Melanie Thompson

Melanie Thompson

Melanie Thompson

Advanced Professional Member

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

When I was an undergraduate (reading physics and music, joint honours) I realised that many scientists struggle with written communication tasks and, because I'd always found writing (and talking) easy and enjoyable, I realised I could help people and earn a living at the same time. I applied for trainee editorial positions and started my first job – as a science journals editor at Chapman & Hall – the day after graduation. I'm still editing, nearly three decades on!

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

I was very lucky to benefit from in-house and external training (from PTC) in my first in-house job. After that I took job-specific training courses for each of my five in-house jobs. When I turned freelance in 2000 the first course I did was the NUJ's Getting Started as a Freelance, which I highly recommend. Over the years I've done several SfEP courses (particularly useful: OSE I and II), journalism/writing and digital communications courses, and PTC editorial courses. Then I picked up the chalk and became a trainer myself …

What work are you most proud of?

Gosh, I've done lots of very different things, so it's not easy to choose. Can I pick three? First is launching (writing, commissioning, editing, laying out …) a magazine for >500,000 members of an engineering trade union back in the 1990s. Second is launching and running (for over 10 years) an online newsletter/website about sustainable construction called Get Sust!, which was later syndicated to a specialist publisher. Third is ongoing work for an international client; I'm very proud to work for them.

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

Take a break: walk my dog; have a cup of Yorkshire tea. Then sit back down and settle back to it. This works particularly well for writing projects. For tricky editing jobs, breaking the job down into a set of tasks helps to prevent me from feeling overwhelmed.

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

I couldn't be freelance without it! I've made some very good friends, learned a lot (especially outside my comfort zone) and been lucky enough to give back to the Society in some small ways.

Which editorial tasks do you enjoy the most and why?

I enjoy them all – which perhaps explains why I have a varied portfolio and have done lots of different training courses. I couldn't just stick to one task or service for ever.

Do you have any editorial pet hates?

People who think they shouldn't write "because".

What has most surprised you about your editorial career?

That I'm still doing it!

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

Ask questions.

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

Join SfEP and spend time reading the forums, which contain many thousands of hours of professional wisdom and kindness.

Do you ever stop editing?

Not even when I go to sleep!

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

I live in a small village on the border of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, but I'm originally from Sheffield. You can take the girl out of Yorkshire but …

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.