Punctuating Children’s Fiction (Part 2)

Punctuating Children's Fiction Part 2 blog post

This Part 2 guide on punctuating children’s fiction follows on from Part 1. It is mainly for my clients who are independent (indie), self-publishing authors of children’s books because it answers the questions they ask about punctuation.

The rules, though, apply to any writer of fiction.

When I give feedback to indie authors who ask for help about how to punctuate, especially the dialogue in their book, this is my advice.

 

Covered in Part 1

  • capitalisation
  • dialogue (speech)
  • paragraph break
  • exclamation mark
  • question mark
  • comma
  • ellipsis
  • curly quote marks.

 

Punctuating further

Here in Part 2 are more advanced types of punctuation: colons, semicolons, hyphens and types of dashes (including the en dash and em dash), and brackets (parentheses).

These punctuation features are used in more complex stories and texts for older children and young adults. As children progress through upper primary school (Key stage 2), they learn how to read them, their function and effect, and how to apply them in their own writing.

  • colon
  • semicolon
  • brackets
  • hyphen/dash (-)
  • en dash (–)
  • em dash (—).

 

Colon (:)

A colon is used to introduce the information that follows it.

– Introducing a list: The colon is used before a list of items, examples, or explanations, eg There are three primary colours: red, blue and yellow.

– Introducing a quote or statement: When introducing a quote, a colon can be used, eg She had one motto: Never give up.

 

Semicolon (;)

A semicolon is used to connect two closely related but independent clauses, creating a stronger link than a full stop or comma. The main uses of semicolons are:

– Joining related independent clauses, eg She went to the party; he stayed at home.

– Separating items in a complex list. When a list already contains items with commas, semicolons can be used to separate the list items. For example, The colours available were red, blue, and green; other colours were unavailable.

 

I’ve seen much confusion in the use of colons and semicolons. Writers don’t remember the differences between them. If it looks wrong, if you’re in doubt, don’t use them. Or ask someone to check you’ve used them correctly.

 

Hyphen/dash (-)

The hyphen or dash is used to join words together to form compound words or to make nouns become adjectival phrases when they are used to describe a noun.

Do you prefer ‘well-being’ or ‘wellbeing’? NODWE (New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors) uses a hyphen; Collins Dictionary doesn’t. When you have decided on whether to hyphenate a word or not, keep the style for consistency.

Another common use is that adjectival words are hyphenated before a noun, eg well-known phrase, up-to-date regulations.

 

En dash (–)

When the dash gets longer, it becomes the en dash/en rule (–) and em dash/em rule (—). Until I did my proofreading training with the CIEP I had no idea there were differences. I hadn’t looked that closely …

The en dash is the length of an ‘n’ and is used in two ways:

1. To represent a range of values, such as numbers or dates, eg pages 10–15, 1980–1985.

2. Instead of commas to show a parenthetical phrase, eg Alfie had fair hair that was far too long – making him peer under his fringe – and pale blue eyes. En dashes are used in the same way as brackets. Used mainly in UK fiction and non-fiction.

Em dash (—)

The em dash is the length of an ‘m’. It is more likely to used for parentheses in fiction published in the US. Again, it indicates a break in thought or to separate parenthetical phrases in a sentence. It provides emphasis, eg The weather—hot and humid—was unbearable. It can also be used to show interrupted speech, eg I thought for a while, then—.

Don’t worry too much about en dashes and em dashes in your book. Children don’t learn about them in school. There is no need to use them in your books for children.

If you are an author and your editor spots that dashes have been used instead of en dashes or em dashes, they have an efficient way of changing them as part of their editing service. So no worries.

 

Brackets (parentheses)

Parentheses are used to enclose additional information or explanations within a sentence. They provide extra detail or clarification, eg The conference (where there were over 200 delegates) was very informative.

 

Ensuring readability and clarity

There we are. That concludes your author guide to punctuating children’s fiction, whether you’ve written a picture book, chapter book, or fiction for Middle Grade (MA) or Young Adult (YA) readers.

Remember to use punctuation marks thoughtfully and appropriately to improve the clarity and readability in your writing. Using a variety of punctuation will keep the reader interested.

But if there is a missing full stop, misplaced comma or quote mark, it will trip the reader up.

If you’re still unsure about how to use punctuation, go to a bookshop or library, pick up a book for the age and genre you are writing for, and look at how the punctuation is used.

 

Using my teaching experience

My experience of 30 years teaching in the primary classroom is valuable if you need advice on writing a children’s book.

Think of me as a fairy godmother placing that punctuation perfectly … Your book is in safe hands.

Fairy godmother sprinkling publishing confidence.
Annie signature

 

 

 

Email me

See my Contact me page to email me about my availability to proofread children’s books and educational books.

 

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Further reading

Punctuating Children’s Fiction (Part 1)

Some of my relevant blog posts:

Punctuating Children’s Fiction

Punctuating children's fiction blog post

This guide on punctuating children’s fiction is for those of my clients who are independent, self-publishing authors of children’s books. They ask me for guidance about how to use punctuation.

When I give feedback to indie authors about how to punctuate their book, especially the dialogue, this is how I answer their questions.

Punctuating children’s fiction

Punctuation in children’s fiction uses the same rules as punctuation in adult fiction, especially when writing dialogue (speech).

If you are an author of children’s books, here’s how you can make sure the punctuation in your story is used correctly.

  • Use age-appropriate language
  • Capitalisation
  • Punctuating dialogue (speech)
  • Paragraph
  • Exclamation mark
  • Question mark
  • Comma
  • Ellipsis
  • Curly quote marks.

Using age-appropriate language

Children’s fiction often targets specific age groups, so the language and punctuation should be suitable for the intended readers.

Younger children’s books will have simpler sentences and less complex punctuation. While books for older children will have a variety of sentence structures (long phrasing contrasted with a short, snappy sentence before or after) to create dramatic effect, tension or humour.

A gripping fiction story will have a selection of action, description and dialogue.

If any of the story is punctuated incorrectly, your reader will spot it and ‘trip up’ which will spoil their enjoyment of the story.

Capitalisation

Capitalise the first letter of a sentence, proper nouns, and the pronoun ‘I’. Avoid excessive capitalisation for emphasis, as it can be distracting and disrupt readability.

Punctuating dialogue (speech)

There are particular rules when punctuating dialogue/speech between characters. In the sentence “I love ice cream,” said Sarah, the dialogue is “I love ice cream”. The dialogue tag is ‘said Sarah’.

  • When punctuating dialogue, use quotation marks to enclose the spoken words. That is, all dialogue goes inside the speech/quotation marks.
  • There is always closing punctuation before the closing quote mark, eg a full stop, comma, question mark (?), or exclamation mark (!).
  • Place a comma before the closing quotation mark when a dialogue tag (eg said, asked) follows the dialogue. For example, “I love ice cream,” said Sarah; “Can we go to the park?” asked Tom.
  • There is always a comma before the opening quote mark if the character tag is first, eg John muttered, “I can’t believe you’re going to do that.”
  • Only the speech goes inside quote marks. The character speaking stays outside the marks.

Paragraph

Use paragraphs to indicate changes in speakers during dialogue or shifts in the action or setting. This helps young readers follow the story more easily and keeps the text visually appealing.

A simple way to remember how to set out dialogue: new speaker = new line.

Exclamation mark

Children’s fiction often includes enthusiastic and expressive language. Exclamation marks can be used to convey excitement, surprise or strong emotions. However, it’s important not to overuse them. Selectively include exclamation marks for impactful moments. And, I suggest, use only one at a time. Four is overkill …

Question mark

Use a question mark at the end of a question. Begin the next sentence with a capital letter, eg ‘How did he get there? He couldn’t have done it alone.’

A question generally starts with one of these five words – What? Where? When? How? Why?

Comma

Use commas to separate two or more items or adjectives in a list of description, eg She packed her favourite toys, books and snacks.

In longer children’s fiction, consider contrasting a long sentence (with commas placed for breathing pauses between clauses) after a short sentence, for dramatic impact.

A serial comma (Oxford comma) is used before ‘and’ in a list. For example, (from the sentence above) ‘She packed her favourite toys, books, and snacks’ I’ve added a serial comma here. Some would argue the serial comma is not needed as the meaning is clear. However, in other contexts, the comma would add clarity. Whichever style you choose, ensure consistency throughout your manuscript.

If a sentence contains two independent clauses, avoid using a comma to separate them.

❌ I loved walking, I tried to walk for an hour each day.

This is called a comma splice. It doesn’t work. Separate the two sentences with a full stop.

✔️ I loved walking. I tried to walk for an hour each day.

Ellipsis

An ellipsis (3 dots: …) can be used in dialogue to indicate a pause or speech stalling. It can help convey hesitation or suspense. For example, “I’m not sure … maybe we should wait.”

Make sure you use three dots, not two or four dots. Decide how you’re going to use space around the ellipsis: no spaces / no space before and one after / one space before and one after. Whatever spacing you use around your ellipses (plural), make it consistent throughout your manuscript.

Curly quotation marks

Quotation marks, also called inverted commas, are of two types, single (‘ ’) and double (“ ”), and can be curly, like these examples, or straight.

Straight quote marks are the easiest to type (just use the keyboard). However, curly quote marks are the convention in fiction publishing.

Double curly quote marks can be inserted using Alt codes. Ensure consistency of use, ie single or double quotes, not a mixture.

If you’re unsure, your editor/proofreader will change them to curly quotes as part of the editing process.

There are other types of punctuation that I will cover in another post, eg colons, semicolons, hyphens, and brackets (parentheses) which children learn to recognise and use in upper primary school.

Giving a smooth reading journey

It is vital you give your readers a smooth reading journey and that they enjoy your book without the distraction of punctuation errors.

Ensure punctuation is used correctly and consistently. List your style choices on a style sheet to help you remember what decisions you’ve made. Give this list to your editor/proofreader so they know the styles you prefer.

If you don’t have a style sheet, we will create one for you by listing what we find as we read, advising on the most consistently used styles in your writing.

Always consider the age group of your intended audience to ensure the punctuation enhances the readability and enjoyment of the story.

Using my teaching experience

My experience of 30 years teaching in the primary classroom is valuable if you need advice on writing a children’s book.

Children build on their writing skills through primary school, developing complexities in punctuation as they approach Year 6 (age 10/11).

So it is vital that punctuation is correct in children’s books. They learn from reading good examples. Then they can apply a range of punctuation in their own writing.

Learning from published children’s authors

Another tip. I advise new indie authors to go into the Children’s books section of a bookshop. Open a book for the age range you are writing for, one that tempts you by the cover, and study how the punctuation is used. In other words, learn from a variety of published children’s book authors.

Me? I research the releases of new books for children, keeping an eye out for authors/illustrators that have published stories that are recommended.

Personally, I adore the skill in well-illustrated picture books, especially for older children, that carry profound messages.

Finally, think of me as a fairy godmother sprinkling publishing confidence. Placing that punctuation perfectly …

Fairy godmother sprinkling publishing confidence.
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Email me

See my Contact me page to ask about my availability to proofread children’s books and educational books.

Subscribe

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Further reading

Punctuating Children’s Fiction (Part 2)

Some of my blog posts which fit with this one:

4 Tools for Writing and Editing Efficiency

4 Tools for Writing and Editing Efficiency blog post

Whether you are writing or editing, your productivity is aided immensely by using tools which will assist your efficiency.

Tall Tartan Talks here … I describe four software tools I use to make writing and editing quicker.

The tools will also save using the mouse and lower your risk of Repetitive Strain Syndrome (RSI).

Productivity tools

The tools I use are:

  • TextExpander
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • PerfectIt
  • Macros

 

There are more, of course, but four are described here for brevity.

 

TextExpander

TextExpander is ‘Customisable and shareable snippets of text that allow you to fly through repetitive tasks quickly by expanding the things you type regularly’ (textexpander.com). I pay for this software, but there are other free phrase expander apps.

The software has access to your keyboard. When a pre-chosen snippet is typed, it writes the message in full, thereby saving much time and effort. You choose your opening code.

I have a range of phrases listed, from those needed in general situations, like typing my email address, to using a phrase repeatedly in the comments of certain proofreading projects, eg ‘Insert comma’ (snippet: zic). Another favourite snippet to insert is my mobile number (snippet: z0). All my snippets begin with ‘z’ as it’s rarely used as an initial letter in my writing.

Another example is when an indie client emails to ask if I am available to proofread their book. I have a snippet that produces an email with Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) such as deadline, genre, word count, and request for a sample (even though these points are all listed on my Contact me page as requirements when emailing).

Phrase expanders are also useful for when a diplomatic email is needed. Save the preferred wording and reduce the thinking angst, increasing efficiency.

I have saved particular snippets in specific project files in TextExpander; I keep my snippets software open when I am using them for a job, rather than trying to remember them all!

 

4 Tools for Writing and Editing Efficiency blog post

 

Keyboard shortcuts

In Microsoft Word in PC Windows there are many keyboard shortcuts.

Some well-known ones are:

  • Ctrl S: Save
  • Ctrl X: Cut
  • Ctrl C: Copy
  • Ctrl V: Paste
  • Ctrl Z: Undo

These shortcuts work across many programmes, not just in Microsoft Word. Ctrl Z has helped me out of trouble on numerous occasions in numerous places!

 

PerfectIt

PerfectIt is proofreading software for professionals, purchased from Intelligent Editing. An Add-on in Microsoft Word, when activated and launched, it finds inconsistencies in style preferences. All style choices can be checked or specific checks selected. It gives a summary of possible errors at the end of the check.

It now includes a link to the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), which, if you edit in US English, many editors working internationally have found invaluable.

PerfectIt is not free, but there is a discount if you are a member of the CIEP (ciep.uk). Find discounts in the Members’ area. It is worth the price for the convenience of speed and efficiency.

 

Macros

Another option for efficiency is to use macros instead of / as well as PerfectIt.

Macros are freely available from Paul Beverley’s website: www.wordmacrotools.com

A macro is some coding that you tell Microsoft Word what you want to check. Paul has made 1,000s of macros over the years all for public use. I use a couple; my favourite one is DocAlyse which finds inconsistencies in styles (in the same way as PerfectIt).

Some editors even customise their mouse by linking keyboard shortcuts and macros to mouse buttons.

 

Being more efficient

Most of my proofreading is done on PDFs as the publishing workflow of the publisher or indie author nears the end. But, for efficiency’s sake, I will convert a PDF to Word and save my copy just to be able to run PerfectIt and my favourite macros to speed up finding inconsistencies.

If you’re writing or editing, what tools do *you* use to be more efficient and productive? Remember to experiment with different software options for efficiency to find what speeds up tasks for you.

The idea is to be more efficient, letting the software do the ‘grunt’ work – the routine editing tasks – so that we editors, the trained experts, have more time to make specific editorial decisions. That is, prioritising the human side of editing.

4 Tools for Writing and Editing Efficiency blog post
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What is Proofreading?

What is proofreading blog post

I am often asked the following questions:

What is proofreading?

What does a proofreader do?

Are you a proofreader or copyeditor? Or do you do both? What is the difference?

Tall Tartan Talks here … This blog post answers those questions.

Do I need proofreading or copyediting?

Proofreading is checking for errors in writing. See below for tips for proofreading your own writing materials.

The tips are aimed at freelancers and authors. Indeed, for anyone who writes. You might even be a teacher who writes reports … (I speak as a recovering teacher.)

 

proofreading

 

Publishing workflow

I will start with the traditional publishing process. How do copyeditors and proofreaders fit into this workflow?

If you are a self-publishing author, the procedure is a little different and less complicated, with fewer people involved.

In traditional publishing this process is as follows:

  • Planning. An author will have planned a concept for a book which will get commissioned by a publisher. This could be fiction or non-fiction. The publisher will have questions: Who is the intended audience? When is it needed by? How will it be published?
  • First draft. There will be a rough, unfinished first draft. The important thing is to get all the ideas included. The finer details and polishing come later.
  • Development. Editorial input means some details may be cut and/or moved around to fit the concept and make a structure for the book. It may also be adapted for clearer expression.
  • Final draft. The book will be in a much more finished state, although there will be more editorial work to do.
  • Copyediting. This stage is preparing the manuscript for publication and tailoring it to the needs of the audience. The copyeditor will ensure consistency of style, readability, and accuracy. They improve the flow and tone of the text.
  • Design. Either an editor or typesetter will prepare the layout of the document by cutting and fitting the text using software like Indesign.
  • Proofreading. Proofreading gives text the final polish. A proofreader will carry out an objective check to ensure there are no glaring errors. The manuscript should be as error-free as possible.
  • Publication. The book is finally sent out into the world in print and/or electronic format. Editors may still be involved by implementing any changes to future editions.

Source: Poster featured in Editorial Excellence, the bimonthly newsletter of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), available to non-members.

Recently, developments in self-publishing mean that an author has more choice about publishing their book without the need for a traditional publisher. It has become easier to self-publish. This doesn’t mean, though, that an editor or proofreader isn’t needed …

Editorial roles

What is copyediting?

What does a copyeditor do? Copyediting is dealing with the raw text: formatting the book to prepare it for publication. The headings, paragraphs, and any tables and figures will be formatted for the designer; spelling patterns applied (UK, US, or other English); grammar and punctuation styles applied; cross-referencing of text and images; and checking the text for accuracy and sense to ensure consistency of style.

The publisher may provide a style sheet or house guide.

The manuscript will be sent to the typesetter who will format the book for printing as a paper publication, then, further perhaps, use software to format the manuscript for digital publication, e.g. on e-reader, such as Kindle.

What is proofreading?

What does a proofreader do? Proofreading is working on the final manuscript just before it is published. It could involve checking all page elements and styles have been correctly and consistently applied; checking hyperlinks work; that the table of contents and index are formatted consistently; plus a final sweep for errors, including inconsistencies in spelling, punctuation grammar and sense.

Catching errors at proofreading stage, even tiny ones, is cause for a happy dance. Imagine finding an italic full stop when it should be roman (upright). In summary, a proofreader will find anything that trips up the reader.

Non-fiction has different elements to fiction. Editors and proofreaders may specialise in one or the other. Punctuating character dialogue is a major feature of fiction.

Further, each genre of fiction, e.g. romance, science fiction, thriller, will have specific elements which the editor or proofreader will check have been included.

Proofreading tips

Here are tips for proofreading your own writing before you click Send or Publish. Consistency is key.

Errors creep in when you edit your text and when you’ve changed your mind about the order of words in a sentence. I should know – it has happened to me more times than I care to say, especially when writing a blog post …

When I write a blog post I write it first in a Word document. After a couple of days away, I come back to it afresh, and copy and paste it in to my WordPress site. I find errors easily this way as I see the writing on my website with fresh eyes.

Everything I learned about proofreading I learned from the highly regarded CIEP (see the website link above). I trained extensively to give validity to my freelance business.

Tips:

  • Read it aloud.
  • Read it backwards from the end. Errors become glaring.
  • Change the colour background of the text. (The default colour white isn’t always helpful.)
  • Change the font to a serif font.
  • Check each sentence for full stops, etc. It’s surprising how often they get forgotten as you edit your words.
  • Don’t try to proofread everything at once. Read for errors, then read for sense. Do a pass for each element you are checking, e.g. headings, page numbers.
  • Use the ratio 20:20:20 for general eye health – after 20 minutes of work, look away from the screen for 20 seconds, to a distance of 20 metres (e.g. looking out of the window). Your eye muscles will thank you.
  • Leave it alone for a couple of days then read it again with fresh eyes.
  • Know when to stop tweaking your writing. Stop now!

Specific tips about proofreading spelling, punctuation and context

Spelling:
  • UK or US English? ise or ize, e.g. realise or realize?
  • Use a dictionary to remove any doubt. Apps like Grammarly might not recognise the wrong word if spelt correctly, e.g. selling/spelling.
  • Are names are consistently spelt correctly? Check spelling of place names, if appropriate.

Punctuation:
  • UK or US punctuation?
  • Double or single quote marks
  • Oxford (serial) comma, i.e. comma before ‘and’ in a list.
  • Ellipsis = 3 dots (…) Do insert a space after. Or even insert a space either side ( … ). No need for a full stop if it’s at the end of a sentence. Whatever style you choose, do it consistently rather than mix up the number of dots.
  • One exclamation mark (!) is fine for dramatic purposes. Use sparingly. Two at the end of a sentence is too much.

Context with the bigger picture:
  • Is the style consistent: formal or informal? Business-like or chatty? Be yourself, show personality, be rich in content, and readable in blog posts. Stay in style.
  • Have you ensured clarity, correctness and convention? Only use jargon if your audience understands it, or you have explained what it means.
  • Is the text sound in the case of accessibility, inclusivity and legality?

Clarifying misconceptions

Editors and proofreaders don’t just find typos. We do much more than that.

I haven’t even covered the use of grammar here; that is a topic for another day.

We are not ‘grammar police’ or ‘grammar pedants’. Your writing is your voice; editors and proofreaders polish your voice. We make suggestions to improve your writing, but, in the end, it’s your choice.

We are an understanding and sympathetic bunch; we collaborate, not compete. If I can’t help, I’ll know someone who can. You need to feel confident that your writing is ready for publication.

Also, although I describe myself as an editor in my marketing, my only editing role is voluntary (for my local, 32-page parish magazine). I have done basic copyediting training, but it’s not my main interest. I much prefer to proofread texts; I have much more training and experience in that area.

I know copyeditors who won’t consider proofreading because they prefer to copyedit and clarify the text, especially in traditional publishing.

Sprinkling publishing confidence

A fellow networker said he saw me in the role of fairy godmother. I thought it suited me. So, next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with your writing and need a sprinkling of publishing confidence, come to me for my proofreading services.

Bitmo Fairy for proofreading
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Email

Contact me to find out my availability for proofreading non-fiction and children’s books.

Further sources of the information found in this post: CIEP Fact sheets

 

If interested, the networking group of freelancers where I shared these tips is called Drive the Partnership Network. We meet on Zoom every Thursday morning from 10 to 11am. The international group meets on the last Tuesday of the month, from 4pm to 5pm, for those who prefer the later time. Ask to find out more.

Review of 2022

Review of 2022 blog post

This year I have been on a mission. A quest, if you like, to notch up as many proofreading hours as possible by gaining experience working freelance for publishers.

Tall Tartan Talks here … My quest? To cold email publishers every month since January 2022. I had been direct marketing to some extent since I started my freelance proofreading business in 2017. This year I have been dynamic in my mission.

The spreadsheet to record my cold emailing over the last 12 months has grown substantially. My strategy has worked. I’ve had more freelance work this year because I told publishers in my niche that I am available. Interested? Read further to explore my strategy.

To illustrate how my marketing year has been successful, I’ve chosen an acrostic using the letters of my name – ANNIE.

ANNIE

Adaptability

Networking

New opportunities

Inspiration

Endeavour

Adaptability

Being adaptable and completing work to fluctuating deadlines is essential to fit in with the requirements of any client, in this case, publishers.

Without a background in publishing, it was even more vital for me to ask questions if I was unsure of anything. If a contract wasn’t mentioned when I had expressed availability and interest in the project, I asked if one would be sent or if I should send my Terms & Conditions. It should be said here that an email agreement does constitute a contract, but I like to have one ready depending on the type of client. Half of the publishers who contacted me sent a contract for me to sign. Half asked me to send mine.

Another variation was the style sheets. It was interesting to see how they varied from publisher to publisher. Some were basic. Some were extensive. When there was a lot of information to absorb, it was more manageable to make a note of the exceptions to style guides such as New Hart’s Rules. (Relevant to my UK publishers.) This way it was easier to keep track, maintain consistencies, and to not get overwhelmed.

Networking

In January 2022 a small group of fellow networkers, part of the Drive the Partnership Network, began our Quest – weekly goals for January to April. Drive is a group of like-minded small business owners.

To facilitate accountability, we met once a week on Zoom for updates and motivation. We were also available via Slack messaging to share challenges and wins. It was a collaborative process: I asked for advice and offered my tips in return. It was what I needed to kick-start my mission. Thanks to Ann Hawkins and Thor Rain (First Aid for Feelings at The Helpful Clinic) for support. If you want to join the tribe at Drive get in touch with me or Ann to find out more.

New opportunities

Up until January this year I had done very little publishing work. The requests that had come through my website were mainly from self-publishing children’s authors. But, by contacting publishers in my specialist areas, eg education, English Language Teaching (ELT), and children’s books, I found that they valued the expertise evident on my website. This has led to exciting new opportunities.

One debate which occurs regularly in the editing world is whether to generalise or specialise. Personally, I have found that narrowing in by using my specialism has had huge benefits. If you are a career-changer with an expertise which makes you stand out from the editorial crowd, you are a useful person to know. Tell people!

This year, in my niche, I have carried out freelance proofreading for an ELT publisher, a publisher of history books, a packager, an educational publisher, and an NGO (charity) publishing a book for international primary schools. Interestingly these enquiries came through my website after I had done a batch of cold emailing, and not, at first, from the publishers I had contacted … Perhaps they had seen that I had shown availability on LinkedIn? I did always ask where they had found me if they didn’t mention it. Anyway, there was something in the air …

Inspiration

As well as being inspired by the members of Drive, I was pleased and proud when it transpired that some members of Drive had found my motivation to be an inspiration to them. I am a natural helper (former teacher!) and keen to help when I can. I have learnt much from others about owning and running a business, and I like giving back.

Endeavour (or 3Ps)

To me, the word endeavour encompasses the 3Ps: patience, persistence, and perseverance.

These are skills to practise in any sphere of life, but they are a lifebelt that I cling to in the running of my business. No-one said marketing would be easy.

Every quarter, when I did another batch of cold emailing, I would ensure I had added another training course to my CV. This year my Continuous Professional Development (CPD) with the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) has been the Editing Digital Content course, and How to Mark Up PDF Proofs with Denise Cowle Editorial (a discount is available to both CIEP members and those in the ELT Publishing Professionals directory.

Completing training courses to add to my range of skills has made me a more trusted professional, giving publishing confidence to new clients.

CPD and networking this year also included attending the hybrid CIEP annual conference in person in Milton Keynes, and the ELT Freelancers’ Awayday in Oxford. Both happening in September!

Marketing success

If you want success in your marketing, I recommend using my strategy for marketing directly with prospective clients. I wrote it for fellow business networkers in Drive. If you are an editor or proofreader, you might prefer the word ‘publishing’ to ‘business’.

Review of 2022 marketing strategy

If the above image doesn’t open a new page, use this link.

Children’s book authors

I have helped at least three self-publishing children’s authors publish their children’s books. Three other books have been proof-edited (proofreading with additional suggestions for improvements) and are at the pre-publishing stage.

Of the children’s book publishers I have worked with this year, Black Poppies by Stephen Bourne, published by The History Press about the story of Britain’s Black community in the First World War, is a recommended read for primary schools. It was a fascinating project.

To see the other projects I have worked on see the following pages on my website and my gallery:

book cover of black poppies

My previous yearly reviews

I think it’s interesting to look back and review achievements from previous years. Here are my last reviews – in 2020 and 2019.

Notes:

2019: The bank of proofreading exercises I reviewed is available as a blog post here (written in 2022).

2020: The proofreading mentoring scheme mentioned is not currently available.

Next year

So to 2023 … Direct marketing to publishers continues.

Whatever your circumstances, here’s to a peaceful future.

review of year chocolate log

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5 Highlights From 2020

5 highlights from 2020

As weird as 2020 was, I have a few highlights from the year.

Tall Tartan Talks here … As I mentioned last year in my review of 2019, life as a freelancer has its ups and downs. This year has been, for some people, an extreme of that precarious situation.

Luckily, my freelance work life is mainly online. So I count myself blessed that I haven’t been affected too much.

I want to tell you about highlights in 5 areas. Well, more really, but 5 is a multiple of 2020, so it sounded better.

Highlights

  1. Training
  2. Networking
  3. Rebranding
  4. Tutoring
  5. Cold emailing

1. Training

This year has been for me principally a year of learning and adding to my Continuous Professional Development (CPD) with the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP).

  • In December last year I began the proofreading mentoring scheme. By May I had completed it. It was a unique opportunity to have experience of  a wide range of real jobs with guidance and virtual hand holding from a highly experienced Advanced Professional CIEP member. I wrote about it in the blog post Editing Training Part 2.
  • A group of us formed an informal Accountability Group. Consisting of other CIEP members, it prompted me to achieve many CPD goals.
  • Attended the CIEP online conference in November. A huge highlight!
  • Completed the CIEP Copyediting 1: Introduction course.

2. Networking

Along with everyone else in the world in 2020, since March, all my networking has been carried out on Zoom. It’s a necessary evil.

A particular networking highlight this year was that I, along with other international members of CIEP, formed our Accountability Group. (Yes, I am mentioning this again …)

We share our goals fortnightly on a Zoom call. We use the messaging app Slack to have daily chats about wins and rants. It is our safe space.

Without their encouragement I wouldn’t have achieved half of what I have done this year.

3. Rebranding

This time last year, I aimed to research how I wanted the branding on my website and social media profiles to appear. I considered branding, my brand identity, values and colours. The process is described in My Branding Process blog post. I am particularly proud of this 2020 highlight.

I tweaked my website; made sure the Contact form worked; added an Upload file widget so that potential clients can add a sample to their query of what they want me to proofread.

I subtly changed the titles of my blog posts. Originally tagged #TallTartanTells, this was changed to #TallTartanTalks.

To help with tips for general efficiency, I wrote this blog post about Managing Emails after I read a book on productivity. Clearing your emails once a day by ensuring you have an inbox-zero situation can clear the head and prevent worry.

Sadly, I am not as strict with myself as I was when I wrote that blog post. Workload weight means that I tend to have a clear out once a week these days … It has become a Friday job.

4. Tutoring

After such a busy couple of years of tutoring during 2018–19, I was worn out by the beginning of the year.

review of the year

By March, tuition had moved online using Zoom and interactive teaching software. Boy, that was a challenge! How to get the work to parents? How to ensure interactive learning?

More than half a year on, the online tuition routines are well established: work is emailed before the lesson, a variety of resources are enjoyed, and pupils can even share their screens.

The main highlight? Not travelling to their homes. The extra time taken to plan an interactive and challenging lesson, then email the parents with the information; versus the time saved by not commuting …

I wrote two blog posts with teaching tips this year: How I Teach English and How Do You Learn?

In July, one of my pupils left Year 6, age 11, thereby finishing primary school. The 2 sessions of tuition per week I had done with them for 2 years became available.

The main reason I became freelance was to be in control of my work/life balance. Consequently, I took the decision not to fill those spaces with more pupils because I was losing that balance. Saying no to work is never easy, but preserving mental health is a priority.

Instead I did more editing and proofreading CPD using the extra time I had gained.

5. Cold-emailing

With my updated training skills and new branding, I was ready to offer my further proofreading skills to educational publishers and publishers of children’s books.

The last time I cold-emailed publishers (about 18 months ago) I invested a tremendous amount of emotional energy in the process. I thought about it far too much – not good.

This time I was wiser. I bought the Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2020. I made a list of websites, contact names and email addresses. Once I had researched a publisher, certain that they published what I was interested in proofreading, the cold emailing began.

I found TextExpander very useful for giving me shortcuts for repeated phrases, so that they were much quicker to type, e.g. my email address, phrases like proofreader available, etc … Even a whole email was saved in my snippets so that it appeared when a simple shortcut //query was typed!

My CV was updated with my new branding, training, and most recent experience. It was attached with each short email acting as a covering letter.

However, it is important to bear in mind that the return reply rate is statistically low – a minimum of 1 in 10. This time I put emotion and desperation to one side to become business-like and pragmatic.

Once the batch of emails was sent for the day, I put them to the back of my mind, and got on with other jobs.

I am grateful to have received a couple of positive replies from publishers responding that they would add me to their books.

review of the year

Children’s book authors

Having re-vamped my website, I pushed the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) on the page which advertises to children’s book authors.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise then when I had several enquiries from independent children’s authors (self-publishing). When I asked them how they had found me (I’m in several directories), their answer was always Google.

A proof-editing job I enjoyed was a series of 9 stories for young children. They featured the adventures of the same small character. I suggested tips for consistency across the series.  The author asked for advice on self-publishing. They weren’t the first to enquire.

So, I searched the hive mind that is the CIEP forums and found some gems of advice to pass on. I really hope the author publishes next year. Fingers crossed!

Perhaps I should add self-publishing advice for authors to my list of aims for next year …

Next year

So to 2021 … plans need to be considered and formed, no matter what is going on in the world.

For the readers who haven’t seen them, look out for my hashtags #TallTartanTips and #TallTartanTalks on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. They link to the blog posts which promote my editing and educational skills, as well as giving advice and tips.

Whatever your circumstances, here’s to the future, hoping 2021 is better.

review of the year

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Manage Emails

Manage emails

Would you like to get your email inbox down to zero by the end of each day? I didn’t know such a thing was possible. You may wonder – inbox zero – what is this magic?

Tall Tartan Talks here … I have discovered a non-fiction business book called Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott.

One particular chapter which struck me immediately was about managing your emails. His strategies were revolutionary for me. This blog post is a review of that chapter.

I was one of those people who had over 200 emails in each of my three inboxes. I sorted them occasionally. They were mainly newsletters I subscibe to. Inevitably, if I include my smartphone, I was prone to checking them far too often. But the important emails got lost too easily.

Scrolling through social media didn’t help my efficiency either.

slow hamster wheel

Cluttered inbox

I starred or flagged some important or urgent emails for easy reference, but my inbox was becoming unmanageable. My professional email, annie@proofnow.co.uk was the fullest.

Then I found, in his chapter Ninja Email Processing, where Graham says, “Be a Ninja – take a ruthless approach to emails!” Now I adopt his strategy daily.

Interested? This is how you do it.

Reduce your inbox to zero daily

The bare bones of how to get started are:

  1. Open emails
  2. Create three new files: Action, Read, Waiting
  3. Scan the first couple of lines of each email. If it needs to be dealt with immediately, move into Action. If it isn’t important, move to Read. If you are waiting for someone else to action, move to Waiting.

I used to look at my growing email notifications, groan inwardly, feel fear and overwhelm, avoid, then stress about what might be in my inbox. When I was waiting for a particular email from a client, I would pause a job whenever a notification sounded, whether that job was proofreading, or tuition preparation. I had to check then and there who it was from, especially if I was expecting an email.

STOP!

Graham suggests that the problem needs to be viewed in a different way: your email inbox is just where your emails land; don’t check your emails, process your emails; and don’t let your emails nag you all day.

Strategy

Firstly, look at your inbox as a landing page, not a to-do list. We tend to keep the emails in that inbox so we don’t lose them. The answer? New folders need to be created to hold actionable emails, and those emails which can be deferred.

Secondly, restrict checking emails to, at most, three times a day.

  • First thing in the morning, or 9am (or whenever your business day starts).
  • Second around 4:30pm to give you 30 minutes of reducing your email list to zero. Or later, if you don’t stop on the dot of 5pm.
  • Third, you may also want to check emails at lunchtime.

Me? … I am slowly restricting my addiction of reading of emails after 8pm … in an attempt to maintain work boundaries. The same goes for checking social media or message channels. (My excuse is that some of my editor colleagues are in a different time zone.)

How to process (not check) emails:

  1. Scan the first email for a couple of seconds. Don’t hang about. Ask yourself, is it vital I action this? If yes, move it to Action.
  2. Scan the next email. If someone is acknowledging they will action something you have delegated, move it to Waiting. This guarantees that you will have a reminder to follow this up.
  3. If the next email is something not at all urgent but for perusing, say, a subscription which you want to read at your leisure, move it to Read. Don’t start reading it now.
  4. Repeat steps 1–3.
  5. By the end of 30 minutes, there should be zero emails in your inbox.
  6. Repeat three times a day.

management

Subject folders

You may be like me and organise your emails into many subject, client-baased, or archive folders. Again, this can get out of hand. My next job is to whittle those down to more efficient labels. So that when I have gone through my burgeoning Read file, I will move each email to a re-named folder. Or delete it.

Graham’s theory is that if you have only three files to move the incoming emails into, it makes decision-making and sorting much easier. Agonising will be reduced to a manageable level.

If, say after a week, you look in the Read folder and email subject is no longer current or valid, then delete. Or move it to an archive folder.

One of Graham’s tips is to think of a set of Ds: decide, do, delegate, defer, delete.

Cut the dead wood

Perhaps you subscribe to newsletters by email. For example, if you follow particular people for their business or subject knowledge … there are many out there. It may be time to review them and prune who you subscribe to.

Try subscribing to one for six months. Count how many of their newsletters you actually read (and follow the advice suggested) in those six months. Be honest. Be brutal. Cut out the dead wood and unsubscribe if the answer is only one or two. That is one way to reduce the number of emails you get.

If you are successful with this method, you have more control over those incoming emails.

Information overload

Information overload is a threat to our productivity, so I recommend Graham’s book if you want to be proactive about reducing that overload. By managing your emails, and your time, by procrastinating less, you can focus on your priorities.

I look forward to finishing Graham’s book. Guess what – I have signed up for his newsletter. Oh the irony!

There you have it. If you learnt something from this post, head over to my Blog page.

Author background: Graham Allcott

Founder of Think Productive (@thinkproductive), Graham Allcott is an entrepreneur, author, speaker and podcaster, coaching strategies for business and time management. He is host of the podcast Beyond Busy. His book was first published by Icon Books Publication in 2014, and totally revised in 2019 because of the advances in technology.

Other chapters in Graham’s book include:

  • The Organize Habit
  • The Review Habit
  • The Do Habit
  • Stop Messing About on Your Phone.

strong arm

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Editing Training Part 2

training

Training is one of the hot topics during this Coronavirus pandemic.  You may have more time on your hands than usual. You may be thinking about using that time to do some training, also known as CPD (Continuing Professional Development).

In my original blog post about training (Episode 5), I mentioned that my next aim was to apply for the CIEP Proofreading mentoring scheme. In this episode I update you on my progress.

Tall Tartan Talks here … I  see a lot of questions on social media asking about training. If you are confused about the when, which, how and why of proofreading training, this post may help you make up your mind.

Training is VITAL to reflect that you take the owning of your editing business seriously. Especially if, like me, you have no background in publishing.

So … are you wondering about proofreading training? Or are you a prospective client wondering about my professional qualifications?

Change of path

After three decades as a Primary School teacher, I had succumbed to work-related stress and was on sick leave. I was slowly coming to terms with a daunting fact: a life I had known for 30 years was changing. I needed to find a Plan B.

Marking’s my thing, I thought. Why don’t I apply my skills to a new business?

The thought of working from home as a freelancer was in the back of my mind and very tempting.  (Read Episode 2 to find out what I did …)

If you are looking at training providers, the CIEP  and the PTC (Publishing Training Centre) offer the most creditable training in proofreading and copyediting.

Courses

So, during the time I have owned my business Proofnow Proofreader (now in my fourth year), I have completed the following CIEP (formerly Society for Editors and Proofreaders) courses and CPD:

  1. Proofreading Progress (2016)
  2. References (2016)
  3. Getting work with Non-publishers (2017)
  4. Educational Publishing Development Day (2018)
  5. Mini conference in Newcastle (May 2019)
  6. Proofreading mentoring scheme (completed May 2020)
  7. Every CIEP annual conference since 2017

These have contributed to my upgrade from Entry Member to Intermediate Member. Here is the link to the Training page of the CIEP website.

In addition, you can keep an ongoing record of your formal CPD in the section called Upgrading your membership. There you can add courses as you complete them. The system saves them, so that you can keep returning to add more information. If you are a CIEP member and haven’t explored this benefit, it’s well worth it.

Mini conference in Newcastle

Since I wrote my last blog post about training, I realised that it’s just over a year since I got the train to Newcastle for this mini one-day conference in May 2019. It was very well organised by the NE Editors group. See my blog post about the event here.

Proofreading mentoring

This post brings my training up to date – I have completed the Proofreading mentoring scheme as a mentee.

So what is this scheme? The following guidance is taken from the Mentoring page (not currently available) of the CIEP website.

Successful mentees can gain up to 10 points towards upgrading their membership. The number of points gained depends on the mentor’s answers to five questions about the mentee:

  1. Are they literate? (grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary, spelling, punctuation)
  2. Are they businesslike? (prompt, clear, efficient, follow brief, communicate well)
  3. Are they accurate? (spot and deal with editorial errors)
  4. Do they use appropriate mark-up? (BS 5261:2005, plus PDFs or Track Changes if used)
  5. Do they use good judgement? (level of queries, frequency and extent of intervention).

The mentor sends a variety of real jobs they have done for clients. These range in subject area and complexity. You are encouraged and supported in a one-to-one partnership. Communication and questioning are recommended.

I found that carrying out the work, following each specific brief, in a safe environment, is a good way to learn.

My knowledge vastly increased, including how to query. I learnt how different clients would expect you to deal with projects and relationships in different ways.

Of course, my confidence wavered considerably through the six months with highs and lows, as it does on any course. But you don’t learn if it is easy. You don’t learn if you don’t make mistakes. I say that to my primary students all the time, especially when they are upset if they got something wrong. Showing you are learning from your mistakes, by applying the lessons learnt, is one of the key points.

As total commitment is necessary, there was a huge wash of positive relief when the last mentoring feedback was returned.

Why training is vital

I am fortunate that I have been able to invest in my ongoing CPD with the CIEP over the last four years of my freelancing career.

Evidence of CPD on your website and CV gives your prospective clients confidence in your skills; your professionalism, expertise and integrity will be evident. Highlighting these is imperative.

Next training opportunity?

The annual September CIEP conference attracts 3 CPD points towards upgrade. I have written some blog posts on this subject too!

In this year of the pandemic, the September 2020 conference in Milton Keynes is cancelled. However, there are plans to move it online in some form. Check with the CIEP for details.

I know I am not alone in looking forward to the alternative conference. Here’s to #CIEP2020!

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Review of 2019

grateful proofreader

Life as a freelancer has its ups and downs. In this blog post I review how my business has fared in 2019, with both successes and lessons learnt.

A thick skin needs to be developed to cope with the downs. But the ups are ever so rewarding and uplifting. Many of my freelance colleagues will agree with those sentiments. I have certainly honed the ‘3Ps’ (patience, perseverance and persistence).

Slow burn

My year has been busy, particularly with primary tutoring, but I’m pleased to report that the proofreading side of the business perked up. Those who have been at it a lot longer say it can be a slow burn, taking up to three years to get established and known as a freelancer. I agree. My business has grown.

Winter review

A proofreading job in January with an unsatisfactory client did not start the year well. A lack of communication meant I was left feeling humiliated. Lessons were learnt on both sides, so best forgotten.

Spring review

For the first four months of 2019, the proofreading jobs were very few and far between, and a lot of freelancers shared their worries on social media about paying bills.

I have found it is good to have a wee part-time job to take away some of the stress of the unreliability of the freelance income. Fortunately, the tuition I offered increased to five afternoons a week. My Friday became a Saturday (day off) to fit in with my husband’s free day as he cycles at the weekend.

Marketing review

Being fully booked with primary tuition meant that my income wasn’t so much of an issue, but I was doing all I could to could to market myself as an available proofreader. Sending cold emails, writing blog posts, and sharing on social media continued though to Easter. I was even asked to do a proofreading test for an educational publisher! But no work has come of it yet – something to chase up in January 2020.

IM Available

By April, I had a proofreading request from the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (ciep.uk), formerly the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. A director found me on their list of available Intermediate Members. If you are an Entry-Level Member it’s worth trying to gain points by training and experience to upgrade to IM. Then you qualify to appear in their internal list of IMs, appearing visible for work opportunities.

They wanted a proofreader to check some new proofreading exercises which will be part of a resource bank. I thought this was a brilliant opportunity! The role involved *test-driving* the exercises and feeding back on the time taken and their effectiveness. The job continued, interspersed with voluntary editing until the end of August.

Summer review

August used to be the month when I went on holiday. As an ex-teacher there are more months available now. So I made myself available for jobs in the summer.

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In August, I got a surprise email from a local business. It appears that it is advantageous to have a ‘Google My Business’ profile. The client had googled ‘proofreaders in Essex’. My name popped up. I was away on a short break for my wedding anniversary. So, having a sneaky peek of my emails while he wasn’t looking, I offered to refer the prospective client to other IM proofreaders. No, he said, he could wait. There was no rush. Wow, I thought, this job sounds hopeful.

He explained that his company writes on-line courses for health and safety qualifications. They asked if they could email a course to be proofread as a trial. I established Terms and Conditions. We would see how we got on liaising. Then there might be future courses to proofread.

A flexible client

The trial job was proofreading a course on which consisted of 8 modules with roughly 20 PDF slides in each module. Some with few words, some heavily worded. I created a Style Sheet, then set up a Query Sheet for any questions I had.

The promised return in one week was achieved. I invoiced and asked for a feedback testimonial to put on my website. This job continued to be special as the invoice was paid the same day it was presented – plus their feedback was gracious! I am still basking in the afterglow of that positive working experience.

When I shared on Twitter that I had a queue of two clients – the first time I have had to timetable a schedule – another client appeared.

I shared that I had appreciated the fact that the August client had been prepared to wait until I had finished a regular monthly editing job I do. A children’s author saw my post and booked me in for a proofreading job in September. Getting yourself out there *does* put you into the eyeline of prospective clients –if you’re in the right place at the right time.

review

Networking and CPD in 2019

I got out and about to the following events:

  1. May: SfEP mini conference in Newcastle (see blog post here)
  2. September: SfEP Annual Conference in Birmingham (see blog post here)
  3. November: Cambridge Social Media Day (see my summary on my profile page on LinkedIn by searching #CSMDay2019). How to be more savvy with your content marketing on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
  4. Meetings of my local Herts & Essex SfEP group through the year have provided opportunities for mutual support and fruitful discussion. For me the meetings have been sacrosanct – timetabled in my work diary and essential for my well-being.

Sharing experience and wisdom

It appears that, by this stage in my freelancing career, I have become someone who is respected as established and supportive to newbie freelancers. Thank you to the folk, especially former teachers, who have shared their appreciation of my blog posts this year with positive responses.

New year plan

Going into 2020, I have successfully applied to be mentored through the SfEP proofreading mentoring scheme. I am really looking forward to working with my mentor through into next year.

Branding

Meanwhile, I want to update my branding, so have bought Louise Harnby‘s ‘Branding Lite’ course. I bought her ‘Blogging Lite’ course last spring to help me plan how I was going to write blog posts for the year ahead and beyond. Look at me now … happy blogging anniversary to me!

I have a winter of studying ahead. Can’t wait.

Finally, I wish you and yours blessings, peace and joy for the new year ahead.

 

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Kindly proofread by CIEP Professional Member Lisa de Caux.

SfEP2019 Conference

Several highlights from my time in Birmingham at Conference Aston in 2019 with the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) include great company with colleagues, lots to learn, and laughs galore.

conference

The theme of the conference was ‘In the beginning was the word’. My chosen sessions were:

  • Speed networking
  • The art of querying
  • Mindfulness
  • Lightning talks
  • Microsoft Word styles into Adobe InDesign
  • A training toolbox for editors
  • The six habits of highly effective editors
  • Grammar amnesty (bring your grammar questions)

Speed networking

This is the first conference (out of three so far) when I have had the courage to attend the speed networking session. Fellow editors and proofreaders have five minutes to talk to the person opposite about business, ask questions, pick up tips, and share business cards. Then delegates on one side rotate, while those on the other stay where they are. I was able to promote my website blog #TallTartanTalks and my weekly LinkedIn tips #TallTartanTips for freelancers. This was one of my favourite sessions.

Quiz: #TeamKevin

Saturday ended with dinner and THE Quiz. I sat next to Matt Pinnock, a friend from Essex, and Sophie Playle (fellow Herts & Essex local group member). Team Kevin was decided as a *memorable* name. Matt and others were superb with their general knowledge and song first-liner facts. We won Heroes chocolates. (See photo. Nikki Brice is in the background.)

Sunday: Whitcombe lecture

The first prestigious speaker of #sfep2019 was Chris Brookmyre, a Scottish crime thriller writer who was hilariously interesting and entertainingly sweary. Especially about his sub-editor days and the Amazon reviews of over 20 books he has written with the ‘tartan noir’ theme.

I’m ashamed to say this is the first time I have come across this term. So, I have ‘bookmarked’ a couple of his less bloody books to acquire.

The art of querying

Gerard Hill led a superb workshop on how to phrase queries to clients. He presented a series of real-life texts he has copy-edited and proofread.

We questioned, discussed, analysed, and decided whether to ‘stet’ (leave alone), correct, query, check/suggest/query, or ‘flag’ as a concern.

He encouraged, supported and justified in a sensitive way. I can understand why he is the chartership director and why we were successful in our bid.

Mindfulness: becoming mindful with words, work and the whole of your life

I have never felt so much like I needed a session on being still and quiet.

We were encouraged to sit comfortably. With our eyes closed, we concentrated on the leader’s voice giving calm instructions on how … to … be …

She emphasised focusing on our breath, on clearing our heads and gently pushing against our problems or worries.

One helpful tip to relieve stress: take a mindful walk outside admiring the beauty of nature. This is something I’m already aware of through the #StetWalk. But it always slips to the bottom of my to-do pile. Unwise.

Lightning talks

The feeling among SfEP members is that the Lightning talks are the most popular session, as they are so light-hearted. They also cover a wide range of topics.

For those who aren’t aware, six sfep-ers talk for five minutes each about a topic close to their heart, accompanied by their Powerpoint presentation. The topics that spoke most to me were Pam Smith’s editing music, and Liz Jones on finding a good work/life balance.

Microsoft Word styles into Adobe InDesign

Here is some background into my interest in InDesign: I edit a magazine for a charity. I was taught to use Microsoft Publisher for editing purposes. I’m aware that InDesign is the modern equivalent, so I wanted to find out more.

Two designers from Oxford University Press (OUP) explained how the text and images are put together on designed pages for English language teaching resources – teacher guides, children’s workbooks, indeed anything education based.

The implications of how the styles in Word documents transfer and appear in InDesign were discussed by experienced colleagues. Next step for me: training in InDesign.

Gala dinner

It was my third conference, so the nerves about what to wear to the Gala dinner were a little less. Listening to the Linnets (see photo) always calms the nerves as they are impressive singers and entertain us with clever lyrics about editing! This year they sang to the tune of ‘He who would valiant be’.

Rob Drummond, Reader in Linguistics at Manchester University, and our after-dinner speaker, had us laughing about our use of language versus our pedantry in the application of the rules.

A training toolbox for editors

Hilary Cadman, an Australian science editor, is a visitor to our local SfEP group in Bishops Stortford, Herts, when she is visiting her family. Her session was how to use our knowledge to train others. I was intrigued.

As a teacher, I knew I could be a trainer. As a freelancer of three years, I knew I had free resources available on my website. So how to link the two …?

Hilary demonstrated how to make a screencast by recording her voice-over the modelling of a skill on screen. There was an audible gasp of wonder when she played back the sample training video.

She presents her PerfectIt courses in this way. If you haven’t discovered them yet, there is Introduction to PerfectIt and Advanced PerfectIt. Discounts are available for SfEP members on the Benefits page of the website.

Next step: learning how to make training videos for newbie proofreaders.

The six habits of highly effective editors

To be effective, the habits of good editing are to be a detective, spy and linguist; and to have empathy and intuition.

Our presenter, Matthew Batchelor, advocated using NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) methods. In other words, learn the language of your mind.

Developing a healthy work/life balance to carry out our work effectively includes appropriate sleep, timing/timetabling, repetition of skills, and exercise.

Next step for me: To practice a more effective work/life balance. Even more important when I seem to have a whole year of CPD ahead of me!

Grammar amnesty

Lucy Metzger (SfEP Vice-Chair) chaired a grammar panel with Luke Finley, Annie Walker and Cathy Tingle. Bring your grammar questions was the mission: questions about grammar you have always wondered about … For example, when to use ‘that v which’ which catches me out when I am proofreading.

There was an excellent discussion and exploration of language, with recommended books  on display.

Closing speaker: David Crystal

Conference came to its glorious conclusion with the fascinating plenary session by David Crystal. He shared his experiences editing the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language.

Before undertaking the three hour drive back to Essex, I decided to stretch my legs and had a pleasant walk into the centre of Birmingham in the company of colleagues heading to New Street Station.

It looks so different to what my mother would have seen when she left Birmingham in the early 1960s, when she married my Scottish father and moved to Glasgow.

Here’s to next year

As the post-conference blues set in, here’s to next September and #sfep2020 (or #ciep2020) in Milton Keynes. Here’s my link to my blog post about last year’s conference – Why SfEP Conference is Cool (#sfep2018).

Thank you to Beth Hamer and the conference team!

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Proofread by Lisa de Caux, CIEP (was Intermediate Member then) now Professional Member, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk