Category Archives: Professional development

How to guides to help with your professional development.

SfEP conference 2018: what they said

Places at this year’s conference at Lancaster University sold out quickly and the conference’s success has been blogged about by attendees since the event in September – here are the highlights.

SfEP directors and audience at the AGM

There was swearing

Kia Thomas’s session on editing sweary stuff was clearly a highlight for many members; it inspired Howard Walwyn to title his comprehensive conference review ‘#SfEP 2018 – Let’s Get F***in’ Serious‘.

Hannah McCall also enjoyed the session, and the Coco Pops option at breakfast; this was her first SfEP conference experience, and she talks about the warmth of strangers and support of her conference buddy in her summary.

Editors travelled from far and wide

Every year, more and more editors based outside the UK attend, and present at, the conference. Claire Wilkshire discusses British politeness in her post ‘Editors, sheep, conferencing‘.

Presenters push the boundaries of their comfort zones

The conference director approached Kia Thomas during her ‘Saying Yes’ kick, and Kia elegantly discusses the process of preparing and presenting at a conference in ‘Conferences, confidence and comfort zones‘.

There were indexers there too

The Society for Indexers’ conference was at the same venue at the same time this year, enabling sharing of some sessions and the gala dinner. Tanya Izzard is an indexer looking to develop her editing skills, and made the most of the opportunity to attend two conferences at once.

Attendees learnt stuff

Pamela Smith lists her main learning points from the two days in her conference report – AND she won a fabulous raffle prize so the learning can carry on.

The learning wasn’t just limited to the sessions – the quiz on the opening evening of the conference warmed up brain cells and revealed the vast amounts of random knowledge that editors carry around in their heads. Oh, and Kia Thomas was on the winning team.

But it’s all about…

As Stephen Cashmore reminds us, the conference is all about the people: those who plan, prepare and attend it.

Attendees at the 2018 SfEP Conference

There’s more coverage of this year’s sessions in the November/December edition of Editing Matters, the Society’s digital magazine for members.

Compiled by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

Coming up

Plain English: ‘Be short, be simple, be human’

By Laura Ripper and Luke Finley

Ever had to deal with text that makes you feel alienated, inadequate or frustrated? We’ve all had that experience – of struggling to make sense of writing that’s pretentious and showy, filled with jargon and buzzwords, or simply badly planned and confusing.

Sometimes you might long for the writing to be as poetic as Shakespeare, as gripping as Stephen King or as much fun to read as JK Rowling. But when you need information quickly, you just want it to tell you, without all the frills, what you need to know.

In other words, you want it in plain English.

Water ripples above book pagesWhat is plain English?

Plain English is about communicating with people in writing as clearly as possible.

George Orwell and Ernest Gowers, writing in the 1940s, were among the first to encourage writers to use plain English: ‘Be short, be simple, be human,’ wrote Gowers in his guide Plain Words. There’s no one accepted definition today, but the International Plain Language Federation sums it up nicely:

A communication is in plain language if its wording, structure and design are so clear that the intended audience can easily find what they need, understand what they find, and use that information. [our emphasis]

It’s about putting the reader’s needs first, even above the writer’s preferences, when it comes to deciding how to word and organise a text. This doesn’t ignore the writer’s priorities – quite the opposite! What’s your main aim as a writer, if not to communicate clearly with your readers?

What is it for?

You can use plain English to:

  • make information accessible to people who aren’t specialists in your area (whether that’s about health, money, research, government policy or something else)
  • share essential information (on safety or the law)
  • give people the chance to have a say on things that affect them, or to use services they’re entitled to
  • build a reputation for putting customers first
  • build a good relationship with readers
  • save time and money (on clarifying misunderstandings, reprinting documents).

So you can use it for ethical and economic reasons. By making letters, reports, policies, articles and application forms easier for people they affect to read and understand, you’re making a difference to those people. You’re also making savings for your organisation, and helping to achieve its marketing aims.

What can using plain English do for me?

Writing in plain English can help your organisation:

  • make the text more effective (informing, selling to or empowering the reader, or appealing to more readers)
  • market itself (by strengthening your reputation, building trust and loyalty, and attracting customers, staff and suppliers)
  • achieve its business aims (eg increasing profit by saving time and money)
  • fulfil its purpose (providing a public service, raising awareness of an important issue).

Open book with letters flying outHow can an editor help?

Editors offering plain English services can help by making text clearer and easier to read. Many of them can suggest ways to improve its structure and layout too.

According to the Oxford Guide to Plain English, the average UK adult has a reading age of just 13. They’re also busy – they don’t have time to read insurance policies for pleasure. So in a plain English edit, an editor aims to make the writing as easy as possible for the average person to read.

To do this, editors follow established guidelines, such as those in the Oxford Guide. ‘Translating’ a piece of writing into plain English isn’t a mechanical exercise, though – a trained editor considers the reader’s level of knowledge and what will be clearest for them.

Some editors can also help by:

  • giving training about using plain English
  • completely re-writing a document, or writing a plain English summary
  • designing templates and style guides that follow plain English principles.

What else can I do?

  • Keep the reader in mind when you’re planning, writing and designing the text – think about what will be clearest and most logical for them.
  • Make sure you’ve included all the information the reader needs – don’t assume they know as much about your subject as you do.
  • Learn about the principles of plain English (by doing training and using resources, such as those available from the National Adult Literacy Agency in Ireland).
  • Test the text on real readers to see if they understand it quickly and easily.
  • Get feedback from readers on documents you’ve already published and make improvements.

If you write in simple, direct language, readers are more likely to respect and value what you have to say. And this will make as much of a difference to you, and your priorities, as it will to your readers.

Laura RipperLaura Ripper began her career in 2004 at Plain English Campaign, where she translated all sorts of documents into plain language. In 2008 she moved to a wider editorial and communications role, which included raising awareness of the UK’s switch to digital TV. Laura set up her proofreading and editing business in 2012 to concentrate on the aspects of her job that she loves best. She still specialises in plain English, and has found these skills useful for every type of document – from journal articles to board game rules. She is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP. When she isn’t at her desk, Laura loves walking in the hills. She has two feline assistants.

Luke FinleyLuke Finley set up Luke Finley Editorial in 2013 and is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP. He briefly worked in publishing in the 1990s, but most of his working life has been spent in the voluntary and public sectors, in social policy development and implementation. His experience of local government gave him a keen interest in plain English and trying (sometimes in vain) to persuade people to communicate more clearly.  Luke will edit or proofread anything from academic books to charities’ annual reports to travel agents’ websites, but mostly works on social policy and politics texts.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

Talking Tech with BookMachine

By Anya Hastwell

“Find the thing that annoys you the most – and then try and fix it,”

says Sara O’Connor, Bibliocloud’s full stack developer at BookMachine’s recent Talking Tech event in London.

You’d be easily forgiven if your initial impression of an event encouraging publishing folk to learn tech is that that it will lure them away to pursue a more profitable career in another industry … but you’d be wrong. Sort of. (Touch wood.) What the event’s speakers want to encourage is for publishing folk to be inspired to learn more tech skills that can make their own working lives easier, as the publishing industry is – and has been for some years now – becoming more digital. A perfect example is that of educational publishing, where tech is making waves not only in making learning texts digital, but also with apps, online platforms and programs for homework tracking, online marking, assessment tracking, learning games, and others. But how can we make our tech and products more user-friendly?

Computer code

To answer this question and others, let’s go to the speakers on our all-women panel. Our host Emma Barnes, founder and CEO of Bibliocloud and MD of Snowbooks, starts things off. After being made redundant from a consultancy firm, Emma founded her own independent publisher, Snowbooks, before teaching herself to code and build systems within Excel to speed up the admin side of her business. (Yes, Excel really can be programming … ). She went on a coding boot camp via Code Bar, a charity that aims to make coding more accessible (she also recommends railstutorials.org). From having with no previous coding experience, Emma became a software engineer and went on to build Bibliocloud (now called Consonance), a publishing management software.

”Learn as much programming as you have the appetite for. It means you won’t be taken in by some flashy web developer, it gives you the agency to make good decisions. Tech is the new literacy … There is always a way to automate yourself out of misery.”

Next up is Lola Odelola, software engineer and founder of blackgirl.tech, an organisation that aims to help diversify the tech industry. Lola studied English literature and creative writing at university. While job hunting after graduation, she decided she wanted to build a website for herself to showcase her writing.

“After realising poets only make money when they’re dead, I set up a website for myself to try moving into journalism. I was jobless so I had a lot of time on my hands. I loved it, so then I did a bootcamp for 6 months.”

While seeing that there was some (gender) diversity in the tech industry – much like publishing – she saw there was still a long way to go before this stretched towards diversity in ethnicity: “Before I started coding I knew nothing about screen readers or accessibility, but I had friends who were getting tagged in photos by AI as apes. Tech should be making life easier for people on the margins.”

The importance of diversity within the tech teams creating our products is therefore vital for making publishing tech and other products more user-friendly and accessible, as such problems would be identified earlier and certainly caught before release to the wider public.
The coding language Ruby gets some extremely good press here tonight, which our next speaker Sara O’Connor recommends heartily. Sara started her career in children’s book publishing as an editorial assistant, and turned to tech to find better ways of doing boring and repetitive admin tasks, before working up the ranks to editorial director. She started off with no coding experience before doing a couple of week-long coding courses and then a three-month bootcamp, before returning to publishing with an array of new skills as Bibliocloud’s full stack developer.

“I’m a full stack developer building the software I wish I had when I was an editor. I advocate Ruby for publishing folks because it’s like a book. It’s an object-oriented language, and we’re already used to reading.”

The issue of diversity comes to the fore again as our last speaker, Janneke Niessen (entrepreneur, investor, board member, Improve Digital, Inspiring Fifty, Project Prep), reminds us that without diversity in tech, the future is not inclusive. “Algorithms are not neutral.” It seems that artificial intelligence stealing our jobs or killer robots are not the real danger, but our own bias, conscious or unconscious, is. Janneke proceeded to tell us a story of when she asked her son what he thought she did for a living. “A princess who dances!” was his reply. So she set about videoing herself while working, explaining what she was doing and why she was doing it to show him what she actually did at work. Janneke showed us some slides while giving us plenty to think about: some 65% of children in school today will have a job that does not yet exist; people’s ability to think differently, be different and challenge previous concepts of how things ‘should’ be done are valuable – people who can be flexible and mutable, and who do not necessarily fit in, are those who companies need to hire in order to change and keep up with the times.

Presentation slide about diversity and investment

This was quite possibly my favourite BookMachine event of those I’ve been to, and it did make me think about what we define as ‘coding’… Many among the SfEP’s ranks are either familiar with or swear by the use of Word macros (quite literally, sometimes). Very often, macros are the only way of being make certain projects achievable within a budget and timescale given by a publisher.

Whether you want to find some neat tricks in Excel to speed up your admin, start using some really clever Word macros that will do a lot of your editing dirty work for you, or update your CV with the kind of skills that could open doors to some really covetable workplaces and clients, there’s no doubt that the publishing industry needs people with a talent for tech, who can use it for an audience’s benefit.

How you want to apply these skills, and how far, is completely down to you. You’re still the one pressing the button.

Anya HastwellAnya Hastwell is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP as well as serving as its professional development director. After working in-house for several publishers for nearly 10 years she went freelance in 2014, and works on an enticing array of non-fiction material from medicine to history, ably distracted assisted by three feline helpers.

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

The 2018 SfEP conference: a day in a delegate’s life

By Louise Bolotin

I’m a bit of an old hand at SfEP conferences, but this year’s was my first since 2014 – I was enticed by the programme of events – on both days, there were sessions I was keen to attend that would either help me move me into future subject areas I was already toying with, or would help me run my business better.

After Saturday’s AGM, it was time to hit the bar before dinner and meet colleagues I’d previously only known as avatars. Plenty of gin, dinner and a raucous pub quiz meant I went to bed looking forward to getting stuck in next day. (Gin, by the way, is an essential food group conference lubricant.) And no matter how late you stay up drinking in the bar, I recommend getting up in good time for breakfast. I didn’t and by the time I got there, the coffee was all gone. And so I arrived at Sunday’s plenary uncaffeinated, but it didn’t matter.

Mug with text 'I'm sorry for what I said before I had my coffee'

The same but different

Lynne Murphy’s Whitcombe Lecture on editing American English versus British English was witty, entertaining and informative. Slides can often be dull, merely parroting what the speaker is saying, or a distraction because you’re trying to read the slide rather than listening. Lynne’s were neither –entertaining cartoons depicted how Brits and Americans are only different on the surface, something that also applies to how they write.

Her slides about a survey she had conducted of US and UK editors and how they approached their work were enlightening. Some of the differences were quite stark – British editors are more intuitive, it seems, often making changes because ‘it feels right’. Conversely, American editors are more concerned with the mechanics of editing and fact-checking. No doubt something that really resonated for many of us if the queue to buy signed copies of Lynne’s book, The Prodigal Tongue, after the lecture were any measure.

A change of mindset when it comes to expanding our client base is something we should probably all consider, that old cliché about thinking outside the box. So I was intrigued by the title of Alison Hughes’ workshop – The budget and beyond: growing your business organically. Lots of sole traders find spare cash for marketing can fluctuate, so I was pleased she had lots of really creative ideas on offer that cost little or nothing. But first, she outlined what were for her, and no doubt most of us, non-negotiable expenses – membership of a professional body (hello SfEP!), business cards, website and domain name, at least one conference a year and, importantly, health. She also recommended considering have business postcards printed too, as you can get so much more information on them.

But what of the cheapies and freebies? She suggested attending conferences and events in your specialist areas, even if you have limited budget. Alison said she’d benefited from scouring the Eventbrite platform, where you can find many events aimed at the business community that are free to attend, or cost a nominal amount. She noted that universities also put on free events. For me, this was the most useful takeaway and I’ve already committed myself to a weekly search on Eventbrite to find events that fit with my specialist subjects and will hopefully bring in more work.

After lunch, it was time for Nigel Harwood’s thought-provoking session on the ethics of proofreading for students. Using just one sentence extracted from a foreign student’s Master’s dissertation, he demonstrated how three different proofreaders – A, B and C – had approached the text. A, a professional, had corrected the English, while B, a tutor who helped students for free, had merely underlined the entire sentence to indicate the author needed to rework it. C (a PhD student who proofread for other students for a small fee), however, had also suggested ideas to expand the content of the dissertation. It was a textbook example, pardon the pun, of how boundaries can become blurred – a professional’s job should only ever be to clean up the English and not “tutor” the actual work.

Nigel and a small number of other academics have done research into proofreading for students, the output so far being mainly qualitative and anecdotal, but the results showed that standards vary wildly and, essay mills aside, ethical boundaries are crossed too often. His conclusion is that universities need to start working with professional bodies such as the SfEP to develop common standards and build pools of accredited freelance proofreaders who will be the only approved professionals that students will be permitted to work with. He noted that a tiny number of universities are already starting to do this.

Warning! Profanities approaching

I really wanted to go to the lightning talks in the Something for Everyone sessions – they are always entertaining and useful. But I couldn’t resist the lure of How the F**k do I style this? presented by editor Kia Thomas, who works with independent authors and has done a lot of research into how to style swearwords. To gales of laughter, she showed why you need to decide to hyphenate a compound swearword or insult or not – cockwomble good, cock-womble just plain wrong. And, a shit-ton is the correct way to style a large amount because, as she eloquently observed, Shitton looks like a hamlet in Somerset.

In this vein, there was much more to chortle at, but also a serious underlying note – that you will come across sweary stuff in novels, in either dialogue or first-person narrative, and consistency matters here as much as for any other words. Kia closed the session with a game. We split into pairs and Kia offered us two bags from which to take one word out of each. We then had to invent a sweary compound, decide if it was a noun or verb, whether to hyphenate or not and, lastly, to make a sentence with it. The next 10 minutes had us weeping with laughter as we shared our results.

After that, the session on how to get involved with the SfEP was never going to compete for sheer entertainment value, but this is one of the most important 45 minutes you could spend at conference any year. I was stunned at the sheer number of roles in the society that volunteers can take on. I have committed to helping draft a policy on disability and will certainly consider giving more time to the SfEP when I am not too busy.

And so to the gala dinner, kicked off in style, as always, by The Linnets, who this year performed a fabulous number titled The Editor’s Psalm. There was also an enjoyable after-dinner speech by Sam Leith, literary editor of The Spectator. And wine. Plenty of wine. Despite that, I managed to get up in time on Monday for coffee, before heading for that day’s sessions…

Having taken so much useful stuff on board over two packed days, I came home brimming with ideas and have already decided that I will be at year’s next conference, no matter what.

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin is a journalist and sub-editor, who works chiefly for the press. Away from the media, she specialises in copy-editing all kinds of finance and business topics, with a sideline in editing memoirs and erotica for self-publishers. When not at her desk, she can usually be found dancing in a moshpit somewhere. She is an Advanced Professional Member of SfEP. Follow her on Twitter.

 

This year’s SfEP conference was held at the University of Lancaster, 8-10 September. The 2019 conference will start on Saturday 14 September at Aston University, Birmingham.

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

English Grammar Day 2018

By Abi Saffrey

Since 2014, the British Library and UCL (in association with PhilSoc and the University of Oxford) have hosted English Grammar Day. Although the event is primarily aimed at those teaching or studying grammar, the variety of sessions makes it a fascinating day for anyone with an interest on what we do with our words.Dictionary entry for grammarI first found out about English Grammar Day 2018 earlier this year (thanks Twitter) and was very keen to go – despite not having studied linguistics for 20 years, it’s still a subject that fascinates me and grammar is part of my day-to-day editing life. And it’s not often that you can get a day of CPD for the bargain price of £10 (and in the wonderful surroundings of the British Library too).

Jonnie Robinson started the day with a look at the British Library’s Evolving English VoiceBank and WordBank – excerpts of people talking about their word choices and grammar demonstrate how grammar forms part of our identity. The next session, presented by Lynne Murphy (an SfEP conference favourite), showed us the differences between American and British English grammar. Nope, not as different as we might like to think.

After a cuppa and a leg stretch, Rebecca Woods discussed how children acquire the grammar needed to ask questions – how they build up the components necessary to create a grammatically correct question (and how short a time it takes them), and of course what funny things they come out with in the process. How chickens?Small chick with other chicks behindTeaching and understanding grammar is on many teachers’ minds following curriculum revamps over the past few years. Suzannah Ferguson, a primary teacher now moving into postgraduate study, explained how there is a generation of teachers in schools who are without grammar knowledge and without second language knowledge. They face a steep learning curve just like their pupils. Suzannah was passionate about reassuring children (and teachers) that grammar is not the scary beast that it can easily be perceived as.

After lunch, SfEP President David Crystal brought humour and warmth to his session about grammar teaching.

‘Poppy knew what adjectives and nouns are.
She’d been drawing circles around them for ages.’

Giving children (and writers) the ability to play with words, to ask why changing the ‘standard’ word order changes the effect, develops their love of language. (Anyone for a game of adjective tennis?) Most children know many grammar rules through their acquisition of language – David believes we quibble and debate about around only 5% of grammar as a whole. We’re all grammar experts by the time we start to learn to write and read.

The final session was a panel discussion with all of the presenters, chaired by John Mullan from UCL. In summary:

  • Breaking (grammar) rules is fun.
  • Observe, explore and investigate language to make it – and grammar – interesting.
  • Usage creates norms.
  • Grammar arguments quickly evolve into identity.
  • Linguistic prejudice is real, and wrong.

Although the day was not directly aimed at editors, it did feed my appetite for language awareness and grammar knowledge. It reminded me to question my own preferences for certain structures or word choices; an author’s voice must be respected when it does not sound like my own.

I will certainly be booking my ticket for English Grammar Day 2019 as soon as the email arrives next spring – join me, editors and language lovers!

Abi SaffreyAbi Saffrey is an editorial project manager and copy-editor, and is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP. She really should get around to finding a suitable postgraduate linguistics course.

 

 

 

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

What is CPD, if not another acronym to spell out and add to the list?

Continuing professional development (CPD) is a recognised, systematic way of tracking your professional development on an ongoing basis. It also helps you to document and reflect on any learning or training that you either undertake formally or acquire informally.A pile of open books, with pens and notepaper between the pages

In some professional and chartered organisations, undertaking a set number of hours’ training and being able to show demonstrable evidence of CPD in case of audit is a requirement to keeping one’s membership and certification to practise. Physiotherapy, nursing and medicine are a few such examples – fields where people’s health, safety and, indeed, lives are at stake. Law is another. The industry bodies for these professions have their own specific CPD structures in place for their practitioners to use and journal their own CPD activities.

Why is CPD important?

In editing and proofreading, thankfully no one is *actually* going to die if a comma is missed or spliced; however, livelihoods and professional reputations are most definitely at stake, and not just the freelancer’s. An author’s sales may suffer from receiving bad reviews on Amazon about all the typos left in their book; a publisher’s relationship with an author may break down over the choice of editor (“Why did you choose this person to edit my book?”), ensuring that the second edition never happens …

This is why the SFEP considers CPD essential for editorial best practice and maintaining high standards, not just among its members but in the publishing profession as a whole. All members of the SfEP are also expected to abide by its Code of practice, Ensuring editorial excellence. Being aware of and following best practice is part of being a professional, doing the best job possible within the constraints of the budget and surviving in a changing industry. Undertaking regular CPD activities is the best way to ensure you’re doing that. These of course include undertaking training courses and attending conferences and workshops, but more informal activities count too: catching up on articles and blogs on editorial best practice; learning a new keyboard shortcut; adding a new macro to your repertoire. Filling in and maintaining your own CPD log is also a great idea, such as jobs.ac.uk’s Interactive CPD Toolkit, a free downloadable guide and interactive log for CPD journaling.

How does CPD help us maintain best practice?

CPD is an essential part of being able to call what you do a career – the word itself implies progress, a person’s ‘course or progress through life (or a distinct portion of life)’ according to the OED – and in order to stay ahead in the game and be the best you can be, you’ll want to keep your skills up to date. It is also rewarding to be able to look back and see how far you’ve come; to have goals to aspire to; and to grow in yourself and your profession. There’s always something new to learn and that’s what CPD is all about: keeping an open mind, always learning and always growing. Where do you want to be in a year’s time, or three years? Or five years? CPD can help you realise your long-term goals too.

What does it mean in the context of the SFEP and upgrading?

The SfEP’s membership upgrade process is designed to encourage its members to think about CPD and to progress through Intermediate Membership (IM), Professional Membership (PM) and eventually Advanced Professional Membership (APM). Aspects such as training and experience are assessed in meticulous detail by an Admissions Panel; and for Professional and Advanced Professional upgrades, this includes references from satisfied clients as well. Evidence of CPD gained in the past 36 months before upgrading to Advanced Professional membership is also required.

Members who have reached these two highest membership tiers are also entitled to their own entry in the SfEP’s Directory of Editorial Services, which is well known among publishers and businesses as the place to look for the best freelance editorial talent.

Put it to the Panel

The SfEP’s upgrade process is shrouded in some mystery, mainly because the whole nature of it is confidential to ensure that every application is assessed fairly and without any bias. All upgrade applications are assessed anonymously; the Admissions Panel assessors never know the identities of the applicants. (This is why applicants shouldn’t post test scores on the forum or other social media, or at least not until an application has been assessed and the result is received.) Panel members are Advanced Professional members of the SfEP. Assessing membership upgrade applications involves weighing up the value of an applicant’s experience, training and CPD to discern whether the SfEP’s standards have been reached.

What makes a good upgrade application?

Here are some (anonymised) quotes from some of the SfEP’s Admissions Panel:

No detail is too small:

“I’m happier with an application that shows that the applicant has taken the time and trouble to read the wealth of information on upgrading available on the website, and has put themselves in our shoes: ‘What can I do in my application that will make it easy for the Panel to say yes?’ This is a skill I’d expect to see in a good copy-editor or proofreader. Can this applicant anticipate their client’s needs and produce, say, handover documentation to meet them? Has he or she actually read the brief? We make it very clear on the website that, for instance, we need to know hours of freelance experience. So produce that information, not in days, or weeks, but hours. We make it clear that we need to know the proportion of time an in-house editor has spent exercising the core skills (copy-editing and/or proofreading) and are delighted when an applicant gives us that information.”

Remember you’re a professional:

“Remember to proofread your application with as much care as you would give to any proofreading or editing job. It should reflect your professionalism and attention to detail. Typos, errors and inconsistencies are noted by the Panel and can count against you, particularly for the higher levels of membership.”

But on a lighter note:

“The Admissions Panel are here to help you upgrade rather than to bar the way, so they appreciate anything you can do to help them help you!”

Continuing professional development is essential throughout a copy-editor/proofreader’s life, and it doesn’t stop when one attains Advanced Professional membership or the point where the work finds you, rather than the other way around. It’s a constant.

The SfEP’s professional development day for educational publishing is due to take place in London on Monday 12 November. You can find out more here.

Got any questions about CPD and the SfEP? Email the SfEP’s professional development director, Anya Hastwell, at profdev@sfep.org.uk.

Anya Hastwell, the SfEP's professional development directorAnya Hastwell is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP as well as serving as its professional development director. After working in-house for several publishers for nearly 10 years she went freelance in 2014, and works on an enticing array of non-fiction material from medicine to history, ably distracted assisted by three feline helpers. 

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

Standards and the SfEP

Standards, in one way or another, lie at the heart of almost everything that the SfEP does. When Norma Whitcombe called the meeting in November 1988 that resulted in the formation of the Society, one of the agreed aims was to encourage high standards based on high-quality training and engagement with publishers. Thirty years later, while our horizons have expanded to include much more than just traditional publishing, our mission remains the same: to uphold editorial excellence.

A hand writing words: knowledge. learning, experience, skills, ability, competence, training, growth

From the outset, the SfEP has sought ways not only to encourage high standards but to measure them as well. As early as 1996 the Accreditation and Registration Board was established, and a rigorous accreditation test, supported by a programme of training, enabled members to become accredited proofreaders. More recently, the then tests and mentoring director (now our chartership adviser) Gerard Hill established our current online basic editorial skills test, launched in 2014 and supported by a detailed editorial syllabus. Our system of membership levels rewards excellence in editorial practice while offering potential clients the reassurance that members in professional grades have the necessary training, knowledge and experience to provide the quality of service that they require.

Anyone who uses the services of an editor or proofreader would expect the person they commission or employ to have the skills to do the job. But how can they be sure? If you were looking for a plumber to fix your boiler, or seeking advice from a medical consultant, you would expect them to have taken the necessary training and hold the certification to prove it. Clients should have the same expectations of an editorial professional, which is where the SfEP comes in.

Anyone who aspires to become a Professional or Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP must meet the standards expected of the grade, and every application for those membership levels is independently and anonymously assessed by our Admissions Panel, made up of knowledgeable and experienced members of the Society. Their assessment requires evidence of suitable experience, know-how and training, together with a commitment to continuing professional development. As a result, you can be confident that a member of one of the SfEP’s senior grades will know what they are about.

In support of its mission to uphold excellence the Society has created a detailed code of practice, first issued in 1995, to which all members must adhere. We have also prepared model terms and conditions that can be used or adapted by members to enable them to establish a professional relationship with clients, and to help clarify understanding and expectations, for both parties, of the work that is being undertaken. In the unlikely event that anything should go wrong, the client has recourse to a rigorous and independent complaints procedure, which has been revised and updated this year to ensure that it meets and exceeds the standards that would be expected of our Society.

The heading of ‘standards’, then, encompasses many aspects of the SfEP’s work, but the concept of excellence is a thread that runs through all aspects of what we do. Professional and Advanced Professional Members are expected and encouraged to undertake continuing professional development to ensure that they refresh their skills and keep up to date with current practice. The Society’s training programme offers courses, many of them available online, to support both new and established members. Looking ahead, our existing basic editorial test will in due course be complemented by an advanced test to help ensure that members have demonstrated unequivocally that they have the knowledge and experience expected of them.

Our quest for standards in editing and proofreading, however, goes further than simply ensuring that our members have the skills that clients expect and require. In seeking to become a chartered institution, the SfEP’s aim is to ensure that editorial excellence is universally recognised and promoted, so that anyone seeking the services of an editorial professional can have confidence in the quality of the service they will receive. But if you are looking for a copy-editor or proofreader then there’s no better place to start than the SfEP’s online directory.

Ian Howe, the SfEP's standards directorIan Howe has been a freelance proofreader and copy-editor and an SfEP member since 2004, and joined the Council as standards director in 2017. Based in north-west Cumbria, he has worked on a wide variety of subjects and is also a distance learning tutor with the PTC.

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

PerfectIt Cloud: what Mac users have been waiting for

Simone Hutchinson reviews Intelligent Editing’s new PerfectIt Cloud, the first version of the respected consistency and error checker to work on Macs (in Word 2016).

The full version of this review first appeared in the July/August edition of Editing Matters, the SfEP magazine. (Note: Simone was using a beta version so that this review would be ready in time for the official launch of PerfectIt Cloud.)

Introduction

Having been invited to review PerfectIt Cloud for Mac (beta), my main concern was that my relatively meagre experience of using editorial support software would prevent me from making the most of PerfectIt and limit the value of my report. I hope that what follows will help you decide whether to purchase the software; this review should be relevant to Mac users who have not used PerfectIt before.

I tested three different kinds of Microsoft Word document: a US geology article (~2000 words), a non-native English law journal article (~6000 words) and a UK law book (~46,000 words).

Is it easy to use?

Installing and setting up PerfectIt Cloud is straightforward.

If you are using PerfectIt Cloud for the first time, you will be presented with an outline of its features. This start-up introduction to the software emphasises its role as a style sheet and consistency tool. If you are an experienced editor, I think these start-up welcome screens are the only preparation you need before using the tools. PerfectIt is so easy to use that I do not think there is a need for a new user who is an experienced editor to require training on PerfectIt, although watching the demo videos would still be useful as I feel that audio and visual walkthroughs help cement what is learned by trial-and-error practice. However, for editors who are new to the profession, some training in the use of style sheets and consistency checks would be extremely helpful prior to using PerfectIt.

The sidebar has an intuitive design that presents its information clearly, although there is one minor flaw: the floating ‘i’ icon that appears in the right-hand corner of the PerfectIt panel sometimes obscures the ellipsis button.

Screenshot of PerfectIt Beta information menu

PerfectIt’s information menu

At each stage of the analysis process you are presented with the option to view the location of the suspected error and to fix it. If a long list of locations is offered, you can fix items selectively or have them all done at once. This is particularly useful if your document contains quoted matter (where you don’t want to change the source’s spelling or style). If you accidentally choose ‘Fix’, don’t worry, there’s an Undo button. Being able to review every word that PerfectIt flags up is useful for compiling a word list in your style sheet.

When testing PerfectIt on a legal text (a book on interpreting housing legislation, aimed at the legal practitioner), it helpfully pointed out that the style setting I applied at the start of the analysis (UK spelling) prefers the spelling of judgement with the ‘e’, but that ‘judgment’ may be required in certain legal contexts. Well done, PerfectIt!

Screen shot of PerfectIts hyphenation of phrases section

Option to fix an item or move to the next step

At the end of the process you are able to see a list of the changes that PerfectIt applied, by clicking on the button ‘See what PerfectIt did’. This list has a useful ‘Copy’ option, which means you could maintain change reports for your clients (or your own use). And other reports are offered for viewing at the end of the analysis: ‘Table of Abbreviations’, ‘Summary of Changes’, ‘Text in Comments’.

Screenshot of PerfectIt Cloud's navigation and test page

Click the ellipsis to reveal the full test list.

Will it save me time?

PerfectIt saves time in the workflow by automating a useful range of spelling, punctuation and style checks. It analyses the text to identify inconsistencies in spelling, capitalisation in headings and phrases, hyphenation of phrases and words, abbreviations defined twice or not at all or not used, brackets and quotes left open, and list punctuation.

PerfectIt also lists abbreviations without definitions, which, in a document that contains numerous instances, saves you time by providing you with them all in one list — compared with the process of discovering them manually one by one and adding them to a separate list. You can deal with them all in one go with PerfectIt. However, the ‘Table of Abbreviations’ report option at the end of the process did not work in the Beta version (but should be fixed in the release version).

Without the aid of software automation tools, the time it takes to perform a standard copy-edit on a set length of text will vary from editor to editor. I hope the following timings can be compared with those of your current workflow. The legal book of 46,000 words took me just under one hour to fully check, using every possible test in PerfectIt. The mining article took less than ten minutes. The non-native English law journal article took around 15 minutes. Completion of individual tests can take up to 30 seconds, but on average they took around five seconds.

Will it improve my work?

One of the advantages of PerfectIt is that it trains you to think methodically about your workflow, which in turn helps you become a more efficient editor and writer. After repeated use of its step-by-step approach, combined with clear visual walkthroughs of each step, you will memorise a large part of your editorial checklist and be able to quickly prioritise certain tests according to the kind of document you are working on. While I am not suggesting that this is the death of pen-and-paper checklists, which by the act of writing them provide a similar kind of memory training, there is no doubt that this software helps you to focus more on the work. It does the menial work for you, but makes that menial work visible and requests your approval at each step, so you will not forget essential editorial processes. Consequently, you will spend less time and mental effort on the activity of checking for problems while increasing mental effort on the job from a management perspective. PerfectIt is your editorial assistant and even a bit of a copy-editor. You can become a better editorial project manager by using it.

By saving you time through greatly reducing redundancy in your workflow, PerfectIt also minimises time spent typing. For people with health conditions affecting the hands, this unexpected benefit will be a welcome bonus.

What are my criticisms?

In terms of functional problems with the PerfectIt Cloud, I only noticed some slightly buggy behaviour of the report options and the location of the floating information icon. These should be relatively easy to fix by the time of release, hopefully. A usability improvement might be to move ‘Check Consistency’ from the styles menu to the tests menu.

PerfectIt Cloud is not a comprehensive editor’s toolkit. It does not check footnotes, table or illustration captions and their cross-references, URLs, header or footer matter, or page or section breaks, and does not offer any options to work with Word styles. Neither is it designed to check for inaccuracies in grammar. For editors keen on customisation options, PerfectIt Cloud might seem limited – but this is more of an observation than a criticism (and the developers do promise these are coming in time).

Is it worth upgrading to Word 2016?

You need to have Word 2016 to run PerfectIt Cloud on a Mac. I upgraded from Office 2011 to 2016 this year, and have found there to be a few useful benefits. Importantly for editing, the review panel is better. The redesign of the menus in general improves the logic of menu items as well as their visual presentation (less cluttered now, and simpler). Word 2016 feels lighter, better organised and clearer. These things probably have helped me focus better on projects. With all these benefits, I have found the upgrade worth it.

I can see that using PerfectIt will increase my productivity and reduce the psychological resistance I put up to dull tasks. It will make the physical aspect of editing work easier (less typing). It will help me become a better project manager.

The price of PerfectIt Cloud for SfEP members is $49 per year (available via the SfEP website). I think it is well worth it, especially considering that further features will probably be added.

 

Simone Hutchinson

Simone Hutchinson began freelance editing in 2017 after nine years in editorial support and house editor roles in academic publishing. In February 2018 she set up Orlando Press.

 

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

The SfEP conference – career development for all editorial professionals

The 29th SfEP conference is being held at Lancaster University from 8–10 September 2018. The conference is always an excellent opportunity to develop professional editorial knowledge, find out about developments in the publishing industry, and network and socialise with like-minded colleagues.

The theme of the 2018 conference is Education, education, education, and the emphasis will be on continuing professional development and its value to editorial professionals. The programme will feature hands-on workshops, stimulating and relevant speakers, and opportunities to explore areas of editorial work that may be new to you.

Every year, there are enthusiastic articles and blog posts written by delegates, many of whom are freelance editors and proofreaders. But the conference is attended by in-house staff too, and a few have shared their thoughts here on how useful it has been for them in their work.

Marissa d’Auvergne of the IFRS Foundation attended the conference in 2017 for the first time. She decided to attend for CPD, having attended an in-house training course at another workplace led by a tutor from the SfEP. When her new manager suggested the conference, she ‘leapt at the chance to attend’. She was impressed by the variety of sessions available, and enjoyed the chance to meet colleagues from other editorial disciplines, and editors with many more years of experience. As she put it, ‘I was exposed to so many new things and learned so much.’ She commented on specific points of learning that have helped in her work:

We started to use PerfectIt, which has increased our speed and efficiency. I learned about corpora, and have since been able to find more authoritative answers to questions about collocation. I also learned skills that made some personal writing projects run a lot more smoothly.

It was also the first time for Hedi Burza from the European Parliament. She ‘saw the conference as a learning as well as a networking opportunity’, and was also curious to see how others working in the same profession do their jobs outside the EU institutions. She felt it improved her attitude towards and perception of her editorial practice, and also wished for ‘a similar organisation [to the SfEP] in Hungary and/or an international one in the EU’.

Finally, Michele Staple of The Stationery Office has attended the SfEP conference many times, for ‘networking opportunities’ and ‘keeping abreast of changes in the industry’. She uses it to find new contacts to try for freelance work she needs to outsource. Commenting on last year’s conference, she felt it improved her editorial practice, saying that ‘it was stimulating, and encouraged me to try things I’d put off doing’. She said that she’s ‘always made to feel very welcome’. Finally, she added that ‘It’s the only time I actually get to meet the people who have so often helped me out with my last-minute requests.’

photo 2016 croppedLiz Jones worked in-house between 1998 and 2008. When not editing she writes fiction, and also blogs about editing and freelancing at Eat Sleep Edit Repeat.

 

 

Places for the 2018 conference are selling well, so don’t delay – book your place now! The early-bird rate is available until 20 April.

Upgrading your SfEP membership: Advanced Professional

If upgrading your SfEP membership is a career goal for 2018, it can be daunting to begin the application procedure. But members who have successfully upgraded their membership can be a source of valuable advice on how to prepare your application.

To help, the blog team will be publishing a series of posts on applying to upgrade your membership, beginning with advice on achieving Advanced Professional Membership.

Toby Selwyn

My overriding impression of the upgrade process was how incredibly easy it was. In part this was because I had upgraded to Professional Membership around eighteen months before; since the information I provided for that application was transferred directly to this one, there was no need to resupply it. The online system is easy to use, mostly very intuitive, and inputting the new information took less than an hour.

The one unintuitive element of the process was how to indicate that my Professional application needed to be carried forward, as there is no obvious place to include its reference number as requested. An email to the office resolved that quickly, but it would be useful if it could be made clearer within the system itself.

In terms of building up the upgrade requirements, my only concern was the 100 hours of work that need to have been completed with a client for them to be allowed as a referee. As a fiction editor, I work primarily with independent authors, usually on one-off projects; within the last two years, I have only gained 100 hours’ work with one author. Fortunately, I did have enough experience with my few publisher clients to make up for it, but this requirement could be problematic for editors who specialise in working with indies.

Overall, the process was straightforward, and the office staff were very quick to help when needed. I would strongly advise anyone considering upgrading to go for it.

Catherine Hanley

To be honest, I’d always thought of Advanced Professional Membership as some kind of semi-mythical grade that wasn’t for the likes of me. But, I thought, have I reached the stage where I could at least check the requirements?

I’m glad I did: now I knew exactly what I needed to do, and that I wasn’t as far off as I’d feared. And I was reminded that perhaps I hadn’t been quite as assiduous as I could have been in keeping my CPD up to date and in logging all the hours I’d spent on each job. Sure, I’d done some training courses, but how many of them were recent? And yes, of course I’d been sending out invoices, but had I kept a separate record of the hours worked? Ah.

I went back through every filed invoice and every job I’d done professionally, dividing them into ‘work for publishers’ and ‘work for non-publishers’, then started a spreadsheet to log the invoice date, the client and the hours worked. Bingo: I knew I’d done a lot of work over the years, and it turned out I had enough experience. I was then able to email contacts at regular clients with exact figures on the work I’d done for them over the years – would they mind being a referee? They agreed.

Next, training. Not enough in the last three years, but now I knew where the gaps in my work experience were, I could find a relevant course. Living as I do in the middle of nowhere, the variety of online choices was a godsend. I confess I started off with upgrade points in mind, but the course I chose was one I should have done anyway, so I’m glad I had the incentive – and I picked up a number of tips and techniques that have been very helpful in subsequent work.

Finally, after several months, the online SfEP upgrade form. There it was. But it was laid out very logically, and with the correct information to hand, it was easier than I expected to fill in. I was delighted when I was informed that my upgrade had been successful. Tea and new business cards to celebrate!

If I had any tips, they would be: organise your record keeping as you go along, so you don’t have to spend time checking back through everything. Oh, and keep your training up to date, whether you’re applying for an upgrade or not!

Michelle McFadden

I did it. Finally. And it only took me about ten years.

I had been an Entry-Level Member (previously an Associate) of SfEP since the late noughties and my incomplete PTC Basic Proofreading course had been around for almost as long. I would start work on it and then other things would intrude: good things like parenting, holidays and work. I have interspersed freelance work with challenging in-house positions that provided training, structure and collegial feedback. The motivation to finish the course diminished as time went on.

In-house work and freelance editorial project management provided me with all of the hours of experience that I needed to upgrade. The truth is that my in-house training may have been enough for my upgrade application, but I’m too stubborn to have even investigated that possibility.

With the encouragement of my edibuddy accountability group, I finally completed the PTC course to give me those all-important training points. I procrastinated when it came to completing my upgrade application form, but I shouldn’t have; it was easy and straightforward and took a surprisingly short amount of time.

So now I have the assurance that my years of experience are now complemented by SfEP Advanced Professional status (which can only improve my position when pitching to clients). As the organisation moves towards chartership, I believe that will become increasingly important. I haven’t had my directory entry long enough to have experienced an increase in client approaches, but I do have a deep sense of satisfaction that something that has been on my to-do list for a very long time has now been achieved. And that feels good.

Hugh Jackson

Over my two and a half years as a member of the SfEP, I’ve now done the full circuit of the four main membership grades, and thus done the upgrade procedure three times. My latest upgrade was in June 2017 to Advanced Professional Membership, giving me a shiny gold badge on my directory entry and an @sfep.net email address.

Upgrading is so much easier with careful record-keeping. Right from the start I’ve kept a spreadsheet of everything I edit, even the tiniest project. As well as being invaluable for performance reviews and marketing, this record made the process much easier. My records told me to the minute how much relevant experience I had for each membership grade, along with the dates and lengths of each project and whether they were copy-editing or proofreading, all things that are necessary for the experience section of the upgrade form. Because it was all there, I simply deleted unnecessary columns and uploaded the spreadsheet with my upgrade form.

I also had PDF copies of CPD certificates saved on my computer that I could upload for the training requirement, and I asked my favourite clients whether they’d be able to give a reference (as one referee was a non-publisher, I also had to do the Basic Editorial Test).

The process is really straightforward and far quicker than expected: mine took just three days from application to approval. When I had a question (whether a reference from a previous update could be used for this one – it can), the office staff were quick and helpful as always. Remember, if you’ve upgraded in the past, you’ll have been emailed a copy of your last upgrade application, so you can copy bits from that.

John Espirian

I suspect most people who are asked about upgrading to Advanced Professional Membership will say the same thing:

“I wish I’d done it sooner.”

“The process was much easier than I thought it would be.”

“Don’t delay.”

All of the above are true for me. I delayed my upgrade attempt for well over a year, always putting it off with thoughts about not having enough upgrade points or not having enough time to get through pages and pages of the application process.

Eventually, I decided to sit down one afternoon to draw together all of the sources that would contribute to my upgrade application and then to make a start on the upgrade form. I thought if I could put in a couple of hours, that would at least break the ice and I’d be more likely to get the whole thing done sooner or later.

Needless to say, I was kicking myself when after a couple of hours I’d done all the data gathering AND completed the upgrade form in its entirety. It was all so quick that I had to double-check that I hadn’t missed something major. Why hadn’t I done it earlier?

I was impressed at how efficient the office were in processing my application, and the good news about my APM status was confirmed within three weeks.

I’d encourage anyone on the fence about upgrading to set aside a few hours and get it done. It’s really not as scary as you might think.

A word about anonymity

To ensure complete fairness, all upgrades are completely anonymous. After being processed by the staff in the office to remove all identifying information, they are passed to the Admissions Panel, whose identities are also secret – not known even to Council members. In order to maintain this anonymity,  we ask you not to discuss your upgrade application in places where members of the Panel might see it. In practice this means on the forums, in local groups and on social media. We are of course always delighted to see members taking their professional development seriously, so by all means celebrate your success in those channels once it has been confirmed. We share your excitement and sense of achievement.