I’ve been proofreading and copy-editing professionally since 2009, but almost all of my work has been for non-publishers. I’ve worked almost exclusively on non-fiction texts and a lot of my work involves copy-editing texts for clients whose first language isn’t English. On the whole, my clients have been happy for me to do whatever work I think is needed, and I’ve enjoyed the freedom of making texts read as though they’ve been written by a native speaker and ensuring that the style is consistent. So far, so good.
In 2012 I attended the classroom-based ‘Introduction to copy-editing’ course run by the Society for Editors and Proofreaders [https://www.sfep.org.uk/]. I realised that the only things that my clients hadn’t wanted me to do when I was copy-editing for them were formatting, fact-checking (apart from pointing out incorrect facts that a lay reader would spot) and tagging.
Nothing to lose
A few months ago my friend and colleague Kate Haigh (www.kateproof.co.uk) asked if I would be interested in copy-editing for a publisher, as she hadn’t the time for this specific project. My first thought was, ‘Nope. I don’t feel 100% comfortable with that.’ I then told myself not to be so ridiculous. I have a lot of happy clients and the core elements of this job would be doing things that I routinely do. There was no valid reason to think this job was beyond me. The most it would do would be to challenge me a bit. So I found myself saying, ‘Oh, go on, then!’ and immediately feeling a positive sense of anticipation alongside a little apprehension.
The work arrived, and although it took me longer to complete than I’d hoped, I felt comfortable with most of it. The formatting and tagging work turned out to involve using a Word template and applying styles. I’d never done this before, but Kate described the easy two-step process and it proved to be straightforward to do. I also spent time making sure I understood the style guide, which involved raising some queries to clarify some of the instructions.
The lovely project manager made the job so much easier than it could have been. I did have some questions while working on the text that she answered promptly and fully, and she made it plain that she was around to answer more if necessary.
A happy ending
The publisher was happy with my work, I’ve already done another report for them and am now one of their registered suppliers. Many of us can become anxious about moving beyond our comfort zones, but I’m hoping that now I’ve made one ‘leap’, I can make more.