Why did you choose an editorial career, and how did you get into it?
I've always been mad about reading, and I enjoyed writing as soon as I could pick up a pen. So editing is the ideal job for me as it combines them both to one extent or another. I began my career by spending many years as a journalist, but over time I was drawn to editing other people's stories. When my wife and I emigrated to Canada, I moved from editing news stories to editing in-house for a professional association. I could apply what I had learned while learning new things (particularly the different approaches to English on both sides of the pond!). We returned to the UK six years later, and I took the plunge to set out on my own as a freelancer.
What training have you done to get your editorial career up and running?
Ever since I qualified as a journalist, almost all of my training has been on the job. This has included many hours spent with experienced editors looking over my shoulder. Rewriting controversial or potentially upsetting front-page stories and making sure that they are accurate and not libellous or in contempt, all while the presses are waiting to roll, can be a great learning experience!
What work are you most proud of?
Introducing numerous changes to the editorial styles used by an audience of professionals. I had to overcome opposition from people who had been used to writing a certain way for many years, and I managed to do it without (I like to think) too much resentment.
What do you do if you're struggling on a job?
Check the SfEP forums—no matter what the problem I'm facing, it seems that somebody, somewhere, has already overcome it and revealed a great way of tackling it.
What does being a member of the SfEP mean to you?
Working as a freelance can be an isolated business and the SfEP has connected me with a vibrant community. My local group has been a huge source of advice.
Which editorial tasks do you enjoy the most and why?
Most of my editorial work at newspapers involved taking the journalists' raw copy and bringing out the key points in as readable a way as possible. That sort of in-depth editing is something that I still love to do, but now I tend to do it with books, business-to-business copy, and other texts, rather than just news.
Do you have any editorial pet hates?
Capitals being thrown about with wild abandon. Some people seem to think practically every other word must be capitalised.
What has most surprised you about your editorial career?
The variety of it, and the fact that no matter how much you edit there is always something interesting to learn about language.
What's the best career advice you've received?
"There is no story that cannot be told in two paragraphs." A great editor once said it to me. He was a master at removing unnecessary phrasing and making the text as interesting as possible. Too many people use words that dilute their message.
What advice do you have for people starting out on an editorial career?
Read as much as possible to learn different styles of writing. Also, remember that everybody has their own way of writing, and they may not agree with your editorial suggestions. Oh, and join the SfEP!
Do you ever stop editing?
It can be hard to switch off after a busy day of spotting mistakes, but I do try.
Finally, tell us one thing about you not related to editing
I once took part in an identity parade to help detectives catch a murderer. It wasn't me, I hasten to add!
The SfEP does not give any special endorsement to the members who appear in Meet our members. If you are looking for an editorial professional, we recommend you search the Directory of Editorial Services.