How I Became An Editor – by Stefani Nielson

My earliest training as an editor was as a reader. Personal reading time as a child and onwards was crucial. I read everything from newspaper horoscopes and tabloids  to supermarket flyers and fashion articles to book reviews and history to teen romance and spy fiction. Later, as a university student, I read “serious” literature, communications and philosophy.

 Reading widely creates a feeling for language. The rules of a language can be studied but an understanding for language and what it can and should do comes from reading. In short, reading widely creates a sense of taste: what I like, what others like and what is published (which is sometimes different from the previous two).

 Work experience is important, too. Work creates real demands on your writing and editing ability. Having an employer or client who requires an end product that accomplishes a certain task keeps your writing focused. Hopefully those employers and clients have style guides for page and content development. If so, these guides are invaluable tools for learning the rules of “good writing” for that particular organization or publication.Like Hemingway learning his rules of the trade from his Toronto Star editor as a cub reporter, so  I learned (in my humble way) editing, copywriting and proofing principles as a page design assistant for an old-school course designer. This experience was formative for my career.

 Since then, graduate degrees, certificate programs and writing for different professional purposes have sharpened my editing and writing skills for different contexts. I have written and edited general interest magazines, academic papers and courses (including some for developing writers), and technical and business documents for public and private organizations.

 The key is to keep growing . Improvement requires active work. So I advise the following:

* Read everything that can help you write better for the contexts in which you work and build a toolbox of tried and true references. Read guides for online writing (McGovern’s Killer Web Content), the classics of English style (Orwell’s Politics and the English Language) and staple references (The Chicago Manual of Style).

 * Take courses to freshen up your skills. Recently I took a technical writing course to remind myself of what I can and should be doing to write for a new employer. Don’t rest on your laurels.

 * Keep learning about new media and adapt. Publishing platforms keep changing and expanding. Read guides about new media for a sense of how to keep your language alive and useful in ways that are appropriate for different formats and audiences.

 * And finally, practice. Exercise your writing and editing muscles by editing and writing as much as you can even if it be in a personal journal.

Remember that language is a tool supported by other tools.  Taste + continuous practice + growing knowledge = formula for the ever-developing editor and writer.

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On Being Edited: An Editorial By Kaarina Stiff

As editors, we are taught about the importance of communication. University courses and professional development seminars emphasize the need for clarity and sensitivity when making recommendations, and Editors Canada’s own Professional Editorial Standards indicate that “professional editors should communicate clearly and tactfully.”

All of this matters. But even though we think we know what this means, the truth is, sometimes the best way to learn something is from experience. And that can be tricky, since not all editors are writers or creators of their own work.

Last month, I attended a seminar on substantive editing, where veteran instructor Jennifer Latham helped us navigate the thorny topic of how to tell a client or colleague that their text needs more than just the spit and polish that they asked for. The advice, simply put, comes down to diplomacy. We all nodded, because of course that was true, right? Jennifer also recommended that, when possible, a phone call or a face-to-face meeting is often the easiest way to communicate complex thoughts that might present as sarcasm or impatience in written comments.

“Having said that,” said one participant, “I have a good working relationship with several of my colleagues, and I don’t need to be as delicate with them as I do with some others.” Indeed, Jennifer stressed that rapport and trust counts for a lot but there is still value in treading with caution.

As someone who edits and writes (and is therefore edited), I endorse this caution wholeheartedly: never underestimate the value of thoughtful feedback.

I recently updated my business website by adding some testimonials from past clients. One in particular said, “… she was positive and encouraging, while still clearly describing the issues she found and possible approaches to addressing them.” Until I read those words, I had no idea how much my client valued the effort I put into my recommendations. And then I thought about recent experiences that I’ve had being edited, and how much professional respect I have for the people whose feedback was crafted most thoughtfully, even when the feedback was critical.

Diplomacy and tact often take effort—sometimes a lot. I have no doubt that the colleagues I’m thinking of spent a lot of time choosing their words carefully. But as editors, that is part of our job. Even if it takes time, in my opinion, it is time well spent.

While anyone receiving editorial feedback should also practice accepting it graciously, it is worth remembering that giving gracious feedback is about much more than just preventing hurt feelings or out-of-joint noses. Among other things, it is about precision and efficiency. Marginal notes that say, “Really?!” might express your gut reaction, but it does nothing to help the writer understand how to fix the problem, and it doesn’t resolve things any faster.

Just as importantly, it’s about the personal impression you want to leave with the person that you’re giving feedback to. Would you want to be on the receiving end of your words? If not, pause to ask yourself if there’s a better way to convey your advice. As editors committed to high standards of excellence, such as those described in the Professional Editorial Standards, professionalism should always take the place of impatience and sarcasm, no matter who you’re working with—for your client or colleague’s sake, for your own sake, and for the benefit of the editorial profession.

Editing Identity Crisis by Barbara Erb

Barbara Erb

I have been mulling over the results of our branch’s survey to know our members better and I realize that at the dawn of a new career, I am experiencing an identity crisis!

I am a student (campus and distance education) at Simon Fraser University, nearing completion of the Editing Certificate program. I am not young, and neither do I consider myself over the hill.

When I retired from public service, my lifelong love affair with the written word continued to haunt me so I decided to pursue editing as a post-retirement occupation only to find myself where I am today! My demeanor may not reveal the identity crisis but let me tell you, it exists—because I feel like a 19-year-old trying to find my place in life. This is my fourth diploma. One would think I would be accustomed to the ventures of pursuing a new career by this time.

It may well be that novice editors—younger and older, are feeling the same angst. In the branch’s survey, my demographic profile hovers painstakingly in the minority percentages of the results. This adds to my dilemma and cultivates a whole new set of questions:

Is editing a viable career? Is the advent of electronic technology diminishing the need for editors? Which aspect of editing is feasible for me to pursue? What are the industry needs for skilled editors? Where do I start? Will I be prejudiced against because of my age? Did I study editing to become an editor or do I really want to be a writer? How do I market myself?

The survey results provide a gateway to membership engagement and growth for the future. Personally, it has revved up thought processes to help me resolve the career issues currently on my radar. Whether the resolution of my editing identity crisis is to edit, write, or do something completely different… continued networking and professional development with Editors Ottawa–Gatineau is highly beneficial and can only be helpful.

Editors Ottawa–Gatineau is a community of like-minded colleagues who see a common need to learn and grow through seminars, speaker nights, pub meets, and especially a Wine & Cheese event once a year! Thank you for being there and for all you do.

Barbara Erb

Student Member and Branch Secretary

Editors Ottawa–Gatineau

 

January Speakers Night – Author Denise Chong

Ottawa-Gatineau Editors Speakers Night is very excited to begin the new year with a presentation by the author Denise Chong.

Denise lives in Ottawa and has written four books of literary non-fiction; the bestselling The Concubines Children (now a Penguin Classic), The Girl in the Picture: The Kim Phuc Story (Viking Press), Egg on Mao: The Story of an Ordinary Man Who Defaced an Icon and Unmasked a Dictatorship (Random House), and Lives of the Family: Stories of Fate and Circumstance (Random House).

She has become “renowned as a writer and commentator on Canadian history and on the family,” (The Canadian Encyclopedia) because of her in-depth research and focus on the multiculturalism of Canadian identity. In 2013 she was awarded the Order of Canada for her “books that help to raise our social consciousness.” (Order of Canada)

Denise will be speaking about the process of interviewing people and gathering personal information when writing memoirs, and the author’s relationship with an editor when working together on the often tragic, personal and intimate stories of people’s lives.

Ottawa-Gatineau Editors Speakers Nights are open to everyone. Admission for non-members of Editors Canada is $10.

When: Wednesday 18 January 2017 6.30 – 8.00pm

Where: Lackey Room, Christ Church Cathedral, 414 Sparks St, Ottawa, ON K1R 0B3. Free onsite parking.

 

DON’T MISS OUR LATE FALL/EARLY WINTER SEMINARS

It`s getting colder, so let`s hunker down in warm surroundings. And what better way than to sip coffee and engage in a seminar with your writing and editing peers? Writing Proposals is a new seminar, which started off as a presentation during one of our Speaker Nights last winter. Participants were keen on Chris Lendrum`s talk, so we thought a half-day seminar would satisfy those with an additional thirst for information on writing proposals. Time is running out on this November 6 event.

Veteran seminar leader Elizabeth Macfie is back on November 18 for the perennially popular Practical Proofreading. Trained proofreaders see the errors that escape other eyes because they read in a special way using tools and techniques that focus their attention on everything in the document. She`ll show you how it`s done. You are encouraged to bring a laptop (PC or Mac) equipped with MS Word 2007 or newer to facilitate completing the exercises.

Many freelancers eventually find their way to working in the federal government. However, the requirements for government report editing can seem daunting. In this December 3 seminar, which will suit both freelancers and government workers, Laurel Hyatt will demystify the process of Editing Government Reports—from the legislative requirements that start the ball rolling, to the sign-off before publication.

What do you do when your client sends you a document to copy edit, but you quickly realize it needs much more? Substantive Editing requires a whole range of editing skills that go far beyond stylistic and copy editing. In this first seminar of the winter, instructor Jennifer Latham will share with you tips and strategies for dealing with the inherent dangers of substantive editing. This includes knowing when to rewrite and how to avoid being seduced by the text. Share your questions with her during this January 12, 2015, seminar.

Online registration for seminars is available at http://www.editors.ca/branches/ncr/seminars

New Workshops Add to Old Favourites

The National Capital Region branch is proud to be introducing some dynamic new seminars this fall to add to its roster of old favourites. All seminars are designed for editors, but equally appeal to a variety of other communication specialists wishing to upgrade their skills. The NCR branch has built its reputation as a trusted source of quality training; its instructors are seasoned editors whose workshops engage participants through discussion and hands-on exercises and equip them with invaluable communication skills.

Writing and Editing for the Web is the first of the new seminars this fall. It has been developed by Moira White, whose many workshops have been an integral part of the NCR branch’s professional development program over the past several years.

Frances Peck, in demand for her seminars at EAC branches across Canada, is bringing her popular Grammar Boot Camp to Ottawa for the first time. We recommend that you register early if you don’t want to miss out on this extreme workout.

The last of our three new workshops this fall will be given by instructor Chris Lendrum. Some of you may remember Chris from one of our Speaker Nights last winter. We were so impressed that we decided to approach him about delivering a half-day seminar to share his knowledge on Writing Proposals.

The full lineup of fall seminars is listed below. Simply click on the link for a full description of those that interest you.

• Writing and Editing for the Web – September 23 (9 a.m.–4 p.m.)
• Starting a Freelance Career – October 4 (9 a.m.–12 p.m.)
• Social Media 101 – October 4 (1–4 p.m.)
• Grammar Boot Camp – October 23 (9 a.m.–4 p.m.)
• The Secrets of Syntax – October 24 (9 a.m.–4 p.m.)
• Writing Proposals – November 6 (9 a.m.–12 p.m.)
• Practical Proofreading – November 18 (9 a.m.–4 p.m.)