FAQs: Training

Click any of the frequently asked questions below to see the corresponding answer.

Do I have to be a member of the SfEP to take one of the SfEP's courses?

No. Anyone can take any of the SfEP's courses, but if you are not a member you will have to pay the full non-member fee for a course. Benefits of being a member of the SfEP cover much more than just course discounts.

I understand that joining the SfEP is the best route into freelance copy-editing and proofreading, and that to do this I will need to amass a certain number of 'points'. Is this correct?

Partially. We would certainly agree that joining the SfEP is a good route into freelance copy-editing and proofreading. There is no requirement to amass points before doing so, however. Anyone can join the SfEP at the level of membership most appropriate to their current level of experience; upgrade points are then required to move further up the levels of membership within the Society.

Can you tell me what formal qualification is offered by the SfEP? Proofreading forms a large part of my current role, so while I have no formal qualifications in this field, I have been doing it now for six years. I would now like to earn a professional qualification in proofreading; what courses would I need to take in order to do this?

The SfEP does not offer a 'formal' qualification or accreditation: no such thing exists for proofreading or copy-editing. But clients in general and traditional publishers in particular look favourably on any CV that includes SfEP training. Students receive a certificate on the successful completion of any SfEP course.

Do I receive a certificate if I pass one of the SfEP's courses?

Yes. If it is a tutor-assessed course you will receive a certificate that says you have passed (assuming that you successfully complete the course assignments). In all other instances, you will receive a certificate that says you have completed the course.

I have some experience/a qualification which I think would be relevant to a proofreading career (e.g. secretarial work; teaching English; a degree in English literature) and I am good at spelling and grammar. Do you think I should take your P1: Introduction course or go straight on to P2: Progress?

I have GCSE English / A level English / a degree in English. Would I be able to do proofreading work based on my existing qualifications or would I need to do additional training?

This query (or a version of it) is very frequently asked. Proofreading (and copy-editing) involves a good deal more than spotting grammatical and spelling errors. It is also detailed, technical work that needs close concentration, and this is not everyone's cup of tea. If you do not have any professional experience of proofreading, it is strongly recommended that you start off with P1: Introduction, as this course is designed to not only to teach the (very) basics of proofreading but also to help answer the question of whether proofreading is for you.

I have some experience of proofreading/copy-editing, but I don't use the BSI symbols. Do I need to know these symbols to take your courses?

Yes. For the proofreading courses in particular, you will be at a disadvantage if you do not know how to use the BSI symbols. To learn more about why we use the BSI marks, and for a sneak preview of how to use them, see our BSI marks FAQs.

Why does the the SfEP continue to teach and use the BSI symbols when they aren't used much in the real world?

It's easy to focus on 'the proofreading symbols' and miss what they represent. The symbols are a language compressing information that can be used as well between tutor and student as between proofreader and typesetter, and that alone makes them an invaluable tool.

To learn more about why we use the BSI marks, and for a sneak preview of how to use them, see our BSI marks FAQs.

I am thinking of taking the PTC Proofreading by Distance Learning course because it was recommended to me, but I notice that your P1: Introduction course is much cheaper. Do the two courses cover the same ground?

No. The P1: Introduction course is designed to teach the (very) basics of proofreading and help answer the question of whether proofreading is for you, but it is only a 1-day course (or online equivalent). The PTC Proofreading by Distance Learning course is much more substantial, taking several months to complete, and covers much more ground.

I am thinking of taking the PTC Proofreading by Distance Learning course because it was recommended to me. Would you suggest that I take your P1: Introduction course first?

Not for any technical reason. P1: Introduction is designed to teach the (very) basics of proofreading, and this technical material is well covered by the PTC course. But P1 is also designed to help answer the question of whether proofreading is for you, so taking the course to find out the answer to that question might be a good idea before committing to the outlay required for the PTC course.

I have taken your P1: Introduction course and have decided that I would like to try to become a freelance proofreader. Can I go straight on to P2: Progress?

Not if you are new to the profession. It is not the case that you can move straight from P1 to P2 (or CE1 to CE2); something has to come in between. What that something is depends on your circumstances. Some experience (perhaps voluntary) or the PTC Basic Proofreading course are the most usual ways to bridge the gap.

I have been considering taking your CE1: Introduction course. Do I have to take one or both of your proofreading courses (P1 or P2) first?

There is no requirement to do so, but we recommend it as a matter of common sense if you are new to the profession. There is more to copy-editing than there is to proofreading, in the sense that there are more things to do, and therefore more scope for going wrong. We strongly recommend having a sound foundation in proofreading before moving on to copy-editing.

Is it correct that I have to pass P2 (or CE3) before applying for SfEP proofreading (or copy-editing) mentoring?

Yes, successfully completing P2 or CE3 is a requirement (not the only one) for acceptance into the mentoring scheme.

I am currently doing the SfEP's mentoring course, and hope to become a freelance proofreader in the future. I am after some advice about where I could go next with my proofreading career.

You might find Starting Out, one of the SfEP Guides, of some help, and you might also consider taking our course Going freelance and staying there, both of which contain some advice about possible ways of gaining work.

How can I go about getting proofreading/copy-editing training?

The SfEP runs a number of courses, some available online. The Publishing Training Centre also runs a number of high-quality courses.

How do you allocate work? / How do I get work through the SfEP?

The SfEP does not act as a job or work centre; you cannot gain work through the SfEP directly. No work is 'allocated'. The SfEP helps members to gain work indirectly, through the provision of training, the Directory of Editorial Services and IM Available, and through one of its forums, Marketplace, where members can advertise work that, for one reason or another, they cannot take on.

Editing with Word

Does the Editing with Word course teach me how to use Word?

No, the course is designed to help you to use Word to edit. It is assumed that you already know the ins and outs of your particular version of Word. Because there are a few grey areas in between teaching 'how to use Word' and 'how to use Word to edit', some useful tips and trick of Word are given. But the course would be unworkable if it tried to explain how every required action can be carried out on every known version of Word.

I use a Mac. Can I still usefully take the Editing with Word course?

If you are a Mac user, be aware that you will need to run exercises for three of the ten chapters in Windows, because the utilities involved are Windows-only. You could do this via various methods. For instance, you might have a Windows PC available anyway within your household. Or you might have a separate Windows partition on your Mac. Or you could install a facility such as Parallels or VMware Fusion to run Windows at the same time as your Mac OS X operating system.

This topic is discussed in greater detail in our blog post Windows options for Mac users.

Do I need to be an experienced editor to take the Editing with Word course?

No. Whatever your level of expertise, there are almost certainly ways in which judicious use of the techniques described in this course will help you to become more efficient and effective. Editing with Word does not set out to teach how to edit, but to demonstrate how whatever editing you do can be carried out more quickly and probably more accurately using Word's tools.