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Tag Archives: freelancing

Respect and the inner robot in editingI recently edited an academic book on Nazi Germany and, as is standard copy-editing practice, checked the spelling and diacritics of all proper nouns and non-English words: the Polish ‘el’ in Che?mno; the triple-consonant ‘sch’ in Mischlinge; the umlaut in Röhm. I’ve found that, with experience, copy-editing functions like this have become almost automatic. A ‘bzzzt’ noise in my brain flags that I’ve just read something I need to check, and I’m consulting the client’s house style guide, Alt-tabbing to my style sheet or copy-pasting into an appropriate dictionary or Google almost before I realise.

But in some books, like the one mentioned above, this mechanical approach jars with the content. My editor brain is tripping happily through the text prissily pouncing on errors while my human brain is fixated on the horror or the sadness (or in other cases the hilarity) of what the author is describing.

This calculating approach can seem cold, inadequate, insensitive.… read the rest >>

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Authorial voice - the bogeyman?‘Don’t intrude on the author’s voice’ is one of the first things every new proofreader or copy-editor is told. This is both a very helpful and an utterly useless piece of advice. It is helpful because it is absolutely true, but it is useless because it rarely seems to be defined just what on earth authorial voice is.

Is it just one of those conveniently nebulous concepts that can be thrown down as a trump card to back up a quavering argument? Or can it be pinned down as a real ‘thing’, distinct from all the other aspects of written language that editors have to worry about?

Let’s ponder.

Things authorial voice probably isn’t

1. Grammar, or the disregard thereof (see also below). The conventions according to which other human beings understand punctuation marks and sentence syntax must be adhered to if your author wishes to be understood (though less so in fiction than non-fiction).… read the rest >>

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The seven deadly sins of freelance editorsYou’re a good editor. You can juggle serial commas and breathe fire at dangling modifiers. Your ninja coding skills can subdue even the most tortuous of manuscripts.

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:

  1. Never title an email ‘Index’, ‘Queries’, ‘Complete’, ‘Help please!’ or any other unspecific term.
read the rest >>
Posted in Client relations, Editing, Getting work, Indexing, Popular posts, Professional development, Project management, Proofreading | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Mountain of booksIn my project-management capacity, I generally have an encyclopaedia or two on the go at any one time. These usually range from around 500,000 to around 1.5 million words. The largest modern encyclopaedias are upwards of 40 million words (Britannica’s 2013 print edition has 44 million).

These are difficult works to handle, with a whole raft of consistency and data-handling considerations that simply don’t apply to ‘normal’ books.

Compared to Wikipedia, though, they’re like children’s picture books. The largest encyclopaedia I’ve ever worked on had four volumes and was around 2 million words. That’s 0.075% of Wikipedia, which according to its own figures currently contains approximately 2.6 billion words.

Just for squeaks and giggles, let’s pretend we’ve been asked to manage the production of Wikipedia and estimate the costs and time involved in putting all 2.6 billion words, or around 4.5 million articles, through the standard process of readying a book for publication.… read the rest >>

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PerfectIn a recent post I said that copy-editors and proofreaders should always ask, ask, ask if they find their client’s instructions unclear or aren’t sure what’s wanted. In this impromptu post I’d like to expand on that a little.

When editorial project managers (PMs) write briefs, they try to make them perfect. They really do. They endeavour to make them complete, unambiguous and as concise as possible.

But the reality is that they will make mistakes. Especially with more complex, bespoke books.

I recently wrote a detailed twenty-one-page brief for the copy-editors of an encyclopaedia. I started the brief almost from scratch as I was in the midst of a major overhaul of my paperwork, and inevitably the brief contained some inconsistencies, typos and ambiguities. It would be crazy if it hadn’t; after all, the very premise we editors and proofreaders build our livelihoods on is that no human being – whether publisher, author or indeed professional copy-editor or proofreader – is capable of editing their own work with a clear eye.… read the rest >>

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Attitude is everything‘Professionalism’ is one of those rare things: a buzzword with longevity and real value for both the professional and the client who benefits from that professionalism.

But what exactly does it mean to be a professional copy-editor or proofreader? As a project manager, I have worked with the very best to the very worst on the scale of professionalism. I have been rendered eternally grateful by editors’ quietly assured meticulousness and I have been repelled by blatant lying and gung-ho slapdashery.

But how to ensure you’re on the right end of this scale? ‘Professionalism’ can feel like a nebulous, never-fully-attainable thing – or like something that only happens to other people. Following are ten simple, practical steps to help you cut through to the essence of what it means to be a professional copy-editor or proofreader.

1. Read, read, read!

It doesn’t much matter what. Just get on your blogroll, a high-quality forum or Twitter, or dig out an editorial magazine or newsletter such as the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP)’s Editing Matters.… read the rest >>

Posted in Client relations, Editing, Popular posts, Project management, Proofreading | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Editor-author relations can be like shouting at a wallAs the awed daughter and granddaughter of several teachers, I have long believed I would be unsuited to that most demanding of professions. Luckily, I stumbled on a  career that would enable me to help people who could already write rather than attempt to teach smaller people to write in the first place. Proofreading turned into copyediting and project management, and here I am.

But, now that I’m here, I’ve realised I haven’t entirely avoided the teaching profession after all. In my previous post I said a little about how editors are natural teachers and mentors. Think about it:

  1. We guide and nurture others to a better expression of ideas.
  2. We act as mediators to help authors develop the skills they need to be recognised in the big, wide, ‘grown-up’ world of publishing.
  3. We are creative problem solvers whose expertise must continually evolve to meet the challenges our clients present us with and changes in the industry.
read the rest >>
Posted in Client relations, Editing, Proofreading, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Free co-mentoring for editorial professionalsTwo truths of editing are universally acknowledged: (1) editors are good at objectively reacting to work produced by other people and (2) no two editors will edit the same piece of text in the same way. Remember this – I’ll come back to it.

For many of us, being mentored – in other words, having our work scrutinised line by line, edit by edit, marginal squiggle by marginal squiggle – is something we haven’t experienced for some time. Others may have recently completed a mentoring scheme or other in-depth course but be very aware of how much they still have to learn. And yet others (myself included) may never have had the experience of being mentored, having learned in house or via courses.

Regardless of the route we’ve taken to get to whatever stage we’re at, what editorial tics might we have picked up or not shrugged off? What techniques or industry developments might we not quite have mastered?… read the rest >>

Posted in Co-mentoring, Editing, Indexing, Proofreading, Training | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The hub of the wheel: the editorial project managerIn my previous post I gave some tips for freelance editors, proofreaders and indexers on how to keep getting rehired by clients. A contact subsequently suggested a mirror article on how those clients could improve in their dealings with freelancers.

Given that client relations are a perennial bugbear of freelancers, this seemed an interesting topic to tackle. So, here are my thoughts on what editorial project managers (PMs) – including me – can do to stop their freelancers jumping ship and swimming off towards more appealing prospects, and also how PMs can support the freelance community more generally.

For brevity I’ll shape my thoughts around a traditional publishing scenario, but my aim is for these points to be relevant to all sorts of contexts in which clients send text out to freelancers for them to work their magic.

1. Look at the manuscript

The first step in project management is to actually look at the manuscript, in detail, for at least the amount of time it takes to drink a cup of tea.… read the rest >>

Posted in Client relations, Project management | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

How to make your publishing client love youHere’s the situation: you’ve got yourself onto a publisher’s list and, after a few months, you receive an email offering interesting work at a great rate of pay. You accept the job and complete it on deadline and to the best of your abilities, and the project manager (PM) seems happy (or, at least, you don’t receive any negative feedback, which is often the best feedback a busy PM has time for).

And then… nothing.

You don’t hear from that client again and are left feeling disappointed and perhaps even unsettled, wondering how you scuppered your chances of follow-up work .

Often, this is just the way the game works. The more established freelancers realise this and accept that some opportunities will lead to a regular gig and in others they’ll just be a stand-in. There are all sorts of reasons – none of them anything to do with a freelancer’s skills – that might mean they aren’t rehired.… read the rest >>

Posted in Client relations, Editing, Getting work, Indexing, Project management, Proofreading | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments