Advanced Professional Member
Why did you choose an editorial career, and how did you get into it?
I've always loved words. I've always been a pedant. So why not combine the two and make a living out of it?
My dad was self-employed, so he showed me it wasn't just possible but normal, and I've always thought I'd be best suited to being a freelancer.
While I was still at university, I won a student placement at the Institute of Physics Publishing in Bristol. There, I stumbled across copy-editing as a career. I found it hard to believe that there were people out there paying actual money for these 'copy-editors' to spend all day doing something enjoyable. I still find it hard to believe!
What training have you done to get your editorial career up and running?
I started by taking the Publishing Training Centre's Basic Proofreading course. Through that, I discovered the SfEP and haven't looked back.
What work are you most proud of?
It's not one piece of work, or even something tangible. Helping people to get their message across better or to publish their research is the work I'm most proud of. Particularly people who struggle with English.
What do you do if you're struggling on a job?
I highlight and move on. Often, at the end when I revisit tricky text, I find, like magic, either it's become much simpler to resolve or the 'problem' has simply evaporated.
What does being a member of the SfEP mean to you?
Community. I quickly discovered on starting out that proofreaders and editors are a generous, warm and friendly bunch. But without the SfEP in the UK, it wouldn't be as easy for us to get together, be it online or in person, to give a colleague advice or a helping hand when it's needed. I've got to know some lovely people over the years. Freelancing can be a lonely career choice. The SfEP makes it much less so.
Which editorial tasks do you enjoy the most and why?
Journal articles, particularly for English-as-a-second-language (ESL) authors who really struggle with English. Some editors hate working with ESL writing – but I find the challenge stimulating, and the more difficult it is to interpret, the more I love it! ESL authors also tend to be the most appreciative.
STEM (scientific, technical, engineering, mathematical) journal articles are also the most enjoyable material because each is a self-contained piece of work that takes a perfect amount of time. On top of that, I get to read about cutting-edge science and help to get it published.
I've worked with academic authors from all around the world, from Taiwan to Canada, the Netherlands to the Middle East. No matter where they come from or what their native language is, they're all united in a desire to present their research to the world in the best way possible – after all, for some of them, this may be the only chance they get to show off all those years of hard work shut up in a dusty lab!
Do you have any editorial pet hates?
How much time do you have?
What has most surprised you about your editorial career?
I have periods of 'feast' and 'famine' the same as every freelancer, but in the last 11 years I've never been seriously without work when I didn't want to be. I still hear people saying being a freelancer must be tough because you never know where the next job will come from. Although this is true, I think non-freelancers who would love to take the plunge at self-employment often say this to discourage themselves. They think self-employment is less secure than employment. The reality is that, although you do experience lean periods, you can't sack yourself!
What's the best career advice you've received?
Do what you love; the rest will follow. I've found that to be true.
What advice do you have for people starting out on an editorial career?
Follow your peers, so that you almost feel like a stalker. Take in everything. Absorb advice from your fellow professionals like a sponge. The SfEP's online forum was worth its weight in gold for me when I started out. It still is.
Do you ever stop editing?
I follow a few Facebook groups that post funny spelling and grammatical bloopers. That's my idea of unwinding!
Finally, tell us one thing about you not related to editing
I dread people asking me what my degree is in (Physics, Astrophysics and Cosmology, to use the full title). 'Astrophysics' is the obvious bit that gets picked up on the most. These days, in social settings, I'll chicken out and say just 'Physics'. Some might get a kick out of seeing the look on people's faces – but I don't want to be labelled a geek! (Although I am one anyway.)
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.