parody thread of the SfEP Line!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety working hours were taken away
On one Novembry day of 2006
Which will be remember’d for quite a few weeks. 


In fact they were remembered for quite a few months, and seemed worth enjoying again. So in the Linnets spot in Brighton in 2007 we put on a poetry reading. Choosing which we’d have time for was not an easy task. We succumbed to music for the last item, The Twelve Days of the Schedule – no prizes for guessing the tune. It featured locked files, dangling clauses, misquotations, sexist pronouns, footnotes missing, fuzzy graphs…

Pedants, us?

Well, some might think so, but we’ve found over the years that there’s a lot of musical fun to be had on the subject. If there are any linguistic pedants with musical inclinations out there, perhaps you’ve just found your spiritual home?

(All names omitted to protect the innocent. You know who you are.)

If you’re heading to our conference at Royal Holloway this weekend and you’d like to sing with the Linnets, please contact Sarah Patey and let her know which part you sing (soprano, alto, tenor or bass). Please head your mail ‘Linnets 2014’.

Sarah Patey Le Mot JusteSarah Patey was educated in France, taking both International and French Baccalauréats, and subsequently studied languages in the UK. Initially a teacher of French and German, she joined the SfEP in 1995 to investigate editorial work and to benefit from SfEP’s excellent training courses and professional development. Now an advanced member of SfEP, she edits a variety of humanities subjects and educational material for teachers of French, German and English.
 Sarah’s website is: http://le-mot-juste.co.uk/


Proofread by SfEP associate Laura Morgan.

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.

How I got started

One of the most commonly asked questions among those considering a career in proofreading or editing is: ‘How did you get started?’ Here, Richard Hutchinson starts a regular feature on the blog where members of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) share stories of how they did just that.

Computer + Code

What possible connection could there be between writing software for a computer and editing learned texts on the writings of Late Antiquity? I’m going to suggest that there’s quite a bit of overlap there. But I’ll start with some background.

Before I started proofreading

Back at the dawn of civilisation (we’re talking the 1980s here) I managed to get a degree in mathematics. Having discovered early on that I wasn’t really a mathematician after all, I decided to go into a career in modelling. That probably gives you the wrong impression about the way I look – I mean computer modelling, initially in the defence field. From there I moved into more general software engineering, and then spent the next 25 years or so trying to keep up with the rapid developments in computers and technology.

The job came to involve more and more document development and review, and less of the more interesting stuff. So I decided I needed a change. I hit upon proofreading (I’ll come to why in a moment) and my research led me to the SfEP Introduction to proofreading course. This convinced me that I was on the right track, and I went on to complete the Publishing Training Centre’s (PTC) Basic proofreading by distance learning course. I was lucky that I was able to do this while working part-time at the old job, and this continued to be the case as I took my first faltering steps into freelancing.

I decided to focus on publishers rather than businesses or individuals, mainly because networking, marketing and so on aren’t among my strengths. I also decided to play to my technical background and target subjects like maths, physics and computing. So the first book I worked on was about … English Renaissance literature. This break had come through a friend who worked at a local publisher. More work came after I answered a plea for journal copy-editors that was broadcast on the SfEPAnnounce mailing list, and I slowly built up enough experience to be able to upgrade to ordinary membership and take out an SfEP Directory entry. This has turned out to be the single most useful piece of marketing I’ve done – almost all my work comes via my Directory entry.

Eventually, just over a year ago, I summoned up the courage to take the leap into full-time freelancing. I haven’t looked back since.

A change? Or more of the same?

So why do I think that writing software and editing/proofreading are not so far apart? Most computer languages have a strict syntax you need to follow if you’re going to persuade the computer to obey your instructions. That means paying attention to what’s been written at a character-by-character level. You also have to understand the language at a semantic level – while the characters you write may make some sense to the computer, it may not take them to mean what you intended. And when you’re reviewing other people’s code, you also need to pay attention to the overall structure, and its suitability for a place in the system in which it’s to be deployed. An overriding requirement for a software engineer is, or should be, attention to detail. Replace ‘code’ with ‘text’, and I think you get the picture.

And if you were to suggest that the similarities might also include staring at pages of incomprehensible jargon, wondering what on earth they might mean, who am I to argue?

Go further

To find out more about how Richard and two other members of the SfEP (John Firth and Gale Winskill) embarked on freelance careers in editing and proofreading, book the ‘How we got started’ session at our annual conference. The seminar covers what they did, why they did it and things they wish they’d known beforehand.

If you’d like to share the story of how you got started, do get in touch.

Richard Hutchinson

Richard Hutchinson

Richard Hutchinson still can’t quite believe that people will pay him money to read books, and are (mostly) happy to have their mistakes pointed out. An advanced member of the SfEP, he works as a freelance copy-editor and proofreader on books and journals in maths, science and a variety of other subjects – see www.richardhutchinson.me.uk for details.

 

This article was proofread by SfEP associate Emma Wilkin.

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.

Follow the SfEP blog with Bloglovin

Editing Fiction: An addiction or bête noire?

IMG_2080Fiction is a vast subject area. There’s no escaping this fact. Unlike non-fiction and academic texts, which have certain conventions, reference formats and factual, checkable details to fall back on, fiction is essentially ‘something that is invented or untrue’ (OED). Not only that, but the medium itself encompasses a plethora of categories: romance, thrillers, erotica, science fiction, fantasy, literary works, and so on … not to mention children’s fiction versions of most of these as well, albeit with additional considerations for the age group concerned, language levels and appropriate content!

Faced with such a behemoth, many editors of my acquaintance choose not to edit or proofread fiction. Of those who do indulge, nearly all shy away from children’s fiction altogether, deeming it too problematic, or limit themselves to particular fictional genres, usually mirroring their own reading preferences. So, with that in mind, where does one start when thinking about editing fiction?

As editors we are ethically constrained from commenting on the content of academic material, even if we know it to be wrong. Unless we are experts in that particular field of study, often we have no idea if the facts presented are invented or true. And, quite honestly, that is not our concern as long as the text reads convincingly and is grammatically correct, properly referenced and so on.

To play devil’s advocate, if fiction really is a work of ‘invention and untruth’, as long as it reads well, is it really that different from the above? And should it be treated with so much circumspection?

I understand that many editors may find fiction’s apparent lack of clearly defined boundaries extremely daunting, preferring the relatively controllable realm of non-fiction and academia. But although I do edit non-fiction and academic material on a regular basis, the thing that draws me repeatedly to fiction is, indeed, the very fact that I never know what I’m going to find in a narrative. Authors continue to surprise, delight, even frustrate me … but editing fiction is never dull.

Without question, fiction incorporates an unparalleled arena of realistic or fantastical landscapes, remarkable or mundane individuals, and gripping or bathetic scenarios, where anything — or sometimes even nothing much — goes, and everything is possible. There is a book for every occasion and mood, a genre to suit most people, and while fiction’s breadth and variety are undoubtedly its greatest challenge  — and a huge potential hurdle with regard to editing — they are also its most rewarding features.

So, are there things that connect and bind all of these vagaries together, and can provide a would-be editor of fiction with a starting point when tackling their first novel, irrespective of the genre? All books are predicated on certain elements, in terms of structure, characterisation, pace, plot and presentation. In David Lodge’s novel Therapy, beleaguered sitcom writer Laurence Passmore states: “Each one [each book] is different, but the same themes and obsessions keep cropping up: courtship, seduction, indecision, guilt, depression, despair.” And this is largely true.

Conversely, there could also be an argument to suggest that one should not edit fiction, as it could be perceived to compromise the author’s original creation. However, Terry Pratchett asserts: “… the fact that it is a fantasy does not absolve you [the writer] from all the basic responsibilities. It doesn’t mean that the characters needn’t be rounded, the dialogue believable, the background properly established, and the plots properly tuned.” So, subtle, constructive editorial assistance is still required, and usually welcomed, to ensure that what the author thinks they have done is actually the case on the page.

Essentially, fiction still involves the basics of our trade: punctuation, spelling, grammar (although this can be less rigid), textual fluidity, narrative cohesion. Even fact-checking exists: if an author states that the Empire State building has 97 storeys you can and should check that detail (it has 103!); and don’t get me started on incorrect spellings and missing accents with regard to foreign words. After all, erroneous details only provide a would-be reviewer with ready ammunition, which is something all fiction editors should bear in mind.

The characteristic that sets fiction apart from other media, making it simultaneously rather problematic but also intriguing, is the element of ‘story’, which has to be plausible within its own context and setting. As long as a reader believes the events of a novel to be feasible and credible, albeit fantastical, and the characters to be rounded, creditable individuals, then the author and editor have done their jobs.

As for more specific details of how, as editors or proofreaders, we do or don’t facilitate that, and how we go about imposing our own minds on the matter at hand without compromising the author’s integrity or voice … you’ll have to come to my conference workshop – Introduction to Editing Fiction: Mind over Matter – and find out, or look out for details of forthcoming SfEP training courses!

Gale Winskill

Gale Winskill

Gale Winskill is a freelance editor who enjoys variety, and will edit most things within reason (www.winskilleditorial.co.uk). A half-Italian, dim and distant relative of William Shakespeare, she has travelled and worked abroad, finally residing in Scotland, where she plays tennis inconsistently, gardens by benevolent neglect, and is still occasionally flummoxed by Scots vernacular.