Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes

Professional Member

Why did you choose an editorial career, and how did you get into it?

First I had a crack at writing in my spare time, when my IT career wasn't really going anywhere and I was looking for something else to get into. I'd often felt more at home when writing documents than when doing the actual programming. After a while, I wasn't feeling optimistic about making a career out of writing, but I saw an advert for a training course in proofreading and copy-editing, and it struck me that I might be better suited to that. So I did the course and gave it a go, first as a spare-time job and later as a full-time one.

What training have you done to get your editorial career up and running?

Writers Bureau: Proofreading and Copy-editing.

SfEP: Introduction to Proofreading, Introduction to Copy-editing, Proofreading Progress, Copy-editing Progress, Mentoring for Proofreading, Mentoring for Copy-editing, Getting Work with Non-publishers.

Publishing Training Centre: Basic Proofreading, Copy-editing.

What work are you most proud of?

No particular job stands out – I just generally take pride in helping people to get their words into good shape, especially when they give some unsolicited positive feedback.

What do you do if you're struggling on a job?

I can't remember ever really struggling on a job overall, but I'm often unsure about specific points. When that happens, I'll pause for breath, maybe refer to some books or online sources, and sometimes turn to the wonderful SfEP forums.

What does being a member of the SfEP mean to you?

First, it's a badge of credibility – a reason for potential clients to believe that I know what I'm doing, and will do it professionally.

Second, there's the feeling that I've got some workmates (although I don't see them often in person). This can be very important for a freelance, especially after many years of working in an office with regular colleagues. The forums, local groups and conferences are of great value for comradeship, support and advice, and my roles as Manchester group coordinator and (until recently) a forum administrator have been very rewarding.

Which editorial tasks do you enjoy the most and why?

Probably the handover at the end of a job. I don't mean this in a 'getting it over with' way – it's more about the sense of accomplishment: another job done (well done, I hope), and it's time to move on to something else.

Do you have any editorial pet hates?

The dreaded double 'but': 'So-and-so, but so-and-so, but so-and-so.' Likewise with other 'about-turn' terms such as 'however' and 'although'. It's guaranteed to make the reader's head spin.

What has most surprised you about your editorial career?

The mere fact that it has happened is the biggest surprise. When my IT job fizzled out, I'd had only a few bits of editing and proofreading experience. I just thought I'd have a go at doing it full-time – without much optimism – on the off-chance that it might work out. Amazingly, it has done.

What's the best career advice you've received?

It came from my doctor, funnily enough. I can't remember what brought this on, but she asked whether I enjoyed my work (in IT). I said something like 'not really', and she then suggested it might not be a good idea to spend the rest of my career doing something I didn't enjoy. This helped to trigger the chain of events described above (see 'Why did you choose an editorial career …?').

What advice do you have for people starting out on an editorial career?

Be various things beginning with 'p': positive, patient, persistent, professional, pro-active. Join an editorial society, and get involved in it. Be prepared to invest time and money in good training. Don't feel silly about asking questions. Remember that this is your job, however inexperienced you might be, or consider yourself to be: you're an editor and/or proofreader, not just a former [whatever you used to be] who's dabbling in this work.

Do you ever stop editing?

Probably not. Even on holiday I end up spotting flaws in museum exhibit labels and the like, and it makes me wonder about potential work. If anyone knows where I can get an on/off switch, I'd love to hear from them.

Finally, tell us one thing about you not related to editing

During my attempt at becoming a writer, I had a book published by a traditional, though small, publishing house, on the history of all football-type sports. It was withdrawn after two years of not quite setting the world alight, but I then self-published a re-edited version electronically (OK, so not completely unrelated to editing).

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.