Tag Archives: proofreaders

It ain’t necessarily so

Some widely held beliefs about how copy-editors and proofreaders make their living may have shaky foundations. John Firth pulls a few snippets out of SfEP’s autumn 2016 Membership Survey.

We survey our members every autumn, and we like to tease out themes and explore them from one year to the next. This year we tested some ‘truths’ about editing and weren’t surprised to find that real life’s not like that.

Editors need to specialise

Well, actually… As the horizontal bars in this graph show, while quite high percentages of our members describe themselves as working in one of the four broad areas we asked about (fiction, the arts or humanities, the social sciences and STEM subjects – scientific, technical, engineering or medical), the vertical bars show that most don’t work only in those areas.

Just over a third specialise by subject (15% STEM, 4% social sciences, 13% humanities, 5% fiction). It is interesting, for example, that while 16 participants work only on social sciences subjects, and 51 only on arts/humanities subjects, 66 work in both areas.

Yes, but most editors work on books

Well yes, our survey found that nearly 80% of editors work on books, but again, as the next graph shows, only 14% work only on books: in fact, only 23% work exclusively on one type of publication. Moreover, since the ‘among others’ bars in the graph add up to 247%, most of our members work on three or more types of publication. In fact, nearly 20% work on types that we didn’t think to ask about (board-game rules and TV and film scripts, for example).

Okay, but most editors work for publishing companies

You’re right: just over two-thirds do, but our survey found that only 8% of editors work just for publishing companies and I’m going to bore you with another graph:

It’s the same pattern: just under 18% specialise, and more than 305% work for more than one type of client (so we can suggest that most work for two or three types of client, and many for more than four).

But surely they’ve all worked in publishing at some time?

Sorry to contradict: before coming to the profession, nearly 60% of the participants in our survey had never worked in publishing. Moreover, high percentages of participants who currently work in-house for publishing companies had previously worked outside publishing. This summarises these members’ backgrounds:

So, how representative is your survey?

We received surveys from 402 members, almost exactly 18% of our membership, in November 2016. In 2010 the Professional Associations Research Network concluded that ‘most organisations … receive an 11–15% response rate’ to membership surveys; so this is a good response. We found that Advanced Professional Members and members who had belonged for more than five years were over-represented in the results; and that the percentages of participants who were Intermediate Members, Professional Members, members who had recently joined and members who had belonged for between three and five years were about the same as those groups’ ‘share’ of the total membership. For all of these groups the balance between male and female participants was quite close or very close to the ‘mix’ among all members in that group. This suggests that the results are a good reflection of how established editors spend their time.

For his sins, John Firth is the membership director of the SfEP.

If you’d like a copy of the survey, a PDF can be downloaded from here: 2016 Membership Survey.

SfEP local group: Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland local group was established in 2011, the first time there has ever been an SfEP group in Northern Ireland. Our founder and coordinator is Averill Buchanan.

Belfast meetings are typically informal events held in cafes in the centre of Belfast, the benefit of which is that cakes and pastries are readily available! There’s usually six or so members at any one meeting, and with no fixed agenda everyone gets the opportunity to talk about the issues that are important to them. It’s also a chance for new SfEP members to meet more established members to ask questions about things they may be struggling with in their work and careers. But it’s not just a chance for us to network professionally. Many firm friendships have been established over the years since the first meeting.

The experiences of members vary widely. Between us we cover lots of different specialisms – business writing, educational texts, fiction, music, student theses – and within those areas there’s a mix of skills – project management, developmental editing, copy-editing and proofreading, as well as book design, formatting and typesetting. We’re really quite a mixed bunch!

Better together

Our presence at a local level has grown considerably since 2011, and we are now invited to local publishing events. Earlier this year we had a stand at a local publishing fair in the Linen Hall Library in Belfast where we stood alongside publishers and other professionals in Northern Ireland. This enabled us to spread the word about the SfEP, and offered us a great chance to network.

We also have our own website (www.epani.org.uk) and Twitter account (@epa_ni), which helps to market our members’ services in Northern Ireland. We have more clout working collectively to win new clients. Indeed, earlier this year, several members got together to bid on a big local government project that would have been beyond the reach of any one individual.

Three local group members made the trip to the SfEP’s annual conference in Birmingham in 2016. We spent some time at the September local group meeting talking about the conference and encouraging others to consider going next year. We had thirteen people at that meeting, including three first-timers – a record number for a group meeting. We drew names out of a hat to give away the fabulous Cult Pen goodie bag from the conference.

We’ve just had our annual Christmas lunch, always a popular event, with thirteen attendees. We spent an enjoyable couple of hours eating, chatting and drinking a very welcome glass of prosecco bought by a member who couldn’t join us in person – thanks, Mike!

If you’re based in Northern Ireland, or if you’re an SfEP member visiting Belfast, you’d be very welcome to join us at our next meeting. Contact Victoria Woodside (victoriawoodside@me.com) for more information.

Victoria Woodside is enjoying her second career working as a freelance editor and proofreader in between caring for her four little people. She likes nothing better than a roaring fire and a glass of red on these cold winter nights. You can find her at www.proofreaderni.com, on Facebook as ProofreaderNI or on Twitter @vicproofreader.

 

Image credit: Tim Fields Creative Commons 2.0

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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

SfEP wise owls: continuing professional development for experienced editors

Welcome to the latest SfEP wise owls blog. This month, the owls provide advice on continuing professional development for experienced proofreaders and copy-editors.

website-votenow-1The team would like to take this opportunity to invite you to support our nomination for the 2017 UK blog awards. The public vote is open until Monday 19th December and you can vote for the SfEP blog via the UK blog awards website. We hope you have enjoyed reading about the SfEP and its members in the blog and would appreciate your support!

 

Hazel BirdHazel Bird
If you’re feeling on top of your game with your editorial skills, consider improving your knowledge of the fields you edit and the conventions those fields use. For example, if you edit fiction, take a creative writing course. Or, if you edit history, attend a webinar, read a book that challenges you, or consider a course or qualification. You can also attend subject-specific conferences or join discussion groups on social media such as Facebook. The more you know about your specialist fields (or the fields you want to specialise in), the better you’ll be able to tap into how your clients think, what they want from you as an editor and what conventions their field will expect them to follow.

Melanie Thompson
Sometimes the best CPD comes from unexpected places. A long time ago I did a brief stint as a school governor. I was sent on a short training course, and I learned a lot from that about working in teams, understanding more about how schools tick, and – crucially – things about curriculum development and changes in teaching methods. A few years later I attended a “maths for parents” evening class at my son’s infant school and learned some handy new mental maths techniques. Fast forward to 2016 and I went along to a parents’ forum at my son’s (senior) school, where the discussion topic was “use of IT in classrooms”, especially ebooks and students’ use of tablet computers. All these lessons popped into my mind during a session on education publishing at this year’s SfEP conference, and continue to inform my approach to working in that sector.

John EspirianJohn Espirian
Invest time in learning how to improve your website and how you can apply basic SEO to stand out. There are a million and one podcasts about digital marketing techniques. Listen to them while walking, driving, cooking, whatever. Even if only a tiny bit of that knowledge sticks, it will likely put you ahead of a lot of people who don’t know the first thing about optimising and promoting their online presence.

Answering questions on LinkedIn, Facebook and especially the SfEP forums will help you realise where you’re strong. Can you answer every question you come across? If not, what areas are you weak in? Why not deep-dive on those? How much of the SfEP’s own editorial syllabus do you know inside out?

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford
Lack of money doesn’t mean you have to forego learning. These are all free of charge. Explore the world of MOOCs (massive online open courses) as a free way of developing your subject, editorial or business knowledge (e.g. from FutureLearn, and Oxford University is offering its first MOOC from February), and use HMRC’s free webinars and videos to make sure you’re on top of your self-assessment, and claiming the right business expenses. Keep up with tech changes. Each month pick one, say, Word function you struggle with and master it. Don’t waste your time fighting with your software – find a YouTube video to help you use it and sign up to the WordTips emails for daily or weekly emails and access to a library of tips. Join the macros SfEP forum to get an insight into how people use macros to save time and improve effectiveness, and get support as you try things out. Apply the same approach to other software you use.

Margaret HunterMargaret Hunter
I’ve found that a good way to sharpen up my understanding of what it is that I’m doing is to think about how I explain the process to clients, especially non-publisher ones. Over the years I’ve written (and rewritten!) mini guides to help my clients, for example what happens during copy-editing and proofreading, and a checklist of things for self-publishing authors to think about. I’ve also put together business documents I need or find helpful, such as terms and conditions, a services contract, style sheet and queries templates, and the like. Thinking about how you explain your business to others could help you identify any gaps in your knowledge (go fill them!) and enable you to sharpen up your working practices to become more professional.

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Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Judith Butcher Award: recognising our unsung volunteers

Judith ButcherNominations for the 2015 Judith Butcher Award are now open. So what is the Judith Butcher Award and why should you think about nominating someone to win it?

As with many organisations, much of the success of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) is down to the tireless work of volunteers behind the scenes. To recognise these efforts, the SfEP established the Judith Butcher Award in 2011 to ensure individuals who make a valuable difference to the SfEP and its membership are rewarded for their contributions.

Named after our serving president, the Judith Butcher Award was first presented at the SfEP 2012 annual general meeting and is awarded annually at our AGM and conference.

As well as being the SfEP’s first honorary president, Judith Butcher is the author of Butcher’s Copy-editing: The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Copy-editors and Proofreaders.

The first winner of the Judith Butcher Award was Lesley Ward who was a member of the SfEP’s founding committee, served as the SfEP’s first treasurer and played a major role in developing its training programme.

Since then, the Judith Butcher Award honoured Helen Stevens in 2013 for ‘doing a huge amount of work to bring the SfEP right up to date on social media platforms, especially through the Facebook page’. Helen has previously served as the SfEP marketing and PR director.

Judith Butcher Award 2014Last year, Averill Buchanan received the Judith Butcher Award for being ‘the driving force behind the Northern Ireland SfEP local group’. She was particularly commended for her efforts in organising training courses in the region and promoting these through social media. Averill also set up the SfEP Twitter account and recruited a team of volunteers to help her manage the account and has volunteered as a moderator on the SfEP forum.

One of the best things about the Judith Butcher Award is that the criteria seek to recognise those who have made important, but less obvious, contributions to the organisation, as well as those who have made more visible differences. So have a think about who you have been in contact with over the past year and how they have impacted on you and your experience of the SfEP.

Nominations for the Judith Butcher Award are open until midday on Monday 20 April 2015 and all you need to do is email your own name and SfEP membership number and up to 150 words supporting your nomination to: jba@sfep.org.uk.

You can nominate anyone within the SfEP except yourself, serving council members, existing honorary members or anyone who was shortlisted for the award last year (so, sadly, that rules out Sarah Patey and John Woodruff).

The nominations are then considered by a Judith Butcher Award sub-committee, which is made up of honorary SfEP members and past winners of the Award, before a shortlist is announced in June and the winner decided in July.

Now it’s over to you to ensure our best asset, our members, are duly recognised and celebrated.

Email your nominations to jba@sfep.org.uk by midday on Monday 20 April 2015.

Joanna BoweryJoanna 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 entry-level member of the SfEP and a Chartered Marketer. She is active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Proofread by SfEP entry-level member Susan Walton.

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

A day in my life: Lucy Metzger

IMG_2999What exactly do editors and proofreaders get up to every day? This is a question we will be exploring in a new, regular feature: A day in my life. We start off with an insight into the life of SfEP regional development director Lucy Metzger.

I’m at work the moment my feet hit the floor around 6.15 a.m., but I don’t start getting paid until about 9.00 a.m. In between I’m waking teenagers, making teas and coffees (I must add that later in the day my teenagers sometimes make ME a cuppa) and packed lunches, waking teenagers again, telling teenagers I don’t know the whereabouts of their headphones/maths jotters/black-cardigan-no-not-THAT-black-cardigan, waking teenagers again and finally ensuring that they all end up in school. I drive home on a wee stretch of country road to escape the school-run traffic. That little drive, listening to the tail end of the Today programme, eases my transition from Mother Lucy to Editor Lucy.

There are many things I miss about office life, and I don’t know what I’d do without my Glasgow group companions, but I do relish that solitude as I sit down at my computer to begin work. Ideally the tasks I do between 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. are those that require my best thinking, as far as that goes. What’s ‘best’? Creative, analytical, intuitive – different jobs require different kinds of thoughts, but my mind is definitely better in the morning. A lot of the time I’m copy-editing academic books and textbooks. I usually conceive of the editing as being in two phases: the bits-and-pieces and then the reading. The morning is my best time for the reading. It’s also when I mark mentoring assignments, which requires careful thought as each mentee raises new kinds of queries and issues; and the morning is good for any writing I’ve got to do, e.g. reports or proposals for the SfEP council, training materials, a note for Editing Matters, or even a blog post.

My lunch isn’t a single meal – I snack: a cracker with cheese, a bowl of muesli, some leftover rice, some fruit. If I’m starting a new book then I’ll typically begin it in the afternoon and do routine checks: chapter titles vs table of contents, numbering of illustrations, styling of headings and subheadings, checking references and notes, etc. These tasks are good for afternoon. I don’t want to give the impression that I become completely incompetent at that time (the jury’s still out on that one), but these activities don’t exert my mental muscles quite as much. Such checking almost always throws up a few things to ask the author about, and this makes an opportunity to establish communication by means of some relatively lightweight queries – ‘which version would you prefer for the title of Chapter 3?’ – rather than plunging straight into the nitty-gritty – ‘I wonder if you could clarify what you mean by “if the subject (the individual is individual) is determined, yet only as being undetermined, then that which determines the subject, i.e. the predicate (the particular), is taken to be in-determining any determination”?’ I’m not kidding. Anyway, that kind of query is a morning query and definitely belongs in the second or third email to the author, not the first.

For the last few years, I’ve used the school day to predict exactly how many hours I’d have between sitting down at my computer and the first ‘hello’ of one of my kids coming in the door (they walk home). This year, though, my oldest is in sixth form and so may turn up at any time. I don’t like pointless interruptions, but it’s lovely to be interrupted by that. We have a little chat and then when she starts wondering about food I turn her loose on the leftovers in the fridge. I then get back to work, and so, I can only suppose, does she. Then the other two come home, and on goes my Mother Lucy hat again, which feels really nice.

How does this compare with a typical day in your life? We’d love to hear about what you get up to. If you’d like to share your ‘day in the life’ story, please email smm@sfep.org.uk.

Lucy MetzgerLucy Metzger grew up in Illinois and began proofreading in 1987. She edited for Macmillan in London from 1990 to 1995; she then moved to Scotland and went freelance. She is based in Glasgow. Lucy works mostly on academic and educational materials. She has three children, is an amateur musician, likes cooking and taking walks, and is learning to crochet.

Proofread by SfEP associate Patric Toms.

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 internet and the democratisation of English. Part 2: Tear up the rule book?

Sue Littleford, an advanced member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), has written a series of four blog posts exploring how the internet has contributed to the democratisation of the English language. Here is part two:

Tear up the rule bookIn part one, I talked about the changes I envisage the internet bringing to the range of Englishes currently spoken around the world. I was brought up with the mantra ‘Might Isn’t Right’. But as the internet leads to the blurring of the boundaries between all the world’s Englishes, might is most definitely right.

While we undergo this particular phase of language development, though, it will become harder and harder to teach ‘proper’ English; it will become harder and harder to justify changes when editing and proofreading, too. We are already careering towards a more global English, when the habits of one variety will bleed into the others. We are in the privileged position of watching it happen as no other generation has been able to do before. Its speed is breathtaking. Sometimes our stomachs flip. Sometimes it hurts our eyes. Sometimes you just want a few solid rules to cling onto, as they gave their shape to the English we knew growing up.

Evolution of the language didn’t stop when I was at school. It’s not stopped yet. It won’t ever. For now, it’s speeding up, fuelled by people communicating with each other in numbers never seen before, and displayed for all to see on the platform of the internet.

I remember an English lesson when I was aged ten or so, in which the wonderful Mr Harwood told us that the plural of hoof is hooves or hoofs, and that the plural of roof is roofs or rooves; that neither was wrong but that hooves and roofs were more commonly used. Well, that’s settled down in the last half-century. I don’t think I’ve ever seen rooves since. But I’ve also not yet come across anyone else who was taught that there are varieties of ‘correct’ and that weight of numbers matters in language (might actually becomes right in the end).

We’ve all seen evolution in action – consider E-mail to e-mail to email; on line to on-line to online. The new edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary brought out in 2007 took out 16,000 hyphens. Evolution is accompanied by mass extinction events, after all.

Even experienced editors, who know all this stuff, sometimes betray themselves with a ‘Well, I was taught….’ or a ‘Which is correct…?’ Language is moving too fast, now. It’s always been a numbers game. ‘Aks’ for ask is around a thousand years old in Britain. So is singular ‘they’, plural ‘none’ and a host of other usages the reactionaries lambast as Wrong. Thousand-year-old mistakes perpetuated by the hoi polloi, or thousand-year-old valid alternatives? Who decides?

What’s hard to accept, perhaps particularly for those who really paid attention at school (but who weren’t lucky enough to have Mr Harwood) and have stuck to what they were taught ever since, despite the evidence all around them, is that there is no outside authority dictating these ‘rules’ or arbitrating disputes about them. There is just opinion: informed, uninformed and not yet formed. And there is time. And there are users of English. There is not necessarily consensus. Mash those up together, then you’ll find the prescriptivists are fighting a losing battle.

So – what’s to be done? We editors and proofreaders need to know our stuff, and to be able to defend our edits. How can we do this against a background where language is turning to quicksand? Two words: style guide.

The style guide will, I think, become the touchstone. It will be the standard for that publisher, that government, that company as now, but I can see that copy-editors will need to be far more proactive in producing style guides for clients. I suspect that more and more organisations will be publishing theirs, as The Economist, the Guardian, the BBC and the UK government have done. We will need to be aware of what free-standing style guides are available and talk to clients about choosing the one that best fits them, with or without a degree of personalisation.

The rule book isn’t dead – it never really lived. But style guides? They’ll go on forever.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford was a career civil servant before being forcibly outsourced. That was such fun she changed tack altogether and has now been a freelance copy-editor for seven years, working mostly on postgraduate textbooks plus the occasional horseracing thriller. She is on Facebook and Twitter.

Proofread by SfEP associate Sandra Rawlin.

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.

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.

A copy of Martin Chuzzlewit before being restored by Exeter Bookbinders

SfEP Devon group discovers the beauty of bookbinding

Chaim Ebanks from Exeter Bookbinders demonstrates bookbinding to the Devon SfEP group

Chaim Ebanks from Exeter Bookbinders

The beauty of a good piece of writing is in its content and style, which is what the editor and proofreader will tend to focus on. But hard-copy books are about more than cleverly written prose – they can often be works of art in their own right. Books can engage all our senses: the heady smell when you enter a bookshop; the sound of the paper as you turn a page; the salt you can almost taste on your lips as you read a scene depicting a windswept beach; and the pleasure that courses through your veins as you caress that dog-eared copy of your favourite novel.

Sadly, despite lots of TLC, our most treasured books can become more than a bit dog-eared. And that’s where expert bookbinders can come to the rescue, restoring our special books to their former glory.

After a fascinating session on bookbinding at last year’s SfEP conference, the SfEP Devon group recently invited Chaim Ebanks from Exeter Bookbinders to speak at one of its regular meetings in Exeter. Armed with a bone folder, needle and waxed thread, goatskin, and two Marmite jars containing mysterious ingredients (definitely not what was on the label), Chaim set about demonstrating the ancient art of bookbinding.

The session began with a brief history of writing systems covering soft clay tablets, the introduction of scrolls, the advent of paper and the use of wax tablets.

Chaim then set about demonstrating how to bind a book. The process involves sewing signatures – the folded papers that will become sections of pages – together with waxed thread before adding open-weave calico tapes to cover the sewing and strengthen the spine. The spine is then glued with polyvinyl acetate (one of the mysterious concoctions in Ebanks’s Marmite jars). Once the glue has dried, endpapers are added to the front and back and the book is covered with goatskin. The book is then placed in a clamp overnight to exclude any excess air and ensure a tight finish. The bone folder (made of whalebone) is used throughout the process to eliminate any creases or baggy edges.

Having demonstrated how to bind a book, Chaim then set to work adapting the process to restore a rather worn-out hardback copy of Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit. The book had definitely seen better days and its cover was completely detached.

A copy of Martin Chuzzlewit before being restored by Exeter Bookbinders

Before

However, after gently dismantling the cover and spine, Chaim added a new cover and endpapers before applying liberal amounts of bookbinders’ paste (the other mysterious concoction in his Marmite jars) to reveal a miraculously rejuvenated book.

 

The restored volume of Martin Chuzzlewit after Chaim Ebanks of Exeter Bookbinders rebound the book.

After

It still has the character of an old book, its pages marked with foxing (browned due to the ferrous oxidisation of the acid in the paper), but now has a polished cover and gleaming name plate. The book is ready to be cherished for many years to come.

 

As with many SfEP local groups, the session ended with a chance to enjoy tea and cake and chat to other proofreaders and editors in the area. The Devon SfEP group are grateful to Alison Shakspeare and Rosalind Davies for organising the event and to Chaim Ebanks for taking the time to share his knowledge and expertise with them. Chaim and his colleagues at Exeter Bookbinders are happy to speak at events; you can contact them via the Exeter Bookbinders website.

There are many local SfEP groups throughout the UK and beyond – there is even an international group. Meetings vary from informal gatherings over tea or dinner to organised events such as the bookbinding talk. To find out more about what’s going on near you, visit the local groups page on the SfEP website.

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

Joanna Bowery

Joanna Bowery is the SfEP social media manager and a member of the Devon SfEP group. 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. In her spare time, Jo enjoys rugby (although she has retired from playing) and running.

 

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