Editing and Writing – Wearing Different Hats

I have always loved a hat, in fact for many years, I was rarely seen without one. While styles have changed and my head gear is now only worn on cold days or at weddings, I still find myself wearing many metaphorical hats.

I assume, you are not here to read about all of my hats, but two might be of interest – writer and editor. But first a wee explanation of how I got here. A love of reading and writing led me first to an English degree, then a post-grad in Librarianship and a career in education.

Colette Duggan as a child on a swing
I started my hat wearing early

Three children and a plethora of care responsibilities later, I was working in a supermarket, wondering how I had veered so dramatically off track. I was writing though, and as Colette Coen, I racked up a few short story prizes and publications, and self-published a novel. While one of my writing buddies wrote a best seller, I was still at the £10 and a free copy of the magazine (if I was lucky) end of the market. So, something had to change. I looked at how I could marry my love of language with a new career. Specifically, I needed a job that I could do at home.

As my care responsibilities increased, keeping even a part-time job became untenable, but not working was not an option – bills to pay etc. I completed Proofreading 1 with the Society for Editors and Proofreaders when I was still working at the supermarket. Then, when I left, I took the longer Essential Proofreading with the Publishing Training Centre. I chose to study both online and with the support of my local Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (ciep) group (many of whom also belong to the Glasgow Editors Network) I upgraded to intermediate membership of ciep.

Colette Duggan in her Artful Dodger hat
With a feather in my cap (as the Artful Dodger)

So, back to the hats. Editing and proofreading give me an income, while writing is part of who I am. I love working with words and while it took a long time, I’ve finally figured out what hats I want to wear. It is very useful that the skills needed to be a writer and an editor, dovetail, and the knowledge required for both are complementary. Writing magazines helps me creatively, while I can also keep up-to-date with the latest from the publishing world. Similarly, my experience as an editor, not only helps my clients, but allows for greater understanding of my own writing style and foibles.

I am adept at keeping to specific word counts (which most competitions require) and find that when an author wants excess words cut, I am good at trimming the fat. I derive a strange pleasure when I am editing a dissertation, rearranging sentences or tidying grammar, to find that I have reached the exact word count required. Something is obviously going on in the background of my brain, and the odd glance at the bottom of the screen helps keep me on track.

I also take huge pleasure in thumbing through my dictionaries, thesaurus and Fowler’s Modern English Usage (not to mention countless other word books). While I may be looking to solve a specific issue in a client’s work, I can also add to my creative cache.

The fact that I have self-published my own short story collections and novel means that I can help independent authors get their work online and in print. As an Amazon author, I can share my experiences and help them manage their publications. I can also provide guidance on creative skills and information on outlets for work.

Picture shows Colette Duggan
Editor at large

Some people might worry that their ideas could be pinched by an editor who is also a writer, but they can be confident that this is very unlikely to happen. All editors in this network abide by a professional code of conduct and our ethical standards are held to account by the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading. In my many years of writing and taking part in workshops and writers’ groups, I have been amazed how the same prompt can result in a huge variety of work. That means, that even if an idea were to worm its way into another writer’s brain, it would come out as an entirely different piece of work.

At the moment, most of the editing I undertake is academic, so there is no possibility of crossover with my fiction. But even when I am working on someone else’s fiction, I am aware that I am dealing with their words and stories. The thought process that led them to put their words on the page is theirs alone and it is up to the editor to guide and assist, not re-write.

One thing which freelancers struggle with is how to divide their time. It can be difficult to have a clear demarcation between work and life (more hats). This is particularly true when one of your jobs can also be classed as a hobby. I have a simple priority system where the paid work comes first, followed by trying to get more paid work, followed by writing. What I have found really useful, is that the paid work gets me to my computer and once it’s finished, my hands are nicely warmed up to continue typing. Helping others make their work the best it can be, is also a great motivator to do the same for my own work.

Editing and proofreading have also pushed my technical skills further. I regularly dig about in the dark recesses of Word to make my clients work look more professional. My formatting knowledge and IT skills also help when I am presenting my own work, whether in print or on the Internet.

Working freelance can sometimes make it difficult to plan, but I love a spreadsheet and manage to keep things running smoothly. Obviously, there are limits on my time and client deadlines always take priority, but there can be fallow periods. These are the times when I catch up on marketing my business – Beech Editorial Services – and continue my professional development. (I hope to upgrade to become a professional member of ciep in the next year). I also take the opportunity to work on my second novel, ready to swap hats when the next editing job comes around the corner.

Did I tell you my granny was a milliner? Now, that’s another story…

Find out more about my skills and services at Colette Duggan

Writing a ‘letter’

Lucy Metzger has the last word in making communication count.

H E L P spelled out on typewriter keys

Letter writing 101

Letter-writing came up in a recent discussion with my colleagues in the Glasgow Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) group. What really matters if you are writing to someone? I suppose it comes down to one thing: what outcome do you most want?

Woman writes at office desk
What to say and how to say it – writing a simple letter isn’t always simple

Sample email 1

<Start of email> Hi,

How much would it be to edit my 120,000-word book?

Regards

<End of email>

<No signature>

Proofreader assessment: If this correspondent really wants my help, they will have to give me a lot more information before I can judge whether my skillset and fees will match their expectations. In addition, how much time do I want to spend asking the questions and waiting for the responses?

Sample email 2

<Start of email with no subject> Proofreader’s assessment: I’m put off by the lack of attention to detail.

<email salutation> Hi there,

Proofreader assessment: My name is not ‘there’. My name is visible in all my contact links. Is a future proofreader not able to work out my name from the links? Why not perhaps say ‘Hi Lucy’ or ‘Hi Ms Metzger’? Or, if they really can’t work out my name, show a little respect? ‘Hi O Wondrous One’?

<email continues> I have a degree in English and want to be a proofreader. Would this be a good idea? How could I get training?

<End of email>


Proofreader assessment: And might they acknowledge that they are asking me to help them? How could they do that?

Anyway, I hope you will all continue to explore correspondence in its many forms, and put your full name on professional things, and figure out the names of people you are writing to. And say ‘Please’ … ‘Thank you’. Also don’t use the word ‘haha’ in professional correspondence. And might they perhaps sign their own full name at the end of the email? I am SO middle-aged! But … you want to be a proofreader? Accountability!

With kind regards from middle age,
Lucy
Lucy Metzger
Editorial Services

Flapper for 1920s looks at letters and papers on the floor.
Where is the shredder?

Lenzie, 17 September 20
Dear blog-readers,
What comes through the post-flap? Bills, circulars, renewals, – but earlier this year there was a real letter addressed to me by hand. It was from a friend who was taking part in International Correspondence Writing Month by sending a hand-written letter to a different person every day for a month.


I was absolutely delighted, and I have put the letter up where I can see it all the time. Moreover, I have written a postcard in reply.


Evenmoreover, I have found a stamp and have actually posted it. I’ve resolved to take part in InCoWriMo next time – it happens every February.

Bluebird origami letter
delightful real letter

The Essential Work-Hobby Balance

If reading is the nation’s top hobby, what do proofreaders and copy-editors do for fun?

We find out from SfEP Professional Member Anne Halliday how to achieve an essential break from work.

Hobbies are an important part of my life. They make me a complete person, keep me sane, and allow an outlet for widening my horizons. The life of a copy-editor and proofreader can be a solitary one, so my hobbies are moments in my week to interact with others; except for running, that’s my thinking time.

The website Notsoboringlife.com lists reading as the most popular hobby, above watching TV, with ‘Family Time’ third on the list.

I don’t really consider the latter a hobby, but I suppose it does fall within the online Oxford Dictionary’s definition of something that is ‘done regularly in one’s leisure time’.

I would say that reading has to be top of my list too, even though it’s part of my job. Reading ‘for fun’ is certainly different from reading for proofreading, although sometimes it takes my mind a page or so to switch off from checking for correct positioning of quotation marks and whether North American or British spellings have been used.

Hobbies can be good for your health, and I don’t just mean exercising.

The mind enjoys different types of activities. It can be beneficial to remove yourself from your working environment and ‘exercise’ your mind.

In the editing world, and no doubt also in other fields, your hobbies can lead to employment. Although I have a law degree, I now proofread and copy-edit more history and literature books than law. Reading history was previously ‘just’ a hobby but is now both a hobby and part of my job. A couple of years ago I started participating in MOOCs (‘Massive Open Online Course’) for ‘fun’, but as I mainly take part in courses on history and literature they are practically CPD.

So between long periods of sitting at my desk examining documents with my editing tools at the ready, you will also see me: running (to clear my head); drawing (to be creative); leading a Girls’ Brigade company (this covers just about anything, but in particular allows me to keep in touch with young people, use my organisational skills, run about playing ‘tig’, and have fun with craft); and playing social golf (with the emphasis on the social).

As Anaïs Nin said, ‘I can elect something I love and absorb myself in it’.

You may think you don’t have many hobbies but, if you examine what you do in a week, I am certain that you will find that you have more hobbies than you thought. They are things that enrich your life.

Anne is a proofreader and copy-editor who works on books on law, history, literature, religion and social science. Anne is a member of the Glasgow SfEP group who meet regularly to discuss editing-related topics and eat cake – is eating cake a hobby?

The emotional editor

Post by Chris Bryce

You never know what’s coming next, do you? That’s one of the things I enjoy most about being a working word geek. And, work can, of course, be like political scandals; nothing for a couple of weeks then three turn up, jostling for attention.

So, what stood out in 2017?

Well, one of Scotland’s specialist construction companies needed a new website and invited me to provide the wording (web copy) for it. The guys were great to work for and were delighted with the friendly yet professional tone of their new site. Their web designers told me they couldn’t remember the last time a new website build had gone so smoothly. Normally it’s a lack of web copy that slows the whole thing up. Everyone felt relieved, including me.

OK, job done, what was next?

Opening my inbox, I found a request from a PhD student who was looking for help with their thesis. It was evident, from a sample of text, that English was not their first language. Their methodology, research and conclusions were all strong, but their lack of experience of writing in English was reducing the impact of their hard work.

After agreeing on a fee, I sorted out a range of issues: grammar, punctuation, format and some egregious typos. The research explored the effects of the Civil War in Uganda on the Acholi people, following decades spent in refugee camps. I learned a great deal about Uganda and its Civil War and was particularly moved by the Acholi people’s plight, which continued even after their return to their homelands. Knowing that his work was in safe hands and being attended to by a thoughtful brain, the PhD student stopped worrying. I felt happy to have helped.

Then something completely different appeared; I received a poem.

Not just any old four-line poem, but a poem for a gravestone, to mark the passing of a dearly-loved father and husband, a man who had admired the works of Robert Burns and hailed from Dumfriesshire. I will probably not connect so strongly with a piece of work for a long time.

The task was to convert the poem, composed by the deceased’s daughter, into the language of Burns. When you know your work will be carved in stone, it has to be right. Throughout my time working on this, it was as though the gentleman was by my shoulder and from time to time I’d find myself reassuring him that I’d do a good job for both him and his daughter.

After a time, I reached what I thought was the final draft, but something niggled away at me. Following some contemplation, I found the addition of ‘aye’ in the last line made it considerably more meaningful.

As I sent my final version on, I felt a lump rise in my throat.

Faither, husband, man o’th shaw;

Noo ye’v returned whaur frae ye cam,

Swith wild wi maukin, burn and sea;

Oh, what wildness aye bides in ye.

Whoever would imagine that editing and proofreading tasks could generate so many different feelings?

Right, 2018, what’s next?!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

An experienced copywriter, copy-editor, proofreader and all-round friendly word geek, Chris Bryce of Spotlight Editorial also co-ordinates the local Glasgow SfEP group. You can follow Chris on Twitter @Spotlight_Ed

Behind the scenes at this year’s SfEP conference

Post by Stephen Cashmore

Wyboston Lakes, SfEP conference 2017: if you weren’t there, you missed a great conference and social gathering.

Lots of people have already blogged about the conference, much better bloggers than I am, using words such as ‘great’, ‘fantastic’, and ‘best ever’. All true, but I can add another perspective.

Right up until the AGM of this conference, I was the SfEP training director. What that means is that I was on the council while the conference was being planned and organised. And what that means is that I can add some more words to the collective description: ‘detailed planning’, ‘hard work’, and ‘attention to detail’, to name but a few.

Conference director Beth Hamer and her team bore the brunt of the hard work developing the conference itself. Sure, Beth occasionally posed questions to the council: ‘I want to do x. That OK?’ And the council would hold forth and almost invariably do exactly what Beth had thought of. Chair (Sabine Citron) and Vice-chair (Lucy Metzger) meticulously checked all the bye-laws and constitutional AGM-like points – the things that send most of us to sleep in seconds – to make sure the AGM passed off smoothly. The office staff set up everything on the day and bossed everyone who came in the door, even the huge security guys that were turning up for their own conference.

So, as an ex-director, I have seen more or less at first-hand how much hard work – a year’s worth of hard work – goes into making the conference such a great occasion. And guess what? It’s going to happen all over again in 2018, this time at Lancaster University. So, if you missed SfEP conference 2017, be sure to be there next year.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephen is an advanced member of the SfEP who lives in Ayr on the west coast of Scotland. He is an ex-teacher, ex-accountant, ex-bridge player and ex-auditor, but threw all that over to become an editor after taking early retirement. Check out cashmoreeditorial.com or follow Stephen on Twitter @sceditorial

Everyone needs an editor

Post by Chris Bryce

‘If only I hadn’t said that’ … a phrase familiar to the broken-hearted following a heated row, or the regretful employee the morning after the office party. What would the miserable lover or tipsy partygoer have given for a filter on their spoken words? The answer would probably be … anything!

Given half a chance, they would have spotted their errors, stopped the conversation, cut out the offending sections of dialogue, reformatted the chat and started again.

Luckily, it’s different for the written word, because the writer can choose to get a fresh pair of eyes to act as that filter. And if those eyes are inside the head of a professional editor, who understands exactly where and why mistakes are made, then the writer will never have the unpleasant task of trying to claw back the words they’ve put on paper.

What do editors do?

Copy-editors know how to make words work well and deal with a wide variety of text – from T-shirt slogans, website wording and marketing materials, to academic papers, technical manuals and published books.

Whatever they’re working on, the copy-editor’s aim is always to improve the wording and format. Often referred to as the seven Cs of editing, an editor’s focus is to make the text: clear, correct, coherent, complete, concise, consistent and credible.

The human brain is hard-wired to fill in the blanks as we read. This gives us the ability to speed-read or scan our eyes over text. It’s a useful skill when we want to take in lots of information quickly, but it can also lead to us skipping over some outrageous errors without seeing them.

Here’s an example of what can go wrong. A healthcare provider had thousands of flyers printed to invite the local community to a ‘Pubic Health Day’. Of course, the flyers were meant to read ‘Public’. A funny mistake? The Chief Executive wasn’t laughing. Money was wasted on printing those useless flyers.

This example also perfectly demonstrates the unreliable nature of spellcheckers. ‘Pubic’ wouldn’t have been picked up by a computer program because it is a word; just not the right word here. Involving an editor or proofreader in the process would have saved a lot of time, money and embarrassment.

Who edits the editors?

It’s amazing how often good writers develop blind spots and fail to notice clanging typos and clichéd or overused words or terms.

Mismatched images and captions are another common area for mistakes, along with wonky formatting, punctuation and grammar. A text can have too few or too many headings, a variety of fonts and a host of other issues. Even copy-editors benefit from help with their own text and regularly seek the assistance of proofreaders to pick up on the unintentional typos and grammatical slips that can plague even the most elegant writing. Proof-editing (a combination of copy-editing and proofreading) is a comprehensive way to capture all of the problems with a piece of text, and turn good writing into excellent writing.

Don’t live to regret your words

It’s an editor’s job to help you make the most of your writing. But, perhaps more importantly, an editor will also help you to keep your reputation intact, making sure any written mistakes are never made public. (Or should that be pubic?)

As far as a verbal filter is concerned … well, drop me a line if you find the answer to that one!

 

For local, qualified copy-editors and proofreaders, take a look at our Directory now.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris is an editor, proofreader and copywriter, with over ten years of experience across business, organisational and creative writing areas.

 

The ups and downs of working from home

Post by Carolyn Fox

Before I get started, I should probably explain that I say working ‘from home’ because that’s the phrase to which we are all accustomed. Strictly though, I think that applies to the increasing number of employees who work a day or two a week at home instead of the office, rather than someone like me who is self-employed – I work ‘at home’. And, of course, we mustn’t forget people who work ‘in the home’, as I did when I gave up my full-time job as a solicitor to care for my children … But, semantics aside, let’s get to the point.

Whenever I tell anyone that I work from home I’m usually asked two questions:
1. Don’t you get distracted/find it difficult to concentrate?2. Don’t you get lonely? (Particularly pertinent as I’m now officially an ‘empty-nester’ – my youngest son has just gone off to university!)

The answer to number one is easy: there is nothing like a looming deadline to concentrate the mind! I know that if I miss a return date my client is not going to employ me again. Experience tells me that reliability is one of the qualities that clients value most in a freelancer so, if I want that all-important repeat business, I must get the job back on time.

Do I get lonely? Yes, of course one can feel a little isolated at times, but there are ways round this. As a freelancer, it’s up to me when I do my work and so a few times a week I will make sure I go out for a walk or have coffee with a friend, either at lunchtime or perhaps first thing in the morning. And because I don’t have to spend hours commuting, I have time in the evenings to pursue my other interests.

Also not to be forgotten are professional contacts – not least our Glasgow SfEP local group. It’s amazing how quickly our monthly meetings come around! It’s a real tonic to meet other people in the same line of work and to have the opportunity to discuss issues we’ve encountered in the weeks between meetings. In short, I choose who to spend my time with (and when) rather than becoming embroiled in office politics.

Freelancing is not for everyone: you have to be self-motivated and self-sufficient, but I for one would not swap it with my old life in the office.

Want to give freelancing a go? Have a look at the SfEP guide Starting Out: Setting up a small business available at http://www.sfep.org.uk/resources/guides/#SO.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carolyn is an advanced professional member of the SfEP and specialises in law. A number of years ago she left her job as a solicitor in the south of England for working at home in the beautiful East Lothian countryside and has never looked back. Find out more about Carolyn here: www.carolynfox.co.uk.

To e-read or not to e-read?

Post by Jill Broom

… That is the question. Well, at least, it’s a question that’s come up a lot recently during my conversations with fellow book lovers.

A few years back, there was a flurry of excitement when it seemed everybody I knew, including me, got their first e-reader. Wasn’t it great how we could take it anywhere? It was cheaper (not great news for my chosen profession). It might be better for the environment (jury’s still out on this one). And – hooray – when we all eventually get arthritis, we’ll still be able to read without having to negotiate a cumbersome tome …

Yes, this did actually cross my mind. And, yes, I’m only in my 30s.

However, after all that initial gushing, we seem to have got over our devotion and more and more of us are delving back into a paperback or – shock-horror (and even more devil-may-care) a hardback. There are actually only a few folk that I know nowadays who rely completely on their e-readers. We all tend to move happily between the two forms.

Why do we still like print?

Well, there are a whole load of reasons for this. And good ones for your health too …

In an era when our online usage has skyrocketed, a good old-fashioned book gives us the opportunity to disconnect and switch off from the white noise, and it allows us to rest our eyes properly. There’s even some evidence to suggest that reading in print supports better comprehension and retention of the subject matter. And this brings me on to something else I noticed.

For me, there will never be anything like the smell of a new book … Secret shame: I don’t always go into a bookshop to buy; sometimes I just pop in for the aroma.

The scent of all those books is an instant comfort to me, and it’s this sensory impact that got me thinking about the other ways I use my senses when reading.

A ‘sense’-ible assessment?

I recently proofread a textbook written for teenagers that contained helpful tips about HOW to learn. Everyone is, of course, different – some are auditory learners, some visual learners and some simply learn from doing – kinaesthetic learners. Having never really thought about it before, it was while working on this book that I realised that I am, primarily, a visual learner.

This means that I’m good at visualising where on a page I might have seen a particular name, reference, fact, or part of the story. And this helps me remember it. Not exactly a photographic memory, but handy all the same.

Coupled with the ability to recall where roughly in the book I saw something by the thickness of the pages already read and those still to go (i.e. by touch) – I find e-readers are not my particular friend if I want to go back and check something.

The personal preference factor

So it seems I’m better off reading a hard copy, particularly if I’m reading something big and meaty. Or when I’m having a tired spell and reread the same three pages over and over again each night before falling asleep onto my e-reader, inadvertently pressing the touch screen, flying forward hundreds of pages and losing my ‘location’.

Just me? Maybe.

But that’s the point. I think it’s always going to be different strokes for different folks. And what suits them one day might not the next. So, it would be reasonable to conclude that both options are very much here to stay … and that we editorial types should always keep our options open.

If you need an editor to look over your e- OR print book, take a look at our Directory now.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jill is a copywriter, proofreader and copy-editor, but her biggest job is being mum to three small children, which has helped her to sharpen one of her key writing and editorial skills … adaptability!

What’s so good about THIS blog?

post by GEN

As slaves to ‘the deadline’, we editor-types know that time is precious. And, as a result, most of us don’t have time to peruse all the editorial blogs we’d like. So we’re using this inaugural post to tell you why our blog is worth taking the time to read. Here goes …

Who writes the posts?

Members of the Glasgow Editors’ Network take it in turn to write these little gems of wisdom. This means you’ll find information and experience from an array of editorial professionals who work with a variety of clients, including authors, publishers, large companies, charities and SMEs.

Who will find this blog useful?

Lots of people! (Because we blog about a whole host of stuff that’s good to know.) But, specifically, our posts are designed to be interesting and informative for:

  1. Editorial professionals – our members are generous with their knowledge and regularly share their on-the-job experiences (& some nice handy tips) to help others in their work.
  2. Those wishing to use the services of an editorial professional – this blog is also for individuals, businesses and organisations looking to improve the quality of their online and paper publications – and, consequently, the reputation of their brand. (You’ll even glean little titbits worth knowing – the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ – before employing one!)

So, go on. Take five minutes and dive in. You never know what you might find out about Glasgow’s editors and what we can do for you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Glasgow Editors’ Network  – GEN – is a group of independent professional editors and proofreaders with a wide range of skills and extensive experience.