Martin Payne

Martin Payne

Martin Payne

Professional Member

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

I didn't really choose it, it chose me. After many years of helping my wife (who did choose it), first with practical, technical stuff, and then starting to do some of the more mechanical tasks associated with the job – formatting, spellcheck, PerfectIt, and so on – I realised that I enjoyed it and could do it. So I dipped a toe, did some training, picked up a couple of jobs, and it's mushroomed from there.

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

SfEP's 'Proofreading 1: Introduction' course to start me off. I have an IT background so the technical aspects of marking up documents were no problem, but I realised that, decades after my last English classes, I needed to brush up my grammar – so I did, with the SfEP online course. I've also done 'Proofreading 2: Headway' and am trying to decide between 'Proofreading 3: Progress' and 'Copyediting 1: Introduction'. I've just started an online course called 'Mastering Styles and Templates', which I'm really looking forward to. The most important training I have had, however, is the continuous informal mentoring that's available to me from my wife, Etty, who is an experienced Advanced Professional Member. Having that extra pair of eyes in the early days allowed me to take on work to gain valuable experience.

What work are you most proud of?

That's a hard one. I'm proud of all of the educational textbooks I've copyedited or proofread or accuracy-checked – it feels good to be contributing in a small way again to Education (I was a teacher for six years after leaving university). I'm proud of the work I did on an eBook called 'Brexit – a betrayal of conservatism', which was produced by some Conservatives in an attempt to persuade colleagues of the folly of it all – it would be nice to think that I helped to change a few minds.

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

That's easy. I ask my wife. It's incredibly useful working together in the same office as we can bounce questions and ideas off each other. I ask the questions, Etty has the ideas.

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

The SfEP provides the professional standing that is vital for us in this career. There are so many websites out there offering 'proofreading' services that it's important to be able to distinguish ourselves by having a body of standing behind us. The courses have been good and there is a lot of great information available on the forums. I've also been one of the team of web editors helping with the SfEP website for the past four years.

Which editorial tasks do you enjoy the most and why?

I probably enjoy the formatting tasks the most – it feels good when I've taken a raw Word file and turned into a professional document in a final format that I know is going to be read and used by people. I weirdly quite enjoy sorting out references and bibliographies – a task I know many others hate.

Do you have any editorial pet hates?

Dangling modifiers! I have others hates, but they're usually just a tut and a quick fix. With dangling modifiers, I sometimes feel I spend a long time trying to fix something that's only there because an author was trying to be 'creative' instead of just saying what they meant.

What has most surprised you about your editorial career?

I suppose that it's happening now. I was doing it part time, but with no expectation of going full time anytime soon. Then when my IT job ended, while I was still looking for another IT job, I threw myself into the editorial work at the same time and have been surprised how well it's worked out – so far.

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

Find your specialisms. Work with subjects that you know, but don't limit yourself – be prepared to step outside your comfort zone. There is work out there.

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

As above. That doesn't mean that you won't work on subjects that are completely new to you ­– if anybody had told me a year ago that I would have produced a training manual for plastic surgeons on Botox and fillers, I'd have laughed out loud. If you don't have the editorial experience when you start, then sell the experience that you do have. Use the resources that the SfEP makes available to you. For example, I'm always surprised at how few people put themselves forward for Meet our Members – at the rate that we are recycling past entries, some people will soon be on their third go.

Do you ever stop editing?

No. I automatically proofread everything I read and everything I hear. Being an avid sports fan and a proofreader is so conflicting – it really hurts.

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

I love lateral thinking puzzles, especially anything mathematical. I would love to go on Only Connect, but I wouldn't have an interesting '… who once …' anecdote for the team intro.

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.