Interview #5: S. Dorothy Smith

  • Years editing: 10 years
  • Job title: Copywriter, scopist, copyeditor, proofreader, translator
  • Location: Virginia

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
I edit stenographers’ legal transcripts, and I write copy. I also do French-to-English subtitles and translations, and edit books. For many years, I got editing clients from my ProZ.com translation profile. Then I joined the Editorial Freelancers Association and the Christian Editors Network and began to gain clients from those profiles. I also get clients from Facebook groups.

What copyediting training have you had?
I have a strong linguistics background and am self-taught.

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
Marketing, graphic design, and social media skills are important. You need to have a little of each to be a successful freelancer — unless you are blessed to have dedicated staff to take on these roles. It also helps to be familiar with the subject matter. Whether you’re scoping the deposition of a handwriting expert or a criminal trial, it helps to be familiar (or you can use Google to help you to be familiar) with the subject matter you are scoping and its associated vocabulary.

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
I am a member of Facebook scopist groups. Most are private and by invitation only. Just for Scopists is one private Facebook group composed of working scopists who support each other in both work and play.

Some think the editing speaks for itself, that the hard work alone will advance their careers. Do you have any thoughts on whether editors need to do more (e.g., networking and talking about what they do)?
It depends on what you want to get out of editing. If you want jobs, then network and market. I was never in it for the acclaim. I consider it a solitary profession.

Any advice for editors on getting buy-in from the non-editor colleagues with whom they work?
Writers who are not receptive to being edited might be unwittingly shooting themselves in the foot. Even the best writer can benefit from a second pair of eyes. Yet I do not push my services on others. I offer my availability and expertise. If it is not wanted, then I leave it at that.

BUILDING DIVERSITY

How diverse is your office? 
It’s just me. I’m a black woman, but I network with people of all races and backgrounds. My best writing friend lives in Sweden.

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
I recently scoped a court hearing where John Bolton was present. That was a career highlight for me.

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
When I’m not editing, I am a Keen psychic advisor.  

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
Scoping is a facet of editing that can be very lucrative. A recent article in Times of Entrepreneurship discusses the thriving court reporting market and its associated editing roles.

One of my colleagues provides a training course at Internet Scoping School. In addition, my Overview of the Scoping Profession course will be launching soon on Udemy. Readers can email me at scopist@stenomagic.com to be alerted when it goes live.

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