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Hazel Bird project manages, copy-edits and proofreads sometimes dizzying quantities of interesting words for clients ranging from global academic and trade publishers to government policy units to publishers of creative non-fiction. Her focus is on developing dynamic collaborations with her clients in order to help make their goals a reality. Her biggest project to date was a twelve-volume international encyclopedia with over a thousand contributors. She lives in the stunning countryside of the Wye Valley in Herefordshire, UK, and spends her free time trying to corral her ancestors into some sort of order and attempting to offset a severe doughnut preoccupation with heavy lifting.
ABOUT THE BLOG
The Wordstitch Blog brings together my experience working in publishing on both sides of the client–freelancer relationship (often simultaneously). It aims to foster great working relationships, from a belief that the best text products (of whatever kind) emerge out of genuine collaboration and excellent communication.
- We are already surviving
- Psychological safety in editorial work
- Disengage, re-engage: 13 tips for proofreading text you’ve already copy-edited
- Difficult feedback: should you send it and, if so, how?
- When editorial project managers expect too much
- How to use bubble charts to get a snapshot of your clients’ value to your business
- How to close an editorial project effectively
- Proofreading pitfalls: Nine tips to improve your proofreading strategy
Category Archives: Project management
HBR defines psychological safety as allowing for ‘moderate risk-taking, speaking your mind, creativity, and sticking your neck out without fear of having it cut off’.
In the professional sphere, it’s about trust, openness and confidence that we will receive a reasonable and proportionate response when we raise questions or concerns with our colleagues.
As a project manager, it’s something I try to establish in all my projects. And it’s a concept that I think we need more of in the editorial world, particularly in client–freelancer relationships, where the success of a project often hinges on speedily establishing a collaborative working relationship from scratch.
Why is psychological safety important in editorial work?
Let’s consider an example of how problems can arise on an editorial project when somebody feels they can’t ask a question.
… read the rest >>
A proofreader has been engaged to proofread an academic book and liaise with the author to collate the author’s corrections with their own.
At some point (hopefully very rarely), every proofreader and copy-editor will find themselves working on a project where it seems that somebody, somewhere, at some point, dropped the ball in a big way.
As a copy-editor, you might discover that the developmental editor seems to have let through major inconsistencies and that swathes of detail are missing. Or, as a proofreader, you might find that the copy-editor appears to have fed the style guide to a passing llama or didn’t seem to heed that the order of words in a sentence is actually somewhat important.
It can be really difficult to determine the most ethical and professional way to approach a situation of this kind. On the one hand, you might feel that the issues are so bad – so systemic – that they raise serious questions about the quality of the previous work. On the other hand, it’s unlikely that you have the whole picture: there are all sorts of potential reasons a manuscript could have reached you in a poor state, and you have no way of knowing who is responsible – if, indeed, any single person is responsible.… read the rest >>
I recently received a thought-provoking comment from a fellow freelance editorial professional who has been working alongside me on a project I’ve been managing. The projects I manage are typically very large (hundreds of thousands or even millions of words), and there are inevitably hiccups that arise and have to be resolved. So I found it interesting when the other editor commented that I am more understanding than some other project managers about these kinds of hiccups.
My first reaction, I’ll admit, was an irrational sense of worry: Am I a soft touch? Am I checking editors’ work thoroughly enough? Am I setting high enough standards?
It’s always good to self-evaluate when such questions arise, and there will always be things I can learn about my management of other editors’ work. However, a short bout of reflection and a thorough check of the text re-confirmed that I set high standards and ensure they are met.… read the rest >>
I recently read a helpful post (with handy infographic) on how to close a project over at the A Girl’s Guide to Project Management blog, run by Elizabeth Harrin. Although I get a lot out of reading project management blogs, the tips don’t always straightforwardly translate into the kind of work I do, which usually involves delivering an encyclopedia or book project for publication rather than conducting the sort of change-management process more typically associated with project management outside publishing.
However, the more I looked at Harrin’s seven steps, the more I thought of ways they fit in with closing editorial projects. Let’s take each of the steps in turn.
1 and 2 Handover to users (training and support)
Although I don’t have to train anybody in what to do next with my project deliverables (my publisher clients are, unsurprisingly, very familiar with how to print and digitally publish a book!),… read the rest >>
Nope, that’s not a typo. A lot of digital ink is expended by freelance copy-editors and proofreaders on how many hours a day they spend working. Sometimes, this ends up being couched in rather restrictive language: at one extreme, there are people who are so beaten down with all the work they’ve been offered that they never get a weekend off, and, at the other, there are those who declare it’s impossible to edit more than a few hours a day without losing concentration and making mistakes. (Of course, there are many discussions too that buck this dichotomous trend – Sophie Playle’s recent post ‘How Many Hours a Day Does an Editor Work?’ is one example.)
So, to avoid any possibility it might look like I’m trying to say what I think editorial freelancers ‘should’ do, I’ve deliberately titled this post ‘a day in a life’ – just one life, with one set of personal and business goals, one personality, and one set of health circumstances, all of which are unique to this particular editor and project manager’s life.… read the rest >>
I’m delighted to have been asked to contribute to three other blogs this year. This is a roundup of those posts and also serves to introduce my rewritten and redesigned website, now at a new home at www.wordstitcheditorial.com. I’d love to know what you think of the new design – please comment and let me know!
Macros and wildcards: essentials or added extras?
Back in April, I wrote a post for the Indian Copyeditors Forum introducing macros and wildcards. I suggested some reasons to give them a go and some ways to start getting acquainted with them. Here’s an extract:
… read the rest >>
On certain editing forums, few topics are more likely to inspire passionate debate than the use of macros and wildcards. For many years they have gradually been seeping into our editing practices, and they are now essentials for some editors while for others they remain irrelevant complications – perhaps even distractions from the ‘true’ business of editing: engaging with a text.
Copy-editors and proofreaders rarely get any direct contact with or feedback from typesetters. As such, we can never quite be sure whether our markup and working practices are helpful and sufficient or whether we’re causing confusion and wasted time. Developments in technology – for example, the use of styles in Word and the use of Acrobat’s built-in markup tools – have led to further options and possibilities, with the result that there is no single ‘right’ way of marking up text.
As a project manager, I am lucky to be in the middle of this process, so I have an insight into what works (i.e., what causes a project to progress smoothly) and what doesn’t (i.e., what causes errors, delays and even additional costs).
I’m delighted, too, to be able to welcome the voices of the major India-based typesetters Aptara and SPi to this post. These typesetters handle hundreds of titles per week for many of the world’s major publishers, so they work with mark-up from huge numbers of copy-editors and proofreaders.… read the rest >>
I am a huge advocate of comprehensive and well-organised style sheets. When copy-editing and proofreading, they help me to clearly summarise the style decisions I’ve made and communicate them to my client. And, in my project management work, they are indispensable tools for corralling copy-editors on multi-editor projects and for keeping styles consistent throughout copy-editing, typesetting, proofreading, collating and indexing. I’ve previously written about how editors should never fail to provide a proper style sheet (see point 4).
I’ve recently been experimenting with a new technique in my own style sheets: the use of the combo box (also known as a dropdown list). These allow inputting of a set of pre-defined options, one of which is later chosen by clicking on the list and selecting an item.
So how can combo boxes be used in style sheets? Well, I find that the process of compiling a style sheet can be quite time consuming.… read the rest >>
But, however good your editorial skills, they may not be able to save you from losing a client to certain common etiquette pitfalls. I’ve collected seven of these below. These examples particularly apply to relationships with traditional project managers (PMs) or production editors. However, they can apply to relationships with business or self-publisher clients too.
Avoid these ‘sins’ to lessen your chances of irritating your client into dropping you as a supplier.
1. Bad filing
Unhelpfully named documentation can be a hindrance and gives a poor impression of your professionalism. When communicating with your PM or other members of the project team, try to pick email subjects and file names that will be helpful to everyone. For example:
- Never title an email ‘Index’, ‘Queries’, ‘Complete’, ‘Help please!’