Post by Max Hepburn
Ever wondered how a person becomes ‘an editor’? This post is the first in our ‘How I got into editing’ series. These pieces are designed to give you some insight into the varied backgrounds of our members (we’ve come from all walks of life) and how we became embroiled in the wonderful world of editing.
Here is Max Hepburn’s story.
An intriguing job advertisement in Strathclyde’s careers advice department caught my attention with its headline ‘Linguists for Translation Work’. A technical translation agency near London was looking for Translation Checkers (bilingual proofreaders) to work in their office, and I leapt at the chance.
Exercising the little grey cells
For 10 years, I munched my way through thousands of intellectual property documents, ensuring the accuracy of translations from German and French into English. I also had to correct grammar, punctuation, syntax etc. to make sure that the text of the English translation flowed smoothly, and that it was easy to understand. The source documents we worked from were often full of mistakes, and so I had to draw on all my language training to untangle the mess. It really was a full workout for the brain every day.
The scientific, technical, legal, financial and medical texts we dealt with were very often exceptionally complex, especially the German ones with their mile-long sentences and sub-sub-sub clauses! I seemed to encounter every subject matter under the sun: gene technology, automotive engineering, nuclear power plants, shampoo formulae, cutting-edge medical research papers, underwear fabric design, bouncy castles, cow-scrubbing devices … the list is infinite.
It goes without saying that this kind of work could become tedious after a while. Of course, it was always fun to receive an amusing document, the subject matter of which raised the occasional eyebrow, but for the most part the reading was mind-numbing. Therefore, my colleagues and I would devise various ways to amuse ourselves and stave off the inevitable boredom that stalked us daily. Puns were our favourite, and whenever someone in our team happened upon a ripe phrase in the document they were working on, he or she would announce it, and the pun marathon would begin. Chickens, cheese and anything vaguely saucy were always reliable subjects for endless hours of linguistic tomfoolery.
This work, I have to say, embedded in me a profound affinity with, and love for, the myriad intricacies of language in all its manifestations, especially at the interface between different languages. Needless to say, my ‘proofreader’ head is now permanently on, as it will often be for most editors. I have worked in other industries, completely unrelated to language, but those 10 years in England put me squarely on the path to becoming an editor.
Support is all around
It has been a real boon to discover the Glasgow Editors’ Network, and to get to know other editors through the Society for Editors and Proofreaders Glasgow area group. The meetings are always fun and I am absorbing lots of useful advice from fellow group members about starting out as a freelance editor. I look forward to developing my career in such great company.
Just beginning a career as a freelance copy-editor or proofreader? Come along to the next SfEP Glasgow group meeting. Contact Denise Cowle for details.
Looking for an editor or proofreader? Head to our Directory now.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Max Hepburn is an Entry-Level Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, after 10 years working in the translation industry. Alongside building up his career as a freelance editor and proofreader, Max enjoys singing in choirs, playing piano, cycling long distances and eating cake.