Category Archives: Specialisms

Specialist Q&A – Secondary science: editing chemistry

Specialist Q&AOur editorial industry is made up of people carrying out a huge range of tasks across many different sectors. Although we are bound by common aims – to make text consistent, accurate and clear – our chosen areas of work can differ in fascinating ways.

Sarah Ryan is a freelance copy-editor. She has answered some questions on her main specialism: secondary science – chemistry.

  1. Briefly, what’s your work background?

I started out working in Germany as a scientific editor on two chemistry journals. Here I used my chemistry knowledge and learnt editorial skills on the job. After five years I moved to the UK for a job in educational publishing. After seven years in-house I went freelance.

  1. How long have you specialised in this particular kind of editorial work, and how did you get started?

I started work in educational publishing in 2001. In 2008 I went freelance and it was then that I mainly started working on science books and resources. I have a chemistry degree so that was why I chose science editing, and why I often ended up with the chemistry projects.

  1. What specific knowledge, experience or qualifications do you need?

Editorial experience, plus in-house or publishing courses, would be the starting point. I have a chemistry degree and PhD and these were useful to get into the area. Once working in the area, one job will often lead to the next. A science teacher with editorial skills is another way to go.

  1. How do you go about finding work in this area?

Most educational publishers use freelancers for the editing and proofing work (and for other work too sometimes). I have built up contacts at several publishers, and I gain repeat business that way. I also approach publishers on a regular basis if things are looking quiet. Once in this area, it does tend to be busy and I often regrettably end up turning work down. Science publishing happens in waves, and if you know when these are (by checking publishing or educational websites), you can time a speculative request for work for when there is work to be done.

  1. What do you most enjoy about the work?

I love working with authors and there are several I have worked with for many years through many curriculum changes. I enjoy the variety that even a niche area can bring. I have worked on books, podcasts, videos, teacher files to mention but a few.

  1. What are the particular challenges?

All of the publishers tend to be publishing to similar deadlines so it can be a bit feast or famine. It also means a lot of repetitive projects – six revision guides all at the same time, followed by three A level text books!

  1. What’s the worst job you’ve had – and/or the best?

Nothing stands out as a worst job, but the worst jobs generally are the ones with the tightest deadlines and when the manuscript is not in as good a shape as you were led to believe. Editors often need to make up the time lost by late delivery by authors so sometimes I am left feeling that the book is not as good as it could have been. Best jobs are the opposite, or working with a really imaginative and talented author.

  1. What tips would you give to someone wanting to work in this field?

Know your chemistry. Most of the people who work on the project will not be scientists so it is important to pick up the science errors. Also, don’t expect it to be all about the science – a lot of the time I am preparing artwork lists, filling in meta data sheets and not much actual science at all!

  1. What is the pay like – and are there any other perks?

The pay in educational publishing compares favourably with other areas of publishing – it is OK. Science editors are appreciated and this can end up paying better than other areas with less specialism.

  1. What other opportunities do you think editorial work in this area might lead to?

Sometimes people get so caught up in the subject they retrain as a teacher! There are also writing opportunities, sometimes for electronic projects. And schools publishing is expanding all the time with many more opportunities in online publishing.

Sarah RyanSarah Ryan is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP and has been in the publishing business for 20 years (I were a mere babe in arms back then). Moving from academic chemistry to school science has been an opportunity to stay working in an area I enjoy while staying close to how science is being presented to the next generation.

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

Specialist Q&A – Archaeology (and related fields)

Specialist Q&AOur editorial industry is made up of people carrying out a huge range of tasks across many different sectors. Although we are bound by common aims – to make text consistent, accurate and clear – our chosen areas of work can differ in fascinating ways.

Jill Cucchi is a freelance copy-editor. She has answered some questions on her main specialism: archaeology.

  1. Briefly, what’s your work background?

I started out in the civil service writing business cases for HM Treasury and answering parliamentary questions, but my passion was always archaeology. After many years volunteering on digs, and after completing a BA (Hons) degree in archaeology in 2004, I landed my dream job as a field archaeologist with Durham University.

  1. How long have you specialised in this particular kind of editorial work, and how did you get started?

I did some editorial work for Durham University’s archaeology department, but it wasn’t until I moved to France that I realised it could be a full-time job. After ‘checking’ some journal papers for my husband’s colleague, and really enjoying it, I started looking into copy-editing (via indexing and proofreading) as a new career. I’ve recently started to specialise in academic journal/conference papers written by authors with English as a second language.

  1. What specific knowledge, experience or qualifications do you need?

You need to have a wide-ranging knowledge of archaeology and archaeological practices (e.g. chronology, excavation, methods of dating), as well as a good understanding of related disciplines (e.g. zooarchaeology, archaeobotany). For me, having French as a second language is also useful in differentiating scientific jargon from direct translations.

  1. How do you go about finding work in this area?

As most scientific papers need to be written in English, academics who are non-native speakers are always looking for copy-editors and/or translators. As my husband works for the CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (Paris), and his colleagues knew he had an English wife with a background in archaeology, I was constantly asked if I could do urgent jobs when their usual copy-editor was busy. After a few (hopefully well done) ‘rush jobs’, I took on every urgent job that came up, did minuscule jobs (e.g. reading a 100-word abstract, correcting a book review), offered a final free proofread, adjusted my hourly rate – anything in fact to get some experience. Often the copy-editors that academics use have a PhD (I don’t), or are fluently bilingual (I’m not) so competition is tough. However, now I have an ever-growing set of regular clients, and I’ve had requests from other universities and museums via recommendations.

  1. What do you most enjoy about the work?

I love that it combines my two great passions: archaeology and literature. I love taking a piece of complicated text and making it readable. I love it when a client has a paper or a grant application accepted and I can breathe a huge sigh of relief. I love that my job allows me to read (and write) and learn about archaeology without getting wet and muddy, though that is fun too.

  1. What are the particular challenges?

Trying to copy-edit complex scientific papers when I am not a science graduate and the author is a non-native English speaker. Also, the text can be incredibly specialised (e.g. 12 pages on the nitrogen value of pig’s teeth), so it can be challenging to stay focused.

  1. What’s the worst job you’ve had – and/or the best?

The worst job I had was a paper I had copy-edited being refused publication and not knowing why. Ouch! (But later accepted, thankfully.) The best job I had was a scientific budget report with a two-day turnaround (sadly, the two days were Saturday and Sunday). The client readily accepted my increased hourly rate and insisted I take a bonus – I thought I was dreaming.

  1. What tips would you give to someone wanting to work in this field?

You will need a sound knowledge of the subject so read lots of journals, volunteer on some digs, see if you can help out at your local museum and register for some (often free) online courses (e.g. FutureLearn – they have several archaeology/history courses). You’ll also need excellent (I’m not quite there yet…) copy-editing skills as the publication process is tough.

  1. What is the pay like – and are there any other perks?

It varies (wildly) depending on the client’s grant allocation or the project’s budget, but I’d say for an average 15-page paper (about 8/9 hours) you could expect around £200. My biggest perk, at the moment, is just being freelance – after 12 years in the civil service this is a dream!

  1. What other opportunities do you think editorial work in this area might lead to?

It’s hard to say really as I’m just starting out, but I’ve recently been asked to translate and copy-edit a book chapter for the Musée du quai Branly on anthropology, which is a new and exciting direction for me. I’ve also been asked to copy-edit a catalogue for an art gallery in Paris, which has nothing to do with archaeology at all, so it seems the possibilities are endless.

Jill CucchiJill Cucchi is an Entry-Level Member of the SfEP. She is an archaeologist turned copy-editor specialising in academic journal/conference papers for non-native English speakers.

 

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

Specialist Q&A – oceanography and medicine

Specialist Q&AOur editorial industry is made up of people carrying out a huge range of tasks across many different sectors. Although we are bound by common aims – to make text consistent, accurate and clear – our chosen areas of work can differ in fascinating ways.

Cathryn Primrose-Mathisen is an onscreen copy-editor. She has answered some questions on her main specialisms: oceanography and medicine.

  1. Briefly, what’s your work background?

Following university, I worked for Fugro GEOS/OCEANOR for 14 years. I was involved in metocean measurement and real-time monitoring projects, holding roles such as project/sales manager in Trondheim, operations manager in Houston, and senior oceanographer in Singapore. I also completed many fieldwork visits, installing and servicing instrumentation on moorings and offshore platforms, as well as reporting the results and presenting them at conferences. I worked with very different clients, such as oil and gas companies, governmental organisations and universities. In terms of medicine, when I was younger I used to work in the summer holidays at the health centre where my mother worked as a GP.

I have been freelance copy-editing/proofreading for about six years. I specialise in science, technology, business and medicine. I have copy-edited numerous scientific articles both pre- and post-submission to journals, and I have copy-edited books about, for example, climate change, marine ecology, earthquake engineering, international relations and clinical diabetes. Over the past five years I have worked with a local doctor providing English language review of his PhD thesis as well as articles that have been published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders and the BMJ.

  1. How long have you specialised in this particular kind of editorial work, and how did you get started?

I have specialised in these areas for most of my freelance career. Initially, I took The Publishing Training Centre’s ‘Basic proofreading by distance learning’ course and joined the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). I marketed myself as a proofreader, emphasising my academic qualifications (MSc Oceanography, BSc (Hons) Geography) and the subject areas I studied at university (climate change, palaeoceanography, geopolitics, culture etc.). It soon became clear that I was a more natural copy-editor and that I had a broad range of both academic and commercial experience. A couple of my proofreading clients asked whether I would like to do some onscreen copy-editing work and it grew from there. I studied Barbara Horn’s Copy-Editing and decided to supplement my knowledge of MS Word by taking the SfEP’s ‘Onscreen editing 1’ course. I plan to take the level 2 course when I can.

  1. What specific knowledge, experience or qualifications do you need?

A sufficient academic grounding enables you to know whether the flow of a text is correct for the fields in which you specialise, helps you to communicate with the authors, and helps you to spot obvious mistakes. My master’s degree has helped me to obtain projects, but it is not a prerequisite for all clients.

One of my best commercial clients contacted me specifically because I had spent a great deal of time working offshore on oil rigs. They knew that I was familiar with the stringent health, safety and environment procedures found there. Similarly, one of the PhD theses that I copy-edited last year was about project management, and the client contacted me because of my previous commercial experience.

A close family member has diabetes type 1 and uses an insulin pump. The system is similar in many ways to the real-time metocean monitoring systems that I installed for Fugro, and we troubleshoot it in the same way.

  1. How do you go about finding work in this area?

I started by approaching some of the larger academic publishers and replying to job announcements sent via the SfEP. Over the years I have built up my experience and have maintained a good relationship with my clients, leading to repeat work.

I upgraded my SfEP membership so that I could obtain a directory entry and have received some good leads from different types of clients in this way. I have also experimented with other directories, finding some more suitable than others.

My aim is to continue to expand my commercial base. I have attended the SfEP’s ‘Getting work with non-publishers’ course, which has helped me to clarify my goals. I will soon be working with a local business mentor to help me build my business network in the cities closest to where I live, and I have also joined my nearest chamber of commerce (Norwegian equivalent of). Last year I attended the Aqua Nor conference in Trondheim, Norway, and this year I will be attending the Oceanology conference in London. I am fortunate that our local business development organisation Bindal Utvikling AS is providing some financial support.

  1. What do you most enjoy about the work?

I enjoy being able to make use of my university and work experience to help clients from around the world. I particularly enjoy copy-editing articles about data collection during fieldwork and the subsequent presentation and analysis of results.

  1. What are the particular challenges?

Cross-referencing many pages of tag numbers proved ‘interesting’, but I found that the key was to develop and apply a clear and logical sequence of actions.

  1. What’s the worst job you’ve had – and/or the best?

The worst job I had was really two and this was very early on in my freelance career. I naively accepted two large proofreads that overlapped and I did not anticipate delays with the first one. This led to very long days and nights.

  1. What tips would you give to someone wanting to work in this field?

Do not overestimate your potential earnings. Also remember that you may not be able to focus properly for more than about four to five hours a day on a long-term basis.

  1. What is the pay like – and are there any other perks?

Pay from my commercial clients is generally higher than from my publishing clients. I aim for balance in my work and family life, and I enjoy going for a walk in the hills at lunchtime.

  1. What other opportunities do you think editorial work in this area might lead to?

Over the next few years I will increase the marketing of my rewriting and website copy-editing skills. I shall also continue to reach out towards the aquaculture industry, where my skills and experience can also be used.

I have recently completed my own print-on-demand book of landscape photographs and have used design software to compile a recipe booklet for fundraising for a school class.

Cathryn Primrose-MathisenCathryn Primrose-Mathisen is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP, specialising in science, technology, business and medicine for everyone from individuals to multinationals. Following a successful commercial oceanographic career around the world she now lives in Norway and helps others to acquire more customers, sell more products and services and/or present clear safety and technical information or scientific results. She walks wherever and whenever possible. Find out more at: www.cathrynprimrose.com, www.sfep.org.uk/directory/cathryn-primrose-mathisen and www.linkedin.com/in/cathrynprimrose

Proofread by SfEP Professional Member Christina Harkness

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

Specialist Q&A – Linguistics

Specialist Q&AOur editorial industry is made up of people carrying out a huge range of tasks across many different sectors. Although we are bound by common aims – to make text consistent, accurate and clear – our chosen areas of work can differ in fascinating ways.

Sue Browning is a freelance proofreader and copy-editor. She has answered some questions on her main specialism: linguistics.

  1. Briefly, what’s your work background?

I have a degree in linguistics and spent 22 years in speech technology research, first in academia and then for a government research establishment. I started freelance editing in 2005, and have worked on a range of humanities subjects as well as linguistics.

  1. How long have you specialised in this particular kind of editorial work, and how did you get started?

I’ve been editing linguistics right from the start of my editing career. My early work came mainly from students, through ex-colleagues in academia, advertising on free online directory sites like Freelance Proofreaders, and then by word of mouth. Later, a project management company for which I was already copy-editing a range of subjects happened to ask about specialisms, and since then I have edited many academic linguistics books for them.
phonetics

  1. What specific knowledge, experience or qualifications do you need?

Linguistics is a huge field, encompassing everything from phonetics and phonology (the sounds) to pragmatics and discourse analysis (entire conversations or even larger language elements), to parts of cognitive science and psychology, and it helps to be familiar with the terminology and conventions of all these different fields. My specialism is phonetics and phonology, so I need a good working knowledge of the phonetic symbols and how to code them so they print correctly.

  1. How do you go about finding work in this area?

I started by making sure that academics I had worked with in linguistics departments knew I was an editor, and that brought me work on linguistics PhDs and occasionally for academics preparing papers for journals. Most of my work now comes by word of mouth or repeat business with existing clients. So I just make sure that relevant clients know my specialisms and that all my online profiles mention linguistics.

  1. What do you most enjoy about the work?

Learning! I’ve recently edited a number of books on evolutionary linguistics, which wasn’t a thing when I studied linguistics, so it was entirely new to me and I find it fascinating. I also love learning how speakers of other languages view the world. Did you know, for instance, that while speakers of Indo-European languages (like English) talk of events in the past as behind them and those in the future as in front of them, speakers of Aymara, an Amerind language that privileges knowledge gained at first hand, talk about past events as in front of them, so open to inspection, and future events as behind them, so not visible. That kind of blew my mind when I first read about it.

  1. What are the particular challenges?

I’m not sure there are any particular challenges. Being interested and knowledgeable about language, most linguists write pretty well, even non-native speakers, but they make the same lapses that all authors do. Sometimes an author will use a specialist phonetic font that gets mangled in the pre-processing so I need to be able to spot that and check what it should be with the author. Wrangling linguistic examples so they align correctly can be tricky too.

  1. What’s the worst job you’ve had – and/or the best?

Like most editors, I’ve had nightmare jobs, but it is rarely because they are linguistics books! I also edit fiction, and one of the jobs I enjoyed the most was for a sci-fi author who had made up an alien language. We had great fun making sure it was internally consistent.

  1. What tips would you give to someone wanting to work in this field?

Make use of any links you have with people in the field, and tell people about your specialist areas.

Oh, and while linguistics gives you a great understanding of what grammar is and how language works, you still need the basic training in editing and proofreading.

I find that a knowledge of linguistics sometimes helps in explaining the need for a change and it also helps counter some of the ridiculous pet peeves you might come across (like those that Geoff Pullum spoke so entertainingly about at the 2015 conference).

  1. What is the pay like – and are there any other perks?

The pay is pretty typical for the academic humanities, i.e. not great. I do it more for the pleasure of being able to read fascinating books by erudite authors, and I have to confess I get a particular thrill from editing books by my linguistic heroes.

  1. What other opportunities do you think editorial work in this area might lead to?

A knowledge of linguistics is very useful for teaching English to both native learners and non-native speakers, and I edit in these fields too.

Sue BrowningSue Browning is a Professional Member of the SfEP, specialising in copy-editing linguistics and other humanities and social sciences. She mainly works on books for academic publishers but also edits for individual academics and authors. As well as prowling the halls of academia, she also walks on alien planets, editing sci-fi and fantasy fiction.

Website: www.suebrowning-editing.co.uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SueBrowning_ed

LinkedIn: uk.linkedin.com/in/SueBrowningEditing

 

Proofread by SfEP Professional Member Louise Lubke Cuss (WordBlink)

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

Specialist Q&A – science and natural history editing

Specialist Q&AOur editorial industry is made up of people carrying out a huge range of tasks across many different sectors. Although we are bound by common aims – to make text consistent, accurate and clear – our chosen areas of work can differ in fascinating ways.

Liz Drewitt is a freelance proofreader, copy-editor and writer. She has answered some questions on her main specialism: science and natural history editing.

  1. Briefly, what’s your work background?

I have a degree in zoology and a master’s in animal behaviour. After several years of volunteer conservation and survey work abroad, I worked for five years as a writer for a leading wildlife charity, writing and editing content for their website as well as marking and editing student projects and helping to run the charity’s social media channels.

  1. How long have you specialised in this particular kind of editorial work, and how did you get started?

I started my first part-time freelance work in 2012, and have been freelance full-time since 2013. My first few jobs involved writing and proofreading for a couple of clients I found through friends and other contacts – one is now my main client. As my experience and client list have grown I have been able to focus more on my specialism, mainly taking on science-related work.

  1. What specific knowledge, experience or qualifications do you need?

Although general editing and proofreading skills will get you a long way, a good knowledge of biology and of scientific concepts and terminology is important, particularly for more academic books, research papers and student theses. However, I also work on more general interest natural history books and magazines, so it’s also useful to know how to communicate science in an accessible way.

Some of the main issues I look out for are mistakes in Latin names and in the use of scientific terms, problems with referencing, and sometimes more serious factual errors – all things that could easily be missed if you’re not familiar with the subject.

  1. How do you go about finding work in this area?

I’ve found many of my clients through word of mouth – for example, by being passed on by friends who work in the wildlife world, some of whom have been writing books themselves. I’ve also approached publishers who specialise in my field, as well as offering my services to wildlife and conservation groups, and have taken on a few students via my website or through personal recommendations.

  1. What do you most enjoy about the work?

I’m passionate about my subject, so it’s a way of being paid to read my favourite books! I also love learning more about the natural world, and enjoy connecting with authors who are experts in their subject and have fascinating insights to share.

  1. What are the particular challenges?

My greatest challenge is usually reference lists – they can be fiddly and time-consuming to edit, though I do get a sense of satisfaction at getting them into shape.

  1. What’s the worst job you’ve had – and/or the best?

My most challenging jobs have usually involved long, detailed academic books, as these can be complex and sometimes a bit dry. Authors and students are often keen to make their writing sound ‘scientific’, but I have to help ensure it’s also readable.

BioBlitz butterflyOne of my favourite jobs is proofreading a quarterly magazine for a wildlife charity – it’s always inspiring to read about the conservation work they’re doing. I also love working on books where I get to learn something new. Field guides are particularly useful for brushing up on my species identification skills, and I recently got to copy-edit a book that combined nature with one of my other passions – art!

  1. What tips would you give to someone wanting to work in this field?

Taking a couple of courses with the SfEP and the Publishing Training Centre (PTC) is one of the best decisions I’ve made. It allowed me to improve not only my skills but also my confidence, and has helped me to make sure I’m doing my job to the best of my ability.

If you’re into a subject like science, I would recommend using any links you have with people you already know in the field – you never know who they might be able to pass you on to. And read, a lot – it never hurts to know as much as you can about the type of material you want to work on.

  1. What is the pay like – and are there any other perks?

I usually find that the pay from publishers works out on the low side, and I almost always get offered a flat rate regardless of the time the work actually takes. However, I do get to stock my shelves with a fantastic array of nature books!

  1. What other opportunities do you think editorial work in this area might lead to?

I’m keen to take on more writing work alongside the proofreading and editing, and have plans for a nature-related book of my own. Having seen things from an editor’s point of view, I will hopefully be in a better position to improve how I approach my own writing.

Liz DrewittLiz Drewitt is a Professional Member of the SfEP, specialising in proofreading and copy-editing natural history and science. She works on a range of material, from detailed species monographs to field guides, popular science books, magazines, reports and student theses. Liz has also written magazine articles and keeps a wildlife blog, and is an aspiring wildlife artist.

You can find Liz on her website at www.natureedit.com, on LinkedIn, or chatting about nature on Twitter.

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

Eight tips for editing cookery

photo (9)Perhaps cookery is already one of your editorial specialisms, or it may be an area you’d like to try. In many ways, the same rules apply as for editing any other material – the text needs to be clear, accurate and consistent. However, there are some particular things to watch out for. Here are some tips for editing or proofreading recipes.

1. Know your way around a kitchen/Enjoy food

As with any other specialist area, how deeply you need to be immersed in the subject as an editor or proofreader is open to debate. I would suggest that it is necessary to be a competent and reasonably adventurous cook yourself, though, and a love of food definitely helps. You will often need to imagine carrying out a particular task as you read the recipe to check for sense, and it is useful to have a good awareness of kitchen equipment and how to use it, as well as a wide range of ingredients.

2. Have a feel for measurements

Although as an editor you are not required to test the recipes (unless you want to, which does happen; see number 8), you do need to sense-check them as you go, and this includes spotting any silly quantities. Can you picture 100g of various different ingredients? Do you know what 2 litres of liquid looks like? Do you understand the relative proportions of ingredients that usually go into a cake, or pastry, or a stew?

3. Account for every single ingredient

Every ingredient that is listed needs to be used – even if not all at once. In the same way, every ingredient that is mentioned in the instructions needs to be listed. Usually, publishers will want the ingredients listed in the order in which they are used, but the house style may specify exceptions to this. For example, salt and pepper often come at the end of the list.

4. Tie up loose ends (or ask the author to do so)

As well as making sure every ingredient mentioned in the instructions is listed (and vice versa), you need to make sure every ingredient’s story is followed through to its conclusion. Don’t leave the reader wondering what happened to that pastry that was rolled out two steps ago, or the egg that’s been beaten and set aside … forever.

5. Apply logic

The oven is often preheated at the start of the recipe – but this makes no sense if the preparation begins the day before the actual cooking. And some ingredients need to be prepared far in advance, while others would suffer. Although consistency is extremely important (see the next point), you also need to apply a generous dash of common sense when it comes to expressing a recipe sensibly. You can’t apply a blanket rule to every eventuality. This is where it helps to be able to picture the process that is being described.

6. Maintain consistency

Editors are always concerned with consistency. In cookery, particular things to watch out for include descriptions of ingredients (is it chopped onion – or onion, chopped?); instructions for particular processes that crop up again and again (such as steaming a pudding); use of measurements (obviously metric and imperial are not used interchangeably, but also make sure you don’t switch between teaspoons and 5ml, for example); names of things (capitals can be tricky; think of cheese or wine) and naming of recipes (does the recipe actually contain all the things mentioned in the title, and in what proportions?).

7. Tread the fine line between preserving voice and adhering to house style

Many cookery book publishers will supply an extensive house style (which is helpful, but do allow time to absorb it). At the same time, many cookery writers, in common with all other writers, will have their own particular way of expressing themselves. If you’re copy-editing, it can be a real challenge to strike a balance between toning down the wildest authorial excesses while maintaining that distinctive voice (it may be a voice that readers are familiar with the sound of, too), and also beating everything into style guide submission as far as possible.

8. Work as far away from the kitchen as possible

Trust me – you will get hungry. Especially if there are pictures …

This list is not exhaustive – it’s a starting point. Perhaps you have other suggestions of what to look out for?

Photo on 28-05-2015 at 13.51 #2Posted by Liz Jones, SfEP marketing and PR director.

Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Susan Walton.

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

Specialist Q&A – medicolegal editing

Specialist Q&A graphicOur editorial industry is made up of people carrying out a huge range of tasks across many different sectors. Although we are bound by common aims – to make text consistent, accurate and clear – our chosen areas of work can differ in fascinating ways. 

Etty Payne is a freelance translator, proofreader and copy-editor. She has answered some questions on one of her specialisms: editing medicolegal reports.

1. Briefly, what’s your work background?

I have a degree in French and was an in-house translator for 16 years, much of that time at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. Editing and proofreading was very much part of the translation work and I continued as a freelancer once we moved back to the UK.

2. How long have you specialised in this particular kind of editorial work, and how did you get started?

I’ve been doing medicolegal reports for nearly 4 years. I was already specialising in medical communications, nursing and healthcare and was approached by a medicolegal expert who wanted his reports proofread. I’ve since picked up several similar clients.

3. What specific knowledge, experience or qualifications do you need?

You need a lot of medical knowledge and some legal knowledge. I don’t have a degree in medicine but, for a number of reasons, I’ve done a huge amount of self-study in various fields of medicine, pretty much continuously since the age of 18.

Because these reports are often written at speed or transcribed from poor quality dictations, they can contain many mistakes, and yet clarity and accuracy are crucial. You need to be able to see at a glance whether or not names of drugs and diseases or anatomical and medical descriptions are correct. But at the same time, as the reports are written for readers who aren’t expected to have any medical knowledge, you have to be able to read them from their point of view and ensure that complex medical ideas and opinions are expressed in very clear, precise English.

A good understanding of the strict legal requirements and principles governing how these reports are written is also essential so that you can let the expert know if their report hasn’t followed the rules.

And, because some clients want their reports formatted from scratch, it definitely helps to be completely comfortable with the intricacies of Word.

4. How do you go about finding work in this area?

The first client found me, and since then it’s been via my website and word of mouth.

5. What do you most enjoy about the work?

I love checking facts and rewording for the non-medical reader. I also enjoy the variety the reports bring to my work: they range from 20 pages to 80 pages so can make a welcome break from a 400-page academic book.

6. What are the particular challenges?

The main challenge is the depth of work that needs to be done (all very accurately, obviously) with a quick turnaround because clients often want their reports instantly! I have a long checklist that I work through so even when reports are well written, there’s still an incompressible length of time required for each one.

7. What tips would you give to someone wanting to work in this field?

If you have the medical and legal background, then it’s the same as for any specialism: get yourself out there and tell the right people what you do and how you can help them.

8. What is the pay like?

The pay is usually better than for the big publishers, but, because of the detailed attention each report needs, I find it works out a little lower than the rates I usually earn for most business clients.

9. What other opportunities do you think editorial work in this area might lead to?

I’ve been asked to present a workshop on writing medicolegal reports at a conference of medicolegal experts. The thought is pretty daunting so I may offer instead to prepare a written document that experts could work from. Much less scary!

EttyEtty Payne (Elegant Words) is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP, specialising in international development, health/medical documents and anything to do with dogs and photography. She loves quizzes and generally finding answers to questions, but the question she finds hardest to answer is ‘Where are you from?’: she was born in Morocco with Venezuelan nationality, grew up in Brighton, went to university in Wales, got married in Norway, lived for many years in Paris, Strasbourg, Lisbon and Brussels and now lives in Hampshire.

You can find Etty on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Karen Pickavance.

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

 

Specialist Q&A – working on maths books

Specialist Q&A graphicOur editorial industry is made up of people carrying out a huge range of tasks across many different sectors. Although we are bound by common aims – to make text consistent, accurate and clear – our chosen areas of work can differ in fascinating ways.

Sam Hartburn is a proofreader and editor of maths and education books. She has answered some questions on one of her specialisms: maths.

1. Briefly, what’s your work background?

I have a degree in mathematics, and I worked as a software developer for 13 years. For the last two years I’ve been a freelance proofreader and editor, focusing on maths and education.

2. How long have you specialised in this particular kind of editorial work, and how did you get started?

I’ve specialised in maths since I started doing editorial work. I started out with the PTC’s Proofreading by Distance Learning course, then spent a lot of time researching and emailing educational publishers. I also got to know some other maths specialists in the SfEP, who have been very generous in passing on work. After a couple of ‘lucky breaks’, where my email arrived on the right screen at the right time, my business has grown steadily.

3. What specific knowledge, experience or qualifications do you need?

Obviously you need a good knowledge of maths, to A level or beyond. For academic work LaTeX is very useful, as this is what most maths researchers use to write their papers.

4. How do you go about finding work in this area?

In the same way as for any other area – emails to publishers, the SfEP directory, networking and so on!

5. What do you most enjoy about the work?

I love answer checking – sometimes I get to spend the whole day just doing maths problems!

6. What are the particular challenges?

Layout can be a big challenge. Textbooks tend to have a lot of features and diagrams, and it’s important to place these correctly, which can lead to pages overrunning or large areas of white space. Trying to sort it out is like doing a jigsaw puzzle.

7. What’s the worst job you’ve had – and/or the best?

It’s very hard to pick a worst or best job; I’ve learned so much from all of them! I’m very proud of the video editing job that I’ve just finished: I project managed the building of 200 video tutorials for GCSE maths, which will be a fantastic resource for students.

8. What tips would you give to someone wanting to work in this field?

There’s a lot of work around, but it won’t just come and find you! Do everything you can to make sure that people know what skills you have and what you have to offer.

9. What is the pay like – and are there any other perks?

I’ve found the pay to be quite good; I think it is a bit higher than for general editorial work. As for perks, some of the workbooks I’ve proofread have been suitable for my children, so (with permission) I’ve printed pages out for them to do. The general education books I’ve worked on have also given me some great ideas for activities to do with the children. I’m not sure that they always see this as a perk though!

10. What other opportunities do you think editorial work in this area might lead to?

Online and video lessons is a rapidly expanding market, and I’m hoping that there will be plenty of editorial opportunities in this area.

Maths is also enjoying a surge in popularity at the moment, with great books being written by people like Simon Singh and Matt Parker, so there should be lots of opportunities outside of education as well.

SamHartburn_Proofreader

Sam Hartburn is a self-confessed maths geek with an eye for detail and a way with words. She proofreads and edits material about mathematics and related subjects, from early years through to adult education and academic research, including online lessons and video tutorials.

 

Proofread by SfEP entry-level member Karen Pickavance.

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

Specialist Q&A – working for business clients

Specialist Q&A graphicOur editorial industry is made up of people carrying out a huge range of tasks across many different sectors. Although we are bound by common aims – to make text consistent, accurate and clear – our chosen areas of work can differ in fascinating ways.

Kate Haigh (Kateproof) is a freelance proofreader and copy-editor. She has answered some questions on one of her specialisms: working for business clients.

1. Briefly, what’s your work background?

My CV is pretty varied but I have in-house editing and proofreading experience at a magazine publishing company (Govnet) and also for Datamonitor. I have also managed a team for a multinational corporate bank and have worked for the public sector.

2. How long have you specialised in this particular kind of editorial work, and how did you get started?

The first freelance client I got was almost five years ago and was pure serendipity: I went on a web writing course and got offered a lift home by a woman who worked for a local business. She took my card and passed it to her marketing department and the rest is history…

3. What specific knowledge, experience or qualifications do you need?

I find this is where working for business clients differs from working for publishers as I don’t think you need formal training, though confidence is key and I don’t know how confident I would feel if I didn’t have the training under my belt. Experience possibly counts for more as many business clients want to know that you understand their needs and their material. I work on a lot of annual reports, for example, and my experience in banking helps because I understand a lot of the terminology and the common elements that most reports include. One of my USPs is that I studied German at university so though I don’t offer translation services, I work for quite a few German companies as I understand some of the common issues German speakers encounter when writing in English.

4. How do you go about finding work in this area?

Nowadays, people find me through word of mouth and my website. However, when I was first starting out, I went to local networks and met lots of other local businesspeople from various industries. Clients and leads didn’t appear overnight but after about 6 months’ networking at various groups, I started to reap the rewards and continue to do so now even though I don’t currently attend any groups.

5. What do you most enjoy about the work and what are the particular challenges?

Not all business clients are the same. Working for design agencies or marketing teams within big companies often means I liaise with someone who understands the role of proofreading or editing and what I need to do, but lots of companies don’t have this and therefore need me to help them work through the process of getting the work proofread/edited and how best to deal with those changes. With design agencies, I find the work goes backwards and forwards through various iterations of the file as the client, the designers and I all make changes, and this can get quite complex.

Though some people may find the lack of a style guide or formal process less appealing, I like the fact I can influence the work and help a company achieve efficiencies.

Finally, I also have a lot of last-minute, urgent work requests and it can be quite tricky either finding time to fit them in or letting regular clients down. However, on the plus side, if I’m staring down the barrel of a workless week, that very rarely actually happens as something comes in and I go from twiddling thumbs to being very busy.

6. What’s the worst job you’ve had – and/or the best?

That’s really difficult to say purely because I’ve worked on such varied projects. I can’t deny that some of the reports have been very dry but I wouldn’t want to name and shame here. I also had one instance of bad scope creep and that definitely wasn’t enjoyable.

7. What tips would you give to someone wanting to work in this field?

Be confident! Many business clients don’t understand what the editing/proofreading job entails so you need to have the confidence to explain what you’re doing (and sometimes why) and also the confidence to make it clear if something isn’t in your remit.

8. What is the pay like – and are there any other perks?

I find the pay is better than what publishers pay but, for me, more importantly, I set my rates and can vary them depending on the client’s preference: hourly, day rate (common for agencies) or set fee.

9. What other opportunities do you think editorial work in this area might lead to?

I’ve been offered in-house work, and though I wouldn’t choose to return to that permanently, it can be enjoyable as a brief change of scene.

kate2

 

Answers written by Kate Haigh, a freelancer since 2010 working on a variety of projects for publishers, business clients, authors and academics.

 

Proofread by SfEP professional member Louise Lubke Cuss.

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