Tag Archives: SfEP forums

Don’t fear the forums

Hello, my name is Amy and I am a forum lurker [wave].

I’ve been a member of the SfEP for four years and, while I read the forums almost every day, I am more than a little embarrassed to say that my first forum post was to ask people if they wanted to be interviewed for this article. But in doing so I did break my non-posting streak (yay!).

Chameleon

My lack of contribution is not because I think there’s nothing for me to learn or that I never have any questions. Au contraire: I’ve learned (and continue to learn) some brilliant stuff from the forums. They are an excellent source of support and information in what can often be a solitary profession. I also have questions on a daily basis and quite frankly, my office orchid is a horrible conversationalist.

What has, in the past, stopped me from posting is (a) a basic fear of sounding like a dunderhead or (b) there being a typo or grammatical inaccuracy in my question. I’ve lost count of how many posts I have started and deleted as a direct result of these fears.

Forum fears

From the responses I got to my forum post, I believe there is a robust community of lurkers out there. I also believe there is one overwhelming barrier to contributing to the forums: fear.
There appear to be two types of forum-related fear: (a) of making a fool of yourself with a silly question or a mistake and (b) fear of others’ reactions and tactless replies. While the forums are a rich source of support and insight, it appears they are also a source of much angst for us lurkers.

Ally Oakes, for example, told me that she ‘didn’t dare’ ask anything on the forums for months after joining the Society, partly due to fear and partly due to a feeling of not having anything to say.

Claire Langford has posted in the forums a few times in the last eight months, but still feels hesitant. She says that the limiting factor for her is experience: ‘I very rarely post a response to a question, largely because I don’t yet feel I am enough of an authority to give advice to other proofreaders and copy-editors.’ When she does post, she will ‘check, re-check and check again’ any posts due to an ‘agonising fear’ of there being a spelling mistake or grammatical error.

I recognise and empathise with both Ally’s and Claire’s feelings, but wise words from John Espirian, who was fundamental in setting up the forums, help put the fear of forums into perspective:

Even the best editors make mistakes. The forums are a private space away from prying eyes, and the community is supportive enough to overlook these things. So I wouldn’t worry about the odd typo slipping into your text – it happens. Don’t let this fear hold you back from posting questions, as you’ll be missing out on the collective wisdom of hundreds of experienced editorial pros.

This is a sentiment echoed by Claire and Ally, who variously describe the forums as ‘a godsend’ and a source of really useful snippets of information. According to Ally, ‘The fear is natural and isn’t a bad thing; it’s a part of starting something new.’ I too can attest that I have only had very helpful and thoughtful responses to my literal cry for help.

Many members have told me that they feel access to the forums is one of the main perks of SfEP membership. Statistics kindly provided by John show that there are 1,804 forum users, 32% of whom are active, which means they have logged into the forums at least once in the last 30 days. You can then figure out how many fellow lurkers there are when you see that only 231 active users have at least 50 posts. This shows something that we all probably know already, that some users feel more confident posting than others.

Which leads nicely into the second fear – that of replies that may make you feel foolish or upset. Thankfully, these seem to be few and far between, but there are members who have been put off contributing to the forums as a result of an ill-considered response that was perceived to be unhelpful or unkind.

It is worth remembering when replying to a forum post that the contributor may have spent ages writing and rewriting their question or comment, trying to make it perfect. John sums it up nicely: ‘Be kind and clear. Remember that you didn’t always know it all (and you probably don’t even now).’

If you look at the forums you will see questions from people of all membership levels. There are few who believe they have all the answers, and the forums are a space in which to seek advice and information from virtual colleagues. It is an opportunity we should all make the most of.

How can you beat the forum fears?

So how can you beat the forum fear and confidently make your first post? My first piece of advice is not to overthink it. One Advanced Professional Member suggested I ask about the best kind of printer – it doesn’t have to be a complex or high-brow question to get you started.

Secondly, don’t hover over ‘Submit’ for too long. The longer you wait, the more likely you are to press ‘Delete’ instead.

John Espirian also has some tips to help assuage potential first posters’ nerves:

  1. Check out the link at the top of the Newbies page, which gives you a list of hints and tips to get you started.
  2. Make use of the search function before posting. Your topic, or even specific question, may have already been discussed. Even if it’s not exactly the answer you need, it might help you to tailor your question.

Given the calibre of the members of the SfEP, it can be daunting to contribute to a conversation, but my advice is, don’t underestimate the value of what you can add. Even if you are a relative newcomer to the industry, your life experience or unique insight could be really valuable and much appreciated by the community. And a new voice is always welcome. So, when it comes to the forums, in the inimitable words of Dr Susan Jeffers, feel the fear and do it anyway.

Amy ReayAmy Armitage-Reay is an ex-forum lurker and Professional Member of the SfEP. She started her professional life as a reporter and has run Ethos Editing (www.ethosediting.com), which specialises in creating academic content, since 2009.

 

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

Finding our community spirit for the new year

We all know that the SfEP exists to uphold editorial excellence. It does this through a membership structure that encourages all members to develop and hone their skills, and by running a strong programme of training and mentoring to support this. But the Society also exists for and through its members, a network of individuals from all sorts of backgrounds and doing many kinds of editorial work – our community of editorial professionals.

So, what makes us a community?

As community director, I’d say it involves sharing certain values and responsibilities. Our values include striving to be the best proofreaders and editors we can be. Our responsibilities (alongside delivering skilled and professional services to our clients, of course) include helping each other live up to those values, supporting those new to our profession and sharing experience among ourselves to enable us all to be successful.

But how do we provide that mutual support in a profession where many of us work at home or in relative isolation, and with members all over the world, including some in remote locations? Well, the SfEP has a number of activities and resources that help foster a sense of community. Some involve meeting face to face, while others use the internet to shrink the distance between us.

Meeting in person: local groups

The SfEP has 38 local groups throughout the United Kingdom, all organised by volunteer coordinators. Groups hold regular meetings, usually in an informal setting, and often, I’ve noticed, involving food and drink. What each group does varies, but all the events provide opportunities to pass on knowledge and to network.

Kathrin Luddecke encapsulates the essence of our local groups in her recent post about the Oxford group:

“While [training] was excellent and really helped me develop best practice… it was the friendly exchanges with others in the local group, the chance to swap experiences, ask questions and share frustrations… that made all the difference to me wanting to keep going. There’s nothing quite like mutual support!”

Those who don’t yet belong to the Society can attend up to three local meetings. A number of people have commented that being able to ‘try before you buy’ like this helped them decide whether editing was right for them.

Read more blog posts about what people get out of their local groups.

And for those who are remotely located, either within the UK or abroad, there’s always our Skype club, which ‘e-meets’ every month.

Meeting en masse: the conference

Our annual  conference provides many stimulating and educational sessions, as well as plenty of opportunities for networking. However nervous people may feel about attending a big event like this, they always seem to go away with a smile on their face, having made new friends, and fired up with enthusiasm to put into practice everything they have learned.

The theme of this year’s conference is Context is key: Why the answer to most questions is ‘It depends’. You’ll be hearing much more about this before booking opens in March, so I won’t steal our conference director’s thunder. In the meantime, we have a number of blog posts that give a flavour of how people feel about attending conference.

The forums: an online watercooler

For times when we can’t meet face to face, the forums are a vital part of the SfEP community. Run by our internet director and his web content editors, and assisted in the day-to-day management by a team of voluntary moderators, the forums are a bit like an online watercooler, where members from all over the world talk about all things editorial, and some things non-editorial.

It’s here where the community spirit is perhaps most evident, with members sharing their experience and expertise on all things from getting started in proofreading and editing to advanced Word wrangling, to that knotty punctuation or grammar question. New members are always given a warm welcome, and more experienced members are generous with their advice and support.

Extending our community: blog and social media

Blog

This, our blog, is where we reach out beyond our community to show our face to the outside world. Tracey Roberts, another volunteer, coordinates it all and we aim to provide a range of interesting and entertaining content relevant to professional editors and proofreaders and anyone who uses editors and proofreaders. And – in exciting news – this has recently been recognised as we heard last week that the SfEP blog has made it through to the final eight of the UK Blog Awards 2017. The winners will be announced on Friday 21 April 2017, so keep your fingers crossed for us!

We are already putting together some great ideas for posts over the coming months, including tips on building your business for the new year, and editing and writing fiction, to coincide with National Storytelling Week at the beginning of February.

But what would you like to see here? Do let us know what types of posts you enjoy and find most useful, or if there’s a subject you’d like to see discussed here.

Social media

As you may know, the SfEP has been increasing its social media presence. This helps raise our profile and allows us to attract more members, enabling us to grow and extend what we can do for our community. Thanks to our splendid team of social media volunteers, every day we keep people informed about what the SfEP is doing as well as posting stimulating content related to editing, publishing and freelancing more generally. And we are increasingly engaging directly with members and non-members, spreading the word… and the love.

You can now follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.

And finally… huge thanks to all our community volunteers!

You may have noticed a theme running through everything I’ve talked about here, and that is the huge contribution that is made by our volunteers. Without them, many of the SfEP’s community activities simply could not take place. So I’d like to end by saying a big thank you to every single person who puts their time and energy into making the SfEP what it is – a welcoming, supportive community of editorial professionals.

Eleanor Parkinson, one of our newer members, summed up the essence of the SfEP community spirit in a recent post on our Newbies forum:

“I don’t believe I have ever come across a professional organisation that provides as much practical, real-life help to people trying to get started in that industry.” 

Sue Browning Sue Browning, SfEP community director

 

 

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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

New support forum for ELT editors

By Denise Cowle

Last week I attended an awayday for editors who work specifically on ELT (English Language Teaching) materials. Organised by Karen White of White Ink Ltd and Helen Holwill, it was a really useful day, with workshops, presentations, and lots of networking time.

What was very obvious was just how few of the editors I spoke to were SfEP members, which got me thinking – why not?

Several of those I spoke to said that, as ELT editing is specialised, they didn’t think the SfEP had anything to offer them.

The same could be said of many areas – think of specialist science and medical editors, for example – but the SfEP has much to offer every editor, especially those who are freelance, and here’s why.
meeting

  • Forums provide much-needed support and information, on topics ranging from the finer points of grammar to negotiating contracts and rates of pay. For me, they are the highest-value benefit of membership.
  • Discounts on editorial training covering a variety of skills and levels, both workshop based and online (distance learning).
  • Local groups where you can meet up regularly with other editors. There are 39, plus an international group and a Skype club for those who are based overseas or in remote locations. If you’re freelance then feeling isolated can be an issue, so local groups are a lifeline, providing peer support and a space for discussion (and venting, if necessary!). And who doesn’t love a chat over coffee/cake/wine?
  • A searchable online directory for Professional and Advanced Professional Members to advertise their services.
  • A 24-hour legal helpline, again for Professional and Advanced Professional Members.

A colleague was at the awayday as an official representative of the SfEP, specifically to raise awareness, and there was definitely interest in joining once the benefits and services were explained.

The SfEP aims, among other things, to promote high editorial standards and uphold the professional status of all editors, in all specialisms and from all backgrounds – whether freelance or in-house. The variety of its members is what makes it such an enriching community. It’s a bonus that many are also generous with their expertise.

So if you’re a member, the next time you’re chatting to a colleague who isn’t, why not remind them of the advantages of joining?

And if you’re not a member, have a think about it. You can go to a local group meeting up to three times before joining. Why not come along and say hello? The cake is really good.

Denise CowleDenise Cowle (denisecowleeditorial.com and @dinnydaethat) is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP and is also the coordinator of the SfEP local Glasgow group (@SfEPGlasgow). She specialises in English Language Teaching materials but also works on non-fiction books. Denise lives in Glasgow, and before seeing the light and retraining as an editor she was a physiotherapist in the NHS.

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

Reasons to be cheerful about freelance home working

By Lesley Ellen

Sitting at the computer in my home office and looking out the window on this wildly wet and windy morning, I can’t help reflecting on how lucky I am to be able to work from home as a freelance editor.

When I recently took voluntary redundancy after working in local government – for, well, let’s just say more than 20 years – I knew I didn’t want to return to the commuter treadmill, trundling into an office every day to work fixed hours under the watchful eyes of a boss – a boss who wasn’t me. Having done a fair bit of writing and editing throughout my career, the world of proofreading and copy-editing appealed to me, and two years on with some training and work under my belt (but still a great deal to learn), I can say that I haven’t regretted for a single minute taking this up as a second career.

Earlier this year, I was lured back to the corporate world to work two days a week to help out with a maternity cover. The work has been interesting, my colleagues are lovely and the organisation is located in stunning parkland in one of Edinburgh’s most beautiful, hidden areas, where lunchtime walks amongst this year’s especially glorious autumn trees made me very grateful to be outdoors and away from either of my desks. But now that the weather has turned and with my contract ending in just a few days, I can’t wait to huddle down indoors and focus full-time on my editing career.

Never again the early morning bus ride in the dark, followed by the return journey also in the dark – commuting in Scotland in the winter months is invariably in the dark. Just as I do on the days I’m currently at home, I’ll be able to get up at a time that suits my own schedule and cast a sympathetic glance at neighbours scurrying out to work while I put the kettle on and settle down in my cosy study.

freedom to work outsideWith my son living away at university and my husband out at work, the house is my domain and, being my own boss, I can fit my schedule to suit looming deadlines and other necessary tasks. If I need to, I can work five or six hours, or even more (with the appropriate health breaks of course) to meet a deadline. I can take time off to clean the bathroom (I have to be working on a particularly dull project for that task to appeal). Or, instead of furtively looking at live results on my phone, I can take time out to watch a tennis match on TV (something that does appeal, at least until we get into the long drawn-out torture of the typical Andy Murray match). If I want to make that time up by working later at night, then that’s my choice. In the summer, I can break up my working day with an hour pottering in the garden or just eating my lunch outside – weather permitting naturally.

I don’t need to ask for time off for holidays. As long as I let my regular clients know that I’m going to be away and don’t take on any extra projects, I can take my holidays whenever I want; no more agonising over whose turn it is to staff the office during the Christmas/New Year period. I don’t need to worry about how to fill the hours on a slow day in the office or about getting stressed that I didn’t manage to do everything I needed to because I kept getting interrupted by colleagues and phone calls. (That’s not to say I don’t get stressed when up against a looming deadline at home, but I’d say it’s a different kind of stress.) And of course, I don’t need to get involved in any office politics.

Getting support from ‘virtual colleagues’

Sure, there can be downsides to working from home. Some people can find it isolating and you do have to take care of your health and ensure that you don’t sit at that screen all day long without regular breaks. You might miss the chat at the coffee machine, and something I do miss from time to time is the opportunity to stick my head above my computer and say to a colleague: ‘You know when you’re trying to format a document and Word won’t let you … How do you fix it?’ Or, ‘In a sentence like this, can you say …?’ But the fix for this, as a member of the SfEP, is to log in to the SfEP forums where you can ask these questions, even if you do feel a bit stupid sometimes, and you’ll get a sensible reply, usually within minutes. It never fails to amaze me just how generous members are with their time and their advice. And using the forums does make you feel like you are part of a community.

Access to the forums is one of the major benefits of being an SfEP member, but for me the biggest benefit is being a member of the local SfEP group. Our group has only been running for just over a year, but I already count members of it as friends and colleagues with whom it’s wonderful to share experiences and information. I have learned and continue to learn so much from them, both longstanding SfEP members and newer entrants. Our group seems to be going from strength to strength and we have much to look forward to in the year ahead.

So, as Christmas and the end of the year approach, I’m thankful for the working opportunities I’ve had this year, both as a part-time employee and as a freelance editor, but I’m gearing up for a new year of opportunities and relishing the chance to be my own boss, fully focused on my editing career and working from home.

Lesley EllenLesley Ellen (www.elleneditorial.com) is a Professional Member of the SfEP and coordinator of the SfEP’s local Edinburgh group. She has a background in modern languages and previously worked in local government where she wrote and edited all manner of business documents and communications. As a freelance editor, Lesley specialises in academic copy-editing and editing for non-publishers.

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

How I got started – Graham Hughes

SfEP deskOne of the most common questions asked at Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) local groups and by those interested in pursuing a career in editing or proofreading is: ‘How did you get started?’.

SfEP professional member Graham Hughes shares his story in this regular blog feature, which explores the many different career paths taken by SfEP members.

This really wasn’t part of the plan. From a ridiculously early age – around 14 – computing was the only career I could foresee for myself. I did the O Level, A Level and degree, and joined British Rail (yes, we’re going back a bit) as a programmer.

After about 15 years, several changes of role and a few changes of employer, I was in a rut. Fresh opportunities were limited by my old-fashioned technical skills, and the work was becoming mundane. I started looking for something else to do – first as a sideline, and maybe eventually as a career.

I saw an advert for the Writers Bureau’s Comprehensive Writing Course. This seemed like something I could do. I’d always felt comfortable working with documents, as well as programs. I did the course – most of it, anyway – and went on to have a sports history book, and some articles, published. Soon, though, I was struggling to produce ideas and convert them into paid work. After two years of not quite setting the world alight, my book was remaindered. The idea of making a living from writing seemed far-fetched.

So, what next? Another Writers Bureau course caught my eye: Proofreading and Copy Editing. It struck me that checking my material – rather than actually writing it – had probably been my main strength. How about checking other people’s material, and getting paid for it? Also, as Richard Hutchinson explains in his blog post on how he got started, there are parallels between programming and editorial work.

A plan came together: (1) do the course, (2) re-edit the book (yes, I now realise I probably should have used someone else), (3) self-publish it as an ebook, (4) look for work as a proofreader or editor. The last part was the tricky one.

My first job wasn’t quite what I’d had in mind. After I’d emailed the leader of a local writers’ group, one of its members asked me to type a short play script that he’d handwritten. He accepted my offer to edit it as well, so it felt like some kind of a start.

After that, finding work was very tough. With my full-time employment in IT, I couldn’t take on big jobs, or even smallish time-critical ones. I joined the SfEP, after dithering for several months, and started learning a lot about proofreading and editing, especially from the SfEP forums – but progress was snail-paced for the next year or so.

The big change came when my IT job ended, semi-voluntarily. Rather than looking for a new one, I decided (nervously) to focus on freelance editorial work. I did look for in-house editorial jobs close to home, but there seemed to be nothing available for someone with my limited credentials. The next few months were very challenging: a few small jobs, then nothing for nearly three months; but my progress with the Publishing Training Centre (PTC) Basic Proofreading course gave me some hope.

Then, suddenly, the work started coming – mostly from students, largely thanks to the Find a Proofreader website and a helpful, nearby SfEP member with an overflowing workload (thanks Helen). Around this time (spring 2014), I completed the PTC course, along with other training, and became an ordinary member of SfEP (now known as professional member), which helped to bring in more work. To shore up my finances, I downsized from a suburban semi-detached house to an urban flat (no great wrench), wiping out my mortgage.

Since then, things have been gradually coming together. I’ve been doing more work for business rather than students, also proofreading two books for a publisher. I’m now leaning more towards editing, to make use of the decent writing skills that I feel I have (though you might disagree, reading this). Technology and business have become my predominant subject areas. Via a long-winded route, I think I’ve ended up in my ideal job.

If you’re thinking of getting into editing and/or proofreading, I strongly recommend it, if you think it’s right for you and vice versa. Being a keen reader isn’t enough: you need a sound understanding of spelling, grammar and punctuation, a knack for paying attention to detail, a professional attitude and a willingness to stay positive and persistent as you build your business. If that’s you: good luck!

Graham HughesGraham Hughes still can’t quite get used to the idea of telling people he’s a proofreader and editor, rather than saying he’s ‘in IT’. He started doing part-time editorial work, and joined SfEP as an associate (now known as entry-level member), in 2012. He went full-time in 2013, before becoming an ordinary member (now known as professional member) of the SfEP – and an online forum administrator – the following year. To learn more about his background and services, please visit the GH Editorial website.

Proofread by SfEP entry-level member Susan Walton.

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

Ten ideas to help you find work as a proofreader

Image credit: An Eastbourne Website Designer

Whether you’re just starting out and wondering how to secure that first paying job, or you’re more established and looking to fill a hole in your diary or further develop your business, here are ten ideas to help you find proofreading work.

1. Mine your existing contacts. Let them know what you’re doing and what sort of work you’re looking for. Ask them to share your details with anyone who might be interested in your services.

2. Write a speculative letter or email. Get in touch with potential clients and let them know what you can offer them. It goes without saying that you should check that your correspondence is going to the correct person in the organisation.

3. Go to a local SfEP group meeting. The SfEP has 38 local groups and you can find your nearest meeting on the SfEP website. Talk with your local colleagues about what projects you’re working on and what sort of projects might be of interest in the future. Although this may not yield immediate gains, a colleague may remember that you have a particular expertise and refer potential clients on to you if they are unable to take on a project.

4. Network at other local business groups. Go to local business events and find out who might be looking for a proofreader. Prepare a simple sentence that describes what you do and why you could be useful. Don’t forget to take your business cards.

5. Add your details to the SfEP Associates Available list. Associates of the SfEP can add a listing to the list of Associates Available for work, which is updated every fortnight. Any member of the SfEP can access the list and contact associates if they have surplus work and want to subcontract it out.

6. Add an entry to the SfEP Directory of Editorial Services. If you’re an ordinary or advanced member of the SfEP you can add your details to the SfEP Directory of Editorial Services. This is a searchable database available to anyone looking for a professional editor, proofreader or editorial project manager.

7. Keep an eye out for jobs on the SfEPAnnounce mailer. Vacancies are often posted on the SfEPAnnounce email. The vacancies can also be found on the SfEPAnnounce forum page.

8. Check out the SfEP Marketplace online forum. SfEP members can also post and respond to job offers and other requests for help on specific projects via the SfEP Marketplace forum.

9. Sign up to directories. Some proofreaders have found work after signing up to websites such as findaproofreader.com.

10. Check out freelance job boards. There is a wealth of freelance job boards, such as peopleperhour.com, where you can either list your services or search for anyone looking for a proofreader. Some people find it useful to plug a gap in their schedule or to build up experience or a client base. But it’s probably not the best bet for a sustainable work flow and rates can vary hugely.

For more information about finding work as a freelance proofreader, visit our website and look at our FAQs.

We also sell some useful guides in our online shop, including:

Starting Out: Setting up a small business, by Valerie Rice

Marketing Yourself: Strategies to promote your editorial business, by Sara Hulse

If you have any suggestions for other ways to find work, feel free to add a comment below.

Joanna Bowery

Joanna Bowery

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

 

This article was proofread by SfEP associate Anna Black.

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.