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About mentoring

The SfEP's mentoring scheme offers supervised, practical training to members of the Society (only) who either are new to professional proofreading or copy-editing or feel that their skills and knowledge are rusty or patchy. As well as proofreading and copy-editing, there are options in specialist mentoring (see below).

Experienced advanced professional members act as mentors. They provide copies of existing or past jobs for the mentee to proofread or copy-edit, and then review the work, giving feedback and advice, and answering any questions. Mentoring is typically done by email, so it is available anywhere in the world.

In addition to its value as training, mentoring can be used as a step towards upgrading your membership.

Thank you again for all your time and encouragement. I think the SfEP in general and the mentoring scheme in particular are worth their weight in gold.

Gilly Middleburgh, mentee

The varied and challenging assignments prepared me well for real work. I recently proofread the content of a website and an academic paper, and my mentor’s advice on the assignments was directly relevant and allowed me to do a better job.

Joanna Howard, mentee

Becoming a mentee

Before becoming a mentee, you must have had some initial training. You're normally expected to have successfully completed two SfEP training courses:

The Society accepts the Publishing Training Centre distance-learning courses – Basic proofreading and Basic editing (or its predecessor, 'Copy-editing') – in place of the SfEP introductory courses. You are advised to practise newly acquired skills as much as you can before moving on to the next stage of your training.

All applicants must satisfactorily complete the appropriate 'Progress' course. This includes an informal assessment to check that potential mentees show the necessary aptitude and sufficient knowledge to make the best use of mentoring, with a command of English well above average. No other courses are normally accepted in lieu of the SfEP or PTC courses. If you have any further questions, please read the mentoring FAQs or contact the .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Specialist mentoring

These options are for improvers who have a background in the subject area and experienced members wanting to extend their skill set. At present we offer mentoring in biomedical journals (copy-editing only) and academic law; we plan to add medical editing, academic music and fiction.

All applicants will be expected to show sufficient knowledge of the specialism, including its terminology, conventions and readership. For further details of entry requirements, please see the specialist mentoring FAQs. Any member can apply, but Entry-level and Intermediate members will need to show they have completed two courses, one from each of these lists (which include some discontinued or planned courses):

1. SfEP Copy-editing 1: Introduction, SfEP Copy-editing 2: Progress/Headway, PTC Basic copy-editing, PTC Basic proofreading, PTC Copy-editing, SfEP Proofreading 2: Progress, or suitable in-house training [please ask];

2. SfEP Copy-editing 2/3: Progress, SfEP Copy-editing problems, PTC Advanced copy-editing, PTC Copy-editing, PTC Basic Proofreading with distinction.

Mentoring helps you upgrade

Successful mentees can gain up to 10 points towards upgrading their membership. The number of points gained depends on the mentor's answers to five questions about the mentee:

  1. Are they literate? (grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary, spelling, punctuation)
  2. Are they businesslike? (prompt, clear, efficient, follow brief, communicate well)
  3. Are they accurate? (spot and deal with 60+% of typos, 40+% of editorial errors)
  4. Do they use appropriate mark-up? (BS 5261:2005, plus PDFs or Track Changes if used)
  5. Do they use good judgement? (level of queries, frequency and extent of intervention).

For questions 1, 2, 4 and 5, if the mentor answers 'Not really', the mentee will be awarded 0 points; if they say 'Good enough', 1 point; if they can confidently answer 'Yes', 2 points.

For question 3, the mentee's performance – as shown by a representative sample of their work – is measured against that of the mentor, who has already identified the problems in the material and how best to deal with them. So the mentor will average the mentee's success rates on typos and editorial problems, with 2 points given for successfully handling 70% or more, 1 point for 50–69%, 0 points for anything below 50%.

Mentees will be told their marks. Receiving 10 points will now mean 'above average in all aspects', allowing for a mentee's limited experience.

Specialist mentees can gain an extra one or two points if the mentor can say 'Good enough' or 'Yes' in answer to this question:

6. Do they show adequate knowledge of the subject? (level, terminology, conventions, readership)


Through the Whitcombe Training Fund, the Society pays half the cost of mentoring. Mentees pay the other half:

  Cost from 1 March 2016
Proofreading £199.00
Copy-editing £299.00

Any mentor and mentee can make private arrangements to continue training beyond this.

How to apply

When you successfully complete the relevant 'Progress' course, you'll be offered the chance to apply for mentoring. You must fill in the relevant application form. By applying for mentoring, you accept the mentoring terms and conditions.

Booking online

Take this route if you are already a member of the Society. For specialist mentoring, please use the copy-editing form and add in block capitals (in the free text) the option you are applying for.

Log in and apply for mentoring

If you have any questions, contact the training director or call the SfEP office.

Applicants with other training

In certain circumstances we are willing to consider other training in lieu of our published requirements. We will accept training given in other countries if you can show us that it is adequate. Where experienced editors or proofreaders are returning after a long break or have worked only within a narrow field, we are likely to accept higher-level or in-house training. We will also consider basic training given by a reputable organisation comparable to the SfEP or PTC. In all these cases, please email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) in the first instance with details of your training. If the training director does approve other training in lieu, you will need to include a copy of the approval email or letter when you apply. To apply, please use the appropriate form here:

How mentoring begins

There is a waiting list for mentoring, and occasionally it may be several weeks before a mentor becomes available. Your mentor will then contact you direct, like a new client offering you work; you discuss the task, agree a deadline and are sent an assignment. You should acknowledge safe receipt of each assignment and return any confidentiality agreement as requested. Read carefully the style sheet and brief, making sure you know what you are being asked to do. Glance through the job straightaway, to check that the material is complete and to see whether there is anything not covered by the brief. You can then check with your mentor how to raise queries or discuss problems. You may wish to send back a small section of the job at an early stage so the mentor can check that you are working along the right lines.

Becoming a mentor

If you're an Advanced Professional Member with at least seven years' experience and would like to become a mentor, please contact the .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The SfEP is always looking to recruit and train new mentors, especially to replace existing mentors when they retire or when new subject areas need to be covered.

Quotes from mentees

Please feel free to post any of my feedback comments from throughout the mentoring. I've learned a lot and had a laugh as well. I've thoroughly enjoyed it!

Michelle Nugent, mentee

To have an editing professional look over my shoulder while I practise on real materials has been invaluable. Now my clients get the benefit too – though they'll never know.

Robin Black, mentee

I recently proofread an academic book as a 'live test' and passed – a feat which I feel I owe to my brilliant mentor! I really don't think I would have managed without that extra training. I'm now on the publisher's freelance database.

Louise Lubke Cuss, mentee